It was time for the ceremony to begin. Canon in D started playing, the wedding planner opened the doors, and the first bridesmaid started her descent down the aisle. So much excitement, so much pleasure, as each bridesmaid in front of me took her turn past the gauntlet of onlookers and up to where the rest of the bridal party waited. I glanced behind me. My sister grasped our dad's arm, her whole being radiating happiness.
"You ready?" I smiled.
She bit her lip and nodded with raised eyebrows and a nervous grin.
I stepped forward, waiting for my cue to go. Whoever came up with the idea of processionals apparently had no problem with being stared at by a hundred or so people.
With a nod from the wedding planner, I stepped past the double doors and into the sanctuary. This was it. This was happening. Who would've thought this is how it would all turn out?
Slowly I walked down the aisle, holding the bouquet at my waist, making sure not to step on the hem of my floor length red gown, and pasting that awkward smile on my face that is supposed to fool people into thinking that walking down an aisle in a formal dress while looking nowhere in particular feels completely natural.
Then I caught the groom’s eyes. His smile was that of a boy on Christmas about to receive the biggest present ever. Despite everything, my fake smiled widened into a genuine one. He wasn’t looking at me though. He was looking through me, waiting for his bride to walk down the aisle. He was such a little boy, completely in love.
Oblivious, clueless guy. Artsy, funny, fly on the wind fellow of mine. Terribly handsome, terribly aggravating.
But not mine. I had hoped and dreamed and imagined what it would be like for those light brown eyes to soften their gaze upon me. Who would have thought that a crazy fun guy like you would truly fall in love, head over heels, and end up at the marriage altar, just not with me. Or that I would willingly be the maid of honor at your wedding! How could I have prepared for this moment?
I turned to the left and climbed to the top step, just as rehearsed.
When I was 9, the informal homeschool get togethers became P.E. in the Park. Moms and dads pulled their resources and took turns teaching us soccer, softball, volleyball, archery, flag football, and even historical dance.
“47, 48, 49, 49 and a half, 49 and three-quarters, 49 and five-eighths, 49 and seven-eighths . . . .”
Luanne and I giggled from our hiding place behind one of the many redwood trees at Legion Park. The parents were busy setting up a softball diamond, and so we younger kids were taking advantage of the extra play time. I peeked around the tree. Michael’s eyes were smashed shut, he was hopping on one foot, and his mouth opened into an impish grin as he drug out the last number of our hide and go seek count.
“Forty-nine and a nano-second.” He paused dramatically. “Ready or not, here I come!”
I whipped back behind the tree and held as still as I could, holding Lucy’s hand. We tried to stop breathing so we wouldn’t be heard. Michael’s heavy footsteps crushed through the redwood needles. From several trees away came a scream and the sound of running feet until Michael finally yelled, “gotcha!”
I gasped for air, comforted by the thought that I wouldn’t be heard. My back hard against the tree, I swiveled my head to the right. Joey was hopping back and forth behind the tree next to ours.
“Shhh!” I whispered loudly.
Suddenly he popped from behind the tree, crouched down, and began side-stepping like a crab over to ours.
“No, Joey!” Luanne hissed.
But Joey was focusing on Michael. He danced a little toward our tree, then scurried back to his. Then he peeked behind his tree and began side-skipping over to ours.
“Joey, don’t! He’ll see us!” I groaned.
Suddenly Joey shrieked and started running. Michael chased him around a nearby tree but didn’t see us. We heard running feet and squeals of laughter as Michael chased Joey farther away.
I trembled from excitement and the exertion of staying still. I tried to slow my breathing.
As I relaxed I could hear the parents’ mumbled voices. Soon it would be time for P.E. I could hear birds chirping from the tops of the trees and squirrels chattering as they crossed a telephone line. I took a deep breath and exhaled. Luanne relaxed her grip on my hand.
The words pummeled my ear drum. My pony tail yanked down.
Then an arm reached around and pulled Luanne’s braid.
“Ouch!” she yelped.
I whipped around and caught a glimpse of Michael’s toothy smile before he darted back across the yard. I suddenly felt the urge to chase him.
“Boys!” Luanne grunted next to me, leaning against the tree. Her tone was disapproving and, again, she sounded like a mother. I wrinkled by forehead, frowned, and shook my head.
“Boys!” I repeated. “So immature!”
Somewhere along the way, I came to the very firm conviction that it was wrong to like boys. I’m not sure how I came to that conclusion, but I knew that if a girl said a boy was cute or that she liked him, then she was worldly.
When I was 10, I went to a church friend’s birthday party. Three of the girls had gathered around a small window facing the front yard. I joined them and tried to peek above their heads. Near the sidewalk stood a tall, sandy-haired boy with baggy jeans and a black t-shirt. I recognized him as my friend’s cousin.
“He’s soooo cute!” cooed one of the girls.
“He goes to Millsbridge Middle, you know,” another said, then whispered, “He’s 13!”
The other girls tittered and pressed closer to the glass, blocking my view.
I moved away, not sure whether to be sad that they were so caught up in liking boys or whether to feel disgusted that they were acting so wrong.
“Lord,” I prayed, “please help me not become like that.”
Needless to say, I would have cut out my tongue before daring to talk about boys with Jen or Luanne.
|Fictional stories can be inspired|
from real life stuff
“Purity is beautiful!” I wrote one Sunday night after watching an older teenage boy at church chase a girl around the sanctuary. “Lord Jesus, I need Your help staying pure.”
Did I even know what “staying pure” meant? Sweet, innocent, homeschool girl that I was, I defined “purity” as not liking a boy.
And lust? That was imagining a boy noticing you, talking to you. Lust was fantasizing about group prayer where the object of your affection held your hand and then paused just a second before letting go.
Unfortunately around this time I hit pre-adolescence. So I couldn’t really help liking boys, although I wouldn’t admit it. The evidence was there though. My stomach contracted a case of butterflies whenever I was around Michael, or whatever boy had last smiled at me. When he said anything remotely funny, a giggle burst from me unbidden, and I had to try to choke it back.
Proverbs 4:24 was the popular motto of my time. “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”
How to actually guard my heart effectively remained a mystery though.
In the mornings Mom would send us off to have personal quiet times before school started. Jen and I would find our own places for Bible reading and prayer. Jen liked to go read outside on the tire swing, so I would go into our room and shut the door.
After reading a chapter, I’d kneel next to my bed and close my eyes.
“Lord,” I’d pray, and begin making my requests.
But before long, a muscular figure would dart across my imagination, kicking a soccer ball towards the goal. My heart would leap into my throat, and I’d continue the fantasy with my own imagined additions.
He runs back to join his team. By sheer, blessed luck, I am on his team.
He smiles at me.
“Good job,” I manage to squeak.
“Aw, it was nothing,” he says, smiling at me. He looks right into my eyes and stays there, words superfluous as soul to soul speaks.
I’d groan. “Lord, help me pray! Forgive me! I shouldn’t have been thinking about Michael. Forgive me! Help me!”
The war of flesh with spirit. I could feel the tug of war. And more often than not, that 30 minutes on my knees produced only a few minutes of prayer that I felt I could even count as prayer.