My story is unlike many in the church in that I was not born into it. I come from a good-sized city but grew up with my family who mostly lived in the surrounding small towns. You could say I had the best of both worlds: fun times with cousins roaming the woods and cornfields on weekends and holidays; fun times with friends and classmates of all different backgrounds and creeds at school and around the city. I only have fond memories of my childhood, doing what typical children and teenagers do: play video games, play sports, ride bikes, watch movies, and as boys are wont to do, explore relationships with girls.
Quickly I grew up and was soon off to college in the big city of Chicago. Although I went to a university known for engineering nerds, I found friends who loved to party and that was my life for all five years of schooling and on into the beginning of my adult life. I had fun with alcohol and women and made many friends. All through my college years and early adulthood I had what you would probably call the ideal American life. I had a great family (with plenty of quirks and our own issues, but deep down full of love) and amazing friends. I had a college degree and a great career in a world-class city. I had plenty of fun drinking at bars and traveling the country and to all corners of the world, and could do pretty much whatever I wanted.
As you live your life, it is easy to miss the cracks. I had plenty of heartache in relationships with women, including two failed engagements, but you chalk it up to that classic phrase: it is what it is. You can focus on other things like work or entertainment, lose yourself in booze or women, or simply live in a daze. But at some point, you realize how unhappy you are and those things lose their flavor and allure. It’s at that point that you can lose yourself, and that is where my story really begins.
After years of looking for “the one” in all the wrong places, I gave up. I even told friends who desperately wanted me to be happy that I was through trying to date. Life goes on and you go to work and play at night and on weekends. My big escape was always sports, but my bum knees prevented me from doing too much. Somehow, however, beach volleyball seemed to rarely affect me, so that was my sport of choice. And by God’s grace that is how I met the most amazing, beautiful young woman.
By seeming happenstance, we connected and began dating. I approached the relationship like any other, but something was different about this one. We did the usual dates, but things were slow and more than a bit confusing. She obviously had a standard I was in no way used to, but it wasn’t off-putting. We had great fun and really got to know each other without the need for liquid courage or forced intimacy. How could that be?
I couldn’t tell you then, and most wouldn’t believe me now. However, I started attending church service with this girl without ever really planning on doing just that. I drove to her hometown without thinking to surprise her and meet her family. I was invited to church service without any pressure or coercion, and when I drove her to the church I followed her in, despite planning on driving back to the city right away. From there I started to attend semi-regularly and eventually regularly. I had every intention of trying to do my thing while she did hers, but without consciously committing, I ended up always wanting to go.
It’s funny how you don’t find what you’re looking for until you stop looking for it. For someone who desperately wanted a relationship, I failed at every turn. And it wasn’t until I met my now-wife that I realized that I had a canyon in my life rather than simply cracks. She, her family, her church and pastor, and ultimately God are what filled me with love and life. God is what drew us close and He guided us to where we are now.
I thank God for every moment of my life, including those that tore my heart apart. It is through those experiences that you learn there is something missing, and you do not truly become whole until God comes into your life. He knows how to reach you if you surrender your life to Him. For me, it had to be through my wife, and I thank God for her every day. We now are blessed with a wonderful home, a beautiful daughter, and life everlasting. I pray everyone can surrender and find God.