After the awkward silence of me sharing my true love for Robert, he left for camp in Colorado and I stayed at camp in New Braunfels. It was before the era of cell phones and email … so we wrote letters. You know, pen and paper and stamps. They were your typical letter between friends but I was always a bit more giddy to receive one in the mail. It must of shown, too … the girls I served with would hand it to me with the dorkiest of smiles. I especially loved the letter that said he was finished at Young Life and coming back to T Bar M for the remaining of the summer. (Is it dorky that my stomach still does flips when I think about it?)
The day arrived and I was in Medicine Mound checking on a camper. I saw him through the window before he saw me. I noodled and walked the opposite way he did. I don’t know if that was playing it cool or avoiding more awkwardness.
Eventually we met up on the path and were equally glad to see each other. Okay, again…, probably more me than him.
Pause. Let me set the stage. This was my second year as camp’s womens director. With my peers mostly being the gals on leadership, whom lived on property, my time off was usually spent alone. Robert was coming in to help with odd jobs. He would be living with our Camp Director’s family … leaving him more flexibility than other staff.
I guess you could say, this is where it all began. Maybe. I am for certain of what did begin here: living in a fish bowl. The only difference in living in a fish bowl and a snowglobe is that you don’t have the desire to shake it up. Things in a fish bowl are pretty smooth sailing and calm. And for us, that is how it was … as we fell in love. (eek).
The remainder of the summer we hung out in the evenings and weekends. I listened to him talk about his camp crush … about like I listened to my history professor in college. Our camp families continued to set me up with every young man in the state of Texas. The leadership girls continued to wonder and tease me about Robert. And he and I continued to become best friends as everyone watched.
As summer came to an end, he sought advice from a camp dad about “this girl he loved being around and she was the greatest friend/team mate, but there were no fireworks”. Tim saw the writing on the wall and gave great advice, “emotions aren’t really what you should make a decision on … give it some time. Pursuing your best friend is actually a good idea.” The next week he moved to Dallas for work and school.
And I thought of several good reasons to go to the Big D. A wedding date. I needed a wedding date and taking a good friend sounded like the ticket. Little did I know (or really either of us) was that somewhere in that weekend, the tables finally turned and the fireworks began. And Robert, in true gentleman form, asked me to date him. Total. Bowl. Of. Pasta.
We found it funny that “us dating” didn’t surprise those close to us. They had been peering through the fish bowl the whole time.
Whether we were dating in Dallas or New Braunfels that weekend … there were people around. People who cared about us. People who were cheering us on. People who had opinons we valued. In Dallas, there were three families that we stayed with, went to dinner with, hung out with. Their children would follow us on long walks, just to see if we stole a kiss. (we are no fools that the parents put them up to this). In New Braunfels, our entire camp world was a part of this relationship and it’s beginning.
Every once in a while, the pressure of dating in a fish bowl was tiring … until we saw how important those people gazing in were to us.
They were (and still are) our community. The very thought of us being watched, setting an example and needing to answer for our actions brought healthy accountability, amazing growth and set a standard for what we cannot live without. They showed us a community that surrounds us and beckons us to be more like Christ.
Like carefree fish in a bowl, we floated through dating … everything was perfect and dreamy. And our friends were there to celebrate every step of the way. They were there for dinners and games. They were there at the big surprise proposal on the top of the Empire State Building (yep. He did. Swoon.). They were there when we needed somewhere to go other than my couch, together. They were there to shower us, pray for us, model for us and cheer us on as we got closer to marriage.
They were there. They were always there peering into the fish bowl. And we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Still to this day we invite people to look into our fishbowl turned snowglobe and see what we don’t see. We need people to point out the things that we need to see, whether good or bad.
Christ loves community. He has hung out with the Father and Holy Spirit from the beginning of time. He teaches us so much about why it is important to be sharpened by other people and to not attempt to go about life alone. He gives us community to get through life. Sure, sometimes it’s awkward and a drag for folks to know your “all”. But, if they can love you in your “all” … then those are some people worth doing life with. Don’t be afraid to set your fish bowl on friend’s counters. It’s a good and healthy place to be.