Friday, April 17, 2009

Surprised By Love

I don't mean to  brag or sound fatalistic but I know what true love feels like, at least in the capacity that one person can feel it for another. It's this feeling I have in my chest when I watch Kristie sleep next to me. It's a sudden rush of emotions, a longing to protect her, to do right by her. There is no hesitation when I think of dying for her, however painful or humiliating, if it is to spare her any suffering then sign me up. The connection that we have runs deep, and we've been working on it for a decade. It is scary to think where I would be without her.

I used to think that after you marry someone you truly love the honeymoon eventually fades and you develop a sort of "family love," or some sort of deep mutual respect for each other that is for the most part unromantic. I was willing to accept that type of love, I just wanted to spend my life with Kristie. To my pleasant surprise (and by the grace of God) I was wrong. The thing about this feeling is that it has grown stronger every year of our marriage. In fact, this feeling has grown stronger every year since we met in the summer of 2000.

Well, technically we met in the summer of 1998, but we didn't fall in love then. I was fifteen and I'd made my annual trek to summer camp that year with my friend BJ. Summer camp, also called Daybreak Point Bible Camp, was located on Anvil Island; a small island off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. I'd been going since I was nine years old, first to an all-boys camp, and then later to the co-ed camps. It's an incredibly beautiful and isolated place that is only accessible by boat, so for myself and the rest of the campers it was like a week-long escape from reality. The campground was equipped with a boat dock, a swim dock, a water trampoline and a huge slide, a dozen or so cabins, a big dining hall, a semi-indoor gymnasium, a soccer-sized upper field and a very nice state-of-the-art chapel. For an entire week it's just the campers and staff for twenty-four hours a day, so you get to know people pretty well. BJ and I were the only "Americans" there that year, I say "Americans" because I think technically I was still a Canadian (I'd been going to the camp there ever since I'd lived in Canada). Anyhow, we were both fifteen and probably a touch on the older side as we were only a year younger than some of the counsellors. 

For that week BJ and I were very popular. That's the thing about camp, you can reinvent yourself. However unpopular you are back at home, you are given the rare opportunity to convince a new set of people that you are incredibly cool. We did this by playing up how foreign we were to the locals, and by being extremely competitive in all the events. We also had the ideal American bleach-blond hair to boot (it was hot back then). We were instant hits. Our age and maturity entitled us to hang out with some of the staff at times, and they were equally intrigued by our supposed awesomeness. One of the staff members (a sports crew girl named Kristie) took a liking to us. I can remember Kristie, BJ and I hanging out on the front porch of our cabin during free time. Like with any other girl, BJ and I would sort of passive-aggressively compete for attention, but for the most part we just viewed her as a friend. She was a year older and fun to hang out with, but that was all. So the fairy-tale goes that Kristie and I did not fall in love at first sight.

I went back to camp the next year and entered the LIT (Leader In Training) program. I made some incredible friends during this time, some of which I am still in contact with. I had a lot of fun that year, and I felt like I was close to God. I felt like I was really experiencing some spiritual growth. Kristie was a counsellor that year, and was apparently in a relationship with somebody. As I recall we only exchanged a few words the entire week, and I remember thinking she looked sad. I didn't dwell on it though, because I was busy having crushes on some other girls in the LIT program.

The next year came along and my friends from the LIT program and I became full on staff. We took on the dish pit after meals like a bunch of animals, singing old U2 songs at the top of our lungs as we cleaned the campers dishes. I remember what it was like to serve and serve joyfully. We laughed, sang and sprayed each other with water as we worked. We loved cleaning dishes. We also led the music that year as all of us were musicians as well. It was a great combo, to serve the kids practically and then to serve them spiritually. I remember being struck with how important service was, especially for my soul. It left me with a very calming sense of peace in my heart.

That year nobody could stay away from our group. Our joy was infectious, and we we're bent on distributing it. Kristie, a counsellor again, was one of the other staffers who appreciated our work and so she started hanging out with us. 

As work crew we were a part of helping the program staff and the sports crew set up games. We were the utility men, so as fate would have it one day I was up in the gym watching kids frantically sort through a giant pile of footwear for the missing half to their individual pairs. I say fate, because I was sitting about ten feet from Kristie. In the midst of all the hullabaloo, I glanced over and noticed she was visibly upset. So, in some adolescent attempt to cheer her up, I took my Nike sandal off and tossed it at her (don't ask why, I was emotionally stunted at the time). It very lightly bounced off her shoulder and tears started to well up in her eyes. I don't know what came over me, but I quickly I went up to her and said, "Lets walk." I knew that something was wrong and that she should probably talk about it. I also knew that in front of the campers was probably not the best place to talk. So we walked down the path away from the gym, and as we walked she explained that some other staffer had told her she wasn't doing a good job at counseling. Kristie had taken it quite personally as she cared very much for her campers that year. We talked about that for a bit, and then the conversation led to other things. I remember sitting in the empty rifle range talking about life, family, struggles and dreams. We were shocked to find that we were both from a family of ten, and that our families were similar in so many ways. We found a lot in common as we shared our lives with each other, and I think we ended up on a cabin porch a few hours later with our friends suspiciously asking, "Where have you two been?"

As much as we liked hanging out with each other, she apparently had a boyfriend waiting for her at home. On the last day as we boarded the boat everyone got each others contact info. Not wanting the week to end, we decided our group should hang out for the weekend in Vancouver before we went our separate ways. Over the weekend, Kristie inadvertently left her bible in my car. When I found it I wrote this in it (unedited):

Is that how you spell it? I'm sitting in my car an Cosmos is driving. Thats the reason why my writing is so messy. I just wanted to let you know that I think you're the raddest person, even rugged, if I may say so. I may be younger, but I'm still madly in love with you. Honestly, would I lie to you? Oh, I just realized it's spelt Kristie... Oh welp. I want you to know that when I am a millionaire (thats in American dollars) I will hunt you down and marry you.
(heart) YANKEE
P.S. Don't let yer boyfriend see this. I prefer my limbs not broken...
posse out!

"Rugged" was a term that had been recently coined at camp. It meant "Cool." And "Posse out" was how we said goodbye that year. Yankee was my nickname, and Cosmos was the nickname of my friend Steve.

However funny I attempted to make the letter, I remember secretly hoping she would find it and initiate something with me (I was a wimp). When we were hanging out at a friends house the next night, she found it (with the help of said friend) and she asked me about it. On the front porch she was very forward with me, "Were you serious about how you feel about me?" I remember being very shy, and after a few hours and beating around the bush I finally told her I liked her and I'm not sure what that means but I think it'd be cool to talk once in awhile. She went home and broke up with her boyfriend, and the rest is history (a lot of history, too much to divulge at this juncture). My friend Mike recalls me coming home from camp and saying, "I found a girl, and I think I could marry her." I was seventeen years old. Everyone laughed at us, but here we are, almost ten years later. We're married and our love is stronger than ever.

Again, I don't mean to sound fatalistic, but I believe the stars aligned for me. The feeling was there from the beginning, and it was almost like it was destined. I had prayed nightly for someone exactly like her, someone who could understand me and love me as she did. What's also noteworthy is that Kristie's mom and dad met at the exact same camp (fate maybe?). I honestly think God placed her specifically in my life at that exact time, because He knew I needed someone specifically like her. Since then I've made a ton of mistakes and without the influence of Kristie in my life I wouldn't most definitely not be here right now. I was quite rebellious in my teenage years, and she loved me through many of my faults. I am by nature a pretty unstable person, but for some reason Kristie causes me to well up with a sense of responsibility. Even in her own instability, she causes me to be stable. More than that I've been blessed with an incredible feeling of deep and often unexplainable love. It's tremendously fulfilling.

Everyone wants to be understood and respected... everyone wants to be known. There is nothing more valuable to receive from another human being than true love; the unadulterated sense of being fully known and fully admired. True human love is the experience of every flaw being completely known and completely overlooked at the same time. Who doesn't want that?

Love doesn't grow on trees, it doesn't happen overnight. It slowly and steadily grows when two hearts are committed to serving each other and working through the issues that inevitably arise. The result is an incredible reward; the complete fulfillment of a few very powerful human desires. God designed it this way so that sacrifice would reap the most gain. A successful relationship is a picture of Jesus. Jesus, who sacrificed himself for us, fully knows us, fully forgives us, and fully accepts us. The bible is clear that we are to love each other like this.

John 15: 12-13 says,

This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

And 1 John 3:16 says,

This is how we have come to know love: the Messiah gave his life for us. We, too, ought to give our lives for our brothers.

As I have fallen more and more in love with Kristie I have been more enlightened to just how much God must love us. I would die for Kristie because she loves me and gives me so much, and I love her and would do anything to spare her from suffering. The feeling I have for her is very strong, but this feeling is presumably nothing compared to a God who would lay down his own perfect human life for ungrateful, unloving people. My glimpse of true human love is just a tiny inkling of the Love that God is capable of, and to experience that tiny fraction is extremely inspiring.

The power of love continually surprises me. As I downplay it, it upstages me. They say you can't live on love, but I have proof that in a sense you can. We've been living on love for four years, many times not knowing where the money for bills will come from, but God in his love takes care of us. So we continue to try to love each other in the way He displays His love for us, and we continue to live blessed lives. There are always ups and downs, but we always get through because our love for each other remains constant.

It might sound cheesy, but I wish this type of love on everyone.


  1. That's not cheesy in the least. To love and be loved unconditionally is the greatest thing on this earth. I hope to find that someday too.

  2. Good post over all, though I will say there is a certain nobility in dieing for someone. A certain sense of accomplishment and finality. As a Christian you know that you will be in heaven the second after you take your last breath. In some ways it's really not that much of a sacrifice. The question is, would live your life for her, meeting her needs, if all she ever did was reject your love and spit in your face?

    This is the love of Christ for us :)

  3. "It might sound cheesy, but I wish this type of love on everyone."

    Not at all, Matt. As I was reading this I was thinking that I hope I can experience love like that someday. This was seriously one of the most beautiful blog entries I've ever read. It put a smile on my face. Thanks for posting. I pray that God continues blessing you and Kristie in your marriage.

  4. You are right, even though I have yet to receive that type of love, it has become a great joy for me to express it and live it. I don't think it is cheesy at all, many people go there whole lives without true unconditional love and that is very sad.

  5. This was really good, as was Dan's addition. A love that gives all and asks for nothing in return. Now that's true love...

  6. What a beautiful story :]
    I'm blessed. Thank you for sharing.

  7. The way I see it, life is a pursuit of love. God pursues us, to give us His love. His desire is for us to love Him and love each other. Simple? Yes. But nothing else in the world compares to love. Nothing. I'd rather be bankrupt but loved, than wealthy and alone any day.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  8. That's a really inspiring/heartwarming story, Matt! I can only hope that God has someone in mind for me as well... : ) Keep up the good work! You're a great writer!

  9. If i got anything out of reading this it would have to be hope. My girlfriend and I (although from different faiths) both have a firm belief in God, and a firm belief in love. Some people don't believe in love, but everything you just said practically paints a picture of it. I almost feel naive being almost 17 years old and claiming that i think i've felt the same. It's strange, some people say 17 is too young to love, but i do believe i love my girlfriend. All i want to do is make her happy, and sacrifice for her. It brings me nothing but happiness, and I agree with you. I wish this type of love on everyone.

  10. This kind of love is definitley not something that happens overnight i must admit. I have long had the perception that relationships unfold quickly and that love happens just like that. But no, it does take time, and the rewards in the end are great like you have said. And especially when finding a love like that enlightens you on how God loves everyone else. Lovely entry mate, cheers.

  11. Thanks for sharing this with us, Matt. It's really quite beautiful and awe-inspiring--it's so awesome to hear all of this; I pray that you can keep on saying this all your life. :)

  12. Hi Matt, I'm guessing since you and your wife met at a camp you didn't live too terribly close and didn't see each other a whole lot. Forgetting the chance that I'm wrong, I'm wondering how you handled that.

    I look forward to a possible reply and any future blogs.

  13. And I'm not really too familiar with blogspot, my name is David.

  14. <3 i pray that the Lord will grant me that kind of love one day! Thank you so much for posting this, and i am encouraged to know that there are good Godly men who love the Lord and see that without the Lords love there is NO love. :) thank you!!

  15. I said it once before, you have such amazing insight for one so young! You're becoming quite the writer as well, I could just feel the excitement of your camp experiences and your love for God and your wife, Kristie, simply oozing out of the lines! Blog on!