only help my unbelief


The Curious Tale of Mississippi Guy and Derek Webb [Love and Limeade Slushes II]
December 29, 2008, 8:00 am
Filed under: Posts | Tags: , , , ,

Every week until we get married, I’ll be posting a short installment of the story of me and Christian. They’ll all be compiled at  Love and Limeade Slushes as I write them.

I’ve always loved to write, but it wasn’t until I started my blog that December that I began to enjoy the experience of writing in community. The blogging platform Birth Control Emily and I used, Xanga, included user-created groups that allowed you to find others with similar interests. Within a few days of joining Xanga, I was in a group called Xanga Calvinists.

There was a strange camaraderie among the people in that group. If you said you were from Xanga Calvinists, there was immediate rapport. When I got bored over Christmas break, I would read through others’ blogs. Within a few weeks, there were several people I’d gotten to know fairly well through what they’d written.

One of them was a guy who lived in Mississippi. He was in seminary at the time, studying Hebrew and Greek. He loved to read, as did I, so we had a lot in common from the beginning.

We started out talking over instant messenger, then occasionally sent e-mails. I remember the first night we talked on the phone. It was weird, because when you talk to someone only through words and computer screens, you kind of forget that what they say is devoid of all tone or accent or dialect.

I had no idea what his voice would sound like, and I think it sounded different than what I expected. I do remember him saying he thought I would have a much higher voice, like a cheerleader or something, and he was pleasantly surprised that I don’t sound like that at all. I’m actually glad I don’t sound like that, too.

One of our favorite things to talk about was Derek Webb. I had the first two of Derek Webb’s CDs, but hadn’t listened to them in a while. Mississippi Guy recommended his then-new CD, Mockingbird, and at his bequest I ordered it immediately. To this day, when I listen to any song on that CD, I think of January weather, driving to Atlanta, and the new pair of black shoes I bought the weekend we spent hours talking over instant messenger.

Derek Webb was going to be playing at Mississippi Guy”s school in March, and he was on the planning committee for the event. We talked about it a lot, and the more we talked and the more time that passed, the more I started to feel like maybe he wanted me to come to Mississippi.

It was a ten-hour drive, though, and I was pretty sure my parents wouldn’t be too thrilled. Birth Control Emily, who was aware of all that was going on, offered to go with me, though, and so I tentatively started to plan the trip.

We knew, though, that meeting in person would be awkward. And so we decided to try to meet before the March concert. Derek Webb would be playing in Georgia at the end of January, so that become our goal. We would go to the concert, which would be in a public place to assuage any concerns on anyone’s part that we were each meeting some kind of Internet stalker.

I started thinking about what I would wear. A white button-up shirt, my new rainbow scarf. My favorite pair of jeans.

At this point, I was pretty much head over heels, even though I didn’t want to admit it. It seemed like we were a match made in heaven – here was a guy who loved Jesus, hymns and languages, and he actually though I was funny (in a good way, of course).

As the date of the concert in Georgia came closer, though, Mississippi Guy started to act strangely. He wouldn’t really talk about the concert much, and our conversations beat around the bush when it came to talking about whether we were excited to see each other.

I remember tears and prayers, prayers and tears. The previous fall a relationship with a guy had ended for the third time, and although I’m not sure I recognized it at the time, I was still reeling from that. My heart was fragile, and so the prospect of a guy who seemed to care about that and who provided dependability and assurance was like, in the words of the great philosophers Sister Hazel, a junkie to a rush.

I wasn’t trusting God. I was just hoping that if I tried hard enough and showed this guy I cared about him that it would all work out. And so I grew more clingy, more needy, more desperate for this guy to be a part of my life, to know him and to be known.

I don’t know if the straw that broke the camel’s back was something I did directly, or if God was just gently taking him away, but there came a day when Mississippi Guy finally said that he didn’t think we should go to Georgia, that he was kind of talking to a girl he had previously dated, that he had loved talking to me, and maybe if we were just a little bit closer, things could have been different.

He ended whatever it was we had in the best possible way, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. Swallowing acid might have been less painful.

And so, for the entire month of February, I pretty much shut down. I went to Moe’s with my girlfriends, I went to class, I blogged. I went to the gym all the time. Anything, pretty much, to forget the previous weeks.

Derek Webb stayed.

Baby, don’t give up
‘Cause we’re the kind of folks who will always live
Right around the corner from something big
So baby, come on home
You can be the girl on my telephone

But what I thought was the death of a hope was really just God making room for me to come alive. In spring, in March, in the first weeks of warm South Carolina weather, Mississippi Guy would fade into a dream and someone else would show up, with Derek Webb still playing in the background.

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