I returned to IWU as a junior in the fall of 2002, and it wasn't long before my hopes became reality. Here's where, because I am already stretching this story out ridiculously anyway, I can tell a funny sidebar story about why you should never answer the door while brushing your teeth.
On a Friday afternoon in September, I was brushing my teeth in our campus townhouse when someone knocked on the door. One of my housemates answered and called out that it was for me. I went to the top of the stairs, looked down and saw Tom. Not thinking anything of it, I said, "What do you want?" He said he wanted me to come downstairs, and that's when my brain apparently ceased to function. Rather than returning to the bathroom, spitting out my toothpaste, and then walking downstairs, for some insane reason I continued brushing and walked down the stairs to see what he wanted. Awkwardness ensued. It turned out that Tom had a rose behind his back, and he was there to ask me to homecoming. Somehow I managed to say yes around a mouthful of minty white foam.
So we went to homecoming, and not long after that, Tom took me on another date when he explained his desire to take our relationship beyond just friendship.
Inexplicably, I freaked out.
For all the longing of my heart to meet Mr. Right and get married (I was, after all, on a conservative Christian college campus...cue all the jokes about "MRS degrees," "Ring by Spring or your money back," "IWU is like a shoe factory: we bring them in, fix their souls and send them out in pairs," etc.) the actual prospect was scarier than I expected. I had subscribed to the "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" philosophy, so I was determined that I didn't want to start a relationship unless I was reasonably certain it was headed for marriage. Was I really ready for this? Were my feelings for Tom on that level? Could he really be The One? Thoughts about him and the whole situation had been all-consuming, and in this season of singlehood I was supposed to be 100% devoted to God...did I need to step back and learn contentment in Christ first? I had so many skewed and immature perspectives on dating, relationships, journeying with the Lord...bless my 20-year-old heart.
Right around that same time, I had some meaningful interaction with my old buddy Steve. I sent him a frank email about something he and Kaleb had done that had hurt me, and his response amazed me. He was humble, teachable, gracious, caring...and my old feelings for him came rushing back. It also happened that Kaleb was getting married that fall, and perhaps in part because of that, Steve and I saw each other and talked to each other more than we had since high school. He had grown as much as I had, and he was as attractive to me as ever. As things were developing in my relationship with Tom, my friendship with Steve was strengthening again. And I began to realize that I wasn't "over" Steve like I thought I was.
[Steve and me at Kaleb's wedding in November 2002]
[to be continued...]