This morning I got a little reminiscent. I thought of the lonely nights and heartbreak I experienced before meeting Matt, I remembered the deep feeling of peace I had when we met (I even told him, “I'm not afraid of you”), and I reflected on the firsts we've experienced since that fateful day. Our first meeting, our first meal, our first dance, our first prayer, our first kiss, our first failure. Then I looked forward to our next “first” because today marks 100 days til forever. 100 days til I slip on a white wedding dress and step into my future. 100 days until we dive into a mystery, a wild adventure, and the greatest dance. 100 days until we become one.
I think it's important that I share the first piece of our story with you because from it I learned that it's the brokenness that we carry that reveals our need for the oneness, wholeness, completeness only God's grace can give.
As I reflected on the year I met Matt, I had flashbacks to a cold lonely night in the rain after failing an exam. I called my mom in tears. It was the one year anniversary of my best friend's death and loneliness loomed overhead and weighed heavy on my heart. I told her how sad and alone I felt. And that I was considering calling that ex of mine, just for some company.
She discouraged the idea, “You know, I don't think it's worth it. Plus, I picture your forever guy looking a little different.”
“You're right,” I responded, “I do, too. I kind of see him being taller with lighter hair and lighter eyes.”
“YES! ME TOO!” She exclaimed, “Strange you thought the same thing! I see him with a little bit of scruff or facial hair as well.”
“Wow, that's what I was picturing, too!” I said.
We laughed, finished up our conversation, and as I hung up, she made a sweet little remark, “Well, just wait for your big blue eyed scruffy face guy to show up at your doorstep!”
I chuckled, “Right?! Goodnight, Mama.”
So you can imagine how I felt when the blue-eyed, scruffy face football player spontaneously knocked on the door of my tiny college apartment just weeks after my mom and I shared that conversation. *Disclaimer: this is not a joke*
We had attended the same campus ministry, had seen one another on campus, and had mutual friends on the football team, so we knew of each other through social media but neither of us recalled ever meeting in person. The day we finally did the “Do I know you? Should I know you?” type of thing, we realized we were neighbors and he had the courage to walk right over.
My roommates gathered in the living room and we made small talk to break the ice. Bless their hearts, I think they were offering a shield of protection since none of us knew what this guy's intentions. However, he made us laugh with his impersonations and his witty remarks.
At one point, it came out in conversation that he had committed himself to waiting for his wife. I think I might have melted right there. One by one, my roommates got up to go to bed, realizing he was no threat.
When it was just he and I sitting on that scrubby college couch, I hoped he wouldn't notice the cracks in my shell, the splinters in my heart. I was still nursing a broken heart, trying to figure out what walking with Jesus looked like, and recovering from an eating disorder. I also hoped he wouldn't notice my sweaty smell from my recent workout, but that's another story. (PS. To this day, he swears he didn't notice, so that's good).
We sat there and shared our hearts. There was some unsaid level of comfort and understanding I had never experienced with another human being in my life. Matt puts it this way:
“It was like our hearts were old friends, meeting up again after a long time. Only, we had never met.”
I had just recommitted my life to Christ, but was still learning what that looked like. At this point of my faith walk, I would have called me a robot-Christian. Trying to live morally but not sure what that looked like personally. You know, where you don't really understand Jesus' grace but try to be a good person for the sake of maintaining a reputation? Yeah, that's where I was at.
Regardless of the depth of my faith, I knew I wanted a godly man. I knew I wanted a relationship rooted in the Lord because I had heard that was a smart thing to do and my previous not-so-godly relationship hadn't been as fulfilling as I thought it'd be, so I knew I needed more. Matt and I talked for hours what that looked like. We even finished each other's sentences.
At one point he said, “I've heard it said that we should run as fast as we can toward Christ…”
And I finished the phrase saying, “…and if someone can keep up, introduce yourself.”
He looked at me in amazement, and I at him. Our hearts were in sync. We had so much to still learn and grow, but somehow the beat of our hearts knew how to unite on a level we had never experienced before.
Suddenly it was 2 am (poor guy had football practice three hours later, oops). We wrapped up our conversation and said goodnight. I went to bed with some deep level of peace that night. Not giddiness, not butterflies, but peace. And I can't help but think this is how real love should be.
A few days later after he returned from his football game in Minnesota, he came over with his hands full. He brought ingredients to make chicken salad and pasta, and his guitar. This man cooks and plays guitar, too? He taught me how to square dance around the kitchen as the pasta cooked…and burned. Yes, he somehow managed to burn pasta. He was so embarrassed as I chewed on the tough pasta. Although he felt bad about the mistake, I thought it was sweet that he even tried to make me dinner after knowing me for less than a week. To this day we still laugh at our first meal together. Nothing like burnt pasta!
As we approach our wedding, I realized that our relationship is sometimes like a that first meal together. The beginning was so right, so certain, but not perfect. We still have a lot of cooking to do – a lot of growing and learning. We've burned and have been burned, by life and the other. Yet we keep on keepin' on, standing by the other's side with a mutual understanding that it is our greatest privilege and purpose to do so. Because a real relationship isn't about a flawless presentation or rainbows and butterflies, but about purpose and intentionality.
I believe our society has lost sight of that, as everything becomes romanticized and overly perfected with a pinterest standard. And then somehow we're disappointed when real life doesn't turn out like that, when our guy doesn't make us as happy as we think some other girl's guy does for her, when we get burned and don't know why.
But you know, I think that's kind of how God designed it, though. Perhaps our earthly relationships aren't meant to be perfect because then what would be the purpose? They require some work to really enjoy.
And later on, the hardest noodles, or the most difficult parts, are the ones you can look back on and smile about because they made the story so much sweeter. And that's what set Matt apart. From the beginning there was some deep sense of purpose and peace, but not perfect.
So to those of you frustrated with your own plate of burnt pasta, whether you're single and sick of it or burnt out in your relationship, I want to remind you that the perfect meal won't be tasted in this life. Even the most wonderful dish won't satisfy your every craving. You'll notice imperfections and disappointments, but what matters is how you handle them.
And I'm confident that if we, as women, can keep the one truth I learned the first week with Matt in the forefront of our minds, the love we experience on this earth will be so much richer.
That truth is this: only the feast Jesus offers in the gift of salvation will satisfy our souls entirely. Our men are wonderful, but they cannot meet every need our tiny beating hearts have. Only God can do that. So don't try to make the main course out of what is only meant to be the side dish. And don't settle for a man that doesn't love Jesus and who doesn't love you like Jesus, with grace and leadership. But more importantly, don't try to make a man your Jesus.
Because as great as he may be, he will probably burn your pasta now and then.
PS. Here's some throwback photos we've never shared! Enjoy!