I came home from work one Friday evening some years ago and collapsed on my bed exhausted from a trying week of teaching. An hour or so later, somewhat rejuvenated, I got up, showered and changed, and headed out for the evening. My destination was the Blue Boot, a little bar on the corner of King and Richmond in London, Ontario, that occasionally had some good live blues. There was no music – I was too early – just some cantankerous Canadian aboriginals in a heated dispute that led to some broken glass flying in my direction, cutting my hand and driving me in search of another nightspot. I wandered further down King until I got to Kelly’s, an Irish-themed club that featured canned music and dancing; not my usual venue in those days. But the evening was still young and the blood oozing from my hand was not enough to put a damper on the night.
I got in line behind three young ladies engaged in a lively and excited conversation about the evening ahead. Two of them had no interest in the world around them; they were much too self-engaged. But one of them turned around to see who had come in line behind them and I found myself staring into the most compelling eyes I had ever seen. There was something about that gaze – steady, unflinching, unafraid, curious and compassionate all at the same time – that pierced me to the core. I was 27 at the time and I had dated and met dozens of young women since I was 13. As a sidebar, my first serious grirlfriend, Lillian Wauthier, recently ‘friended’ me on Facebook, and remembers me for my kindness and sincerity. I mention this to point out that I was not a superficial dating jerk; I had just never met the person I was looking for. I can tell you that without exception all the women I met carried some degree of conflict in their eyes; some mistrust, some hurt, some qualifier of one kind or another. But here was someone whose eyes had nothing to hide and nothing to fear. I felt I just must meet her.
I mumbled something about being cut by broken glass to explain my napkin-bandaged hand, and when we were let in to Kelly’s, followed her over to the bar and offered to buy her a drink. The place was crowded with people, and of course this young lady – Pam Carter, as I found out that evening – had friends with her as well. But I had eyes and interest for no one else for the remainder of the evening. We talked for possibly three hours about everything imaginable. I found out that she was a psychiatric nurse, which fascinated me, and that she was totally dedicated to her profession and the care of the people she looked after and worked with, which resonated with my own commitment to teaching. I also found out that she was a devout Christian and had been her entire life. As someone who had only just recently accepted Christ as Saviour and Lord, I was excited about meeting a real Christian and seeing how this new faith of mine interacted with the world around me as she told me of her own struggles with her faith, and her relationship with a church that had recently condemned her for how her commitment to her career had impacted her church attendance and ministry.
Throughout the evening I just couldn’t suppress the thought that this was the one I had been looking for; someone with whom I felt a bond of connection that transcended the moment. It was as if I was standing at the threshold of my future. This feeling coalesced when she allowed me just one dance. I found out much later that as a lifelong Baptist, Pam had never danced before. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that I got to hold this strange, wonderful young woman in my arms, gaze into those steady grey eyes, and feel her hand trembling slightly in mine as we moved across the floor. I struggled to stifle the wild joy in my heart that just kept saying, “This is the one, you idiot, Don’t you get it? This is the one!”
That night, November 19, 1976, was thirty-five years ago. This year we had a quiet dinner in celebration as we made plans for the Christmas season. November is always such a busy time for a teacher, which is why it has taken me so long to get this post up. But it would be remiss of me not to mark this moment in our personal calendar; the night we met. For years we kept the details of this meeting quiet, not wishing to offend our Christian friends who might question the sanctity of a marriage that started in a bar. Others who are more mature will recognize that God can speak to any human heart in any circumstance, and He is not offended by where He finds us. Certainly God was in that meeting, and we are so grateful to Him that He not only brought us together, but that He has been in a our marriage throughout the long years we have been together. We can say without question that our marriage was His plan, and that furthermore He is not finished with His plans for us as we seek to be ministers of His love and grace is the country where He has called us. The certainty of God’s purpose for the two of us as a couple have seen us through all the difficulties of our lives. After all, if God is for us, who are we to quibble?