Six years ago I met a boy. I had zero romantic interest in him, but we became the best of friends. We loved all the same things… soccer, live music, pizza + beer… the list could go on but these ones carry most of my memories of friendship with him.
We spent more afternoons at my favorite coffee shop in Jonesboro, Arkansas than I can remember between 2008-2010, sometimes talking and sometimes just sharing a table while I studied and he planned worship sets. We took as many trips to Memphis as we could to see our favorite bands play together. We talked sports and there was never anything more than a high five going on between us every time we left hanging out.
Then 2011 rolled around. He had a girlfriend at the time, and I remember beginning to think that I missed my best friend. Somewhere over those few months of our friendship having boundaries for the first time, I started to wonder if maybe I could like… really like him. Obviously this felt horribly risky, so I decided to just pretend those feelings weren’t there for a while.
I remember talking to some of our friends one night and saying, “Guys, I don’t know what to do. I feel like when I think about the girl he needs to end up with, and I start to describe her in my head… she sounds a lot like me.” There they were, out on the table. My feelings. Exposed. I felt naked and afraid. And I knew it didn’t even matter at the time, because he was dating someone else. Even if I did have real feelings, he certainly didn’t reciprocate them.
I didn’t know what to do. So I fasted. For 21 days I was asking God over and over, “Lord, if these feelings are from you, I trust you’ll take care of me, and if they’re not, I don’t want to feel them ever again.” …well about day 5, he broke up with his girlfriend. My prayer took a slight turn to simply saying, “OK God, I think I want him. Can I have him?”
At the end of those 21 days, there weren’t words written in the sky, there wasn’t a burning bush or angelic visitation… but I remember feeling like God had given me this deep sense of peace, and I remember feeling like I kept hearing the words, “Just keep being. I’ve got you. I have the best for you.”
So for about a month, nothing changed. Besides that I felt like my best friend was back — and that was good. So good. And then one night in March of 2011, he called and said he wanted to come over and talk to me. He told me he was sorry that he had missed a season of my life when he was dating someone. He told me I was his best friend, and he loved spending time with me. He told me he couldn’t really imagine time with anyone else being better than time with me, and that he felt like he was growing feelings for me that were bigger than us being just friends.
Side note: OK, I wouldn’t probably recommend that all relationships go this way, but our years of friendship prior to this conversation made this next part not weird.
So basically we talk all of it out, and decide: (a) I think I want to spend my life with you; (b) we should probably date first; (c) we don’t feel like it’s time for us to date right now.
He told me he knew that with his fairly recent breakup, and him being on staff at our church, and me being in leadership in our college ministry, that it just didn’t feel peaceful to jump right into dating someone else. So we waited. For months I’d been working through these feelings in my own heart, then we finally had the conversation I’d been waiting for, and it ended in knowing we needed to keep waiting.
I remember him telling me, “I don’t know how long it’ll be until we feel like God says it’s time… it could be two months or two years, but I want you to know that you’re worth it, and I am going to wait.”
(Obviously I’m crying at this point.)
And then we went almost three months without really talking or hanging out. (Cried plenty more times during that time period) We just… waited. We knew we shouldn’t toy with the line of friendship/more than friendship, so we just stopped spending time together unless our friends happened to be all hanging out.
It was hard! I had gone through this whole process of believing for something, and then being told I could have it — but not yet. God’s promises are funny like that. Sometimes He shows us what He has for us and then He invites us in to the refining place of waiting and contending — not because we need to earn something but because He wants to stamp us with His image in those places. There’s a piece of His heart to be found in the waiting.
I think in that season the piece of His heart I found was that He’s for me, no matter what. He was stamping on me a belief that His promises are true, and the things He promises are worth fighting for.
Three months later we started dating, and this weekend I get to celebrate two years of being Mrs. Noland Gilmore. As I’m looking back on our second year of marriage, I’m reminded that it’s been marked by the same thing that started it all: waiting.
It’s been a year of the two of us contending for something that we’re not sure if or when it will happen. It’s been a year of learning to carry each other in ways we haven’t had to before. It’s been a year of unfulfilled promises.
But today, I choose to celebrate. Because every day I wake up next to a promise fulfilled. And that makes me want to keep fighting for the ones I’ll see come to life in the future.
Cheers, my love — to all the promises we’ve yet to see fulfilled. What glorious days ahead of us!