When I was little, my trumpet teacher – in a thick, Russian accent tinged with humor – would end up delivering a life-long lesson I’ve never forgotten. After recounting a story in which he’d come in second place to earn a spot in the NY Philharmonic Orchestra, he looked at me with fatherly wisdom in his eyes and said, “Cheryl, there is no such thing as a second impression.” At the time it did not register how privileged I was to be taking lessons from this man, but I learned greatly from how humbly he accepted defeat. He simply wasn’t worried. He was extremely gracious, and is still one of the neatest people I know.
Fast forward to twenty years later. (Sorry, Ilya, for reminding you how old we both are now!) I had no idea that the most important lesson he ever taught me would ring true in my head the day I met my now-husband at the Puyallup Fair. Brace yourselves, men, and learn from the tale you’re about to read. As Dan and I were driving to the fair from Tacoma, he – I kid you not – spent the entire time talking about his dilemma about whether or not he wanted to meet with me for a date or a different girl he had been chatting with. I was so mad, I purposely paid my own admission into the fair and was determined to eat my Fisher’s Scone Strawberry Shortcake and ask to go home. In my mind, at least there was dessert involved!
But during the few lines of conversation we had over that strawberry shortcake, my husband did something miraculous. I threw all caution to the wind, just plain apologized for stuffing my face with food, blamed it on past damage to my heart…after all, I wasn’t ever intending to talk to Dan again, right? So who cared what I told him? My now husband looked at me, listened patiently, smiled, and said, “I know. I can tell you’ve been hurt.” I’m sure I asked him why, then, he wasn’t running for the Cascades and he just smiled that ever reassuring smile I still rely on today. He just wasn’t bothered by my past. In that moment, I decided to give this “other girl-talking nervous person” another chance, and I asked if he wanted to go watch the horses perform in the 4-H shows. He agreed and we walked in silence, sat down in the bleachers in silence, and held hands for the first time in silence. Now, three years later and married for two, to this day, one of our favorite activities is simply holding hands in the car on a long drive, not uttering a word.
There are dozens of other stories surrounding our courtship. For example, there was the one where I first knew Dan was “the one” when I later heard my father had paid the bill and tip on the cab when Dan first arrived to meet them. Or the exact moment I knew he was the one when it turned out that my then pastor had been Dan’s youth pastor fifteen years ago. The last time he and his leader had seen each other, they both had hair! But the stories aren’t what make a marriage. I may only have been married for two years and not have much practical advice to offer to others, but I have discovered this: The Lord makes a marriage. Without Him and His perfect author’s pen on our lives, I would not have the realistic story I have today. And, ladies, let me tell you something in short…real is a heck of a lot better than those stupid fantasies provided by Hollywood.
As pastors Rick and Shelly Long spoke at Capital Christian Center this week said, “Sometimes it takes difficult times and places to really get an understanding of who God is.” They described four types of suffering a relationship faces (each of which in just two, short years my husband and I have also faced countless times:
1. Natural Forces (God’s Victory: Matthew 5:45)
2. Hateful People (God’s Victory: James 4:1-2)
3. Satan’s Attacks (God’s Victory: 1 Peter 5:8-9)
4. Selfish Decisions (God’s Victory: 1 Corinthians 10: 12-13)
However, as Rick and Shelly put it, Christ is a “real, tangible savior” and we need to “be raw and real before the Lord.” Only by releasing your own past hurts and traumas, your current difficulties, and the outcome of your success in a relationship to the Lord can victory over the enemy be won. You may be struggling with dark times in a relationship, but fear not: First impressions may not always be the most accurate. With the advice of spiritual leaders placed in your life and the Lord’s love, it is far easier to discern and determine when a fight is most worth tackling head on or a reason to leave. For me, that advice came in the form of a trumpet teacher from two decades prior. Little did I know, God was preparing my heart for my husband even then.
Questions for Reflection:
1. Pastor Shelly stated this in her sermon: “Your story is unique to you, but problems are common to man.” She explained that extreme difficulties happen every day. What is one problem you are currently facing in your relationship that you might think no one else is going through? Are you surprised that someone else might be facing the same thing? (Hint: Someone else is.)
2. Pastor Dave summarized Pastor Rick’s and Shelly’s sermon in the following way: “Marriage demands humility. You cannot be selfish and happily married.” What is one selfish thing you could sacrifice that you know bothers your spouse?
3. For women and men: How do you think Christ’s love for you is like his love for the church, a.k.a. the people who inhabit this world?
4. If you are a parent – even of four-legged fur-babies – what is one lesson God has taught you about His love for you through the experience of loving your child through all circumstances?
5. Please be encouraged to share a story of a “first-impression” in your life that has left an impact on you.
House of Worship: Capital Christian Center – Lacey, WA