The Best Love Story Ever
Ok, ok, I know I’m pretty biased but I think mine and Eric’s story is probably the best love story ever ;) Mostly because I could see God so intertwined in our story that it just makes me want to step back, and say Woah, God. Thank you for knowing my heart better than I do. So, if you’re a hopeless romantic like me or just like to hear me gushing about how much I love God and how much I love Eric, hang on tight.
Just to give you all a little back story, I never dated in high school or middle school. I loathed the idea of dating. I saw so many of my friends get sucked up into relationships that were unhealthy or that ended very badly and did NOT want any part of it. However, I was still a hopeless romantic and always found myself day dreaming about my perfect dream boat. Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here’s what was on my list when my friend and I created a “Perfect Guy” list in high school:
He has to have blue eyes and brown hair
He has to play the piano and guitar (because he would obvz write love songs to me all the time, duh.)
He has to sing (refer to number 2)
He has to be good at sports AND an artist
He has to be funny and get along with everyone he encounters
He has to be the oldest guy of at least 2 sisters (so he knows how to be protective… and also so he knows how to deal with my many emotions..)
There were many many more of these ridiculous expectations I wanted to find in a guy before I started dating him, but as I fell in love with Jesus and saw how well He loved, I threw away this ridiculous list. I opened up a fresh page in my bible, sat at God’s feet, and said, Lord, who is the man I am going to marry? What are the characteristics that I should fall in love with?
And by golly, the words started flowing. Looks didn’t matter. Athletic capabilities didn’t matter. Siblings didn’t matter. In that moment, the Lord gave me such a clear picture of what it looked like to seek after a Godly man. Here’s what the revised list looked like:
Must love God with his whole heart. I’m not talking about just going to church everyday. He must be chasing after the Lord with everything that He has.
He has to be able to make me laugh. Like belly laugh until I can’t breath kind of laugh. I want to enjoy his presence and never grow tired of being where he is.
He has to lead well. He has to know how to raise my arms when I am weak and point my face to the Lord when things get rough.
He has to be in community and have friends that are willing to be raw and real with him. He has to have accountability.
He has to get along with my family and love my sister and my parents as much as I do.
He has to be a good kisser. ;)
I’m not sure if I exactly needed that last one… but it wouldn’t hurt if I’m over here praying for my future husband, right?
As I finished up this list of intentional things I wanted in a guy, I really leaned into God’s quiet whisper and prayed that my first boyfriend would be my last boyfriend. My first kiss would be the person I kissed forever. My first date would be one of many dates with the same person. I wanted who God wanted me to be with and I was not letting go of that.
Fast forward to my sophomore year in college. I was in a young adult group at my church when Eric slowly came into the picture. One of his best friends invited him randomly one night, and to his surprise, he actually showed up. And then he continued to show up. As our group met weekly, the awk part of this whole story arises. Eric was smitten from the first time he looked at me. (He’ll probably deny this if you ask him, but I promise it’s true). I, on the other hand, had to warm up to the idea…
Long story short, he snap chatted me for this first time (ok, I realize how stupid that sounds but bear with me…) and we eventually got each other’s numbers and started texting daily. The one word responses turned to one paragraph responses and we slowly got to know each other. But, as we began to settle into something more than friends, I chickened out. I refused to text him and asked the Lord, Is this really the guy I’m going to marry? I didn’t hear an audible reply from God, so obviously I cut all communication with the guy. I know, I’m cringing just typing this out.
But, obviously that’s not where the story ends. One of my mentors at the time said to me, You know, Nina, I think you’re over spiritualizing this. I think you are at the age that you could very well meet the guy you are going to marry. I think you should just go for it. Just try it out. Listen to what God has to say about it, but don’t close your heart off so quickly.
And so, I texted him back. And I told him that I’d never had a boyfriend and that I wanted my first boyfriend to be the person I marry. So, let’s go ahead and give a round of applause for Eric Fowler not running to the hills when I said that. And, as some people say.. the rest is history. Our relationship has not been the easiest by any means, but it has been the best thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. We’re just getting started though.
I’ll never forget the night when Eric was over at my house, laying on the couch in my living room. We were just talking about how far we’d come from the awkward text convos at the beginning of our relationship. And as we began to talk about what our lives were like right before we started dating, the dots started to connect and we sat up- completely in awe of what God had orchestrated.
If you didn’t know this, Eric is about 5 years older than me. He graduated college when I met him as I was going into my sophomore year of college. Eric went to the University of Tennessee and had the absolute best community while he lived in Knoxville. It was the kind of community any person would be jealous of. Eric, loving this community, so desperately wanted to stay and work in Knoxville, so he put in applications for different places and went through the interviewing process for this one particular place in Knoxville. He was so incredibly confident. He knew the company, he interviewed great, and met all the criteria. This was the perfect place for him. But, if you knew Eric at all, you’d know that he put in a few applications elsewhere, just in case he didn’t get the job. In the middle of this interviewing process for the job in Knoxville, a job in Nashville called him and wanted him to come in for an interview. He blew it off. I’m getting this job in Knoxville he thought. The Knoxville place called him in for a second interview. Score. I’m in. He went in and though he did great. A week later they called him and told him that he didn’t get it.
He was so confused, but, again if you knew Eric, he of course freaked out because there was no way he was going to graduate college without a job. He called the Nashville job to see if they were still hiring. They were. He went in to interview, and got the job. He moved back in with his parents in Murfreesboro after college. And although he was so incredibly thankful to have a job, he lost his community. The friends that he hung with every day were gone. The ones who prayed for him and loved on him through everything were all in different cities.
For a few months he woke up, went to work, came home, ate dinner, went to sleep. Repeat. There was nothing for him in Murfreesboro, and he didn’t want to live at his parent’s house forever. So, he began thinking about and looking at apartments in Nashville where he worked. He just wanted to be in a place where he could begin to build community.
Then, one night, as Eric was telling this whole story to one of his friends, his friend said Look, I think you should find community where you’re at. I don’t think you should be so hungry for it elsewhere. Just look for it here.
A few weeks later, one of his now best friends invited him to the college group he attends. And, after thinking about finding community where you’re at, Eric went. He made the best friends he could have ever made… and more importantly, he met me. And, then, the rest is history.
You see friends, when we were on the couch and Eric was telling me this whole story, my eyes started to get wider and wider. What if Eric HAD gotten that job in Knoxville? We would have never met. What if Eric DID move to Nashville? We would have never met. What if that guy wasn’t bold enough and didn’t ask Eric to come to group with him? We probably would have never met. What if Eric didn’t have that conversation with the guy who gave such good advice? He probably wouldn’t have come to group and we probably would have never met.
This is the amazing thing. God closed so many doors and opened brand new ones that led to this moment right now and I love it so much. I love this story so much because it isn’t even about me and Eric. It’s about an amazing God who loves so well and tends to my heart so carefully. He knew what he was doing when He gave me Eric.
And, by the way, after our one year dating anniversary, I pulled out that list that I made as I thought about what my future husband would be like. Eric meets every single one of them. Every. Single. One. God knew what he was doing, and I would never want it any other way.
So, friends, I don’t know where you’re at as you’re reading this. I don’t know if you’re in an unhealthy relationship, if you’re not in one but so desperately want to be in one, if you’re engaged, married… I’m going to take a sec to encourage you that God is the best story maker of all time. His story is actually the greatest love story of all time. And if you’ve accepted Christ into your heart, it’s going to end with the best ending you’d never even be able to dream up. It’s going to end with you rejoicing in heaven with Jesus. And, if God can create the beautiful story that is your life, won’t you trust him to orchestrate all the details? Even if that means waiting for the guy? Or working hard for your relationship? Or waking up every day- making an active choice to love your person well? He is so good and worthy of your trust and it is so freeing when you put it all into His hands. I promise, He can handle it.