We were leaning up against my truck. She and I. We had kissed many times before this. But this time, I wouldn’t forget.
For months, I had wanted to tell her something every time we kissed. I wanted to tell her that I loved her. But I was terrified to say it. What if it scared her away? I was crazy about this girl. The last thing I wanted to do was chase her off. And then it happened. She pressed her hands against my chest just enough to gently push back so she could look me in the eyes. “I love you,” she said.
She beat me to it.
Next summer, I will have been married to that girl for 18 years. I still have the same crush on her I have always had. Every year around Valentine’s Day I remember that night. Why didn’t I tell her I loved her first?
I don’t look back on this because I’m competitive in some weird way about this with my wife. Rather, it’s the lesson I think I learned that night, from that kiss and those words. I have no idea how many times I’ve told her I love her since then. Countless. It’s easy. But getting over that hurdle of fear that first time seemed insurmountable. Fear paralyzes us from stating our love, following our passion.
So, let me ask you this: What do you love and, yet, are terrified to say out loud?
It’s the first step of stating it out loud, claiming it, that is the hardest. Once you state your passion, you can’t look back. It’s out there. The good news about this is that you no longer have to hide.
Like me, sometimes you might be fortunate enough to have opportunity announce itself to you. Much more often, though, you are required to name it and take hold of it. In any case, the hardest work—yet most fulfilling—is still to come.
When she told me that she loved me, I didn’t have to reciprocate. I could have remained fearful. What if I didn’t really mean it? What if she didn’t really mean it? It’s risky. It’s vulnerable. Why? Because if it’s taken away, well … that’s why we call it a “broken heart.” This is the risk we take when we announce our passion.
This also exposes a truth about following what you love: you never know until you try living into it. Love is hard. It takes work. And yet it’s fulfilling in a way that surpasses so much in life. It nourishes your soul. There’s no metric for this. But you know how it feels when you are tending to that which you truly love.
For me, I loved that girl. So, I married her and do what it takes to stay in a caring relationship with her. I love being a dad. So, I make sure I’m present and involved even when I feel incapable. I love the Church and those that aren’t yet a part of this incredible community. So, I found a way to make it my life’s work. All three of these terrified me to say out loud at one point in life.
What are you afraid to say that you love? Who is it? What is it? Maybe it’s an art form, a calling, a passion … what is it?
Only you know. We don’t know yet because you haven’t told us.
Maybe you’ll get lucky. Maybe what you love will find you. If it does, you are faced with a choice. Will you let fear take over? Play it safe? Or will you seize the opportunity?
I say, kiss it on the lips. Declare your love. And live into it.
Photo (Flickr CC) by LexnGer