Living on that YWAM base was pretty intense. There were 250 people surrounding us all the time. We took long walks whenever we had free moments, but those moments didn't happen very often. We went to school, worked, prayed, rode bikes between and...wrote each other copious notes and letters. Every single day. This was pre-, you understand. Pre-cellphone, texting, pre-everything but paper and pen. And we used them. Used them and used them.
These aren't, in the narrowest definition, love-letters, though there's a whole lot of love expressed in them. Maybe it's indulgent of me to share them with you. But today is Valentine's Day, and my great big Valentine is taking his father's wife across the country (and this is also Grampie and Thyrza's 19th wedding anniversary), so for once, I thought it'd be sweet to let our children hear their daddy's voice--his Valentine's voice--as he spoke to me all those years ago when we were first making our way into what would be the rest of our lives.
First, a snippet of the note/letter that began the change in our relationship: (this was written while we were on outreach in New Delhi, India) Yes, God moved us around like chess pieces while until
"As I've reflected back upon our relationship, it's been clear to me that I've failed to be all that God's desired me to be. Yes, He has changed--in a good way--and deepened our friendship. I've seen some tremendous steps occur in it. For example, when we talked about the way we've viewed each other in the past and how we let those outdated conceptions affect our present relationship/friendship. Do recall that talk at Heidebeck? I believe it was just before Kevin arrived. [Ed. note: Kevin is another high school friend--also from our neighborhood. And...Like I didn't remember every single conversation we had--I was already all in by then!] But in other areas I've neglected to practically apply some of the things we've talked about (i.e., a willingness to share weaknesses and strengths.) I appreciate the fact that you called me on that whole thing the night of the movies...You asked me if it was easy for me to give people verbal compliments, and I said something like it was easy to do it for some and not for others? Beneath that statement I was saying that it was for most people but not for some (ie, you!) Why? Probably because I've never done it in the past with you and so I felt the pressure to keep in my personal comfort zone. And yet neither you or I would grow like we could because I was worried about what you'd think. So I hope to begin stepping out of that comfort zone..." (December 21, 1983)
My response, which bears sharing--"Thank you for your letter. What a thing to greet me as I woke up this morning. I really appreciate your openness...but I have to admit I feel a little confused by some of what you have to share. Maybe it was just the late hour for you or something. In any case I would like to talk to you about this. It seems to me that we talk easily about everything under the sun (and Son) except our own friendship. Maybe that's the comfort zone...:? I'm not going to write my thoughts and response to your letter--because every instinct tells me to and it would be much simpler for me. But I have some things I need to share face to face. Could me make some time?"
As it happened, our lives in New Dehli were so complicated that we didn't even see each other for two days, though we lived in the same community, and generally ate meals together. God intended that, I think. Maybe to give each of us time to settle. To think. And mostly, to pray our hearts out. But finally, we had that conversation, and by the end of it, we'd each admitted that we were more than friends and were already headed toward marriage. Had been. Without a single date, or kiss or any of that so-called romantic stuff. But it was just about the most romantic thing I could imagine (can still imagine)--that God would be so intimately involved in our romance. Would care so much He'd drag two old friends around the world to show them He wanted them together.
So, a few others, from our days back in the Netherlands:
"God isn't frantically rushing here and there, trying to ward off the schemes of Satan. There isn't a fight going on between good and evil now who's outcome is not known! Our Father isn't biting his fingernails, trying to jockey His angels into defensive position, hoping not to make a mistake. NO! He has defeated Satan once and for all at the cross and the grave. He has risen and is the Lord of the universe. And He does cause ALL THINGS (even those we can't understand) to work together for good (His and ours!). He's with us completely, even when we can't feel Him. Fact: God has called us together. Fact: God has all events and happenings in our lives under His control. Fact: God has our best at hand and will bring it to pass as we yield to and obey Him. Fact: God is faithful to fulfill His calling in our relationship. Fact: since God is love, what do we have to fear? Let's be happy and not fearful. God is with us." (Jan. 30, 1984)
"Best friend--You are precious and beautiful to me...and much more to Father God. I've been thinking about the fear you've struggled with--that of being rejected by me or others. Or by God. Don't believe it. It's a lie of the great accuser. Believe in God's assessment of you...Don't turn back to the old plumbline of the past but put your trust and self-image in God's evaluation and opinion of you. He loves you with an everlasting love. " (Feb 13, 1984)
"Time to get you a note. I was thinking today about 'work' and my mind went to, of all things, my work supervisor, Cees D. (he's the Dutch dude with the dark hair). I was thinking about how patient and long-suffering he's been with me. And believe me, I've made a few mistakes on maintainence (yes, I never scored very high on those mechanical reasoning tests in high school.) And yet inspite of my blunders and mechanical miscalculations, Cees still loves me and is patient toward me. What that communicates to me is that I'm more important than some project or object.
As I reflected on all of this, I realized that that's the way our Father is with each of us. In some ways the Lord could care less about what mistakes we make. Those things, those mistakes, are temporary--here today (sometimes overwhelmingly so), gone tomorrow. He's much more interested in forming His character in our lives. And to do that, we must be secure in Him. And to be secure in Him we must come to a realization of the fact that "our value doesn't determine His love, but His love determines our value." (February 23, 1984)
And finally this, "Good morning! I want you to know that I like God's evaluation of you. You're unique, valuable and special in His sight. I agree, you're that to me, too...I want you to know that I"m committed to you and to seeing you become ALL that you can be in Christ. Don't worry about being anything other than yourself. You, CC, are beautiful and precious to me, just as you are right now--no strings attached! Can you rest in the security of that? Better yet, can you rest in the security of who you are in Christ?" (January 13, 1983)
Happy Valentine's Day, Beve. You're still my Valentine.
Happy Valentine's Day, JESKMOM. This is who your Daddy is.