A couple years ago a man walked away from my life saying it was unlikely that I would receive another offer of marriage. Although this reminds all the Austen fans of the artless Mr. Collins, I must admit this man was wise in many ways, and what he said was absolutely true. If there was a man in the world for me, there was only one. Who could say where he might be and what he might be doing?
But just a year later I stood in the small-town square of Abbeville, facing him. “So how do you want to go about this?” he was asking me. I had no clue. “You tell me,” I said. So we went fishing. We fished in every place fish were and some where they weren’t. When it turned colder, we went hunting. For deer, and then ducks. This was last Autumn, and we are married now. We caught 12 river cats on set-lines on our honeymoon, a bushel of blue crabs, and a flounder.
The other day we were sitting in a deer stand together. I was eating a bowl of stew, and he thought this was crazy but he wanted some. A text came in from an acquaintance, asking the question, “How did you choose your husband? What qualities should I look for?” I passed it to him to read and he whispered out of the corner of his mouth, “You don’t choose a husband.”
I didn’t choose Andrew. He might think he chose me, but it was really a divine conspiracy. He went from being a man I didn’t know, to the man I was ready to marry, in a very short period of time. I realize I still don’t know him very well, though I wake beside him. I wanted to marry a Christian and a kind man. I wanted to marry a man who wanted to marry me. Simple, right? Impossible. This was a job for my Maker, but it had been a long time since I mustered the faith to ask him. I had grown tired of asking, and the likelihood of him saying no was too painful and I felt like I just needed to move on. I didn’t have much hope. When the thought was pressing I would pray something like, God you see me, you know me. Yes, he did and he does. He gave me what I knew I needed and what I didn’t know I wanted, and, I suspect, even more I haven’t discovered yet.
Yes, he knew me. He knew I would love a man who would make cane poles and cry like a hawk and moo better than an actual cow, who would take me into the woods and the swamp and try to describe the heart-rush at the sound of ducks flying overhead, who would laugh at me and teach me things and who I would hear whistling from a long way off, who would count out all 86 of the watermelon seeds he carefully spit out and plant them, who would make me nervous every day, who would read aloud to me and sing along to every song on every radio station, who would fall asleep instantly, even in a deer stand, and wake up to point out the buck I completely missed in all my steady looking. I didn’t know myself alone. I didn’t know what I would love, and what simple, even silly, things would delight me in a normal guy, being himself.
All these months I have found our love story difficult to write about. Sad tales are generally accepted, but when you share joy it is likely that someone somewhere might be hurt by it, especially in a year marked by such sweeping stress. We are all secretly afraid that there might not be enough happiness to go around, and that we will perpetually be that kid that gets left behind. I know, because I’ve felt that way myself. It stings, and I don’t want even one reader to feel it. It would be better, I think, not to write at all. But then I remember the power of stories, even love stories, in my own life, and how they gave me hope and taught me to see myself as caught up in something big, even an adventure. As Eugene Peterson said, We enter a world we didn’t create. We grow into a life already provided fo us…. We must be aware that we are living in the middle of a story that was already begun and will be concluded by another.
You can’t be left out of this story. If these words find you hurting, I hope you can believe at least that you are a beloved part of His good creation, and if you can’t, I recommend going fishing. They say young anglers love new rivers the way they love the rest of their lives, and I think there is little on this earth that lands hope in deep down things like casting out a line, but hey, maybe that’s just me. Maybe that’s just us.