As so many do, the story of my love begins with a break-up.
After giving my life to Christ, I was moved by my own conscience to end my two-year relationship. He was a nice guy, good-looking, a star of the basketball team, went to church with me (coincidentally, I introduced him to Jesus before I started dating him because, ya know, good church girls don’t date boys who don’t go to church) and he treated me well. Like all “serious high school relationships”, we had envisioned our lives together and planned to get married as soon as we graduated from college.
Though we had gone much further sexually than I ever planned and had tried to stop several times, I saw the major flaw in our relationship as something else: we valued each other more than anyone or anything. I knew that messing around was not pleasing to God, but I really believed we could stop (turns out, we couldn’t). The bigger issue, though, was that from day one, he was my everything and I, his. This is called idolatry and the only option I saw was to completely destroy the idol, or in other words, break up with the boy I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with.
To this day, I have never made a more painful decision. To this day, I have never cried so much about any one thing. This was THE hardest thing I have ever done. Ever.
I prayed for 6 weeks that God would move him to call it off so I wasn’t the one breaking his heart. That didn’t happen. I was journaling about it daily but never expressed out loud the internal battle I was in till my dad took me out for breakfast to say this: “Kayla, I know you want to marry this guy, but I really don’t think he’s the one. You should consider ending it before it goes on so long that you can’t.”
I couldn’t believe he was bringing up the very thing that had been tormenting me for a month and half. I started sobbing and confessed I believed the same thing. At my now best friend’s older sister’s wedding that very night, my boyfriend asked me several times what was wrong and I kept saying, “Let’s talk about it later.” As the bride and groom headed down the aisle together for the first time as man and wife, he turned to me and said, “You’re breaking up with me, aren’t you?”
He tried to convince me out of it for about a year till I finally changed my phone number.
Several months after we broke up I made a list of qualities I wanted in a husband. Most of them were serious and non-negotiable, while a small portion was made up of preferences. I decided that after being single for a mere 3 months over the last 4 years, I would wait to date anyone for a while and when I did, he’d have to fit this very specific bill.
As a sophomore in college, I chose to be involved in the Campus Fellowship group that I went to Spain with over my freshman year, which placed me in Crawford Bible Study, named after the dorm we met in. Our Bible Study was like it’s own big family. We studied together, ate together, played together… I was living the dream.
There was this guy (not just any guy, mind you–the one and only Kerry Poucher) in Crawford. He was a junior at Drake, an RA in Crawford, and my Bible Study leader. I admired him so much. He knew the Word of God, led gently and humbly, dedicated his life to seeing others come to know Jesus, was pretty goofy and very lovable. I loved Kerry Poucher and I took the opportunity to say so whenever his name came up. Mind you, I had no feelings for him whatsoever. This was 100% brotherly love.
At least, on my part.
Fast forward two school years… He asked me if I would meet him for coffee one Sunday afternoon. I knew something was up right away but I certainly wasn’t expecting this:
“Kayla, I’ve been in love with you for the last two years and I want to marry you.”
Wait, what??????????? Kerry Poucher wants to marry me? What in the world?
“Um, Kerry, that is very… flattering, but can I have some time to think about it?”
“Oh, yeah. I didn’t mean for it to be a proposal! Take all the time you need. I’ve had 2 years to make up my mind. And if it’s not what you want, I’ll be okay. My hope is in Christ.” He proceeded to explain how he didn’t ever intend to fall in love with me and had spent the vast majority of the last two years begging God to take the feelings for me away. He did everything he could to dismiss me, but still, I was there. Everyone he sought counsel from gave him the go-ahead. “Yes! Talk to her.” His phone broke one day so when he flipped it open for all the dialed calls, missed calls, and received calls said my name… 60 times in a row. A few other very strange things happened that led him to believe it was time to take the next step. He told me the whole story and exactly what it was about me that he was so attracted to. It was a 20 minute monologue that I occasionally replay in my mind but I will spare you from it. 😉
I remember being on the verge of vomiting when I left the coffee shop that July day. How was I supposed to tell the guy I respected and loved more than any man I know that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with him? The obvious response to that would be, “So you want to spend the rest of your life with a guy that you love and respect less than me?”
I try to read a Proverb a day (there are 31 chapters so you can get through the whole book once a month easily) so the next day I read Proverbs 21 because it was July 21. The first verse was one I had never noticed before that morning: “The king’s heart is like streams of water in the hands of the Lord; he turns it wherever he wishes.” It was in the few moments after processing that that I gave God permission to “turn” my heart wherever he wished, even if that meant into the arms of Kerry Poucher. I then pulled out that list I made nearly two years prior about the qualities I wanted in a husband. It was startling to say the least. As I read it, I couldn’t help but think, “This is profile of Kerry Poucher! It’s like I sat down, observed his life, and wrote a list of his top 75 qualities.” Talk about wanting to vomit. I quickly dismissed that it held any meaning whatsoever and determined, “All this means is that I will marry someone a lot like Kerry…” (His non-existent identical twin, perhaps?)
At the coffee shop I had agreed to start by hanging out with him one on one. The first date we went on was that Friday. We drove to the countryside to watch the National Hot Air Balloon Festival- hundreds of them filled the sky during dusk all at once. It was beautiful.
I took this opportunity to grill him. I made a list of 20 questions that I thought would be more difficult to answer than your average interview question. One was, “If you had the chance to save from imminent death me or the person next to me, whom you are certain doesn’t know Jesus, who would you choose?” Another, “What is MY greatest weakness?” (He nailed it, by the way.) And, my personal favorite, which I saved for last. “How do you describe/think about your mom?” This was really important to me because I believe that, for most single young men, the way they speak about their mother is how they will eventually speak about their wife. Up till this point, he answered all 19 questions flawlessly, but if called his mom an old bag, it was over. His response?
“My mom… Wow. Well, she’s the reason I’m here. She gave me life and she introduced me to eternal life,” he explained as he began to get a little tear in his eye. “She’s incredible. She taught me how to read my Bible, how to serve others. I owe her everything. I’m so thankful for her.”
And there you have it: the moment I fell in love with Kerry Poucher.
The rest is history. He proposed in a hot air balloon a few months later. I looked over the side of the basket and saw 4 of his friends’ cars with the words “Will You Marry Me?” painted on the top of them. It was… just… perfect. We landed near the cars and celebrated with the pilot and about 8 of Kerry’s friends who pulled off that surprise so well.
We were married 9 days short of 1 year to the day he took me out for coffee. The funny thing is that, in the two years that I knew Kerry prior to being in a relationship with him, I never thought he’d get married because I truly believed there was no girl good enough for him. Now, after many years together, I still think there’s no girl good enough for him. He’s the best. I don’t deserve his love and yet he offers it freely, even in my brokenness, just like Christ does for His Church. Win!
As so many do, the story of my love begins with a break-up.