Love Habits

ErichAndBaileysEngagement-8

When we first started dating, Erich and I were lovey-dovey, sappy, and rom-com worthy. He walked me everywhere, picked flowers to put in my hair while whispering dorky nothings, and left me the cutest love notes. My favorite: “Dear Bailey, I like you a lot. From, Erich.” (The from gets me every time.) I wrote him love letters when we were apart and listed 5 “Reese-sons” I loved him on the back of a Reese’s pack. (He just ate the Reese’s a couple weeks okay. Flowers wilt. Preservatives last forever. Buy candy.)

Now we’re old and lethargic and can’t think of cute things to say because we exhausted them all three months into dating. We tend to walk around saying, “I love you!” at various decibels: “I love you.” “I LOVE YOU!” “I love youuuuuu.” These are the top three words in our household, and they convey everything from, “I’m hungry” to “I’m bored” to “I’m sleepy; let’s cuddle,” depending on our inflections.

But when we got married, I noticed we rarely said those words at the end of the night or before getting up — the good night and good morning kiss — the kiss every successfully married couple employs. So I instituted love habits — things we train ourselves to do to show love even when we aren’t feeling loving, hungry, bored, or sleepy.

Our most followed love habit is kissing each other good night and good morning. The second is giving each other our full attention when the other person is speaking. We’re both lost in our own worlds, I about justice, theology, and emotions, he about rocks, video games, and Hamilton lyrics, so when I start talking about my emotions, he’s still thinking about the Immortals’ loss to TSM (League of Legends, anyone?). We’re not tracking. I’m the worst at this. I’ll say, “Uh huh,” maybe even ask a question, but all I hear are syllables and technical terms I don’t know. Once he stops talking, I’ll look up and say, “Wait, what? Can you start over?” And the process repeats itself until I say, “That’s awesome!” and fake, to both of us, that I was listening.

I’ve had this problem since I was a kid.

With our “love habit talk,” we made focusing on each other’s words a priority. Now, whenever the other person opens his or her mouth, the other stops, looks at the talking spouse, fully engages with what that person is saying, and then we drift back into our separate worlds. And a few minutes later, somebody shouts, “I LOVE YOU.”

These are our two love habits that we actually keep. Do you have any love habits that stuck with you and your SO?

// More on introvert marriage and more on #stegersrus marriage

PC: Elena Marie’s Photography

Something to Talk About

If you’re anything like me, you struggle with small talk. Every Friday, I put together a bunch of different things to talk about as you head into your weekend. Hopefully they’ll spare you a few awkward silences!


Three things to watch/read after hearing about the Stanford rape: Ann Voskamp’s letter to her boys, why asking God’s forgiveness isn’t enough, and the Brits explain consent in the simplest terms.

The most controversial post I’ve ever written.

Post-nuptial depression is, sadly, a thing.

The cereal companies have deceived us all! But now I want fruit loops….

Enjoy your weekend!

An Egalitarian Wife’s Submission

13410736_278103299201190_1187432799_o

On Monday I asked for your thoughts on a wife’s submission to her husband in an egalitarian relationship. I’m passionately egalitarian, and I am passionate about submitting to my husband. But this submission has nothing to do with his “authority” over me. My submission is about being Christ to him — showing him the grace, patience, and sacrifice Christ showed us in his Incarnation. I think marriage is sacramental, a conduit of grace directly from God’s heart to Erich’s and mine.

Before reciting our vows, Erich and I read this prayer together:

May we submit to one another out of reverence to Christ, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind; doing nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility counting the other more significant than ourselves; looking not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of the other; having this mind among ourselves, which is ours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Crazy, right? Egalitarianism did not make submission any easier or less radical; it just made it clearer to me the necessity of being a little Christ to my husband, just as he is to me. Egalitarian marriage is not each partner giving only 50% and no more — there, all equal and fair. We give 110% and more. My submission isn’t a part of a role; it’s an extension of living Christ’s life — an emptied life, a giving life.

As I empty and give for my husband, I’m learning to empty and give for others — and vice versa. The call to submit takes over my whole life and all my relationships.

When I look at Paul’s commands to husbands and wives, I am more rebuked by his challenge to the husbands. I live in an almost-post-patriarchal culture and post-cross reality; my husband has no societal or spiritual authority over me. But as the more visionary, talkative, and authoritative partner, I am reminded that my spiritual gifts are not for lording over my quieter, service-minded husband. I tend to demand respect and attention — my way or the high way — but Ephesians 5 tells me to lay down my pride. It tells me my gift of words is for “nourishing and cherishing” my husband as my own body, one flesh, not for hating.

Honestly, as a four-week-old wife, I’m still at the start of living Christ’s life of submission: I’m still asserting myself, afraid to be humble, scared of being double-crossed and controlled. I’m still insisting on my own way because I know better. I’m still stuck at giving 50% and no more — fair and equal. I’m still using my ease with words and abstract thinking as bludgeons of power, not instruments of healing.

For me, submission means having the mind of Christ, asking, “How can I serve you? How can I understand you? How can I love you?” instead of, “Is this fair? What will you give me in return?” It means viewing egalitarian marriage as 110% sacrifice, not 50% and no more.

When it comes to dealing with selfishness, I use this mindset, combined with “nourishing and cherishing” words, to probe our disagreements. Instead of shooting back a hurtful zinger when he spouts off a harsh word, I try to nourish and cherish, heal and love: “Why did you say that? Did you realize your tone came across like this?” Then I share my wounds: “I dislike when you say things like that or say it in that tone. Can you please avoid those words in the future?” I married a humble man, so in our relationship, unless there are underlying issues or misunderstandings, a gentle answer really does turn away wrath.

When we disagree, we think of all disagreements as unfinished conversations. I’m extremely opinionated, but I consider his ideas as good as my own, knowing he also considers my ideas as good as his own. (In theory. In reality, we say, “No way” and “That’s stupid” to our ideas until one of us hits on a good one.)

Sometimes when things get “off” and somebody’s been selfish far too long, one of us might end up asserting himself or herself bluntly: “Stop being rude. You’ve been getting your way all week without considering my opinion.” And in those cases, where one of us is being a selfish tyrant, a coup is necessary, and we assert ourselves and our opinion — but only to reestablish wholeness.

My tl;dr of Ephesians 5 is, “Husbands and wives, be united as one flesh just as Christ is one with the church by elevating each other and humbling yourself.” When I have the mindset of “equal and fair,” I’ll overcorrect and assert myself above Erich — tyrannizing the tyrant. When I have the mindset of Christ, I just tap him on the shoulder and say, “Knock it off,” and he humbles himself. We heal whatever wounds happened during the tyranny until our one flesh, our wholeness, and our unity is restored.

And that, to me, is ultimately what submission is for — restoration and redemption.

What experiences have you, as a wife, had in mutual submission? I’m only married a few weeks; I’d love your wisdom!

// More on marriage: falling in love and dinner for two

PC: Madeline Barry

Coming Out Egalitarian: Responding to Personal Criticism

criticism

Last week, I received several emails and messages from people concerned for my salvation, spiritual life, and marriage, all more or less stemming from my newly-professed egalitarianism. I was getting around to writing a series on coming out as egalitarian, so now seems as good a time as ever to start.

Coming out as egalitarian, a no-no belief in much of conservative Christianity, often paints you with a big red target that just begs for unsolicited alarm. It ranges from uncomfortable, qualified support to “Please tell me your backstory so I can assure myself you’re not going to hell.” Also, they all conclude with “I’m praying you.”

Side note: When you come out as egalitarian in a conservative community, by golly, woman, you will have so many people praying for you that you’ll be unstoppable.

If all the concern came as blog comments, it’d be easy to cheerfully say, “Thanks for your concern, but I promise I’m doing great!” But many times, these people who genuinely care want to enter into your personal life story and hold a conversation about their judgment of your dangerous beliefs, putting the pressure on you to prove egalitarianism doesn’t stem from your lack of faith, emotions, or impending apostasy. They tell you you’re wrong; that the truth is obvious; that they don’t agree with anything you say; that they’re genuinely worried about your soul — and then they expect you to spill your guts out to them about everything.

And of course, you feel awful, because you know they care and don’t mean to be condescending and because their caring condescension doesn’t make it feel any less like the Great White Throne Judgment: Show me the fruit of your faith now, or egalitarianism shall be the shackles that drag you to eternal suffering.

One of the worst feelings in the world is being on the defensive after someone says, “I doubt your faith.”

Another is, “Tell me all the personal reasons you believe egalitarianism. I feel called to correct you under the guise of pretending I won’t lecture you after you bare your soul.”

And it’s always the people who don’t know you well, isn’t it?

In light of this sort of personal, judgmental, but kindly meant criticism, I’ve developed two rules. The first is this: Never engage in a conversation that puts you on the defensive about your own spiritual journey or personal beliefs.

It’s a psychological nightmare. Your first reaction to such criticism is, “Actually, I’m not in danger of hellfire?” But then you question that, because of course you would say that if you’re not actually following God’s will. If you act confident about your beliefs, it just proves their point that you’re not open to hearing the truth. If you don’t act confident, you practically send an open invitation for further preaching. You lose either way.

It struck me that I didn’t need to prove to anyone that I was saved, sane, or anything else. I didn’t need to give strangers and acquaintances assurance that I was not walking off the deep end or slipping down a slope. I didn’t owe it to anybody to share my feelings, life story, or convictions unless I wanted to. I didn’t even need to engage in a conversation if I felt like it’d be unproductive or harmful.

Ten times out of ten, a conversation that starts like, “I’m right, and you’re wrong, and you need to convince me otherwise” is not going to be productive. The same goes for the opening line of, “I’m concerned about your salvation. Maybe you’re not actually a Christian?”

To such conversations, I have the freedom to politely say no, thanks, and go on my worry-free way.

The second rule is, Don’t put yourself on the defensive. And by that I mean, don’t play the victim. Don’t shut down valid criticism or questions. Don’t develop stereotypes out of the people who hurt you. Don’t give yourself an excuse to mock, assume, or dehumanize. Don’t become hardened. Stay soft, humble, and open to healthy dialogue. Be the bigger person. Experience the grief of being misunderstood, falsely accused, and patronized…and then let it go.

I’m terrible at this.

I try to remember that even in closing an unhelpful conversation, I can still model gracious dialogue and a humble spirit. As much as I hate hearing “I’m praying for you,” I try to sincerely say thanks. As much as it kills me to hear condescending words phrased as care, I try to genuinely appreciate their concern. I try to keep the door open for a better conversation in the future: “We can talk about this if you acknowledge that my viewpoint is valid too” or “I’m happy to discuss specific questions if we drop the subject of my personal salvation” or my favorite, “I’d be glad to hear your story.” And I remind myself that this sort of humility is good and needed.

During your coming out period, as you experience unsolicited personal criticism about your faith and your beliefs, join with me in praying this brave and humble prayer. We’ll need it.

Bless those who hurt me, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Those who hurt me have driven me into Thy embrace more than friends have.

Friends have bound me to earth; those who hurt me have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Those who hurt me have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.

Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Thy tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless those who hurt me, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.

They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.

They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.

They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself. They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless those who hurt me, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.

Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, those who hurt me have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of Thy garment.

Bless those who hurt me, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:

so that my fleeing to Thee may have no return;

so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;

so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;

so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger;

so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;

ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Those who hurt me have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.

A slave curses those who hurt her, for she does not understand.

But a daughter blesses them, for she understands. For a daughter knows that her enemies cannot touch her life. Therefore she freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

Bless those who hurt me, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Amen.

— St. Nikolai of Ochrid, “Lord, Bless My Enemies” (modified)

What has been your experience with coming out as egalitarian? How do you respond to this sort of personal criticism?

// An important thing to know about complementarian women and why I became egalitarian

My Dream Apartment

13407665_643870355761251_1539283106_n

Erich and I just inquired about our first rental! We came up with a list of non-negotiables, like lots of natural light, a safe neighborhood, a washer and dryer (please please please), and no weird wall colors or patterns. (I came across this horrible Victorian-1940’s hybrid of a kitchen, and knew right then and there that no way could I live with weird floor tiles or wall paper!)

We’re so used to living in run-down off-campus houses and cramped dorm rooms that it feels odd getting a say about what we want in an apartment. Erich’s got his heart set on an “enormous three-bedroom home” for only $755 per month (utilities included!). I’m thinking that’s too good to be true — it mentioned aluminum siding, after all. I’m a skeptic, but we inquired for more info and photos today.

When dating, Erich and I would take walks around his neighborhood, pointing out what we did and didn’t like about each home. We both agreed that ranch-style houses were out of the question for our future, but other than that, we have opposite dream homes. I was thinking of a cozy one-bedroom apartment overlooking Milwaukee’s open-air Bayshore Mall — something modern, quirky, and full of color, white space, and life, like this:

apartment living

Erich wants a traditional home with extra rooms and corners, located in a quiet, introverted neighboorhood, and heavy on wood decor. (At least wood’s better than aluminum, right?) He finds the huge mansions fascinating; I think they’re terrifying and lonely. He probably wouldn’t mind a deerhead or two; I want all modern decor.

I’m interested to see what the mash-up of our dream home looks like. Honestly, I’m not too picky. I just want a roof, a couch, and air conditioning — and a kitchen without weird wall patterns.

What’s your dream home?

// A morning routine and some dishwashing advice if you end up without a dishwasher

PC: Cup of Jo

Was I Ever Saved?

girl doubt

A friend asked for some advice sorting out her past relationship with God. As a child, she begged God for salvation, but it never seemed to “stick.” She never felt at peace about it. She thought her doubts were evidence that she wasn’t saved. Not only does this weigh heavy on her today, but she also feels awkward when people ask for her testimony. I think many of us can relate to these fears, so I’m sharing my (edited) response here.


These are heavy things to work through. I’ve been there, done that with the doubting my salvation thing.

Let me tell you something that’s both terrifying and freeing: you can’t judge your own salvation. Nobody can judge it. You’ll go crazy trying to figure out if you were saved at this time or that time or at all, because salvation isn’t a one-time thing.

Salvation is a healing process. The word “salvation” comes from the Latin word “salvus,” which means “safe, well, unharmed, sound, saved, healthy.” The early church developed their soteriology off this health metaphor.

Think about how health and illness work: sometimes you’re feeling strong and capable, ready to run and dance and persevere. Sometimes you’re curled up on a couch suckerpunched with the common cold. Sometimes you contract terrible illness, and you wonder if you’re going to survive. But your immune system is still working throughout all of this. You’re always in the process of getting well and getting healthier. Sometimes you seem closer to that goal, and sometimes you seem further.

And that’s okay! That’s normal. That’s how salvation works. Salvation isn’t just a one-time thing — BAM, you’re saved, end of story. Salvation is a process. Salvation is a healing. Salvation is a past, present, and future thing: you have been saved, you are saved, and you will be saved.

We’re also told that you shall know a tree by its fruits. The Spirit of God brings about good things. Your desire to be saved — that’s not from the devil. Your desire is so great that you’re willing to face up to all your doubt and work through it. That’s from God. That’s good fruit. As Thomas Merton prayed,

…the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road…

Friend, God is a merciful God. Trust in his mercy. Be certain of his mercy rather than of your own salvation, if that makes sense. He promises to save those who call on him. It’s not complicated. It doesn’t have to be perfect or doubt-free. It’s not your believing that saves you, but God’s mercy. Be certain of his mercy, and these doubts will go away (and come back again at another time, and then go away…). You don’t need to fix yourself or pray another prayer or “be saved”: you just need to find him again, find his mercy again. It’s a lifelong process, and it will be awful and wonderful, just like getting and staying healthy.

And about sharing testimonies — don’t worry if yours doesn’t wrap up into a neat little story with a beginning, middle, and end. Your entire life is a testimony. Your love, your struggles, your existence. Personally, I don’t have a lot of tied up ends right now. There are lots of gaping holes in my “testimony.” I talk about what God has done and what I wish he would do and where I’m at, but what God’s doing in my life is so massive and complicated that I could never shrink it down to a five minute soundbyte. Plus, probably the best things God’s doing in my life are the things I don’t even know about yet.

What further advice would you give my friend?

// The rest of Thomas Merton’s beautiful prayer and a suggestion for seeking the truth

#ezerspeak: On Wives’ Submission

ErichAndBaileysEngagement-44

One of my biggest hopes in creating an egalitarian community is getting practical advice for egalitarian relationships. I’m in week four of marriage, so I’m particularly excited for this!

Let’s chat about submission. We know that Ephesians 5 teaches mutual submission, but how does an egalitarian woman apply this in real life? How does she practice mutual submission with a selfish husband, or a complementarian husband? How do you deal with fear that he’ll take advantage of your self-sacrifice and/or fail to submit to you too? What happens if you can’t agree?

I’ll pop back in later this week with my own thoughts. In the meantime, have at it in the comments with questions, answers, stories, and whatever crosses your mind! (While I appreciate all feedback, please only comment from an egalitarian viewpoint for this post — thanks!)

Something to Talk About

girlfriends

If you’re anything like me, you struggle with small talk. Every Friday, I put together a bunch of different things to talk about as you head into your weekend. Hopefully they’ll spare you a few awkward silences!

If you encounter a wardrobe malfunction, mention the cool new pants that alert you when your fly is down.

When your friend chokes on her drink during your girls’ night out, tell her that the inventor of the Heimlich maneuver only just used it.

Ask your favorite sci-fi geek to give their opinion on why there isn’t more Christian fantasy.

Speaking of sci-fi, go find a science nerd to help you figure out the technical language about how an AI machine watched The Blade Runner.

Did you and your college friends lament paper-writing? Send them this manifesto against writing papers. (For the record, I disapprove…but I like controversy.)

And finally, when somebody mentions Harambe the gorilla, change the subject to the ethics of mob justice and then leave while you have the chance.

Enjoy your weekend! Make conversations! Be brave!

Falling in Love

We met at a school dance our freshman year. He asked me to dance even though he thought I had a big nose and dressed like a frump. I still wasn’t used to guys paying any attention to me, much less leading me in the lindy hop. So I said yes, even though I thought he was crazy (but kind of cute) and exactly like my Inky Bob. After a “dance” of he making me laugh so hard that I flubbed up my footwork, he led me back to my roommate and asked for a high five. I declined. A fist bump? Heck no. How about a hug? For some reason, I gave him a hug — not a high five, not a fist bump, but the most awkward physical expression on this planet: a full-frontal hug to a tall stranger.

We forgot about each other until he saw me reading the Western Heritage reader underneath a tree. I had just come from chopping off thirteen inches of my hair. He introduced himself. I told him we’d already met.

“No, we haven’t. Bailey has long hair.”

“I cut my hair.”

“You’re not Bailey. What have you done with her? You must have murdered her. Did you stuff Bailey in the closet? You’re not Bailey. You’re…Miranda. I’m going to call you Miranda.”

I smashed a spider between the front cover and the title page. (The guts are still there, dried out, if you want to verify it.) This guy was nuts. But we did discover that we were taking the exact same Western Heritage class and that he had sat one person over from me for the first few class periods. He had moved to the back so he could fall asleep without bothering the professor. (It was an 8 AM class. Nobody was awake.)

But for the rest of the semester, three days a week, bright and early at 8 AM, he sat next to me in the front row. We poked each other to stay awake, and sometimes we scribbled stupid things to each other in our notebook margins. One day, he slipped me this note:

Can I have your phone number

— without a question mark, because he was a chemistry major and didn’t care.

That woke me up for the rest of the class. Short answer, no, he could not have my phone number. A phone number meant he wanted to date me, and I didn’t want to date him, and why the heck would any self-respecting young man ask a girl for her number in the middle of class?! But maybe he just wanted to be friends, and then I would look stupid for not giving him my number. Whatever, I’ll give him my number. I blushed, wrote down the number, and shoved the scrap of paper back at him. He put it in the breast pocket of his coat and forgot about it for weeks.

He mostly ignored me outside of class. He was lucky enough to find a group of three close friends right off the bat, and they weren’t exactly interested in letting me in on their adventures. I was good for entertainment, for showing me horrifying YouTube videos that I’d never seen in my sheltered life, and for laughing at my innocence as it died away with my screams. In any case, he only paid attention to me when his group of friends were busy with something else.

I got so mad at him for that, particularly because he sometimes flirted with me, but really because he had abs and most of the time didn’t flirt with me. I thought he was selfish, unsocialized, and hot. I ignored him too — until we got stuck driving back to Wisconsin together over winter break. My dad and I tried to make small talk with him, but he was shy and spent the entire time texting his crush. Weirdo.

Second semester freshman year started off terribly. His best friends (the crush and another guy) fell for each other, and my group of friends started falling apart. I cried a lot. For some reason, Erich was always there, a quiet, nonjudgmental person who let me talk without interrupting.

“Can I give you a hug?” he asked me during one outpouring of sorrow. I still hated physical contact, but I let him put his arms around me. “You know,” he said, “this would work better if you put your arms around me too.” I gave him a side hug from the front and kept crying.

For some reason, he found my unending emotions attractive — or, as he put it, fascinating — and developed a massive unspoken crush on me. When President’s Ball came around, he drew a huge heart in the snow that said, “Will you go to President’s Ball with me?” — for his friend group. That took care of having to ask me out. But since he didn’t want anybody else to take me either, he forced his roommate to escort me to the ball.

prez ball

The roommate date abandoned me thirty minutes into the crowded dance, and a guy who I was avoiding found me, took me by the hand, and dragged me around looking for my date. (So much handholding from so many men in one night. It was gross.) And then I bumped into Erich — the biggest relief of my life. His hands weren’t clammy, and his fingers laced through mine as we weaved through the crowd.

I felt like a sinner for lacing fingers with a guy I wasn’t going to marry.

All semester, he walked me to and from class, opening my doors and tagging along wherever I was going. He was like a friendly shadow.

My roommate knew better: “Do you like him?”

“Ew, no. I like somebody else.”

“I think he likes you.”

“I think you’re wrong.”

“You need to define the relationship.”

It was the easiest DTR ever. We took a walk around campus in the lamplight, and I told him that people thought we were dating, that don’t worry, I wasn’t interested, and that I thought of him as a little brother. (I had lectured myself not to use the brother line, because how cliché is that, but I panicked.) Then I cheerfully said, “I think it’s best to give each other some space. We shouldn’t talk to each other for a week. Good night!”

At the end of the week, a week without noticing his absence, I got this text:

I don’t like being away from you

I realized I hadn’t asked him how he felt about me.

We met in the student union, he sitting crosslegged on the couch, I sitting crosslegged on the glass table. I asked how he felt about me.

“Well,” he said, “I like you, and I thought you liked me too.”

None of this was going according to plan. “We can’t date,” I insisted. “You’re Catholic, and I’m Protestant. It wouldn’t work.” (What I meant to say was, “You’re probably not a Christian because you say, ‘Oh, my God’ and ‘sex’ in mixed company.” Those were the days when determining someone’s eternal salvation was easy.)

We met again the next night beneath the fluorescent glare of the chemistry overpass. I drew out our relationship on a napkin: “Here’s friendship. Here’s dating. We’ve already crossed the line into dating territory, so we need to take a step back.”

He stubbornly maintained his crush for me. I ended up bluntly saying I would never date him. He ended up confessing, “I will always respect your boundaries, but I will never stop trying to make you like me.” And then he sent me a recording of Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up on Us.”

The next day was horrible. He didn’t show up for class at 8 AM, and when I saw him at that couch in the student union, he was sick, pale, and crying. I cried a lot too, but there wasn’t any Erich to comfort me.

We spent the rest of the semester arguing about whether we should date or not. There were many things against it. When I asked him to explain the gospel, he sat in silence for five minutes before saying, “I don’t know.” He kept talking about Christ’s grace without reference to theological arguments. When I said, “Shh,” he whispered, “It” afterwards. He kept trying to hold my hand and snuggle close to me (and I actually liked it). He was infuriatingly not the guy I ever imagined myself dating.

But, there were many things for it. He took my theological lectures well, letting me read aloud The Reason for God and explain the Protestant emphases of the gospel over and over to him while we walked through the rain. He was a great listener. He put up with my emotions. He was a true friend to others. Again, he had abs.

And despite our differences and many other arguments too technical and redundant to speak of, he won me over. Now I get to hold his hand whenever I want.

Happy Birthday, babe!