I read someone else's love letters this week. Two unbelievably adorable, intelligent people fell in love between the lines of their blog posts. They wrote about Big Things and God and Love in the Hard Places and Redemption and Philosophy, and all the while you could see them inching closer as they typed. I know next to nothing about them, except for the brilliance of their story, shared with the world before they had a clue as to the story they were writing.
Well, He was writing.
Do you remember when you burned our love letters? We were about to trek across the ocean again and tough decisions needed to be made. In an effort to procrastinate making them, I got out the old faded cardboard box that bore all the words we ever shared in the 20 months of our courtship. The box was covered with magazine cutouts affixed with tape: bright red "LOVE" and whimsical pink "ROMANCE;" images of flowers and a diamond ring or two, stuck in place. Still shiny, fraying.
It had been years since I ventured in there, to reread the things we wrote to each other way back when. You'd leave me notes on the dorm wall, pinned to a snack-size bag of M&Ms, written on the backs of receipts or library cards or your Greek notes. How strange that we so cavalierly left these bits of intimacy out in the open, where anyone at anytime could read them.
Not unlike what I'm doing right now.
I unfolded these treasures: the words from you to me. Wonderful was written on the outside, so only I would know who it was for. The Chick, it said. Kansas girl. When did we stop using these names? Handsome, my love, my Matt.
Smiling to myself, I took a breath, ready to relive our history and the telling of our story. As I scanned these tiny pages, my heart sunk and my cheeks burned. The treasure was bare.
Oh, we loved one another, that's for sure. But oh, how completely and profoundly immature we were.
These love letters were mostly nonsense, mostly about the Torture of Chastity, mostly about What We Had for Breakfast, mostly about how Our Parents Just Didn't Understand.
Of course they didn't. I was 19. A right fool, that one.
Dumbfounded, I rang you at work to tell you. How could something thought to be inspired and divine really just be the ramblings of two self-absorbed college kids embarrassingly in love?
Oh, they can't be that bad, you said. Yet you found me on the bed, surrounded by scraps and drawings, weeping from the hilarity that was our young love, and you collapsed into the mess, side by side with me. We read them aloud to one another and made a to-be-destroyed pile. You gasped at whatever terribly, ironically insane thing you wrote to me on a February day in 1998. We traded notes and giggled uncontrollably at the two of us, wondering if we should ring our parents, siblings and college roommates to beg for forgiveness.
The eldest found us there, "What is going on here? Why are you laughing? Why is Mom crying?" Always suspicious, that one.
I hastily buried letters under pillow and covers, trying to compose myself. How to tell them what it was like to discover at 19 the person you were meant to spend the whole of your life with? How to explain the humid hormone factory that is a Bible college campus? How to admit that - stupid as we were - we wouldn't change a thing? We'd walk this same road a thousand times over to be where we were that day: surrounded by the memories and the children and the life we were living. The story we were writing.
Well, He is writing.
You once asked my grandmother what she did with their notes, the love letters between my grandfather and her. The two most wise and wonderful people in my life surely had a brilliant story to tell. "Oh, we burned those a long time ago," she said to your utter dismay. "We never wanted anyone to find them."
How could she? I thought then.
I don't think that anymore.
We saved a precious few of the really good ones, letters we would want our children to read. After all, we wildly hope for them to be stupid and in love some day. You gathered the rest and, in the most unceremonious of gestures, burned them in the grill in the parking lot of our apartment complex.
I can't remember where we packed the love letters that remained. I suppose it doesn't matter. We'll find them when we need them, at the next bend in the road. Our story isn't on those pages anymore, anyway.
Thursday was our 15th wedding anniversary and last month you prayed at the wedding of my sister. You prayed that their love for each other would reflect the love of Jesus. You prayed that the story of their married life would reveal the story He is telling in the world, through them and in them. In spite of them, even. It's a story of hope and sacrifice and the grace that covers every hard thing.
You pray it for us, too.
So I'll keep writing love letters to you, love letters to the children and to God; love letters on beauty in the dark places and to the story He is writing all around us. We'll pin it to the wall, words written on the back of a library card. It may still be trite and silly and terribly, wonderfully us.
But let's never stop telling it.