I sat there across from one of my co-worker’s brothers…sipping the coffee he bought for me so that he could tell me about InterVarsity and why he was going to plant a chapter at Monroe Community College.
He began to ask me what was going on in my life, what my college experience was, what kind of rebellion I flirted with, my frustrations with the church, where I wanted Jesus to take me next. Wow, talk about skipping the small talk.
At the time, my heart was aching to be with a guy I fell in love with. I told this almost-stranger across from me how I had been praying for a couple of years that God would restore the relationship. Then I began to talk about my desires and expectations for marriage. God, you get the glory and honor no matter what the outcome of this love story will be, I remember thinking.
We sat there and talked for over three hours. We got up from the wooden stools, and just as I was about to say goodbye – he asked if he could pray for my relationship. Who was this guy?
I left not thinking anything of it other than “wow, what a big sweetie” and “I want to partner with that dude because I know God wants to meet students on their college campuses.” I didn’t know it at the time, but after he got into his car and drove away – he called one of his buddies. “Dude, I’m in trouble. I just met the most amazing girl. She loves Jesus, she loves people, and she’s pretty too. But she’s in love with someone else!”
One month later, that love story I talked about fell apart. And four months later, Mr. InterVarsity almost-stranger man and I were set up hardcore at his sister’s wedding that we were both in.
“If you won’t go on a date with Paul, I will just make you two walk down the aisle together and I’ll make sure I put you two together at the same table at my reception,” Julia said.
Julia won. Operation Paul and Jacqui set-up was in motion.
The very next day, I get a call from Paul. “Heyyyy! What did you think of the wedding? Give me your highs and lows!” After we shared how much we love to dance at weddings, he said: “Hey. I’d like to take you on a date next weekend. What time would work for you?” Uh…uh…can I get back to you on a time?
I did what any girl freaking out would do after she was just asked out. Ran to my mom. Mom! Mom! Paul asked me on a date! I’m not ready for this. I’m an emotional wreck. Unstable. Confused. I shouldn’t go. Should I? Should I go? Maybe I should just go and tell him in person that I’m not ready…I can be honest. I’d rather be honest up front. Yeah?
“Aww! You should go.” my mom said. I began to rehearse what I should say for the next week until we met for our date.
I did everything you are not supposed to do on a first date. I cried…a lot. We sat there on the pier looking out at the calm water and evening sky, and he was so gracious. He wasn’t threatened in the least that my past still haunted me and that I was scared of the prospect of dating someone else. He talked about how for a while he looked at married couples that lived so small trying to make their spouse happy, buying a house, having kids, living comfortably – and thinking, “what a small vision….that is miserable sounding!” I couldn’t agree more.
And so we began. Paul was a complete surprise from the Lord. I have been a part of a beautiful story about two broken people who adore Jesus above anything else. We desire to watch people develop and come to know what Jesus thinks about them.
Paul has a huge heart. He gets along with everybody. He is genuinely interested in each person he meets, what their story is, and makes each person feel so special. He cares so deeply about people knowing Jesus loves them and will do anything to show that to them.
Paul is a dreamer and has inspiring vision. Whenever he talks and prays about Monroe Community College, and his students – the joy and expectation he has for God to meet needs and desires is contagious. He truly trusts that God is big, and can do big things.
Paul adores me. He laughs at all my really awful corny jokes, holds onto me really tight because he doesn’t want me to leave, includes me in his plans and what matters to him, listens well, prays with me almost every time we hang out, and shhhh don’t tell him – but I catch him just staring at me, smiling all of the time.
Paul loves studying Scripture with people. He starts Bible studies with people who are Christians, people who come from different religious backgrounds, and people who are just curious. He loves discussing and asking lots of questions. He is never quick to give an answer or assume he heard right the first time.
Paul loves to have fun and to laugh a lot. He bought elephant masks for us to wear to his brother David’s quidditch game because their mascot is an elephant, he had over 60 students sing or rap to him in exchange for some stupid stickers that say “Nice Try Satan” on them, he writes hilarious raps for people on their birthdays or special occasions. He made a CD with one of his buds for me as a Christmas present of three songs where he rapped our story and inside jokes that had me laughing and crying it was so good.
Paul knows how to be a good friend. He is thoughtful in how he responds, is slow to get angry, and is one of the most patient people I know. He always assumes the best of people, and doesn’t bash people behind their backs. He is honest and trustworthy. He is the kind of friend you want talking about you behind your back.
Paul was a big surprise, and I am so thankful that I know a man like him. Because of him, I am encouraged to love well, listen better, be happy in how God made me, and to walk courageously knowing God is on my side always.