The Second – два

A glass of wine convinced me to find the loves of my past, which is something I’ve never done. Without much thought, I held my breath and plunged my head beneath the watery surface of the past.


We stopped speaking to each other years ago. I’ll always wish our last exchange was mended, but he made it clear he did not want to maintain any semblance of friendship.

We dated for a year or so. As much as I was in love with him, perhaps in the deep recesses of my mind, I knew we were very different people who wanted very different things; married life would not have suited us.

I was living a few hours away when he called. We met up for dinner once a year to catch up, as we truly stayed friends after our romance ended. His work was having an event nearby and he wanted to know if he could crash at my apartment overnight. As a third shift worker, it was perfect: he had the apartment to himself all night while I was at work.

He came over and I got him set up on the couch. His stout athletic body had not changed from high school. He was a strong Christian, single, and I trusted him explicitly. It was comforting to enjoy his presence again. When I returned home after work, he had already folded all the blankets, showered, and eaten. He didn’t have to leave for another couple of hours, so we spent the morning chatting. With all my relationship baggage, here he was, shining the light of Christ on my world. His grounded stance and daily walks with the Lord dazzled me. He reminded me there were good men out there, as I kept forgetting.

And then, we kissed.

It was only kissing. Clothes stayed on, hands didn’t stray, and it was like I was in high school again.

And then he had to leave for his work event.

I was on Cloud 9 for the rest of the day. I knew it was just a kiss and there was nothing more to it. The beauty of him reminding me that all was not lost had a lasting effect on me. I can’t describe how much his visit soothed my aching spirit.

I got an email from him.

It was long. Very long. Oh no, I thought, thinking he wanted to restart our romantic bond.

But, as usual, I was wrong.

The entire letter consisted of him begging for my forgiveness. He felt that kissing me objectified me, as we kissed without context. He knew things could have gone much further than they did (I would never have let that happen, he was still a virgin) and that frightened him. I felt so deflated, that a kiss flung him into such a state. We kissed throughout high school, it wasn’t like this was new territory for us. I quickly typed out my reply, assuring him he had the opposite effect on me. I did not feel objectified in any way; I thoroughly enjoyed our kiss and that I would never let my passions – or his – allow us to do something we would regret. I emphasized how much his visit encouraged me. I sent his letter and my response to my friend, who was in seminary at the time, to get her take on them and she agreed he was overreacting.

And that was it. My subsequent emails were unanswered and we haven’t spoken since.

Nearly two decades have passed.

He wasn’t hard to find. He was the type that would still be in the same rural town, just like his ancestors. Interstates made him uncomfortable, as he preferred roads without lines.

Surprisingly, he had a social media page. He didn’t post often, but I did find pictures of his family. He has six kids – the oldest looks like they are in middle school, the youngest is an infant – and he lives in the middle of nowhere. Of course, I would expect nothing less. I would not be a bit surprised to find if he was a fundamentalist homeschooling Christian, but I couldn’t deduce that from what I found. His wife bears a striking resemblance to his mother, which I found a bit odd, but her homespun appearance still showed off her beauty. He aged quickly with a receding hairline and jowls. He looks much older than I do, even though I am older than him. He’s a large round man now, no longer the fit guy I remember. He’s not nearly as attractive as he was back in the day. His eyes still reflect the light and love of Christ and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is an excellent husband, father, and pillar of his church.

I have this sinking feeling he’d avoid me if we ran into each other again.

I’d still want to hear his story, if he was willing.

The First – один

A glass of wine convinced me to find the loves of my past, which is something I’ve never done. Without much thought, I held my breath and plunged my head beneath the watery surface of the past.


I went to social media. He had a professionally leaning page without any pictures of him or anything personal. Typical of him, really. My genealogical sleuthing prepped me for this. I scanned another timeline. He was still a staunch Republican, as he had touted Republican talking points since I met him. Interactions were minimal, as most of his posts concerned his current field and a few about the randomness of life and depression, which I knew he suffered from. Based on some observances, I believe he was being treated for it pharmaceutically – and also possibly suffered from Crohn’s Disease – but in those days I didn’t have the balls to inquire.

His current girlfriend looks like a model and not a day over twenty-five, but I didn’t look beyond that. I was already down the rabbit hole, I was not about to get myself caught up in a mole tunnel as well.

I really wanted to find a current picture of him. I hadn’t seen him since his twenties and he was a forty-something now. My searches came up empty. I wondered if he was still at the same company. I would know, I helped him prepare for the interview. I’m the reason he dressed sharp and walked in calm, cool, and collected. They hired him on the spot. He was made for this sort of gig. And after watching him search fruitlessly for so long, I knew this line of work would be salve to his soul.

I found the company had a social media account and started scrolling. I found a picture where his name appeared. Bingo, he was still there. I kept scrolling until I hit pay dirt. A full body picture of him standing at an event came into view.

I paused.

In my mind, he was still twenty, but in this picture, he was clearly not. It was him, alright, no questioning that. The big smile, the bright eyes, and the jawline hadn’t changed. His face, neck, and chest all expanded, as it tends to do to men in their forties. I expected him to be more muscular, but he wasn’t. He was in good shape, with a tight chest, but time had taken away the sleek sinewy body he used to press against mine. He hadn’t grayed yet and his hairline hadn’t moved. It was him, just slightly older.

He was still gorgeous.

I looked to see when the picture was taken. I checked my calendar – and sure enough – I was in the same city the same day that picture was taken. How strange. Perhaps we passed each other and never knew.

The picture couldn’t tell me anything about his personality or how he acts now. His cultural exceptionalism bled into his personal views back in the day, and I wondered if he had become tempered with age or grew into a giant asshole. It could have gone either way. I wonder if he has children.

I’d love to meet him over a beer sometime to catch up and get to know him as he is now, but without divine intervention, it is a pipe dream. I’m not even sure he would remember me or could recall me without rolling his eyes.

But man, I’d love to know what he is like now.

The Faith of a Mustard Seed

People are always shocked when I explain that I am an instantaneous gratification type or that I like hard core rock music. Apparently, it’s pretty off-brand for the persona I exhibit, which I think is hilarious. I get a kick out of surprising people. I don’t toe the party line either.

“Bigger is better” is a truth in Western culture and apparently was also in Jesus’s time, when he started talking about faith and mustard seeds, our brains automatically go to size. The mustard seed is tiny, but it grows quite a large bush.

He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 17:20

After spending time in the garden, I don’t believe Jesus was just talking about “the size” of the faith, per se. This particular translation from the ESV really made me think: faith like a grain of mustard seed.

What good is a little mustard seed sized bit of faith if it is not cared for?

The church of my youth loved to press on the “just have faith” as if it was designed for me in an instantaneous gratification exercise. They always preached that faith just happened. They never really addressed the struggling it can involve or that sometimes faith takes awhile to mature into a big robust plant with a 20ft spread.

In my experience, God usually works more like a slow cooker on low than an InstaPot, no matter how much the American Evangelical machine tries to tell me otherwise. My struggles have not been met with immediate miracle fixes. I think Jesus’s message about the mustard seed goes deeper than just the size of the seed.

A mustard seed does not grow into a large bush overnight. It takes about ten days for that little guy to germinate – and that’s if all the conditions are met with water and sun. It’s recommended to grow them in a greenhouse pot for the first three years before transplanting them outside. Mustard bushes, once established, are hardy plants that require minimal care, like a mature faith that has had years to grow. Even when fully mature, the bush does not like soggy soil and has a reputation for contracting a few fungal diseases. Like growing any plant, it takes time – an anathema to my default setting. It takes consistency with water, sun, and the occasional pruning, like the grapevine Jesus mentions in John 15.

Faith can start out microscopic and grow into something huge, just like the mustard seed becomes a bush. But that takes time. It takes care. Sometimes we take our mustard-sized seed of faith, throw it in the ground, water it for a day or so, then promptly forget about it. We don’t become intentional about caring for it.

Consistency in caring for plants and tending to my faith in Jesus go hand in hand. Faith and plants both grow – they are living things – but if not properly tended to, can die.

Like me with my not-safe-for-work hard rock playlists, there’s always more than meets the eye. And it makes me smile at how being in the garden can make one can plumb the depths of Jesus’s words through its lens.