I guess you could say it all started with a photo.
The location was Estes Park, CO, at a campus ministry retreat called “Rocky Mountain Getaway.” I was beginning my first full year of ministry at CU in Boulder. Chris was a second-year law student, who had recently become a Christian. We didn’t know each other. But when I snapped a random picture of a group of our students, I unintentionally focused on Chris, centering him in the photo.
Unbeknownst to me, I had just taken a picture of my future husband.
Fast forward five years. Chris was now an attorney at a local law firm, and an active volunteer in the campus ministry where I still served on the staff. We had each dated other people during that time period, but were acquainted with each other. That fall, I accepted his invitation to go out on a double dinner date. I wasn’t really interested in being more than friends, so after the date, I gave him the (nice Christian) cold shoulder. He got the hint.
Fast forward one year. I had just returned from a somewhat stressful summer in the former Soviet Union. At an August wedding reception, a guy I had previously liked asked me: “How was the ministry?” I felt pressure to impress. Then Chris approached, asking a slightly different question: “How are you?” I felt something in me shift. He cared about me, my heart, not just my ministry performance.
I guess you could say he had me at: “How are you?”
I waited two agonizing months before he finally asked me out again. After being “friend-zoned” the previous year, I really couldn’t blame him for being hesitant. Our (second) first date was to a campus-wide 50’s party. Chris had two left feet, but one reassuring smile.
In a journal entry around that time, I expressed my core desires for a future relationship. I wrote: “I just want to be pursued.” Along with: “I just want to feel secure.”
On our (first) second date, Chris surprised me when he said two things that I knew were more than mere coincidence. First: “In case you can’t tell, I’m pursuing you.” Followed by: “I just want you to feel secure.”
One of my fellow staff members suggested Chris had been peeking at my journal. I sensed it was the Holy Spirit’s doing.
Despite the obvious God-incidences, I still had some doubts. I told my roommate one night that I thought Chris was “too nice.” She laughed so hard she nearly fell off her bed.
The real turning point came over Thanksgiving weekend. Chris and I were invited to Thanksgiving dinner at a staff couple’s house. I volunteered to make an apple pie, and was elbow-deep in flour when I realized I didn’t own a rolling pin. Chris came to the rescue, picking one up at the grocery store and delivering it just in time. I still use that rolling pin.
That weekend, he also invited me to my first Denver Broncos game. I wasn’t dressed for the chilly November evening, and was soon shivering in my light sweater, stirrup pants, and Ked’s. Chris gallantly put his arm around me during the game to keep me warm, and then held my gloved hand for the first time as we made our way from Mile High stadium back to his car.
I could feel my heart warming, too.
When we were apart for a week and a half over the Christmas break, he called me every day but one. He made me feel secure–and pursued. I joked with my friends that “Merry Christmas” sounded a lot like “Marry Chris Smith!”
That’s not to say I never panicked. One January evening, I was considering breaking things off with him, although I can’t remember why. I went over to his apartment that night to “talk.” As we sat on the couch, Chris’ two cats rubbed up against him, purring as he petted them. Watching his gentleness with them and their affection for him, my heart melted. The break-up was averted. We still call this: “How the cats saved our relationship.”
On Valentine’s Day, he gave me a vase which held three red roses: one for the past, one for the present, and one for the future. I made him a heart-shaped chocolate cake and a handmade card which began, “You are my Boaz.”* It felt gutty to say that, but I had a growing conviction that he was “The One.”
A month later, we sat side-by-side in a wooden pew at the church where he had accepted Jesus as his Savior, six and a half years earlier. (Flashback to the year I took that “random” photo.) He handed me a hand-written letter. This was the place where he had made “the most important decision of my life,” the letter read. He also wanted this to be the place where he made “the second most important decision of my life.”
There was no string quartet playing our favorite song. No trail of rose petals leading to a hidden ring box. Just another simple question, sweet, and from the heart. He knelt in the cramped space between the church pews and asked, “Will you marry me?”
I answered, “Yeah.” We still laugh about that, too.
Fast forward five and a half months. On an unusually humid Boulder afternoon, Chris and I stood at the front of a rustic country church, surrounded by family and friends, and exchanged wedding vows. We sang a hymn, and I smiled at the lyric: “Hast thou not seen how all thy longings have been granted in what He ordaineth?”**
I had seen. God had fulfilled my deepest desires. I was pursued. I was secure.
The same way Jesus loves His bride.
That’s our story. I love it, not just because it’s ours, but because God was the Author of it.
He writes the best love stories.
*From the Old Testament book of Ruth, which tells the sweet love story of a widowed Ruth and her future husband, Boaz.
**Lyrics are from “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” by Joachim Neander.