I make a point of trying to have a conversation with all of my Uber drivers, and last Tuesday was no different. As Donald weaved through the San Francisco traffic, we starting chatting. One thing led to another and we ended up talking relationships.

You can imagine how shocked he was when I told him that I have been dating the same girl for 5 years. You can’t imagine how shocked he was when I told him that most of that time had been long distance…on opposite sides of the country. I swear he almost hit a car.

When he asked me why on earth I would do that to myself, I simply said “When you find it, you never want to let it go.” We talked more about how my faith shapes my outlook and has led me to believe relationships take commitment and sacrifice. Before I knew it we were talking about Jesus, all because of a long distance relationship!

In fact, it has been crazy how the Lord has been using my relationship to open doors to talk about the Gospel to people who would otherwise never step foot in a church. The simple fact is people can’t get over it. People don’t understand why someone would choose to be in a long distance relationship. People especially don’t understand why you would be in a long distance relationship throughout all of college.

In today’s short-term world, people are hungry for the existence of something more. Of something with substance. Of something with purpose and meaning. Of something so opposite of current culture that you can’t help but want to know more.

So after 4+ years of long distance, I think I am encroaching on the realm of “expert.” So here are my essential tips to navigating a long distance relationship:

1. Have God at the Center

I can’ begin to explain the importance of this. Not only for long distance relationships, but for every relationship. Having God at the center of a relationship is the foundation that holds everything together. Instead of focusing on yourself, you start focusing on how you can honor the other person. You become more and more committed to loving each other like Jesus; making the choice of loving one another, and sacrificing yourself for the other person.

2. FaceTime Dates

God bless the engineers at Apple. Make time to have FaceTime dates. Eat dinner together, talk about your day, exchange stories, and even do the dishes. It’s just like a real date. Except not.

3. Skip the Gifts

A short while into our relationship, we realized that we didn’t really care much about the sweaters or teapots. Instead we started to save our money to buy experiences together. Moments in time that were so worthwhile, it was like packing seven days into a few hours. So leave the gifts at Macy’s. Go to Disneyland, drive up the coast, fly across the country, see your favorite band, climb waterfalls. That time spent together is the sweetest

4. Write Letters

I know, I know, this is a little bit expected. But there is something about hand written letters that no other form of communication has. I’m not sure if it’s the excitement of ripping into an envelope, or the thought of someone else taking the time actually pour out their thoughts onto a page, or just because we have all been brainwashed by Hallmark. Either way, letters have proven a great way to keep our relationship fresh, and provide a signal that the other person is worth sitting down and taking time to talk to.

5. Pray with (and for) one another

Having a solid prayer life is extremely life giving to any relationship. It helps to build trust and intimacy that is so critical to having your significant other so far away. Without trust your relationship is dead in the water. Praying with one another about life’s big and little things has helped to build a foundation of trust that let’s each of us live independent lives, while still being grounded in one another.

Now in no way am I saying long distance is easy, because it isn’t. in fact it’s excruciatingly hard. BUT, if you are brave enough to have a long distance relationship, you will reap rewards that you didn’t even know existed.

When you choose to love someone past all of the obstacles, you end up forming a deep and meaningful bond that no other experience can replicate. You end up cherishing even the simplest moments together. Sitting on the couch, eating Chinese food watching Stranger Things becomes the most important 48 minutes in your entire life. And it is so, so sweet.