APRIL 5, 1986, Kankakee First Church of the Nazarene, Kankakee Illinois.

Once upon a time, a boy and a girl from opposite sides of town met and fell in love…

The year was 1978. Jimmy Carter was president; Styx and the Electric Light Orchestra were two of the biggest rock groups in the country; and nearly a year after its release, Star Wars was STILL the numbest popular movie in America.

One Sunday evening in late April of that year, a teenage boy met the girl of his dreams at church. He was a freshman in high school; she was a sophomore. Both had only started attending this particular Nazarene church fairly recently, and both at the urging of friends; she’d been raised in a Lutheran home, while most of what he knew about God and the Bible at that point in his life had come from watching old Charlton Heston movies on TV…

They quickly a struck up a friendship, and wasted little time in allowing it to advance to the next level. A mere two weeks after they met, while they were eating lunch together with friends in the school cafeteria, he snuck a note into her algebra book asking her if she wanted to go out with him… and then lay awake most of that night, worrying as much over whether she would even find the note as over what her answer might be.

The next day she sat down beside him at an assembly in the high school gymnasium, and silently took his hand into her own. And a buddy of his sitting on the other side of him leaned in close and whispered, “I’m guessing that mean ‘Yes.’”

Eight years later - almost to the day - they were married.

A lot has happened to them since that morning in the school gym. Some of it good, some of it not so much. And every now and then he finds himself thinking back to those relatively innocent days when Fate or Providence or whatever Higher Power you choose to believe in first brought them together.

Not so many weeks ago, while digging through a desk drawer trying to find something that seemed important at the time, he came across an old folder full of notes and letters she had written to him way back during those high school days.

The pencil markings had faded a bit with time, but for the most part they were still legible. And he couldn’t help but smile as he read one note in particular:

“I wish time wouldn’t fly by so quick when we’re together. I would spend every minute of the day with you if I could, and still I bet time would go by too fast. Well, one thing I do know is that I LOVE YOU and I always will. If you don’t get the idea yet, I think it might be hopeless…

“I’m afraid I’m going to lose you one of these days. I really hope not, because I really love you a lot. I guess the reason I’m afraid is because there are a lot of girls out there better than me. I know you always say that’s not true, but I can’t help myself. When I say I love you very much I really mean it, because I love you more than I can ever show or tell you…

“Well, I’m sitting in Psychology class and I really should be listening to the teacher, but my mind is too much on you. I guess I should stop writing and pay attention, but remember that I love you and I always will. P.S. I’ll write another note in Biology class…”

He smiled as he re-folded the note and stuck it back in that folder with the others. Yeah, that was a long time ago. The world was a different place back then. And they were different people. A lot has changed.

But one thing hasn’t changed: the way these two lovestruck kids feel about one another. There were times when it seemed the day they both dreamed of might not ever arrive, but finally they were married 31 years ago this week: April 5, 1986.

There have been more changes in their lives since then, and a lot of good times and bad that are just simply part of the fabric of life: a cross-country move; new friends made; family members lost; and, most importantly, the arrival of two beloved sons - one of whom will be getting married himself this coming Saturday.

The important thing is that the union still thrives, that their love is still strong. Given the times in which we live, that may seem a major accomplishment to some. Oh, sure, there are problems from time to time, but nothing they can’t face together.

She constantly finds new ways to surprise him, new ways to show just how much her love for him has grown over the years.

And he…

Well, he is me.

And I happen to be the luckiest guy on the face of this earth.

I’ve spent a lifetime hearing some people talk about how much effort it takes to make a marriage work. I suppose there’s some truth to that, but to me these past 31 years haven’t seemed all that hard at all. Oh, sure, there have been a few rocky times, but we’ve faced them together and have always come out stronger.

I LIKE being married. I love the idea of having someone for me to hold up when she needs it, to hold me up when I need it, to laugh and cry with, to watch our kids become adults, to grow old together. What’s so hard about that?

Of course, it goes without saying that I got the better end of the deal...

(Copyright © 2017, by John A. Small)