“Love is patient. Love is kind.” 1 Corinthians 13:4a (NIV)
I admit my cousin wasn’t the best influence growing up. She and my other cousin, Jake (from my dad’s side of the family, not my mom’s) got married young, without anyone’s permission, and they didn’t court, either. Mostly it was Zorah falling in love with Jake and being pretty enough to draw his heart away from God.
I still love Zorah, but she made me want to rebel for the longest time. I resented her for being pretty. Lord, why am I not 5’8″ and thin? She had long, curly brown hair and big hazel eyes, which must come from her dad’s side because Aunt Violet’s a blue-eyed brunette, like me and Mom. Whatever Zorah wore looked good on her. The same things left me feeling frumpy. And I wanted to run away from my responsibilities. Zorah took off into the woods with Jake; they’d sit by the crick for hours skipping stones and I don’t even want to say what else. Sometimes I went with, and they welcomed me, but there was this voice in the back of my head asking me why I wasn’t helping Mom with the house and the littles. I was the last one born before the Lord stopped giving us blessings for a few years, so by the time He started up again I was plenty old enough to help! Perfect timing. 🙂
I must have been a real challenge for Mom. Damaris and Leah had made it to adulthood without any misadventures. Damaris even got to go away for a few months on a mission trip when she was seventeen! Carrie thought boys were cute, sure, but she and Mom prayed together about it and she never had a crush that lasted longer than a couple of days (usually from Sunday to Tuesday). The three of us read I Kissed Dating Goodbye together when Carrie was sixteen.
So why couldn’t I be content in that season of my life? Why did I want to be Zorah so badly, Zorah who left home at eighteen and lived with Jake in some pretty scary places so they could afford college? What did I need college for? Someday, when I was grown and ready, God would send me love — or not. He might have had it in mind that I should stay home like Damaris and Leah.
And there was Neal. No matter how much I tried to guard my heart, he crept back into it. It wasn’t his fault. He was a perfect gentleman. He treated me just like my sisters. I was both relieved and torn apart when he went away to college. I think Mom noticed, because she started me and Carrie on Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello To Courtship! Two years into Neal’s schooling, he came home for Christmas, and my mom pushed me over to talk to him. Huh. Well, the littles could all walk now. So he walked with me from church to the community center. It wasn’t a long walk, maybe five minutes, but for the first time, we were truly alone.
We traded email addresses after that night’s carol-singing — with our parents’ permission.
So while Neal got his degrees, we wrote back and forth, and in the summer we hung out with our friends. I guess I was bad at keeping my feelings out of my letters and off my face, because Neal brought up courtship to my dad that first summer after we started writing. Oops. Or divine plan. And just the minute after I thought, fine, I can be friends with him, well, not the minute but close… he came home on spring break and all six of us had the talk about what came next.
I asked Mom about it later that night. “I didn’t do it right!” I told her. She knew how hard I’d struggled.
She said, “You did your best, and you behaved right with him. That counts for plenty.”
And I said, “I didn’t do anything right.”
She said, “You made mistakes. But did you repent?” Of course I did. “Then why can’t you let your God and the people who love you forgive you? Why can’t you forgive yourself? ‘Love is patient. Love is kind.'”
So I wasn’t Zorah. I was more like 5’3″, with a braid down my back and my skirts to the floor. But I waited, and I got the same kind of love she did, only better because Neal wouldn’t hear of taking me from my parents until he was ready to provide for me. He was a man the whole time, even if I was still a girl in a lot of ways.
Love really was kind to me.