I have a box.
It’s a wooden one, medium size, with painted zigzag lines dancing across the top. A golden little latch lifts to open the top and reveals a red felt lined inside.
But the box itself isn’t significant. It’s what it holds inside that remains special to me, even after all the years they have sat in there.
Inside my little box, a stack of letters, written on notebook pieces of paper, sit waiting to be read. The letters start in 2001 and the handwriting scrawl varies as the dates get closer to present day. Some are short, some are longer, and some are signed with XOXOXOXO.
Not just anyone can read these letters. Only one person will be allowed to hold and read these letters some day. That person would be my future husband.
The first letter dates all the way back to my thirteenth birthday. I had stayed up late that night, probably listening to Relient K and singing along horribly off-key. I just decided to tear out a piece of notebook paper and write. The penmanship still holds a bit of childish cursive, complete with a couple of misspellings. I remember writing it with one of those glitter gel pens that were all the rage back in the day. A detail that I am sure I thought would surely impress any boy.
I got the idea to write a letter to my future husband from a book series that was my absolute favorite growing up. The Christy Miller series had a main character who did the same thing, only on her 16th birthday, and who later on in the series did get to give the series of letters to her husband on their wedding day.
Now, yes, this is a highly romanticized idea I had. But I was thirteen. It made complete sense to me to make sure that my future husband, who I probably hadn’t met at that point, knew that little 13-year-old version of me. What thirteen year old girl DOESN’T think about getting married and dreams about that fairy tale day where she got to wear a long white dress and become the focus of all of her friends and have a boy promise that he really did “like her tons” and would keep liking her forever. For me at thirteen, having a guy say he “liked” me was basically the ultimate dream anyways. She, in return, would hand over a bundle of letters declaring all of her thoughts and feelings over the course of the years to that boy.
I liked writing that first letter so much that I ended up keeping that tradition and wrote one on my birthday every year for quite a while. I haven’t written one in a while, but I recently went back and read through them again. I laughed at that first one, as I read some of the things that I thought was important that my future husband would know. I promised him I hadn’t hugged any guys yet. You know, for the sake of purity and all that. Sorry future husband, I have given some side hugs since then.
But the thing that really got to me when I re-read that glittery little note was my ending statement. I told him I already loved him.
Now, you must realize that this is a pretty private matter for me. The letters are meant for only one pair of eyes. And I want to keep how sacred they are to me in tact. After all, I am laying the dreams and thoughts of the very vulnerable young me into the hands of an internet of unknown readers. And I wouldn’t have shared it before really thinking about what I wanted for you my reader, to walk away with. Over the years, my dreams and expectations for what that future husband needs to look like, act like, be like, have changed pretty drastically. And I am sure that any realistic, mature, single Christian lady’s perspective have changed their dreams as well.
Here I am, so many years later. And my letters remain still tucked away, waiting for their reader.
Since penning that first letter, I’ve dated a bit. I’ve dreamed more. I’ve changed my ideals. And let’s face it. That’s probably a good thing. I won’t want to marry the kind of man I dreamed about as a 13-year-old. The most important thing to me is no longer if he like Relient K or if he can ride a mean 10-speed bike around the neighborhood, doing cool tricks. In fact, that is pretty much NOT on my list of things I am looking for.
I read a blog article a couple of months ago, written from a Christian single gal’s point of view, that basically said Christian men weren’t manning up and that the men really needed to just get their act together. It was written out of the author’s frustration from the lack of godly men who were stepping up to the dating and marriage plate. Her list of wants and requirements wasn’t being checked off. I posted the link on Facebook, and boy did I get an outbreak of responses. Some didn’t like the way they thought she bashed men, and thought it was an unfair perspective. Some thought it was a pretty accurate picture of the dating scene in the Christian church today. I could respond, point for point, to some of the things she brought up. But I want to be a bit more original.
This is the section in this post where I could start doling out dating advice. I could start telling Christian girls what we are doing right or wrong. I could do the same for the Christian men. I could make excuses for why I am still single, or blame all sorts of things for contributing to my single status. I could tell all the ladies that there must be some one left over to be the reader of our letters. But honestly, that would all be based on stereotypes or be based on a singled-out view or be just another rant from a single person looking at the lawn on the other side of the fence. It would be skewed. And you would question me on what are my qualifications for the advice that I would give. You would be right to.
I am not qualified to give dating do’s and don’ts. Everyone has different theories on what works, what doesn’t and a lot of people has a theory on what everyone else is doing wrong. I could give valid tips for the dating game, but I am sure just as easily, someone could counter-point those with an equally valid opposite view. So I won’t sail my boat into that treacherous sea.
However. I will share a thought I had as I re-read my letters. I liked the perspective that “past Emily” had about the future reader of her letters. She wrote that she loved that man. Even though they hadn’t met. She wondered out loud what he was doing to get ready for her. Of course, if he was near to her in age, he was probably out with his buddies tearing up the neighborhood on that cool 10-speed bike and having serious conversations on what b-bguns were the best. She probably wasn’t on his mind yet. But she told him that regardless, she was going to pray for him. She was going to pray that God would walk with him before they met so that later her walks with him would be so much sweeter. And she told him that no matter what decisions he made or what mistakes happened, as long as God brought them together, she would be there waiting for him, no matter what. Because she cared about him already.
Was it sappy? Sure. Idealistic? We are talking about a 13-year-old homeschooler’s perspective. Yeah, it was a bit sheltered. But still. She held a precious thing in her young hands. Hope. A view that hadn’t been rocked by a culture who thinks that marriage is out-dated, over-rated and old fashion or gender blind. She wasn’t feeling pressured by all of the happily married couples around her to “put herself out on the field.” After all she was 13, they probably DIDN’T want her to date! She had a perspective that didn’t have years of relationships that told her that men would never measure up or that all the good ones were taken. She trusted that he was out there. Enough to write him a letter and sign her name as a promise. And I think I can take a reminder from that younger me.
She didn’t demand that they meet in college. Or in her twenties. Or in her thirties. Or forties. She didn’t beg him to be rich or really smart or have a cool hobby she could boast about to all of her jealous girlfriends. She just asked him to love the Lord. And she said she would wait. And hope. The rest would fall into place. And when he did show up and promise to like her forever, she would hand over her letters. And let him catch up on a pen-pal correspondence that he never knew he was a part of.
So my only advice to the Christian ladies is to pray for your unknown reader of the letters you have written. Whether actual letters, or letters just tucked away mentally in the corner of your heart. My advice to the Christian men is to think about the girls who years ago wrote you a letter, hoping you would someday come along, and live consciously of what an honor it will be to read those letters. My challenge to both of you, men and women, is to try to live for God, the ultimate love letter writer. While you wait for a person to read or write your letters, read His. If His is the only letter you ever get to read, you will feel complete. Because he loved you first and most.
And to you, my unknown reader, I have your letters. Make sure you are reading His. And some day you can read the ones I wrote.