Inspired by Brio Magazine to write letters to my future husband, I wrote nearly 150 letters during my adolescent years (sealed with wax and tied with ribbons). I wrote the first letter a month after turning 15. The letters to this imaginary person are embarrassing and ridiculous and beautiful (but mostly ridiculous). I've decided to start sharing them. My commentary is italicized and set in brackets.
Letter #2: July 28, 2002
Dearest darling, precious, light of my life, essence of all I hold dear,
Today we went to Dad's co-worker's house. They had two boys, one 13, the other 14 1/2, only 1/2 a year younger than myself. They proceeded to give all four of us the most unpleasant time they could. I will not go into particulars [oh, please, do!], but when we left, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
I sometimes think that those persons less mature than ourselves are meant to test our endurance, and our ability to love those around us [I'm pretty this is an adaptation of Mary Bennett's pious declaration: "Misfortunes, we are told, are sent to test our fortitude..."] .
And so I sat there and made myself love those boys. [Concentrate, Rebekah. You can do this. Think love love love.] I got a chance to share my faith because they asked how I could be Jewish and a believer in Jesus.
Dearest one, though this letter is not filled with many odes of love--more advice [wait...what advice?]--I love you more than I can say.
There they are again: those motifs of "love as willpower" and "God's desire against mine." I don't deny that love can be difficult or take willpower and concentration, but the more I look at the writings of my formative years, I see a fundamental belief that love by definition must be hard and that my will would always be set against God's. Why such an adversarial understanding of my relationship to God and the world?
This view of love was undermined by the arrival of my actual future husband. It was (and continues to be) the easiest relationship I'd ever stumbled into, more like tending a garden than beating back my intransigent will.
I am glad I had a sense that I should love my neighbors (even these annoying boys), but the idea of loving someone for someone else's sake (i.e., for Jesus) feels foreign to me now. Why should this be a trial to test my maturity? Why shouldn't it just grow my maturity, expand my world to include these boys that make me uncomfortable?
Why shouldn't I simply be caught up in relation, responding to these boys generously because I do not want to be a person whose face is turned perpetually away from those who hurt or annoy me? Why shouldn't I be able to cultivate the desire to turn toward other people for nourishment as a plant turns toward the sun?