It’s interesting sometimes, writing about your life.
Sometimes things happen that are hard to explain, and sometimes things happen that take some time to explain.
This becomes increasingly complicated when it comes to relationships.
I’ve been wracking my brain for months, trying to figure out the best way to introduce you to the person who I spend so much of my life with. And the opportunity has finally presented itself.
I am incredibly blessed to be sharing my spot on Prodigal Magazine with my boyfriend, Carl. And I’m even more excited to introduce him to you. He’s wonderful and wise and I’m proud to have you know him.
So without further ado, I’ll let him introduce himself… by telling you the story of how we met.
Click here to see the post where it originally appeared on Prodigal Magazine.
Glancing down at my phone just long enough to check the time, I quickly turned my focus back to my footing. The obstacle course of rocks, roots, and puddles lining the dirt path that cut through the woods ahead of me commanded more attention than I wanted to give.
Two more minutes.
I could still make it, but I quickened my pace anyway–just to be sure.
As the woods thinned, I lifted my eyes and caught the top of the pavilion’s steepled roof. I emerged from the protection of the trees just in time to be fully in sight before I stumbled clumsily over an errant, and particularly gnarly branch. I managed a half-jog recovery that wasn’t fooling anyone and quickly surveyed the scene, playing it cool.
No one saw.
My two minutes were up, so I kept jogging. I rounded the back of the pavilion and quietly found a seat on a picnic table just outside–close enough to hear, and maybe catch the corner of an eye as she scanned the tops of her audience’s heads.
Then, over the next twenty minutes, I fell in love.
I did my best to listen intently, but keeping myself seated and my jaw off the floor was requiring more concentration than anticipated. On the outside, to the best of my knowledge, I was doing a pretty good job of hiding what internally felt like a parade of goofiness, anxiety, and giddiness. She was captivating. And it wasn’t anything about the way she looked.
Don’t get me wrong. She’s absolutely gorgeous. But that was all icing.
As I sat and listened to her pour out the depths of her heart to a group of eager twenty-somethings, all I could hear was passion. She spoke with the conviction and candor of someone who hadn’t just discovered who she wanted to be, but was living it out. It was the most unexpected, refreshing, and wholesome beauty I could have imagined.
As she finished speaking, I found myself clapping in chorus with the rest of the audience.
I wasn’t the only one impressed.
She made her way over to the edge of the pavilion and before I knew it, I was standing next to her as a handful of girls from the audience quickly surrounded her. I sat in silence and listened as one after another they told her how much her blog had meant to them–how something about the way she told stories, her own in particular, had changed the way they saw themselves.
They thanked her for her raw honesty, her transparent permission to dream, and the unapologetic joy she finds in the fleeting sparks of beauty in the world. Taking it all in, I thought to myself, “If she can make such a profound difference in the lives of complete strangers, I want to be around her all the time.”
And since that day, I pretty much have been.
Stephanie May is a beautiful storyteller, a selfless believer in people, and a regular contributor to this blog. But it’s not any of those things that initially attracted me to her. It was her passionate pursuit of life. She had a fire in her that I wanted to be close to.
Just like me, she was on a journey to an ambitious future full of questions, dangers, and what-ifs. But that day, sitting there in the woods listening to her describe the absolute joy she was taking in the journey.
I knew that wherever we were going, I wanted to go there together.
Being single in your twenties (and beyond) can become one of the most deeply sensitive and thought-consuming sources of insecurity we’ll ever face. We constantly field questions from ourselves and others (thanks, Mom) about where we’re going, why we’re alone, and what was so wrong, again, with that last relationship?
We reconsider our compatibility, self worth, and faith in God–or at least the opposite sex.
On our best days, we convince ourselves that the man or woman of our dreams is right around the corner as we snuggle into the couch with a tall glass of wine and our old reliable standby, Hulu.
Other days we find ourselves bouncing back and forth between the latest articles (like this one) about pursuit, dating, and how to find “Mr.–” or “Mrs. Right,” becoming more and more convinced that men don’t understand pursuit, girls are too complacent —
And all the good ones are taken.
So if Hulu and wine aren’t doing the trick, what is life before ‘the one’ supposed to look like?
How do we find that person?
And what do we do in the meantime?
It’s easy to feel lost amidst the mixed messages of culture, media, friends, family, and our own voices. We all want to be wanted, but when you want something so badly, what do you do before you have it?
Do you sit and wait, hoping that somebody will find you? Do you chase love, pursuing it wherever you think it might be hiding? Or do you pursue fulfillment that isn’t contingent on your relationship status?
Neither Stephanie nor I were looking for a relationship that day in the woods. We weren’t pursuing each other. But we were both pursuing life, our passions, and the Lord, and on that morning, our pursuits intersected. Since then, we’ve continued pursuing these things as well as each other.
Now we get the best of both worlds.
My pursuit of Stephanie is made better because of my pursuit of the Lord, and my pursuit of the Lord is more abundant because I get to share it with her.
It’s not always perfect. Healthy pursuit of a relationship is difficult, to say the least. It’s full of ambiguity and factors outside of our control. But it becomes exponentially harder when we’re standing still. Don’t wait for life to come to you in the form of a relationship–it already has.
God’s journey for you doesn’t start with marriage, but you just might find it along the way.
Are you pursuing love? Something else? What are you finding along the way?
Carl Wilson is a designer, builder, storyteller, and adventurer. By day, he is the Creative Strategy Director for Adventures in Missions. You can read more from him on his new blog Good God Man and follow him on twitter @carlswilson
*Photos from that day were taken by the lovely Stephanie Bernotas*