The Fall semester at Duke was flying by. I was busy each day walking around Duke’s campus, leading my sophomore Bible study, and meeting with freshman girls. It was so fun getting to know each student.
I loved that I got to spend time on a college campus but I wasn’t cramming for exams and going to class.
Often times I would step into Duke’s beautiful chapel during the day for a few minutes to reflect and to pray. I would stare at the stained glass murals that followed the stories of the Bible in the Old and New Testament and I would think about the lives that each mural represented. I would try to trace my way through the Bible following the stained glass around the chapel walls.
Then I would think about how God had brought me to Duke and all that He was doing in my own life.
It amazed me how He has continually been working in the lives of His people from the beginning of time.
It amazed me that He could even care about the little things in my life.
He was showing me that through bringing Grant to me just how much He did care. I couldn’t believe it. But I shouldn’t be surprised.
Grant and I were growing closer and closer with each day and I would daily find myself talking to the Lord about our relationship. I was praying about our relationship that day in the chapel.
You see, I was struggling with something.
And it wasn’t my love and respect for Grant. Somehow, I already knew that I loved him. I never thought I could love someone so quickly and so assuredly, but I did.
I was struggling with something else: I didn’t know how to explain my relationship with Grant to other people.
I knew that it should be simple enough, but it wasn’t.
Because Grant was in Japan, it wasn’t like people could see us spending time together and say the typical, “I saw Grant and GraceAnna on a date together!”
I never thought I would miss that kind of talk, but I actually did because now I had to initiate on my own that I was dating someone.
And could I even use the word “date” since we’d never actually been on one? And what if someone asked me when the last time was that I actually saw Grant? And what if they asked how much time we had actually spent together?
I did attempt to tell people though. The conversation usually went like this,
“I’m talking with a guy, well dating a guy.”
“Well, his name is Grant.”
“How do you know him?”
“Well, it’s kind of a long story, but I met him in when I was in high school.”
“Oh, so you went to high school with him?”
“Well, no, but that’s just when we met.”
“So y’all were friends?”
“Well, not really, but we knew of each other.”
“Okay. So, how did you reconnect?”
“Well, actually through Facebook.”
“Oh…. Okay. Where does he live?”
“Oh. Wow. When was the last time you saw him?”
“6 years ago.”
“Oh. Wow. Well, um, neat.”
No matter how hard I tried, I felt at a complete loss to explain to others the legitimacy of our relationship. And the fact is, I knew it sounded strange. All other people heard was that I was dating seriously some guy who was a Marine in Japan that I’d met once. It sounded sketchy.
(Now, I will say that for those who knew me growing up and knew Grant’s family and story, it was not strange or weird at all! They thought it was so amazing that we had reconnected and were beyond excited for me.)
But even in my struggle to explain my relationship with Grant, God was teaching me something. He was teaching me to trust Him and not worry about what other people thought and said.
So I prayed for boldness, and I tried my best to explain.
“I want to come see you,” Grant told me one day over the phone. It was close to Thanksgiving.
“Well, I had originally planned to go home to Texas for Christmas, but instead, I’d like to come see you.”
“Grant, I would love that.”
And so, just like that, Grant started making plans to come to South Carolina.
“I heard they met over the internet,” I heard the hushed voices whisper in the next room.
I was on a break from Duke and hanging out with some friends. I was alone in the next room and I tried not to overhear what they were saying, but as I folded my clothes into my suitcase, I couldn’t help but hear their words.
“He’s coming to visit her for Christmas. I guess they are really serious.“
“Wow, for Christmas? That’s pretty intense, meeting the family and all. And it’s only been a few months.”
“Yeah, and she hasn’t seen him since high school. And even then they didn’t really know each other.”
“Well, hopefully it will all work out. Sometimes those types of relationships do.”
“Yeah, I sure hope so.”
I put the last item in my suitcase and sat down on the sofa. I picked up a pillow and rested my hands on it. I felt the tears welling up in my eyes.
Maybe I shouldn’t have told anyone about my relationship with Grant at all, I thought to myself. I should have waited until after he visited, and then I could tell people. Then it wouldn’t sound so strange.
But I knew that it would be even stranger if I kept the whole thing a secret for months. Since Grant and I were becoming serious, I had to start telling people.
And if they didn’t get it, then they just didn’t get it.
As I sat alone in the room, I called Grant on his phone. It was after 2am his time, I knew I would wake him up. But I needed to talk to him.
“Hello?” his groggy voice answered on the other end.
“Hey, it’s me. I’m really sorry to wake you up.”
“Is everything okay, GraceAnna?” he could hear the tightness in my voice.
“Yes,” I said, as the tears I had been trying to hold in started to fall.
“What’s wrong? Tell me what’s wrong.“
I told him about the conversation I’d just overheard and how I had been feeling when I tried to explain my relationship with him to other people.
“I feel like people don’t understand. And I want them to understand and be excited for me.“
“GraceAnna,” Grant’s warm voice broke into my tears, “It doesn’t matter what other people think. What matters is what you and those who know you best think.“
“It’s just difficult for people to understand because they’ve never met me and I’m all the way in Japan. But after I come see you, it won’t matter anymore, okay?”
“You’ve got to stop this and just trust the Lord.“
“I know.” I took a deep breath. Grant always knew just what to say. And it always amazed me how he wasn’t afraid to tell me the truth. I loved that he guided me like that.
“I’m sorry, GraceAnna.” This time I could hear the sadness in his voice. “I’m sorry that I’m not there to pursue you in person. I’m sorry that it’s hard for you to explain. I’m sorry that I’m stationed in Japan right now. But that’s why I’m coming all the way across the world to see you, okay? If I could be there now, I would be. And after I come, everyone will understand. People mean well. They just care about you and don’t want you to get hurt. I love you, GraceAnna. It’s all going to be fine.”
“Grant, I love you too. I can’t wait to see you in less than a month.”
“I know, I’m counting down the days! Now, turn that frown upside down and go out there and have an awesome day!”
I laughed and now I was smiling, “Grant, that’s corny.”
“It made you smile didn’t it?“
“Yes, it did. Thank you, Grant. I’m really sorry I woke you up. I just needed to talk to you.”
“GraceAnna, you can call me anytime you need to. Anytime. I love you, girl.”
I hung up the phone and walked over to the mirror and wiped away my tears. I gave a big smile and tried to determine if I looked like I had been crying. I decided I looked good enough.
And he’d just called me “sweetheart!”
I took a deep breath, opened the door, and I did just what Grant told me to do, I had an awesome day.
to be continued…