At the suggestion of Regan over at A Place for Everything I am posting my love story (super abridged) in celebration of St. Valentine's Day. It's a story filled with mystery and surprises because it centers around a love triangle. Before you jump to Hollywood-like conclusions, let me clarify that this particular love triangle consists of my husband, myself...and my God.
I first met my future husband very late at night at a neighbor's house. It was a Friday but I was already in bed trying to refresh for an early morning track meet. I was a senior in high school and certainly unused to turning in before the wee hours of morning. As I lay staring at my ceiling, I heard a knock against my second story window. Then another. It was my neighbor who lived across the street and happened to be hosting a late night Bible study with his friends. He was throwing stones at my window.
I didn't want to go. I wanted to do well at my meet. Then he said the magic word: pizza. Pizza? Okay, be right there. I left the sleeping household by passing through the quietest door (figuring my odds of getting permission were greater if I didn't ask) and walked over.
Now is the time when my memories take on a glittery aspect with romantic music playing in the background. All else fades from vision as he comes into view. *swoon* It is rather safe to say that I was completely smitten from the start. He was older, having just graduated from college, but that certainly added to his charm. I stayed until the wee hours (and until my friend and next door neighbor, Jenny, was practically asleep and begging to leave). I was exhausted the next day but positively giddy as I thought of this incredible man I had just met. I hardly knew anything about him. I didn't even know his last name. But that hardly mattered to a 17-year old girl.
I did not know that my mysterious Prince Charming was on his way to Catholic seminary to study for the priesthood. He had to make a final commitment soon and had offered up a prayer, two weeks before we met, asking God to make clear whether a religious vocation was His will. God answered quickly.
One week after our first meeting, I was running late (very) to the Spring musical at my high school due to a long running track meet. I was supposed to meet my boyfriend and my parents to see our friends perform. The parking lot was full. It was already dark. I pulled into one of the only available spaces I could find and noticed that another car pulled in across from me at the exact same moment. I waited until the man got out of his car and started walking away so that I wouldn't have to be alone in a very large and dark lot with a stranger. But it wasn't long before I was running to catch him and calling his name. Nobody else I knew had yellow hair like that! It was the mystery man who had secretly stolen my heart the week before and he was as surprised as I was. He had come to see some friends from an area youth group perform in the show.
We stood in the lobby of the school for the entire first act talking to each other. We were both so late that there was no chance of finding our seats. (That's what we told each other anyway.) It was a wonderful hour and I deeply regretted that when those doors opened for intermission it would have to end.
The next time we met was a few weeks later. I needed a ride somewhere and asked my neighbor well in advance if he would drive. He agreed but cancelled at the last minute and feeling responsible for his commitment, asked my future husband to fill in as chauffer. This was clearly not a planned date from my perspective but apparently he didn't see it that way. I hope we have the opportunity to argue about for many more years to come! We spent the day together and began the journey of becoming best friends. We walked through the park and he sang to me. He bought me black cherry ice cream and we walked the beach (such as it is) of Lake Erie. We sat on the rocks and talked about life and love and faith.
I was not a believing Christian. He had given himself mind, body and soul to Jesus and His holy Catholic Church. I was lost and broken and searching. Over the next few months he demonstrated to me what it means to be a follower of Christ and I was swept off my feet. By both of them. I was in love with this man and learned to love Jesus for the sake of my beloved. Over the course of time, my future husband taught me how to reverse that order and introduced me to a life of freedom and joy that have surpassed the grandest dreams of my imagination. I was 18 years old when he proposed after the Easter Vigil Mass in front of the Blessed Sacrament at Franciscan University of Steubenville. I was 19 when we married.
We arrived at the hotel for the one and only night of our honeymoon and settled ourselves in. He asked me to sit down on the sofa and wait for him and returned with an armful of presents which I opened one by one. The second to last present was a large bowl. Odd. Okay though. Thank you! The last was a stoneware pitcher painted with fruit and the words "Fullness of Joy". How pretty! Thank you! Very thoughtful.
Wait here, he said, and disappeared into the bathroom.
When he returned, my pretty new pitcher was filled with warm water. He moved the bowl to the base of the couch where I was sitting. And...
He washed my feet.
To this day (almost 14 years later), I cannot write that without being overcome by emotion. I did not fully understand it then but each year that passes brings deeper understanding. He "washes my feet" every day of our lives and continues to show me the love Jesus has for my poor and wounded soul. He carried me across the threshold into a life in Christ and has never put me down, committed to being the hands and feet of Jesus for his bride.
The details are a million memories of joy and sorrow, new life and loss, struggle and triumph. But at the end of the day we belong to each other and together, we belong to God. The perfect love triangle.
As I reread this short account, I know it isn't enough. It is the brief notes of a beginning. The story of true love can never be fully told here on earth. The years of laughter and tears that can't be understood by any other. The mystery and graces of marriage are like a symphony that rises and falls in arrangements that move the soul past the limitations of words. God's composition in it's fullness is unknown to us at the beginning but we unfold with the music and find that our hearts are captured in a work that surpasses all mystery and beauty. We weep at the moments that rend our hearts but we do not see the whole of the piece at those times. We do not interfere with the music but cling to it with hope that the valleys will rise into glory. We dance for God, like David, when the joy of consolation floods our senses.
Take us to the completion of your beautiful symphony, Dear Father. We are in your hands and beg you to conform our hearts to your sweet song that we might find ourselves united to you when the final notes ring out in our lives.
Other posts with details about my journey in love:
"If we win, we praise Him. If we lose, we praise Him"