I never wanted to get married, at least that’s what I claimed. I met Colby John Garman my freshman year of college right outside the post office on campus. He was wearing a plastic bow tie (obviously attained from the nearby dollar theatre) and shook my hand jokingly like a politician. I can remember the morning sun was in my eyes as I looked at him and could really only make out a fuzzy silhouette. I didn’t think twice about him. I was meeting new people every single day.
As the year progressed, I could hardly go ten feet without running into Colby. Our interests and activities overlapped to such an extent that a day in the life of Annie was never spent without Colby. He gave me all his notes and helped me get through Theology 202 with Dr. Morrison, I helped him learn rhythm on his guitar. I cut his hair, he taught me how to lighten mine with hydrogen peroxide. We played together in the rain during a flashflood, listened to Caedmon’s Call while doing laundry, and talked about the timeline of Western Civilization over lunch. By the end of the year we were best friends although we had never told each other that.
When he asked me out at the end of that year, I buried my face in my hands and asked him why he was trying to ruin such a good thing.
Commitment was scarier to me than death, really. How could I settle down in a serious relationship when I was only nineteen? Didn’t he realize the ramifications of such a decision? I had a world to conquer, and I did NOT (I repeat NOT) want marriage to stop me. I wanted to be FREE to do as I pleased, without having to consider another person (Seriously… could I have been any more selfish??).
I wasn’t interested in a relationship, so I figured that meant I had lost my best friend. Surely Colby would move on to wooing another woman with his intellect and charm and drop me like a bad hot pocket.
My sophomore year marched on and Colby was still there everywhere I turned. And the funny thing was, he acted like my rejection of him had never happened. We would sit outside the library on the dirty, old couches together and talk about the history of the English language, ecclesiology, and world missions until curfew. He still made me laugh so hard that I would fall down and slap the carpet in a fit of exuberance.
My roommates would roll their eyes when I came into the room at midnight, face flushed with laughter and heart full. “You like him…” they would say as they turned off their reading lights and laid down on their bunk beds. I would get defensive and angry, my conflicted heart not so sure of what was happening. “I do NOT like him. WE. ARE. JUST. FRIENDS. Can’t two people just be friends?” They didn’t bother arguing…
Having Colby’s friendship during that time was beginning to heal my heart in ways I didn’t even know it needed. He had wisdom beyond his years, and having him in my life was like having a personal therapist/pastor/professor.
Throughout the next year, as our friendship continued to blossom, Colby would occasionally muster up the courage to casually ask if I was interested in being a relationship yet. I couldn’t believe this guy. He had the persistence of a gnat and the nerve of a flea to ask again. Wasn’t one rejection good enough for him? Surely he wasn’t understanding. I was not getting married. Ever.
I would tell him we could be NEIGHBORS the rest of our lives, but I really didn’t think we had a future beyond that. He would say okay, and then we would carry on like nothing had happened.
The turning point came the summer of 2000. We parted ways for the summer, me to my home in Wisconsin and he to an internship with a church youth group in Florida. Like clock work, every Friday night he faithfully called my house in WI from his host home in Florida. Most of those nights I strategically left for the evening as to avoid his call and see if he’d eventually give up. How much did he really like me? Enough to chase me? It was a cruel game but I wanted to see how far he would go to win my heart.
The game ended one Friday night when I found out the horrible news. I had called Colby back, but his host mom answered. Colby wasn’t there; he was at a funeral. A boy in Colby’s youth group had been run over by a trailer while the group was at summer camp. I nearly dropped the phone and vomited. My friend was going through something horrific and meanwhile I was busy stonewalling him. I wanted to run all the way to Florida and hug him and cry with him and be at his side as he went through something so traumatic.
I knew at that moment I loved him.
The rest they say is history. On September 1, 2000 we went to Riverside Park together and he asked for a final time. “So, has anything changed since the last time we’ve talked?” I said no (the nerve!), but after sitting through a late afternoon rain shower, the sunset, and the sparkle of twilight, I finally told him I was ready to be with him. He waited for a “But…”
It never came.
I would say we lived happily ever after, but you all know better than that. Less than three weeks later, my hormones were most likely taking an adrenal nosedive and consequently I was an emotional mess. I told him there was still time to get out and that he should run away as far as he could. His response was classic Colby. “I’m not running away. And if YOU run away…I’m chasing you.”
He never gave up and on September 1st, 2001 I said “I do” to his sparkling baby blue eyes.
Or red eyes, in this case.
It hasn’t always been pretty, I’m not gonna lie.
I’ve screamed, I’ve ignored, we’ve black and blued each other’s hearts. I’ve shot, I’ve injured, I’ve wept, I’ve despaired. Marriage has confronted me with my prideful anger issues and has pulled the rug of self-righteousness out from under my feet. Marriage has revealed the wicked and self-absorbed condition of my heart… and it has blown me away.
Never before has the cross of Jesus looked so beautiful to me after seeing how vile I am. Never before have I clung so desperately to a Savior who is righteousness on my behalf. Never before have I seen so acutely my need for grace and mercy and forgiveness.
So, on our anniversary today, it’s to Colby that I say THANK YOU for chasing me this last decade and showing me the love of a God who pursues…and it’s to Jesus that I say, THANK YOU for using marriage to purify my heart and make it a holier sanctuary of worship to You.