From Belfast with Love Part 2: First Impressions

12:44 AM

Standing at the arrivals gate in Dublin International Airport, waiting to meet my great long distance romance, my thoughts tumbled back to the first time I ever stepped foot on the Emerald Isle.

                                                               First time in Belfast 

 It had seemed an interminably long flight to an energetic sixteen-year-old. I'd never left America before, but even as a child I had dreamed of visiting Ireland. Drifting in and out of consciousness, a sudden beam of light protruded from an open window shocking me awake. 

As shafts of light slowly streamed across the landscape, I saw the black pool of the Atlantic recede as the plane dipped low over the lush, rolling slopes of Shannon. Clear boundary lines marked  ancient stone fences and tiny white cottages sprawled beneath us. Suddenly, I caught my breath, as a great marquee of a sun rose in the distance separating the light into all the individual colors of the rainbow while curling around the horizon, seemingly encapsulating the earth. As first impressions go, it was a rather good one. Surely, the first day of creation was no less marvelous than this.

I spent a blissful two weeks with my friends in Northern Ireland. Though I left reluctantly, I did so with a promise in my heart. I would come back to this place and not just for a visit. Someday, if only for a time, I was going to live in Belfast. 

And I did...God opened the door to an incredibly blessed, life changing year interning at a church right in the heart of the city. I thought that season of my life was long over. What on earth was I doing here now?

Gazing out the enormous two story windows at the bustling street below, I strained for a glance of Nathan. Worries swirled around me pulling at my heart like a million irritating horseflies. What would he be like "in person" after all these years? Would I recognize him? Would we even like each other? Would I recognize that cheerful boy from Queens?

The six months leading up to my visit had been undeniably wonderful. From that first date he was so different from any other guy I'd known. For one thing, the banter was great.

"I've finally discovered it!" He proudly announced to me one day. 

"Discovered what?" I asked.

 "Your love language....IT'S SARCASM!!" He erupted in ill contained mirth as I smirked a reply. 

However, it was more than just his humor that intrigued me. He was deep, perceptive, insightful, and wise. It was as if for the first time, someone truly saw me. To be loved is a great thing. To be known and loved, greater still. 

Those first few months we both sneakily tried to ascertain what the other person felt about nearly everything. No topic was too random or off limits: God, theology, politics, cultural differences, past experiences and future goals, we found the similarities were striking and the differences negligible. In July he first told me he loved me. 

"NO!" I yelled. "Don't say it! Not yet. Not until you see me again."

"Alright... I 'phileo you'....Will that do?" He teased. 

After months of phone chats that often lasted long into the night, I knew I needed to meet him again in the flesh. He'd offered to fly out to me, but I wanted to see him on his own turf, with his own people. Somehow Nathan Anderson only seemed right in the context of Northern Ireland. 

So, there I stood, heart in hand, with six months of hopes, dreams, and fears all whirling around inside of me. Had I made the biggest mistake of my life, or just stumbled onto one of life's greatest adventures?

"BOO!" Someone grabbed me by the shoulders.

"Nathan!" I screamed half in terror,  half in joy. 

"I wanted to make sure it was you, I almost hugged the wrong girl before!" he laughed. 

I held on to him for a good five minutes, not wanting to let him go. If I looked up, who would I find? Was he the man I'd come to adore from 5,000 miles away? In my heart I prayed for God's best and released all I'd known those past six months in order to fully see the man who stood before me. Nathan Anderson as I knew him was gone.....

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