Fathom Mag

Published on:
August 27, 2019
Read time:
2 min.
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I Love You

I accidentally told him I loved him at the airport. It was early on in our dating relationship, and I had just hugged him goodbye. We were parting ways after a week long visit, to return--unenthusiastically--to long-distance dating. I turned to walk toward my Southwest gate, and it just slipped out: “Okay, bye - I love you!” I immediately walked away from him, toward the escalator, unwilling to look back to see if he heard me. My cheeks were on fire. My heart was a drumline. 

What doesn’t matter is who said it first, but that we keep on saying it.
Rachel Joy Welcher

I thought about texting him to clarify, but decided that would make it worse. What was I going to say anyway - that I didn’t love him? Of course I did. But we weren’t at that stage yet. It wasn’t time. There was an order to these things. And plus, he had to say it first. I straightened my metaphorical armor, clanking it back into position across my chest.

It was months before the “L” word came up again. This time he said it, in a park, close to my face: “You know I love you, right?” “I love you, too,” I told him. He smiled: “I know.” Suddenly I remembered that moment, months before. “Wait! Did you hear me at the airport that time?” He just kept smiling. 

What doesn’t matter is who said it first, but that we keep on saying it. After a fight. After dinner. After church. When it is storming outside and we are watching Netflix on the couch. After a bike ride, sweaty and out of breath. When we’re stressed. When we’re broken. When we can’t wait for the day to begin. When we go to bed together, or one of us stays up late. 

Every time you tell someone you love them, it is a risk, that it will be brushed off, ignored, or that this will be the time that they don’t say it back. Maybe you wonder if you say it too often, or that it is too little, too late. Beloved, put your armor down. Stand, defenseless. Tell the people you love that you love them, and look back, to see if they heard. 

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Rachel Joy Welcher
Rachel Joy Welcher is an editor-at-large at Fathom Magazine and an Acquisitions Editor for Lexham Press. She earned her MLitt. from The University of St. Andrews. She is the author of two collections of poetry: Two Funerals, Then Easter and Blue Tarp, and the book, Talking Back to Purity Culture: Rediscovering Faithful Christian Sexuality (InterVarsity Press, 2020). You can follow her on Twitter @racheljwelcher.

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