So, as surreal this is to type, I just got back from Rome last Saturday (after 23 hours of travelling through space and time). I’m still reeling from the experience of the whole thing; Rome is a pretty overwhelming place. Everywhere you turn there is something ancient, beautiful and gigantic in your view, taking you back to a much older time. But then that’s juxtaposed with an Italian McDonald’s with hipster graffiti or more mopeds than you’d ever think you could see in one glance, and you remember it’s still 2013.
I learned so many things on this trip, por ejemplo:
1. You cannot prepare yourself for St. Peter’s Basilica. You cannot fathom its beauty even while staring at it. You will just stand or kneel there, your mouth hanging open, drooling and overwhelmed with God’s glory.
2. Everyone drives a hatchback in Rome. EVERYONE. Unless you have a Ferrari or a moped. Those are the only exceptions to the hatchback rule. I even saw an Audi hatchback.
3. There is graffiti everywhere on everything. Some of it’s cool, like the rainbow art on the trains, but some of its cringe-worthy, like the graffiti on cathedrals. Ugh.
4. Romans are way ahead of the fashion trend. People could tell I was American just by looking at me and my non-trendy pea coat and glasses. It was all about the puffy coats, Ray Ban sunglasses, glossy hair, leather boots, and scarves tied in intricate ways. Even the dogs were dressed more trendily than I.
And on a more serious note, I learned…
5. You cannot prepare yourself for the moment when the man you love gets down on one knee and asks you the question you’ve been dreaming about since you were a Jonathan Taylor Thomas-obsessed preteen. You just can’t. Everything stops in that moment, you get lost in this tunnel-vision, pseudo out-of-body experience, and you are stuck, staring at this person as they humble themselves on their knees, telling you how precious you are, and asking you to spend the rest of your life with them.
Nothing prepares you for this. I’m saying this as someone who had been begging Danger for hints about if, when, how we would get engaged. I imagined it all kinds of ways. I thought about what I would say, what I would do. I thought I was prepared for it, and I was not. Not even close.
He took me to Castel Sant’Angelo, which means “Castle of the Holy Angel” in English. At the very top is a large statue of St. Michael the Archangel. The story goes that during a plague, the faithful people of Rome prayed for help, and they saw an apparition of St. Michael atop this castle, and the plague ended. Beautiful building with deep history.
As we climbed to the top, and I took my merry time not knowing what was ahead of me, Danger explained the significance of this building, and how it is his favorite place in all of Rome.
“Oh, cool,” I said, looking for a place to sit. He smiled and remained patient, allowing me to sit as long as I pleased.
When we finally reached the top, and I saw the incredible view of Rome, my heart started to race as I remembered what he just told me. This was his favorite place in all of Rome! I had a vague idea the proposal was coming up, so maybe this was it?
… Nooo. Surely not. I’m just being fanciful. He’s acting way too calm for this to be it.
He took me to the overlook, and we got our picture taken. Then when I suggested we get our picture in front of St. Michael, he said, “No. Not yet. Let’s pray first.”
Then my heart really started racing. I mean, we pray a lot in our relationship, but we didn’t have a habit of praying at every cool site in Rome. That would take eternity.
Slightly suspicious, I went to him, and he pulled out a St. Michael prayer book, saying, “Why don’t we pray the last day of our St. Michael novena while we’re here?” He smiled at me, his voice shaking only slightly.
I started shaking too, “Okay, sounds good.”
So we prayed the last day of our devotion to St. Michael, something Danger introduced into our relationship several months ago (clever man, that Danger is). When we finished, Danger told me how happy he was with our relationship, and how he couldn’t wait to propose to me soon. I deflated a little, thinking that meant now wasn’t it.
But before I could get too deflated, he found the same tourist to take our picture in front of the statue. After she took a picture, Danger asked her to take one more. Except he didn’t pose with me. Instead he reached in his pocket, and I froze making some weird sound like, “Ohhhh, unnnnhhhh…” Real classy.
Then he got down on one knee, holding out this beautiful ring, and began telling me the sweetest, most lovely things. I jumped up and down, and beamed at him, while the tourist taking our picture exclaimed, “Oh my gosh!!!” and kept snapping away. When he asked me the question, I have no idea what I said back, but it was something affirmative, because the next thing I knew we were hugging and laughing.
I stared at my no longer naked left hand, and kept saying, “This doesn’t feel real. This is so perfect. It’s perfect…” We were both in wonder and awe, and we were both still shaking.
It’s moments like this that remind me how love is bigger than words or flowers or gestures. Love accomplishes the impossible. I never thought I would find someone to love me like Danger loves me. I thought I was too broken, too damaged, too unloveable. Yet, even in my brokenness, love rose up and redeemed me. I feel so undeserving of this love, yet I recognize it’s not about being worthy or deserving. Love overcomes all of that, and is a gift given freely by God. God loves me through Danger, and it’s overwhelming. I am unworthy of it, but I humbly accept it, knowing that’s what we’re all called to do: receive love and give it back, over and over and over again.
And so I said “yes” and now I’m happily terrified. It’s a glorious thing!