“I don’t like squishy food,” I said, over my first meal in the dining room at Calvary Bible School. “When I was a little girl, I once sat at the table for over two hours refusing to eat my soup. The soup had horrible slimy lumps in it that made me feel like choking.”
Will, the young man across the table, grinned a little to himself. I don’t like strange food textures, either, he thought, and took a second look at this interesting, blue-eyed girl. Right away he knew that he wanted to get to know me better. For him, it was practically love at first sight.
I was oblivious to his interest, but CBS came as a shock to me in other ways. My youth was not the carefree, happy time that many people experience. Just when I should have been partying with friends, exulting in my new driver’s license, and enjoying a new job, I was completely overwhelmed with the most painful season of my life—losing my hearing. While my peers went out for ice cream on summer evenings, my life revolved around surgeries and doctor appointments. Often I skipped social activities because of intense physical and emotional pain. As a result, when I did go with the youth group, I went as an Invisible Woman, the ghost who glided in and out without notice. Many times I would slink home from the volleyball game and bury my sorrows in the pages of a book about apologetics or church history.
However, at Bible School I somehow came out of the woodwork. I was starving to know more about God in both my head and heart, and others in my classes had the same desire. For the first time in years, I began to feel validated and acknowledged as a person, and Will was part of this journey. We took many of the same classes, and I felt a spiritual connection almost immediately. When he spoke up in class, his words resonated with me. I didn’t realize it then, but he says now that he often tried to sit near me in class.
The second term I spent at Bible School, I was asked to participate in a panel discussion/debate with six others, including Will. We all met in a classroom to go over our material, and usually ended up on a wonderful theological tangent. I loved the mental stimulation and camaraderie! Through our times in a small group, I began to notice Will more. He was intelligent, kind, and quirky, and I hoped I could get to know him better.
That summer, as I walked through Dad’s sweet corn fields picking corn for market, I thought a lot about Will.
A year or so later, I finally gave up the idea. I liked Will and the other fine young men I met at CBS, but my personal life was still so shattered from losses and difficult relationships, that I didn’t have a strong sense of identity. I didn’t think I had anything to offer a good man.
Over several years, I saw Will occasionally. He came to Pennsylvania for my sister’s wedding (he actually came to see me, although I was still ignorant about this). I visited my sister in Kansas a few times, and usually saw him briefly then. One Sunday in Kansas, Will’s sister invited me to hang out with a group of friends at her house. Sitting at the table with our popcorn, the banter turned into a jolly discussion about magazines. I sarcastically informed the group that I learned from Young Companions (an Amish magazine for youth) how to tell if a boy really likes you. Will’s heart leaped to his throat as I glibly went on to say, “If you are at a singing and a boy looks up and smiles at you, you know he likes you.” You have to know the magazine to get the joke, but my friends all laughed, especially Will’s sister who knew more than I did of the developments.
A few weeks after I got home from that trip, my dad cornered me in the living room. “I need to talk to you,” he said. Oh no, what did I do wrong?! I worried. I couldn’t give it much thought because I had to dash off to Girl’s Club to teach my class of teenagers. In fact, I didn’t have time to talk to Dad until the next day.
The next morning I dropped onto the couch by Dad. “Someone wants to date you,” Dad said. I nearly had a heart attack! For a minute, I held my breath. A nice girl has to consider any reasonably nice boy who has prayed about a relationship, whether or not she really likes him. I always feared that in the unlikely circumstance that someone would waltz into my life, I wouldn’t even like him.
“It’s Will,” Dad said, and relief whooshed over me. I was totally surprised but utterly thankful that this was a man I found likeable. Over the next days, I escaped to the creek running through our woods, taking time to pray and think and journal.
When I prayed, I giggled. Was I praying for God’s will, or His Will?
Because I still hadn’t pulled myself together very well from my traumatic teenage years, and also because I was on the verge of beginning nursing school, it was very hard for me to make a big decision like this. I made the mistake of telling two of my best friends about Will’s request, and they were horrified that I would consider getting married. I was just starting down the shining trail of becoming a missionary nurse, and no way should I ruin that by dating some boy!
“I guess I have to say no,” I thought sadly after talking with my friends. The next morning, I cried as I swept the kitchen floor. Mom saw my sadness and ferreted out the reason. She then gave me the most empowering advice I’ve ever received. “Maybe you do have something in your heart for him,” she said. “Do what your heart wants to do.”
To make a long story short, the next two years were spent building a relationship with Will. Later I asked him, “What attracted you to me?” He said, “Well obviously there was a spiritual connection. You were smart, sweet, and beautiful (blush!), but you were also needy. I didn’t want a girl who never needed me.”
Will and I both loved the outdoors, so we spent hours hiking nature trails or rambling through graveyards in the snow. We rode horses through the fields of Kansas, waded in the river, and explored museums. We went to our friend’s weddings and laughed ourselves silly. And always, we talked.
Will was someone who knew more about theology and the world in general than I did, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I couldn’t help but remember sitting in Sunday School and hearing the teacher talk about women needing to be quiet in church. The teacher stressed the importance of women asking their husbands questions at home. “Well then,” I thought rather bitterly. “My husband better know something!” This man was perfectly capable of engaging in the discussions that I wanted to bring up!
We dated, and slowly my identity was pieced back together, both through God’s healing and through Will’s love.
And so it happened, that in a moonlit wood in Pennsylvania, Will asked me to marry him.
I said yes, and we were married on a beautiful day in October. My wedding day was one of the happiest days of my life.
Through my love story, I learned that my mom sometimes has better advice than my friends. I learned that following my heart is more important than doing what I think is socially acceptable. I learned that I don’t need to be perfect to be loved—that need can be endearing instead of repulsive. And I learned that love is beautiful and healing.
This story was part of this year’s How We Met series on Bethany Eicher’s blog, About My Father’s Business. If you like writing that is down to earth, honest, and touched with humor, you will enjoy reading her blog.