Sunday, September 18, 2005

How We Became the McFarlane Duo

This story requested by the Happy Husband. Though I doubt he expected such a thorough recount. I can't help it. I start writing, and I go into prose-mode. It's a hard habit I don't see any reason to break.

The story from our point of view starts back in 2001, but I believe from God's POV it must've started much earlier than that (like before time). In hindsight, I can see His plan really kick into action about a year before we met. This is where I think I'll begin the story.

I was a very young Christian- about four months old. For those four incredibly action-packed months, I'd been getting a very disturbing feeling... that I was supposed to be involved in overseas missions. This was severely out of line with my current aspirations to be a writer and editor/publisher. But the feeling could not be shaken, and I understood this to be of God. So, I got in contact with the one organisation I was most familiar with, Teen Missions Int'l, and offered my services as a leader for a team of teenagers. I expressed that I was interested in the Middle East, which is where my heart lay at the time, and said I'd be particularly interested in going to Egypt.

"Actually, the only two teams we need leaders for is Florida and Scotland. Are you interested in going to either of those places?" said the woman on the phone. Confused by what I thought God had been telling me, I told the woman I would have to pray about it and get back to her. I hung up the phone and instantly felt certain I was supposed to go to Scotland. But Scotland, Lord? Why would anyone need to be a missionary to Scotland? (I suppose I believed that heilan coos and bagpipes were enough to save any man from eternal damnation.) But this was no longer just a feeling I was having but a certainty. Not two minutes had passed when I called the woman back up and told her to Scotland I would go.

Fast forward to the the summer. In Scotland, our team's projects were to coordinate and run a Vacation Bible School (or as the Scots called it, a Kid's Club) for the kids living in the "schemes" or the projects. The first day we arrived on Oransay Avenue, we were met by hundreds of little devil-children greeting us with up-turned middle fingers and four-letter words that most of us had never even heard before. Our other project was to volunteer at the Haven, a rehab run by Teen Challenge. It was at the Haven when I finally realised why I'd been called to Scotland. Having had my own experiences with dabbling in drugs and having seen many of my closest friends' lives destroyed by drug use, I immediately loved with all my heart the addicts in this place. I realised that this is the kind of missions I was meant to be involved in.

Simultaneously, I was leading a group of 31 teenagers, each with his or her own experiences and circumstances and struggles with knowing God. Enter Scott.

Of course, it was only Enter Scott for me. Scott had been living his own 17 years prior to my arriving on Scottish soil. At this point, having been at University for a year, he had come to the conclusion that there was no God and had declared himself an atheist. He came around to the church to hang out with "the Americans" with his brother and sister (all of whom attended the church we were working with) and spent practically the entire summer with us. Little did I know that our presence was slowly changing Scott's mind about God.

Let it be said plainly - I did not like Scott. Let it be said equally plainly - Scott did not like me. For Scott had become involved with one of the girls on my team, and this caused an enormous amount of friction between myself and the girl. One of the most emphatic rules of Teen Missions is "No Pairing Off." Thus, I was constantly having to separate the two, causing enmity between us all. Scott, to me, was a trouble-maker, and I, to Scott, a Nazi.

Fast forward again, this time two years. Scotland and Teen Challenge continued to be a soft spot in my heart. I kept the Haven in my prayers and tried to get in touch with several TC centres around the mid-South area but no centres contacted me back. Finally, I contacted Wales, where a girls rehab was located and was immediately responded to. It was arranged that I would come visit and help out in Newport, where the actual street ministry took place. Excited about visiting the UK again, I began chatting online with my Scottish acquaintances about visiting Scotland as well. Re-enter Scott.

But of course, it was only Re-enter Scott for me. For he'd been living the last two years his own life. He had changed significantly. Though he still struggled with his faith, he no longer disbelieved in God. He had grown quite a bit over the years, taken an interest in theology and had become anxious to serve God. He, too, turned to Teen Missions, where he signed up to be part of their Missionaries to America team, a group of non-Americans who toured the US as missionaries. Scott and I began talking and started to realise how much we had in common. He expressed his disappointment that he wouldn't be in Scotland when I came to visit, and I promised to travel to one of the nearby states if he happened to come close by while I was still around.

My arrangements to go to Wales were coming along fantastically. I found a cheap ticket, had places to stay, had the full blessing of my parents (this being my first international trip taken on my own, and me still being only 21). However, though the Powers That Be were continually working in my favour for going, the same Powers were working against Scott's coming to the US. There were issues with his visa and passport, then issues with his college exam dates. TMI wanted him out there a week or two before his exams were over, and he couldn't arrange his exams for any earlier. It finally turned out that he wouldn't be able to go. We were both disappointed, but also a bit excited that we'd get to see each other while I was over. Scott promised to hang out with me while in Scotland and take me around the non-touristy areas.

When he and his brother picked me up at the airport, I was shocked at how different and grown up they both were. They, too, were shocked at how not-black-and-spikey my hair was and, I'd also like to believe, by how much cooler I was. Scott stuck to his promise, and we did lots together. We went to pubs and movies and ate fish and chips by the river. Already people were beginning to see what it would take us about another month to discover for ourselves.

One night, while staying with the Gaults, a family at Scott's church, Scott made an offensive joke in front of the group that hurt my feelings, and I retired to my bed. Lying in the darkness, I could hear everyone laughing and joking, and I shut my eyes, trying to go to sleep. Behind my eyelids, Scott's face appeared. He was tossing his long hair back the way he always did, and I opened my eyes. When I shut them again, his face and hair tossing returned. What the crap. Why am I thinking about Scott? I wondered. The next morning we had planned to go to a museum together. He was meant to arrive at the Gaults' around 10 in the morning. He was half an hour late, but it didn't matter because I had slept in. I woke up in a panic when I heard his voice in the hall and stressed out big time over the enormous zit that had appeared over night. Unshowered and zit-faced I went with Scott to the museum. Something had changed. There was a thing between us. There was a weirdness. There was a need to impress. We looked at art together and made pretentious comments. I read out an Arabic phrase embroidered in a tapestry. Scott talked of the ancient Egyptians. We were both trying to impress and dually impressed.

Then I was off to Wales. Scott and I emailed every day. If a day went by without an email, we both felt the significance (or assumed significance) of the spurn. We had an unspoken code. If he signed his email with a "Scott x", I signed with a "love, lori". If he didn't, I didn't. By this time we'd both admitted to ourselves what this all meant but weren't quite sure if the feeling was reciprocated.

It was harder on me than on him. One of the main things I'd asked prayer for from my friends and family was that I wouldn't meet a guy who would take my mind off my work for the Lord. I was extremely boy-crazy and had also just been out of a serious relationship. I had decided, and quite happily, too, that I would remain single. I believed that I could do far more for God if I remained single. But I felt that my emotions had betrayed me, and here I was, falling for a guy.

I explained this struggle with a woman from my church, via email. She asked me, "Why did you want us to pray that you wouldn't meet anyone? Did God lay that specifically on your heart?" The answer? No. Not really. I'd just wanted that prayer for myself. I didn't think a man is what I needed or wanted, and for all I could see, men only got in the way of what was really important. But she'd stumped me. I felt confused.

Back in Scotland, I stayed with Scott's family for the remainder of my trip. Things progressed. We held hands on the top of a mountain. We went out on a fancy date. We kissed. I remained confused.

As we ridiculous humans often do, we resorted to actually talking about our situation only at the end. I then explained my confusion to Scott. He was hurt but agreed we would slow things down and see what happened. Little did I know that Scott already had a suspicion that I would one day be his wife.

For the next five months we communicated through email, telephone and letters. We talked about everything, and we began to feel extremely close, despite our distance. I continued to grow spiritually and so did Scott. He arranged to come visit over Christmas. A few times, the stress of the situation and my confused state caused me to nearly break it off, yet each time, while in the moment of passionate frustration, contact with Scott was made impossible until the frustration passed and I no longer felt rash. Confused as I still was, I still at times couldn't help but see how strangely significant all of this seemed to be. I even sometimes allowed my mind to wonder what a future with Scott would be like.

About two weeks before Scott came out, we each had our own private epiphanies. At my Bible study, I suddenly broke down in tears and told all about the pain and hurt I was still feeling from my last relationship. I told all about my decision to be single and how that decision was based also on my past relationship. The group prayed for me and I went home feeling burdenless for the first time in almost a year. Finally free to see and feel clearly, I realised something so intensely solid that I could hardly put a name to it. It was love. I realised that I loved Scott. I realised that my love for him was nothing like the love I expected it would be like. It was so honest and deep and perfectly normal that I hardly knew what to make of it. Scott, almost to the very same day, experienced the same realisation.

He came to visit. After spending only a day with me, he told me he loved me. We'd talked about the "L" word before and had both admitted we weren't sure if we felt it. But now we both knew, independently of each other, that we did. I told him I loved him, too. But immediately I knew that wasn't it. That wasn't enough. Fresh in my mind was the book Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot, and I remembered her saying a man shouldn't say he loves a woman unless his next words were "Will you marry me?" Not only did I now realise I loved him, I realised I couldn't live without him. I wanted to marry him.

The next day, while taking a walk outside, I felt moody and quiet. Scott, not knowing what had gotten into me, continued to chat away about whatever he was talking about. Finally, I stopped walking, angry that he didn't know what was wrong with me. "Scott. Yesterday you said you loved me. But... but... I don't know what you mean by that!" I blurted. He stopped and looked directly into my eyes. "I said I love you, and I mean that I love you properly." Still uncertain of his meaning, I began, "But for how long..." Surprised, he responded, "Forever. Lori, I mean I want to marry you."

My heart burst into a million pieces and I dissolved into a million tears. Poor Scott, thinking he'd said something wrong, hugged me, confusedly. Once I'd regained a modicum of composure I told him I wanted to marry him, too, and thus we considered ourselves engaged. We considered buying a ring right then and there, but Scott decided he'd rather save up for one and get me one that was perfect. For three months we were "unofficially engaged".

This was the worst three months I'd ever lived through. It was in this same kind of unofficial engagement that my last relationship had ended. But this one did not end. I flew over to visit during Spring Break, where Scott presented me with the most beautifully hand-designed-and-made ring in the world and the sweetest down-on-one-knee-and-jumbled-up-from-being-passionately-overcome proposal any woman has ever received. I went home, not to see my beloved for another seven months.

From March to September we continued to communicate in the same way as before, through email and phone calls and letters. When he flew out in September for the wedding, we'd spent a grand total of only six weeks in each other's presence. Counting the week prior to the wedding, it amounted to seven. Yet we never worried about this, because we knew each other inside-out. A year of nothing but communication had taught us more about each other than many years of dating ever could. Besides, we could not help but see how masterfully orchestrated by God our whole relationship had been. We didn't need loud fireworks and writing in the sky to tell us it was meant to be; we needed only look at our love and lives. That spoke it all.

One year of marriage has brought out differences, selfishness, arguments and tears. It's also brought out laughter, commonalities, spiritual growth, overflowing love, unspeakable joy, spontaneous song and dance, romantic moments and strength. If we had it all to do over again, we wouldn't change a thing.

"You're worth the trouble and you're worth the pain,
you're worth the worry, I would do the same
if we all went back to another time
I would love you over." - Belle & Sebastian

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave your comments here.