I feel a little jealous when someone says, “I married my best friend!” or “We were high school sweethearts.”
I married a stranger. Friends arranged a blind date for us, and after that night, we virtually dated on our landlines. We had a handful of actual dates and were married within seven months. I knew Tom was serious when he paid the hefty Bell South bill each month. We lived over 800 miles apart. The day after our first date, Tom walked up to my friend Dolly in church, and confused her for me. To his credit, people often thought we were sisters. Another time I met him at the airport and he didn’t recognize me. My amateur hair stylist friends had gifted me with a tight perm the night before.
I can remember taking a walk on our honeymoon. Sunshine glistened over the water as we moved along a hilly rocky path in Saint Martin. It felt surreal and scary to walk with a near stranger by my side who was now my husband. What had we done?
After thirty-five years of marriage, we still don’t know everything about each other, but we’ve built a marvelous life together and have created a story that’s even better than one of high school sweethearts.
Tom jokes that I’m always full of surprises—he thinks it’s fun to get to know different versions of me. I assure him that he’ll never have me completely figured out. Especially since I can’t figure myself out most of the time.
I didn’t know him well, but these things were true:
I surrendered my life to Jesus many years before I met Tom. Since a painful divorce from my first husband, I’d prayed earnestly for a godly man who’d be a father to my children, and love them as his own. I believed my prayer was in God’s will and that he wouldn’t give me a stone when I asked for bread. (Matthew 7:9)
I prayed for a husband who’d be faithful to God and to me. I prayed that he’d provide for us and he’d have broad shoulders. He would have much to carry. God gave me even more than I asked for in my husband.
I could see that his work peers, church folks and friends had utmost respect for him. I met his parents and was impressed by the mutual kindness and interest they showed each other. They acted like friends who really liked each other. I could see he was a man of integrity and character.
Things I didn’t know when we married:
He called a package of peanut butter and crackers “nabs” and said “Cut the light on”, rather than correctly saying, “Turn the light on.”
He’d never owned a pair of jeans and his mother only bought him blue shirts because they were his color. He called his black belt his blue belt and he wore it with blue shirts and pants as opposed to the brown belt. A born engineer if ever there was one—he came equipped with everything but a pocket protector.
One day I’d deliver our baby, and tears of awe and gratitude would stream down his face. We borrowed a huge dinosaur of a video camera and he’d film many hours of labor, only to be abruptly halted by a dead battery seconds before baby came.
Another time, about ten years into marriage, I’d take a call from the paper mill where he worked. “Tom just got run over by a fork lift— he’s alive but he’ll probably lose his legs.” I’d live on adrenaline the next few days–and I’d be more grateful than I knew was possible when he survived. After a season of recovery, his legs were almost as good as new.
I didn’t know there would be unimaginable heartaches and pain many times over, and that we’d lean on each other for comfort, and ultimately rely on our faith in God.
God would call us into situations and places that we didn’t want or expect, yet we’d put our trust in Him, and say yes to His plan.
Somewhere around year twenty-five I would begin to feel tangible love for him in a deeper sense. I’d become a little less selfish and I’d nearly feel pain when he experienced emotional or physical pain. I was stunned to realize I cared that deeply for another human and I felt very moved. I wondered if this is what it meant to become one.
Today we’d say to each other we’re more in love and enjoy each other a lot more than on our honeymoon.
The whole notion of becoming one—who could have come up with such an idea other than the One who created us? Who would ever think that such unrestrained, raw specimens like humans could really love another person? That we’d actually serve, prefer and deeply care for them.
We’ve blended. We’ve acquired a private language, taken on family colloquialisms, anticipated each others’ answers and feel lost when we’re apart.
As I glance back over thirty- five years, I’m grateful for a certain blind date and that stranger.
A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.