I first met Stephen Paul in 2004 at the church where he worked. I just returned home from a tropical semester overseas and had heard of this “new Steve” in town, a red-bearded chevalier from the Midwest.
I was introduced as “Guam.”
He hollered a “Nice to meet you” from the stage.
Over the next two years, we occasionally ended up in the same place at the same time — though we rarely interacted, and he rarely remembered who I was. He was always a little mysterious to me: unphased by the pressures of society, confident in forging his own path through life, wise beyond his years… and always sporting a new hairdo.
Summer 2006 brought me back to his church, where he then co-pastored the young adult/family service. We saw a little more of each other: I was intrigued by his musings on dreadlocks, and he noticed that I enjoy a good Cosmo. Then one fateful Sunday evening service, I showed up with a new tattoo, and Steve showed up with a new haircut. He taught about prayer that night, and I approached him after the service to thank him for discussing the topic and, as usual, offer my own opinion on the matter. We didn’t chat long before I had to duck out for work, so we exchanged numbers to schedule a time for more discussion.
That time was 7am the very next morning. We met at a local cafe after I finished my morning shift at work. We had never been alone together, never had a one-on-one conversation, and it was somewhat shocking. The shock was in how easy conversation flowed. How had we gone these years without sitting down together? Every subject we discussed uncovered a commonality between us, as if to confirm that we had somehow found each other, that we had found what we were looking for. Neither of us had shown up looking to date, much less looking for “the one.” But I couldn’t help noticing that with every word, he was checking off my mental “things I want in a husband” list. How had we never realized this before?
Our conversation at the cafe lasted over three hours before we decided to move our dissertation to a nearby deli for lunch. We talked about church and travel and coffee and tea and Africa and cellos and trumpets and books and music and family… we might have even discussed prayer, like we originally planned. We sat and chattered another two hours before parting ways.
Later that day, he invited me to join him on his porch and watch the rain before my evening shift.
And when I got home, I found this email waiting for me:
“same bat time. same bat channel. i’ll be there, will you?”
I was. We met the next morning. And that night. And the morning after that. And that afternoon. And on that third day we held our first DTR. We decided that we were officially dating.
I left town that weekend to stand in a beloved friend’s wedding. Steve and I spoke on the phone every day I was away. That’s when I discovered his tendency to carry conversations into his sleep (or else I’m just a really boring conversationalist).
The Wednesday after I returned from the wedding weekend (one week after officially determining our dating status), we spent several afternoon hours together at a park near my house. At one point, just before the sprinklers began spouting across the soccer field, Steve sobered his tone and said to me:
“I think I could spend my life with you. We could get an apartment until you finish school. And then we could move to the Amazon and have eight little canoes trailing behind us. I don’t know how this is possible, but I could have told you last week… I love you.”
What else could I say? I’m a sucker for canoes.
(and I felt the same way)
A month later, we skipped out early from a Fray concert at Red Rocks because I was feeling under the weather (read: I accidentally died my hair black that day and had worried myself into a feverish tizzy of regret). Home alone, we sat at the kitchen table and ate Eggo Waffles with tea. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he said, “I’m sorry you’re feeling so terrible. But maybe this will keep your mind off of that,” and like a magic trick, he revealed a ring from the palm of his hand and slipped it onto my finger. The ring was perfect — simple and sweet, a single emerald (his birthstone) nestled between two little diamonds. He followed the example of my bewildered jaw and dropped one knee to the floor as he smiled up into my eyes:
“Lauren Clark, will you be my wife?”
For the first time in my life, I was truly speechless. Tears flooded my vision, and I tried to nod “yes,” but still no words came through to confirm my response. I think he got the idea.
Six months later, I floated across the livingroom of a beautiful mountain home to the tune of Over the Rhine’s “I Want You To Be My Love.” We washed each others’ feet and pledged our vows and exchanged our rings, surrounded by many of our dearest friends and family.
That was three years ago today.
It certainly hasn’t been an easy three years. (Let’s just say I’m one of those people who has a hard time sharing my life.) And we have yet to venture to the Amazon. But the life we have embarked on has been more enriching than I could have imagined. I realize more each day just how perfect my husband is for me, and I wouldn’t trade him for anything — not even for my very own monastic temple in Tibet… which is saying a lot.