Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mountain Top Experiences #4: Nancy Part 2

I think Nancy broke up with me 3 times in college. The first time was in the Fall of 1997 and I was in California visiting her. That made for a fantastic visit for both of us. By Christmas, though, she seemed to enjoy my presence again, so we were back on. Immediately after the New Year, I flew to Jamaica, as I was spending the semester there. She broke up with me in February while I was out of the country, but when I returned stateside she again reevaluated that plan. When she again broke up with me in September of 1998, I thought that was officially the end of our relationship (third time’s a charm, right?).

In October, Nancy called me out of the blue to tell me that she had been giving our relationship a lot of thought and prayer and came to the conclusion that she was sorry and was ready to love me in a permanent way. I can only begin to describe to you how badly I misinterpreted this conversation. Thinking that our romantic relationship was over, I assumed that she was simply apologizing for the way things went and that she was going to love me with “Godly love.” In other words, I heard “Let’s just be friends from now on.” What she was in fact saying, however, was “I’m sorry, I love you, and I’m not going to break up with you again in 3 weeks.”

When Christmas rolled around, she called me when she got home and asked me to come over. I had nothing else going on, so I figured it would be nice to go see my new “friend.” She greeted me at the door with a big kiss, which I returned with an extremely confused look. Now, I have a reputation for sometimes being a touch condescending with people, but in that moment I needed her to explain to me in terms a child could understand what was going on. Somehow she didn’t see this total lack of basic communication skills as a problem and tried to clarify for me that she was now in for the long haul.

When the time came for me to ask for Nancy’s hand in marriage, I had the entire event planned out. I had rented a tux (a story for another time), I had arranged for Amy to be there and take pictures from a distance, and I knew that I wanted to ask her at the beach. My problem was that I had never asked Nancy to go to the beach. We went there all the time, but it was ALWAYS of her initiative. I knew that if I asked her to go, she would know what was up (she knew it was coming soon anyway). I was pondering this dilemma as I was driving her home on a Friday evening. I wanted to propose on Monday night but couldn’t figure out how to make the plans without tipping her off. As I’m racking my brain for a solution to this problem, Nancy says “Do you want to go to the beach Monday night?” On the inside, I screamed out “YES!!!” On the outside, I tried to play it cool with “Sure, I don’t think I have anything going on that night.” On Monday night July 19 1999, right at sunset, I bent down on one knee, confident that the answer would be yes, and asked Nancy Dayton to marry me. As I was asking the question, I could hear the conversation from a group of people about 30 feet away from us that went exactly like this:
STRANGER #1: Hey, look- that guy is going to ask that lady to marry him!
STRANGER #2: What if she says No?
Since our conversation the previous Christmas about Nancy’s commitment to our relationship, I never had any concerns about being rejected in that moment. Although only about 2 seconds elapsed between Stranger #2’s comment and her response, it felt like a lifetime to me. I swear that every scenario of her saying “No” flashed in my mind in those two seconds.

Nancy kept her word that night, accepting my proposal. She kept that word 11 months later at our wedding. And she has kept the promise she made on that day for almost 7 years now.

So what is the Mountain Experience in all of this?, you ask. Was it at Christmas when I finally understood her commitment? Was it in July when she agreed to marry me? Or was it our wedding day itself? It is true that all 3 of those days were mountaintop days for me, but the real view from the top is found on other days, normal days. On these days, I can go out into the world and take risks, knowing that Nancy is going to be there for richer or poorer. On days when I am sick, she cares for me, and on days when I am well… she cares for me then too. On normal days, we can forge new relationships, confident in our own. On normal days, we can rely on each other for strength & encouragement and trust one another with our hopes and our fears. Those days in our marriage- those are the mountaintop days, and I sure do enjoy the view.


danp said...

Your conclusion is absolutely the best definition of love I have ever heard or read. It's 1Cor13 with a reality skin on. Can I use it and give you credit?
Thanks for your heart, your voice and your vulnerability.

Dan & Nancy Erickson said...

Dan P-
Of course!

Also, thank you for your frequent comments. It's always nice to get feedback:)

michael grove said...

you're an inspiration my friend.