It was that wonderful everyday college romance story…with a very unexpected twist.
You know the basic story. A guy and a girl meet on a college campus and become friends. In chatting and hanging out together, a little spark develops, and the friendship takes a fun new turn. It goes by different names, like “dating” or “an item” or “seeing each other” or “going steady” (depending on your given decade).
Well, that story featured me and a nice young lady we’ll call Victoria. We began “seeing each other” fairly often. As the “dates” increased so did the questions of where this relationship might take us. After all, every marriage begins as a friendship, right?
On one particular afternoon, I called Victoria to see about going out together for the evening. “Hey Victoria, I was hoping we could hang out this evening. How does that work for you?” Or something like that. Given a thousand guesses, I could never have anticipated her next words.
“Well, I guess I should tell you that I am getting married…in two weeks.”
(This is the time where you insert your best response line to THAT announcement!)
“So tonight is probably not going to work for you, huh?”
“That’s so weird. I never got the invitation.”
“I’m glad we’re finally opening up about some of the significant things in our lives.”
“Wow! Surprises: that’s what I’ve always loved about you.”
“O.K….well, uh…gee, that’s uh…well…o.k….I, uh…wow!”
The story unfolded. While they were visiting family in another state over Christmas, a close friend of their family unexpectedly asked Victoria to marry him. Having known him for years, she said “yes.” She was, I think, very much in love with the idea of being married, and he was a good friend.
I get that, but it was a punch in the gut. Granted it was one of the more unique “Dear John” announcements a guy will ever get, but it was a rejection nonetheless. I guess I felt a combination of sad, shocked, stupid, and disappointed. In those kinds of moments, it’s hard to see any light. Your life feels defined by your loss.
What I could not see is what some of you already know. That loss was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Later that year, I went out with a beautiful gal who had only recently suffered a disappointing breakup with a guy. Her name—quite appropriately—was Joy. Joy Waters. I guess I should tell you that I married her two years(no, not two weeks) later. Joy Martin. We will celebrate our thirtieth anniversary in July of this year.
Thirty-two years later, I thank God for that “I’m getting married in two weeks” conversation that set the table for me to meet and marry the love of my life. No one is more grateful, however, than my kids who—in some odd way—owe their very lives to that rejection. No wonder that Garth Brooks—reflecting back on a high school flame he wanted to marry but didn’t—sings “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”
Sometimes the life you most want can only come through losing something or someone you really want.
Credits: “Unanswered Prayer” written by Patrick Alger, Larry Bastian, Garth Brooks. Major Bob Music and Warner Chappell Publications