Today I leave for Europe for two weeks, and this is significant not just because it’s insanely awesome, but also because it’s awesomely insane. Let me tell you why.
Three years ago, in the summer of 2006, I had coffee with a friend the day before I left with my family to go on a cruise in the Mediterranean. Now, in the summer of 2009, I am married to that friend, and he is joining my family on a cruise in the Mediterranean.
When I realize things like this, when I actually stop and process that this is my reality, I only have one thought: God is good.
At small group last week, Annie reminded me that this is an “Oprah full-circle moment” for me and Mike. I replied, “Isn’t that so typical of our God? He does spectacular things and then puts it right on your plate so you can’t ignore the work He has done.”
I like to play a little freak-myself-out game called, “What If Someone Told Me?” In this case, what if during coffee with Mike someone told us that a year and a half later we’d be married? What if while exploring Rome someone told me that three years later my husband would be staring at the Trevi Fountain with me? And that husband would be Mike Reph?
What if? I’ll tell you what if. It would have made me completely slack-jawed in disbelief followed by a crack-addict-like binge of yelling and running around the fountain, freaking out entirely. In a good way.
It’s nice I didn’t know. That would not have been good for American tourism abroad.
Actually, if I had known that the coffee with Mike would prove to be a catalyst for intense reflection on life/singlehood/marriage/relationships, I might have seen that this would naturally lead to us being together. I might have just turned to him, in a knowing way, and said “Arrivederci,” which in Italian means “until we meet again.”
Let’s back up. A couple of months before that coffee, Mike told me he had feelings for me. I was dating someone else, so I turned him away. When I was honest with myself, I knew that I adored Mike…but he wasn’t yet the man he could be. And I didn’t want less than his best.
But at our coffee date he had just returned from traveling through Costa Rica and Nicaragua, where his sister and brother-in-law were missionaries. It sounds crazy, but after that trip he was a different man. He was settled in who he was, who he knew God to be, and what he wanted in life. And this sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s completely true and inexplicable: my hands shook and my heart raced for 45 straight minutes — but I didn’t know why.
The next day on my way to Rome I journaled and journaled about what could have made me physically react so strongly. I knew something was up, something had shifted, and things weren’t going to be the same when I returned.
Throughout the trip I realized my reaction had less to do with Mike than it did my own commitment-phobia. I was freaked out because I knew this was someone I could be serious about, and the prospect was threatening to my “strong and single” self. As I processed this through, I started to see how much could be gained by stepping into this adventure; the wild journey of walking the mountainous roads of relationship with a man.
I didn’t return to the states ready for a ring; it wasn’t that dramatic. There was no sudden need to be someone’s girlfriend. The progress was that I was no longer afraid of it. As minor as that sounds, if you knew me then, you would have thought I’d had a brain transplant while in the south of France.
Apparently, in my absence, God had been working the same magic on Mike, because after my return when we saw each other at a funeral, he claims that he saw me across the room and knew beyond any doubt that he would marry me. It was as if the entire world stopped and he was bolted to the floor. He was that certain.
In my life, what could be more awesomely insane? Our story is unexpected and finely-woven and as loud as a bandstand, all at once.
Last week we were in Kirkland running some errands, and Mike took me to the same Starbucks where we had that fateful coffee date. He wanted to acknowledge that surprisingly important piece of the puzzle.
It feels like that date was decades ago, and yet I can recall the expression on his face as we hugged goodbye and he told me to have a great trip.
Until we meet again.