I got a letter from Afghanistan yesterday, which is about my favorite thing in the universe. As I was about to leave my parents house (I always stop by after work because I'm right there, and since my little brother is just moved out, my mum is rather lonely), when I got a text message from my older brother (to whom my mail is still being sent because of address changes and such), saying "You've got a Cook letter!"
Of course then, I shrieked most fetchingly and leapt into my car, all the while smiling and trying to listen to mum as she told me "don't speed! it'll be there! be careful! oh dear..." It seemed to take hours to get to my brother's apartment in Asheville (I still think of it as my apartment...sigh). My heart kept spinning as I reached each visual marker... the highway... the junction to 240...the expressway... Charlotte Street exit--oh my gosh--..finally the road to the development...I halted in front of the apartment and literally jumped out of the car and ran up the walk. When the door was locked, I hyperventilated and knocked about ten times. After a moment, Phil opened the door and he laughed at me as I slithered past him and ran towards the stack of mail I saw on the dining table.
Amazon, Amazon, something from Montreat that I've already gotten, junk mail and then---there it was. A letter. A nice, thick letter, full of pages. My pulse was tingling in my fingers. I looked up at Phil and squealed a bit, and he laughed at me again while I tried to be polite and make some conversation--"how are you? is Ben settled? kthnxbai."
I truly did consider the possibility of waiting until I got home to read the letter. For about 10 seconds, I thought I would give this occasion the import it deserved, and wait til I could sit down on my deck with some dinner and a cranberry Mike's---wait til I could be calm and devote all my attention to every word that he wrote to me.
Yeah, that didn't happen. Before I was back in my car, I had pulled open the envelope and snatched out the letter. By the time I was seated, but before I had closed the door, I had read his familiar greeting--"Hi babe!"--and by the time the door shut, I was crying.
Sometimes I wish he weren't such a good writer. I think it would be easier if I loved a soldier who was more like the Army-grunt stereotype, who just wrote things like "How are you? It was super hot today. I missed you alot." Instead I love the soldier who writes things like this:
"It's always a surprise when that moment comes... that moment you've been preparing for but never ever could really expect. Our base was attacked today. One minute I was walking down the dusty, scorching streets, looking at the dirty sun-soaked signs posted on the stone walls that turn the roads into tunnels, and the next---that moment. Those sounds, that energy and impact that happened so quickly it was like my body was metal and the sand was magnet, I hit the ground so fast. It was beyond sensing. The fire, the debris, the screaming, the death. When finally those automatic actions we take for granted restarted, when I was able to see and move and focus again, you were the only thing my mind could locate to keep me sane...to think that 30 seconds ago, I was standing where the bombs hit and it could have been me. But it wasn't, not yet. It may seem strange, but I suddenly understand that my life is not my own. If the time came that I had to give my life the way others did today, I would do it gladly. My life is not mine. My moments are not mine."
Then he closed the letter, 3 pages later, with two sentences that I had to read twice, because I thought I had misread them at first--"Every day I get more tired of being your boyfriend--I want to be your husband."
I don't have it in front of me, but I've almost got it memorized by now, so I think that's about 85% verbatim. I cried so hard after reading that letter. I'm not sure what I was feeling. Not sadness, exactly. Sorrow that he had to suffer through what he did. Agonizing joy and relief that he was alright. Terror, because it finally, truly, one hundred percent sunk in how far away he is, and how dangerous his world is. But more than anything--I think I felt gratitude. Gratitude that the Lord brought this man into my life. Gratitude that I've been afforded such an incomprehensibly stunning romance. Gratitude for His perfect design, His deep love for me and for Andrew. Gratitude that suddenly I have so much perspective on the stupid little dealings in my life--all this stuff about renters and money and "oh, I'm such a hardass?" Who cares? I'm full of love and softness now. I've been reminded what matters. It's not about power and control and making sure that everybody does what I need them to do. If I may be pardoned a line that I never thought I would say outside of jest or quoting, love is all you need.
Thank you, God.