My children have heard the short version many times. It's one often told around here, the student and teacher who fell in love at first sight. I'll admit to a tingle of anticipation when awaiting my turn at parties where the topic of "how did you two meet?" comes up, because our story is a good one. I love to tell it.
This is the story of how I met your father.
I walked into Old Main at the university a couple of days before classes started for my sophomore year. And there he was, walking down the stairs to meet me at the bottom step just as if we'd rehearsed it for a play. A mutual friend introduced us, and the rest is history... quite literally. My husband is a history professor.
Because of the strict rules at our school, and my tender age (I was eighteen), we had to get permission from the administration and my parents, to date. It would make the story even better if he had been MY teacher, but I never had him for a class, which is good because I know they'd have denied us dating privileges, for good reasons.
But he wasn't, and so we did, and the rest is history. Our first "official" date was November 4th, which we remember now more because it became our daughter's birthday 8 years later. By Thanksgiving Break, I told my mother if he asked me to marry him, I'd say yes with all my heart.
When the audience is still interested, sometimes I continue with some other fun bits. My parents were highly suspicious of this supposed paragon of manly virtue, somehow still unattached at age 25 (unheard of in our circles, adhering to the Biblical injunction against premarital sex tends to help us get serious about choosing a mate early in adulthood). Something MUST be wrong with him if he hadn't been snatched up yet. But my brothers, both attending the same university, had met and liked him. The administration (mostly friends and fellow alumni with my parents) had nothing negative to share. And his pastor even went to far as to say that if he had another daughter, he couldn't be happier if she chose to marry Michael Zwolanek. High praise, indeed.
It's a good story. But there's more than just the couple of cute sentences we share at parties. There's a world of learning and loving and leaving that brought us both to that magical moment at the bottom of the stairs in Old Main. He'd been hurt before and wasn't excited to dive right in again. Rejection had made him start to wonder if there was anyone out there who would get his jokes and keep up with the conversation. Busy as a brand new teacher prepping for his first full-time gig, he wasn't looking for love that hot and sticky August afternoon.
That fall, I was still in the lingering throes of a romantic, forbidden relationship with a young man, sustained by long, passionate letters and the occasional anguished phone call. I'd told my parents I called it off, but it wasn't true, and for two years I had lived with the emotional strain of a big lie hidden in plain sight.
How love hurt in those days! Nothing about it was smooth.
My parents strove to honor God and asked for daily wisdom. I knew my mother had been praying for her children's future spouses since we were babies. Their objections were not slight or superficial, however badly I wanted them to be. I believed God would never ask me to disobey parents who were honestly following Him, but I let fear and loneliness stop me from severing the ties. Being in love, even unhappily, made me feel exciting and wanted. being urged to follow my heart was so tempting. But in the end, I couldn't do it any more.
I wrote a final letter with reddened eyes, dropped it in the Student Center mail slot and hurried to leave the building.
And who should I instantly meet on the sidewalk except a certain handsome history professor.
My memory may be faulty but I'm pretty sure the heavens opened and a beam of light shone down on his head while beautiful music played. Ok, maybe not.
And I may have imagined the sudden flight of doves as well.
But you get an idea of the elation that filled my heart when I let go of the ill-fitting relationship I had clung to for so many lonely months, and accepted that God's dreams for me were bigger than my own.
I'd thought the counterfeit "love" I was experiencing was wonderful-- oh, wow--I had no idea what love could actually be like. I had no clue it could be so joyful, so pure, so certain. Before, every moment of stolen joy was tainted with angry sorrow. Love with nothing sinful to impede it or cause concern is at once breathtaking and ecstatic and steady as a rock.
Michael and I just celebrated our twentieth anniversary last month. The love I had for him on our wedding day was a drop in the bucket compared to the love that has matured over unending bills, deaths in the family, scary diagnoses, the terrible weeks of early parenthood, intensely stressful times at work.
It deepened to a new level just last week, when my health issues caused us to cancel the trip of a lifetime, a free all-expenses-paid trip for two to Thailand, seven days before we were to leave. And he never uttered a single syllable of reproach or frustration. Not one.
That is love on a level that I can only hope to aspire to someday.
It's love that reminds me of my Heavenly Father,
Who welcomes the prodigal back with a party.
Who sits on the lip of a well in the dusty heat of the day to meet a woman who shamefully sneaks up to draw water when it's least crowded.
Who with two minutes to spare welcomes a repentant thief into Paradise despite an entire lifetime of utter waste and wickedness.
So that is the story of how I met your father.
And our marriage is the story of how he points me to mine, time and time again.