I met Sarah in March of 1992. Eighteen years and two months later I married her. Our story is not one that begins with “love at first sight.” I remember seeing her after her father was hired to lead music at our church. Sarah was pretty short for her age, had abnormally long arms, and walked with a bit of limp. At the age of ten I asked my parents if they knew what was wrong with her. I was told that she suffered from a rare disease that had something to do with her bones and organs. I probably said something like “cool,” and ran off to light ants on fire with my magnifying glass. Sarah doesn’t remember meeting me. I didn’t have the luxury of some rare disorder that made an impression. I had to find my own, often times annoying, ways of getting noticed. And years later I would.
Sarah and I ran in similar circles throughout our adolescence and into high school. We were never very close. I was an awkward, clumsy, tall, skinny, teenager that was covered in acne. I was insecure and compensated for that by being terribly loud and obnoxious. Sarah remained very short (she maxed out in height at a adorable 4’9’’), was a bit rebellious, and wore overalls.
Summer of 1997 (Sarah on the left, Charlie on the right)
When she moved away after her freshman year of high school, I barely noticed. She would come back for summers and we would see each other on weekends and during trips we took with church group but she was a part-time friend and her coming and going only meant school was either in or out of session.
In 2004, immediately after her senior year of college (and my third year as a sophomore), Sarah’s mom passed away from breast cancer. Although we were not terribly close, her mom (as well as the rest of her family) had made an impression on me during their time in Northern California and when the opportunity came up to attend the memorial service I felt compelled to go. Sarah doesn’t remember me being there. I don’t blame her.
A year after her mom’s passing, Sarah was hired at the church I was interning at. We worked together with the high school ministry and both picked up side jobs at a local coffee shop. We worked together non-stop. We became very close friends and not surprisingly, Sarah soon developed some pretty intense feelings for me. Okay, maybe a little surprising. And maybe not intense. But she liked me! I didn’t pick up on her hints at all and ended up dating another girl (Hi Lauren!). Sarah got over me about the same time my relationship ended.
A few months later, after some deep contemplation, I came to the conclusion that Sarah was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. So in mid 2008 I asked her out on a date. She, somewhat reluctantly, agreed. My intention was to tell her I loved her. Her intention was to let me down easy. On our first date I told her how I felt and that I wanted to marry her at which point she got a lot more interested in her wine than she was in me. She was a little freaked out and I don’t blame her. She let me down easy. It didn’t feel that easy to me. A little while later I found out she was hanging out with another guy (Hi Timmy!). After that ended, I waited a few months before letting her know that my heart hadn’t changed. She decided to give us a shot. Two months later we broke up. I won’t go into the details on what happened. It boiled down to not being on the same page. I was ready to marry her. She was ready to run. We tried to remain friends but it didn’t work. I couldn’t let her have a piece of my heart if she didn’t want the whole thing. So I did the hardest thing I’ve done and I stepped away from our friendship. During that time I knew it would be easy to distract myself by embracing sin issues that I had used in the past for conciliation. I resolved not to use lust and bitterness as tools to get over Sarah. Because I didn’t know any other way I prayed for the Lord to change my heart. He didn’t do that.
In October of 2009 I noticed a change in Sarah. She began to carry herself a little differently around me. It gave me hope. Later on she would let me know that the Lord had brought her through a personal journey, freeing her from some specific fears regarding relationship. I prayed and sought council and decided to reopen what had been closed. We started dating again later that month. Two months later we were engaged. Five months after that we were married.
Our Wedding Day (Photo by Ryan Haack)
I am grateful for the Lord’s plan. It was a weird road but it produced great fruit. I have never fought for anything in my life. I’m a fairly passive person. But something about this girl made me fight, made me think beyond myself. And she continues to be worth the fight, worth the sleepless nights, worth the hospital stays, and the pain. Not because she has earned that worth but because the Lord has bestowed that worth on her. I am so grateful that I am the one charged to love her. And I will for all time.