If you ever go to marriage counseling, one of the first questions the therapist will ask is: “So how did the two of you meet?”
This question has a purpose greater than learning your history. Telling your story brings you back. It reminds you of the things that first drew you to your spouse. And no matter what has changed since then – some of those things are still the same.
Rob and Kristen Bell wrote a book called, The Zimzum of Love. In it, they take turns narrating their story.
“We met on a tennis court our freshman year at Wheaton college.”
And Rob chimes in,
“To be honest, I knew who she was before we met on that tennis court. During freshmen orientation they gave us a book called ‘Who’s New,’ which was filled with pictures of incoming freshmen…One of those first days of college, sitting in my room in Traber dorm, I came across Kristen’s picture. Wow, I thought. I should meet her, so that we could, um, study together.”
A small group from our church read The Zimzum of Love and met to discuss it. We spent the first night sharing our own stories of how we met our significant others. There wasn’t a single person who didn’t smile during parts of their story. Beginnings are grin-worthy because we recognize the significance of those early small gestures, and quick-witted flirtations.
Mickey and I met November 30, 2002. This is the story of how we met – told by both of us (Rob & Kristen Bell style).
K: I met Mickey at my five-year class reunion. It was held the Saturday after Thanksgiving at KC’s Pub.
M: I love answering the question, “Where did you meet your wife?” with “at a bar.” Kristin not so much. This serendipitous meeting is made even more ironic when you realize that neither Kristin nor I drank at the time. Me because I used to drink too much, and Kristin because she was a teetotaler. In fact, my friend introduced us with the line, “Watch out – she’s a Baptist.”
K: He did say that, but we were actually introduced because I was trying to get in to medical school and Mickey was finishing. Mickey’s first question for me was, “So what’d you get on the MCAT?” Which is like being introduced to someone because they’re in the same business and your first question is, “So how much do you make?”
M: She had a good score. Same as mine I think.
K: It was. But he was holding his cards close and didn’t tell me his score in return. (And I had the tact not to ask!)
M: I think I was so blunt because I had been in the dating scene for a while and I was tired of it. I was out with my friends having a good time. I wasn’t planning to meet my future wife. The challenge continued with, “What does it mean you’re a Baptist”? Her answer was, “It means I don’t drink, I don’t dance, and I won’t have sex with you.” Well played… I was intrigued.
K: To be honest, I didn’t really consider myself “a Baptist” by that point. And those things I said weren’t entirely true…I was always allowed to dance thanks to parents that weren’t THAT strict, but after being asked my score I was trying to catch him off-guard. My answer only elicited a little eyebrow raise. I had met my match. Undaunted he asked, “So what do you believe?”
I was a little taken aback.
Are we really having this conversation minutes after meeting in a bar thick with smoke and the smell of spilled beer and the sound of 90’s music blaring?
But he said he wanted to know so I launched into, “I believe Jesus is the son of God, that he died on the cross…” He stopped me mid-sentence. “That’s all good,” he said, “but what do you believe? Like what do you think about gay people?”
Thirteen years later I am amazed by how Mickey was able to whittle all of my Faith down to that one question. And honestly, when you think about it – how one might answer that question – does indeed say a lot about someone and what they believe. My answer was simple and straightforward. I said, “I think they should be able to get married.”
M: Sex, politics, and religion – we got those things out in the open early. The remainder of the night I amazed her with my knowledge of Eddie Vedder, my pool skills, my fashion sense, and how cool I looked smoking Marlboros.
K: Clearly Mickey has a GIFT for sarcasm. Truth be told, mostly what I remember from that night – other than the fact that the name on his driver’s license was different than the one he told me (true story) – was the heightened awareness of everything. I was aware that his eyes sparkled, that he had nice hands, that he wasn’t afraid to engage in tough topics, that he was smart and made me nervous – in the good kind of way.
When I left, he asked for my phone number. And because 13 years ago I was 23 years old living at home without a cell phone – I gave him my parent’s home phone number. So hot.
He must have really liked me because he called the next day and we made plans for a first date. My last first date. And he was trying really hard because he brought me flowers.
M: First dates are like interviews, and on our last first date we played 20 questions. I remember thinking, “Wow. This beautiful, intelligent, Baptist, English major who wants to be a doctor, who lives with her parents, in Fremont Michigan… is perfect. Where has she been all my life?”
There is a great deal of power in remembering all of those first thoughts and feelings.
Remember the things you noticed first?
Remember the thrill of it all?
It’s like remembering a shift of gravity that drew you to ONE in SIX BILLION in a non-random web of time and space and forces of attraction. The front flap of The Zimzum of Love says,
“It is risky to give yourself to another. There are no guarantees, and there are lots of ways for it to fall apart and break your heart. But the upside is infinite.“
I have a handful of unforgettable moments from the night we met and our first date. But an almost equally vibrant memory is from shortly after our 6th wedding anniversary. Kharis was only two weeks old and we were driving home after dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. Brad Paisley came on and we were singing along. (We’ve never been country music fans, but living in Nashville we couldn’t help but pick up on a few songs.) Blame it on new-motherhood. Blame it on a dark car and country music. But the tears spilled as the words hit me in a new way.
“Now you’re my whole life, now you’re my whole world, and I just can’t believe the way I feel about you, girl…We’ve come so far since that day and I thought I loved you then.”
- Rob & Kristen met on a tennis court, but knew each other for years before they became a couple. Stories like theirs are about moments filling a bucket drop by drop over years until it overflows with an awareness that something about this one person is different, special…worthy.
- My hairstylist met his life-long love because they were both reading Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil in a public place. And they didn’t even live in Savannah yet (but they do now)!
- And Mickey and I met in a bar – and bantered with the kind of boldness and sparkle we continue today.
A tennis court, a book, a bar – the beginnings of great love stories. The best kind of stories. The kind that end with, “and I thought I loved you then.”
P.S. – I LOVE love stories! I hope you feel inspired to share your “Chapter One” in the comments.