Jack said to himself, “I am done with girls until college.”
The last year consisted of a string of relationships all following a similar pattern. The girl would swoop in, telling Jack that if she were with him, he would never have been cast to the side or unappreciated. Several days would pass where it seemed like there was not a prettier, nor a more kind-hearted person on Earth. Jack would tentatively pursue the new girl until they were officially “going out”. The first week or so would be full of excitement and youthful exuberance over the possibility of falling in love. Somewhere around week three, Jack would be smitten and respond by leaving flowers on the girl’s car early in the morning, writing love letters that would (in his mind) rival the sonnets of Shakespeare, or getting to know the girl’s parents. Like clockwork, the girl would react by slowly, and then ever so quickly detaching herself from Jack’s life. It was so confusing.
The last girl had actually just broken up with him seconds before. Jack had been trying to hang out with her all afternoon, eventually trailing after her to the local football game. He pulled her aside and asked her, “Is there something wrong? It seems like you have been avoiding me all week. If you don’t want to hang out with me or continue to go out with me for that matter, then please just tell me.” The girl responded by saying that she just wasn’t feeling the same towards him anymore, and that “she wanted to get closer to God.”
As upsetting as that was, Jack was at least relieved to be done with the games. Actually, he could even empathize with the girl for once. Roughly a year or so earlier he had broken up with a different girl after no longer possessing romantic feelings towards her. It was tough because he didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but he also didn’t want to pretend that chemistry still existed. After putting it off for two months, he had finally been confronted by the other girl to either stop avoiding her or break up. She hoped for the former. He chose the latter.
In addition to this, he secretly understood why so many girls had pursued him only to then shed him like an out of date clothing trend. From conversations with a large portion of the girls, he discovered that they found him authentic, kind, charming, funny, and confident. Being tall and owning a car certainly didn’t hurt his prospects either. What they found after a couple of weeks dating him was that he was a nerdy hopeless romantic. His easygoing facade barely and thinly masked the depths of his thoughts. Inside his heart and mind, it was a perpetual tempest with deep seas raging. Jack couldn’t help but think deeply about life, love, and purpose. It was his gift and his curse. It also affected how he approached relationships.
When Jack met a girl that showed interest in him, it intrigued him. Before his junior year, girls rarely saw Jack as anything more than a permanent fixture in the all-too-feared “friend zone”. Having girls come up to him and flirt was foreign. Once Jack saw anything even resembling chemistry with a girl, he went into soulmate mode, viewing his girlfriend more as a prospective wife. While that might be a great thing for people in their mid-twenties, it was relationship suicide for a teenager in high school.
And here he was again, attending the funeral of the latest relationship death caused by the inadvertent, yet lethal hand of the very person who wanted to keep it alive.
As Jack was wallering in the familiar sty of self-pity, in walked Jill accompanied by her best friend, Meg.
The ladies asked, “Are you okay? It seems like you are really upset.”
Jack responded with a bemused, “I’m good. Katie just broke up with me, and I have no clue as to why.”
Jill said with feigned shock, “Oh my gosh. I am so sorry.”
What Jack did not know was that Jill and Meg had been purposely trying to get Katie to break up with him for the last two weeks. As they were sitting in government class, notes were passed back and forth. Katie was wondering about the status of her relationship with Jack. Jill and Meg were actively attempting to convince her that she should move on.
A few days earlier, Jill was hanging out with some friends in the parking lot of the putt putt golf place when Katie and Jack pulled in, got out of the car, and walked towards them hand in hand. Katie recognized her friends inside of the red pick up truck and led Jack over to it. He was introduced to several people, shaking the hands of all including Jill. Jack and Katie continued on with their putt putt golf date, and the truckload of teenagers moved on with their evening.
Except that not everyone moved on so easily. Jill went back to her house, sat down in the backyard hammock with Meg, and waxed on for what seemed like hours about Jack. As Meg headed home, Jill went inside to get ready for bed. When she passed through the kitchen, her mom inquired as to how her evening went. Jill confidently responded by proclaiming, “Tonight I met the man that I’m going to marry.” She had an inkling that he was the one.
Thinking that this was just teenage hyperbole, Jill’s mother thought nothing more of it.
A short time after the football game breakup with Katie, Jack was helping to set up for his cousin’s wedding. He had worked the day shift at Pizza Hut and was unsuccessfully hanging tulle from the ceiling at the wedding venue when his family came to a consensus. “Let’s get some pizza, stat.” they all decided. Since Jack could get his employee discount, and his decorating skills left a lot to be desired, he was elected the one to pick up the deliciously seasoned and delectably cheesy pies from the restaurant.
Jack arrived at the store, paid for the pizza, and was turning to leave when one of the workers yelled, “Hey, man! You have a phone call.”
With a puzzled look on his face, he picked up the phone and pressed the blinking light. It was Meg on the other end. She said, “Hey, Jack! This is Meg and Jill, Katie’s friends. Do you remember us?”
“Of course I do.” He replied.
While he was dating Katie, they had hung out several times with Katie’s friends. Even though he did not know that Jill was one of the hands he shook in the pickup that night at the golf course, he did remember meeting Jill on several other occasions.
Katie, Jack, and Jack’s cousin had all gone to watch Jill’s last high school volleyball game at home. During the game, there was a moment where Katie engaged in conversation for a while with some friends. Jack’s cousin leaned over and said, “Why are you with Katie? Y’all have nothing in common. Do you see the girl down there? Her name is Jill, and I have been trying to get you guys matched up since she was a freshman. I think you two are perfect for each other.”
He told her how Jill had a boyfriend, and he had a girlfriend, so it wasn’t even open for discussion. Jack’s cousin shrugged her shoulders and said, “I’m telling you. She’s the one.”
Jack already knew how awesome Jill was because one night after a football game, he and Katie went to a different pizza joint to hang out with a large group of people. Jill was there, and so was her brother. During the hangout, everyone seemed to be talking about superficial teenage stuff except for them. Jack, Jill, and Jill’s brother spent the majority of the time discussing real life. The conversation was incredibly authentic and these two appeared radically different than most other people in high school.
Jack was intrigued, but he was still very into Katie. After dinner, Jack took Jill and her brother home. On the way back to Katie’s house, Jack kept asking questions about Jill. She was so interesting. Why was she so refreshingly different? Katie grew tired of this topic and decided to call it a night, even though there was still an hour or so before curfew.
Back on the phone in Pizza Hut, Meg added, “We are getting together to celebrate Jill’s birthday party soon, and we were wondering if you would like to join us.”
This piqued Jack’s interest for a plethora of reasons. For starters, he had heard that one of Katie’s friends was crushing on him. This might be a chance to smoke out this girl and discover the truth, or maybe there was another possibility of romance waiting to be unveiled. His resolve to be done with girls until college was already unraveling. Jack also really enjoyed hanging out with Katie’s friends. It would be nice to leave his pit of self-loathing and reenter the world of socialization.
“I’ll be there,” he told Meg.
How crazy was it that he was only in Pizza Hut for a few minutes, and it was during that time that he received this phone call? At the time it was written off as chance. Later it was viewed completely as fate.
On the night of Jill’s birthday party, Jack arrived at Chicken Express to meet up with Jill and her friends. When he walked in the door he saw Meg, sitting next to her boyfriend Trey, and Jill, sitting next to an open seat. It was then that he started to understand the meaning of this setup.
Upon sitting down, Jack asked Jill, “How is Ricky doing?”
She answered back with a sheepish, “Yeah…we broke up.”
A few minutes later the conversation was picking up when Katie walked in the door. She saw the double date in progress, pulled up a chair between Trey and Jack, and proceeded to chat with Meg like it was not awkward at all. It was like a scripted moment from Seinfeld or Friends.
Soon, but not soon enough, the group (minus Katie) left to cruise in Meg’s parent’s truck. With KC and JoJo’s “All My Life” playing on the stereo, Jack leaned over to Jill and said the following, “Someone recently told me that one of Katie’s friends likes me. Is it you?”
Shocked by Jack’s no-nonsense approach, Jill paused for a second and replied with a simple, “Yes.”
Jack stared into Jill’s eyes for a moment, and then told her, “I like you too.”
From that moment on, Jack and Jill were inseparable. A few months down the road they were sitting in Jack’s car in the driveway of Jill’s parent’s house. Jill was laying with her head on Jack’s lap looking up at him as they soaked up every second together the way that only two teenagers in love can. All of the sudden, Jack stumbled through a series of incoherent phrases as he somehow fell backwards into his conclusion. “Jill, I…you see…when I am with you…it’s just that with you…what I’m trying to say is…is that you make me feel…well…I don’t know…I mean…oh, forget it. I think I am in love with you. No. I know that I am in love with you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
Jack waited for what seemed like an eternity to hear that sought-after reciprocation after one puts their heart out in the open for another to take or reject.
Jill looked up at him with tears in her eyes and said, “It’s about time. I have loved you since the day I first met you.”
In the following years, the happy couple went off to college together. Four years later, they were married. On June 27th, it will be eight years since Jack and Jill joined in holy matrimony surrounded by their friends and family, and it will be twelve and a half years since they first started dating.
They endured the loss of loved ones together, family drug addictions together, career stress together, circumnavigation of the world together, being missionaries together, random temporary jobs in Australia together, and parenthood together. Jill ended up breaking her neck. They endured her miraculous recovery together and witnessed God’s alleviation of $140,000 worth of medical debt together. Each of these events is well deserving of their own stories, but for now, I would like to focus on this story.
People have always remarked to them how they are so cute and in love, but just wait for…
Once you go to college, you guys will meet other people and go your separate ways. Once you get married, you won’t be so annoyingly romantic anymore. That holding hands thing will end once you move in together. Just wait until you have a kid. Then you won’t be so googly-eyed over each other. Well, when you have your second child, then you won’t have the time nor the desire to act like newlyweds.
While the two lovebirds have evolved and matured in their love for each other, and while their marriage is not perfect, they have yet to fulfill this gloomy prediction of love between two kindred hearts. They refuse to accept the cynical views of love as so many in our society define it. They reject the shallow and merely physical views of love that Hollywood and Nashville promote. They truly do love each other deeply and unconditionally.
Marriage can be challenging, and parenthood even more difficult, but love prevails. Love overcomes. This is not a flighty sort of love that transpires when things are going well and then evaporates at the first sign of struggle. No, this is instead a version of the same love that Christ shows us. Regardless of our flaws, He loves us. Regardless of Jill’s quirks, Jack loves her. No matter how glaring Jack’s weaknesses are, Jill stands by his side.
Does this sound like a fairy tale? Does this sound too good to be true? Maybe it does sound fictitious, but I assure you that it is true. While some of the names have been altered, and the dialogue comes from the quilting of patchwork memories over the years, it is reality. How do I know this? Well, you see, I know Jack all too well for he is me, and Jill is my wife with whom my heart will always be. This is not a story. It is my story. It is our story.
Of course, I have omitted the arguments we have had over time like about how I ate our only bag of Doritos on a backpacker’s budget in Sydney, Australia, or how she likes the dish drain pad flush with the sink while I like it three inches over. There is no in-depth analysis of how I rant and rave about deep issues as she spaces out, or how I space out when she discusses rugs, event plans, or what the kids did today. I have omitted how we clammer around and melt down when Jameson tests the limits of human volume every time he screams (which is more often than we can handle and still be kind people). We’re not focusing on the time that I foolishly decided to go shot for shot with my dad back in college, and paid dearly for it the following day. Man, you were so mad at me. We won’t spend time dissecting how you made me give away my M&M clock when we got married. I don’t care what you say. That thing was classy! We won’t spend time on the struggles and arguments when there are far more important and far more numerous things to celebrate.
Let’s celebrate the time in high school on our first real date when we sat on the hood of my car, looking at the Texas Hill Country stars as we discussed our families, hopes, and dreams. Let’s reminisce about the overcast evening in May when I knelt down in the surf at sunset and asked you to marry me. You thought I was joking, probably because I had faked proposed at least 50 times in H.E.B., on campus, and in the park. Let’s look through the scrapbook you made me for my high school graduation, the year-long journal you kept between the proposal and our wedding, and the collection of love notes that we still have. Some are fully written out and still inside the original postal envelope used to ship them to me while I was in Oklahoma. Some are simply written on napkins with scribbly ink. All are invaluable.
Happy anniversary, sweets!
May we remember the great times that we have already shared and look forward to the memories yet to be made. May we continue to strive for the following lofty definition of love as explained by Paul even though we continually fall short.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)