This morning in my Bible study group, we were discussing the book of Ruth, chapter 4 where Ruth married Boaz and God blessed them with a son Obed. Their son became the father of Jesse, and he then became the father of King David. It just so happens that the five of us ladies are living in the UK but all originate from different countries respectively Switzerland, Germany, Estonia, and the USA. We each enjoyed recalling our own journeys alongside Ruth’s story of being a foreigner, having an international marriage and seeing God’s blessings through the things sacrificed and the embracing of new land, culture, and ways.
Eleven years of marriage and I am still amazed how God allowed my husband and I to meet. On some days, it seems like I’ve always been in England and this has always been my existence, yet looking back I am reminded of how far I have come. I feel humility, grace, and gratitude at where life continues to take us. The following is the story of how Charlie and I first met:
On an unsuspecting Wednesday evening in February 2008, I arrived at my weekly young adults Bible study group. I knew everyone quite well, all except Nick had brought his friend Charlie, visiting from England. Before reading God’s Word and discussing it, cups of tea and coffee were being brewed. I walked into the kitchen and was greeted by a handsome man with a distinctively, British accent.
Holding his mug with a tea bag ready to be disposed of, he asked, “Pardon me, where’s the bin?” It threw me off guard for a minute since in my American head, a bin could just be a storage box.
“The bin? Do you mean the trash can?” I answered back in a very Californian accent. We had a laugh at the misunderstanding of our different versions of the English language and carried on sitting down with the others.
Our group was going to Lake Tahoe on a wintery retreat that weekend, so Charlie ended up coming along with Nick. Charlie and I were quite new to skiing, as in I had only skied once beforehand and Charlie was a complete newbie. There was a group of us, so some members chose to go on the easier green run (Charlie was one of the smart ones) while others more experienced wanted to go on a more challenging blue run. Trying to keep up with some friends, I decided to go towards the harder blue run. Almost instantly I regretted my foolish decision, however it was too late to turn back. Being nearly inexperienced, what was I thinking? I ended up having a knee injury and had to be examined at the ski resort’s medical room. Besides being utterly embarrassed, I felt very alone until Charlie, who I hardly knew, found me and gave me a hug, saying it would be alright.
The next couple of days were spent on crutches at the snowy cabin. There were moments of frustration on my part because everyone else was having fun and I felt left out with my hurt leg having to be propped up and resting. Charlie, even just as an acquaintance was truly kind and considerate, bringing me cups of tea and sitting with me to chat. I remember thinking he was an incredibly nice guy with a warm smile and personality. However, I had my guard up as he wasn’t following Jesus, had a girlfriend, and lived in England. A relationship with him was certainly not on my radar. This was actually a huge benefit looking back, as I was able to be one hundred percent myself and didn’t need to pretend to be anyone else.
He went back to England, my leg healed, and we became friends on Facebook. Before long, we were writing pages of messages back and forth to each other and sharing stories of childhood to present times and everything in between. After nearly a year after first meeting Charlie, he sent me some songs from his band and one of his own recordings. Upon playing the music and listening to his voice, I soon realised that my “just friends” policy had somehow passed me by, and I realised that genuinely I had feelings for this man. But how on earth would it ever work? After all, it was impossible in my little, small town world.
Winter came back around again, and our same group of church young adults wanted to do the ski trip again. Charlie came out a second time to see Nick, although to be honest he had other motives. Charlie had flown into San Francisco a few days early, so I ended up taking him on a tourist day trip to some of my favourite sites of Muir Woods, Baker Beach & the Golden Gate Bridge. He was making up a play list of music on his iPod and we were singing and laughing together as closer friends but still wondering if there might be more to our story. After that, the whole group went to Lake Tahoe for round two of the annual ski trip, and luckily there were no injuries for me this time! Charlie and I were inseparable. Always chatting away, we seemed to be like magnets just wanting to be continuously talking and learning about each other.
On one of our walks in the snowy woods, Charlie and I were talking about life and there was such a peace. I felt at ease with this guy to just be myself. He surprised me by letting me know that in that year after first meeting, he had become a Christian! I was so happy for him and thrilled that he had accepted Jesus and was starting his faith journey. Another surprise was he also told me that he was officially breaking up with his girlfriend. So now there was just the bit about him living in England, but goodness, what a change that year had made!
Our last evening before Charlie was flying back to the United Kingdom, we both talked openly about how we liked each other, but I still had my doubts. I just wasn’t expecting to ever start a relationship over long distance and two countries. The afternoon of Charlie’s flight back, we sat in the front garden on a crisp, sunny winter’s day and Charlie sang a song that he had written about me. We knew God was in our beginnings and that if this was really His doing, nothing could stop us from being together. Despite a whole lot of questions and wondering, peace was on our hearts as we said, “I’ll be seeing you.” Seeds of our relationship were being sown.
Thank you that you have an incredible way of bringing people together and that you accomplish your greater plans when our hearts are ready to step out in faith.
Just like Ruth must have felt, it can be difficult to give up one’s sense of comfort and everything known, yet despite any grief or fears, there is blessing when we wholeheartedly go where you lead us.