One of the worst fights Neil and I ever had was the night of his 25th class reunion. In retrospect, the reunion was a recipe for disaster even before it started; there was no way things could have turned out well. I worked night shift the night before and never slept that day. I knew no one in Neil’s graduating class, and although I was flattered that he wanted to show off his family, I was exhausted by the prospect of an entire day nodding politely and smiling constantly.
I made it through the family barbecue, the tour of the school grounds, the welcome back speeches; all that remained was the cocktail party. I can’t even remember exactly how the argument started, but I do remember thinking surely we wouldn’t have to stay long. In retrospect, I should have known my social husband would not leave that party until he caught up with every single person there.
After we chatted with the first few people, my eyelids started getting heavy. Briefly, I noticed the beautiful night view over the harbor, but even that wasn’t enough to energize me. I started getting queasy from lack of sleep and motioned to Neil that it was time to go. He didn’t notice, so I yawned loudly. He didn’t notice that either, and as the seconds began to feel like hours, I couldn’t take it anymore. I interrupted one of his sentences and loudly announced that it was time for us to go.
Neil didn’t get visibly angry with me very often, but in that minute he was furious. He held my elbow and pulled me away from his friends. “Why did you even come to the party if you didn’t want be here? You should have told me!” he snapped.Pouting and childish, I announced I was leaving even if he wasn’t, and stomped out the exit door.
I had never even been to Baltimore before, but there I was on Pratt Street at night. Neil followed me out the door, and foolishly, I expected him to apologize. Instead, he said, “Don’t be ridiculous! You don’t even know where you are.”
Ridiculous? Me? The challenge was on! “I will be just fine, thank you very much! Don’t you worry about me; you just go back inside and have fun with all your little friends!” I marched off down the street in what I prayed was the right direction.
I hoped this big city would have friendly foot traffic at night, but unfortunately it did not. Other than a small crowd outside the convention center, a group of teenage boys on bicycles, and a few quiet homeless people huddled in the background, I was the only one on the sidewalk. Plenty of cars whizzed by, but not a taxi or a bus in the bunch. Nor did I have a cell phone back then.
I deeply regretted my impulsive decision, and started imagining all sorts of scary things in the shadows. I walked as fast as I could, still not even knowing for sure where our hotel was. Shortly before full blown panic kicked in, I heard my name called out.
I turned around to see Neil in the plush back seat of a beautiful horse drawn carriage. The driver tipped his hat and helped me up, with a knowing smile on his face. I could tell Neil was still upset, but I was ready to forgive everything after this incredibly romantic gesture. I told him so, and kissed his cheek. He said, “First of all, the only reason I am in this thing is because I couldn’t get a taxi. Second of all, it is not romantic, I am taking you to the hotel and going right back to the party. And third of all, I might be forgiven, but you are not!”
Ouch. Granted, I deserved that, but on the rest of the drive, I cuddled against him and nuzzled his neck, certain that I could change his mind. When we got to the hotel, he walked me up to the room and said, “Now, good night,” with a little peck of a kiss on my cheek. “You’re not coming in?” I whined. “No,” he said, “this was an evening I have been looking forward to and I am still mad. You should have told me if you didn’t want to come.”
He turned around and went back down to the waiting carriage. Through the hotel window, I watched him head back to the party, and to make it even worse, he was now sitting in the front with the driver chatting like they were old friends.
The next morning there was a fair amount of drama, and a lot of mutual “ hmmpffing” but by lunchtime we had talked things out and all was forgiven (on both sides). I know how much Neil loved me to come chasing after me to be sure I was safe. I also know his love wasn’t perfect – after all, he did go back to the party without me.
The thing is, not one single human being is capable of perfect love, and we set ourselves up for deep disappointments when we forget that. God is the only one whose love is truly perfect, and nothing we do will ever change that. Cranky, sleepy, annoying, childish, pouting, queasy, challenging- He loves us all in spite of our faults. He chases after us every single day, and He doesn’t let go.
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