In college there is this guy, an -Academic, Popular, Letter-Jacket Type- (APL-JT). Crushes usually have a code name, so I will stick with the theme and call him Applejet for short. We have much in common, or at least I think so, having both started in pre-med coursework. I am extremely multidisciplinary though. I lack the single-minded focus that would last through the end of medical school. I drop pre-med ambitions early on. I continue in biology though, so Applejet and I share many classes. He persists in pre-med and becomes a campus EMT. Enough talk about some guy I know in college.
One night a friend and I decide to study for a Microbiology midterm together. This is not a responsible choice. It is the night before the exam. It is already after dinner when I walk over the inconvenient sky bridge to her satellite dorm, a distant branch off the college block. We are cramming. Inefficiently cramming.
We study some, then eventually start talking about boys we like. We talk about Applejet for a while. It gets late. From laying tummy down over my textbook, I shift to sit up. I feel a sharp tweak in the front of my throat. Terrified, I sit up only to feel pain bolt through my throat again and again every time I swallow.
I don’t know the medical explanation, but I can tell you what it feels like. If you imagine the throat as an accordion made of cartilage, it feels like one of the folds of the accordion pops out. This still happens to me occasionally. I discovered I can fix it by gently pressing along my throat and wiggling it to pop it back in place. The soreness heals. But this is the first time it happens. The severity of the pain and the location is terrifying. I was afraid to swallow, afraid to breath, unable to talk; petrified and immobilized by pain. My friend watches me panic in pain and fear, all while clutching my throat. Of course, she calls the campus EMT – as I want her to. Guess who shows up? Applejet is on call.
By the time EMTs arrive, the acute pain has subsided and I am calmer. I was sitting frozen on the floor holding my throat, probably appearing quietly worried. As they enter, magically the urgent scene morphs into an atmosphere of “What’s the big emergency?” The EMTs, including Applejet, are looking around as if to ask, “Why are we here?” We explain the situation (my neck hurts), which they rationalize as a pulled muscle. They prescribe ice and stretching and advise me to not strain my neck again. I feel very inconsiderate for inconveniencing everyone.
After the EMT’s clear out my friend turns to me wide-eyed in all seriousness and asks, “Did you do that on purpose?” How mortifying! As if I know his work schedule. As if I would injure myself to orchestrate a late-night meeting. As if that was an enjoyable “date!” I don’t blame her though. The circumstances were audacious. I retain only the foggiest notion of Applejet asking about my neck the next day. I must have blocked that humiliation from my memory. (“There was talk” once, but as God would have it, I never dated Applejet. I met my now-husband just a few months after my fateful injury and it was GAME OVER.)
During schoolgirl sleep-overs, my friends and I talk about “sightings” of our crushes, give them code names, play M.A.S.H. We over-analyze every comment, every exchange. In high school I “kissed dating goodbye,” but I was still boy crazy. I was told of the beauty of making God one’s boyfriend, but I just could never accept that. I am still chattering on like this in college, apparently.
There is a scriptural phrase in Genesis that describes an ageless pattern between men and women.
Genesis 3:16 “… Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
The phrasing of that passage is curious. There is fallout in romantic relationships, and something is out of order. Why would a woman’s desire for her husband be considered a negative? And if he rules over her, why then would she continue to desire him?
From my own shortcomings I can tell you this much; my desire has been for a boyfriend/a husband/my husband more than my desire has been for God.
I have desired a person more than God and by that authority, unknowingly I give a person power to rule over me. The power to influence my behaviors. The power to define my beauty and attractiveness. The power to hold my self-esteem, as a young girl especially. By misplaced desires in other scenarios, I still sometimes give the authority to people to determine my value when the only relevant assessment of my value comes from God. God, the only Love who sees it perfectly. The Beloved that holds the power to wield the value of my life powerfully and flawlessly. It took getting what I thought I desired (a good husband) to see the true perfection of well-placed desire. The blinders that obscure the view of perfect desire gone, I fall into a better desire, desire toward God who relentlessly upholds the value of me. Ultimately, I embrace a desire for the best Beloved.
Song of Songs 2:16 ”My beloved is mine and I am his.”
Song of Songs 8:5 “Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her lover?”
More than a decade after my awkward neck injury, I’m caught up in a conversation with a good friend during family dinner. She briefly mentions specific instructions God gave her about when exactly to leave on a trip. Suddenly I’m hooked. I get nosy about her conversation with God. “How do you know God said that? What did He say?” I blurt out. I have to stop myself a moment to explain that I’m not questioning the truth of what she says. God speaks in many ways. Each exchange reveals alluring hints about God, even the exchanges of others. Sometimes I get a little obsessed about that.
Now instead of boy-crazy talk, I have moments such as that family dinner. I’m unapologetically ignoring my husband and children while completely preoccupied over something that God did and God said. It is as true as my heart has ever been. It is as faithful as I have ever been. Here I am on the “other side,” with a husband as near to perfect as I could hope for. On this side of a happy marriage I know that even then, no relationship or esteem can thrive nearly so much as dwelling upon the closeness and favor of God.