- Marriage Among the Believers:A Love Story
Here's a riddle for you: how does a Christian fall in love?
The answer is this: Christians don't fall in love because a fall is an occasion for sin, and as we all know, true love, agape love, is the opposite of sin. Love that people fall into is of a different sort altogether.
It's not much of a joke, I agree, and it begs the question of how a single Christian living in a backward, out-of-the-way commune in 1978 ever managed to find a wife.
So here's the answer to that riddle as well.
Tammy and I met during one of those freakish early-spring storms that happen about once a decade. Snow was falling, coating the ground and piling up in the trees. Flakes landed on my neck and trickled down my back like the chill of death. Our septic tank was malfunctioning yet again—my memory of our barn is of one such problem after another; anything with a pipe either leaked or became clogged—and manure was bubbling to the surface in the meadow beside the barn. I was digging a hole where we could empty our slops until such time as we could get the septic tank pumped and repaired. And then I heard someone sneeze.
"Gesundheit," I said, "and God bless you, especially if you don't know enough to stay out of the cold."
"Thank you," said a thin, high, shaky voice exposed too long to the chill.
"Oh," I said, peering through the white branches. "Hide-and-seek. Is that it?" I shook the bough nearest me and watched the powder swirl and fall.
"Look," I said, "no more foolishness. I'm not really interested in Twenty Questions. It's about twenty-five degrees right now, and after I finish digging this hole, I'm going inside, where it's a toasty forty-six, and thaw out." Along with our sewage system, we never did get the insulation up to snuff. We may have loved Jesus the carpenter, but we never did learn the first thing about the construction trade. We couldn't even make fire hot, if you know what I mean.
I watched the branches move and a young girl step into view. "Only a complete moron would play games in this kind of weather," I said. [End Page 21]
"So what does that make you?"
"An oxymoron," I said, "since I'm digging a hole to fill it in. Just remember: as quick as you are, you're shivering and I'm not."
Her teeth were chattering, and her cheeks were blue. A bit of bone, a hank of hair: there wasn't much more to her than that. She would have been cold in a desert at noon. She was wearing a denim jacket without a liner, a flannel shirt, and a pair of jeans, warm enough for our customary drizzle and mist; but in this bone-chilling weather, she might as well have stripped and rolled in the snow.
"Don't tell them where I am," she whispered. "Please? Even if they're looking?" And at that point she promptly fainted into a slushy drift, which meant that there was nothing else to do but pick her up in a fireman's carry and haul her wet, quickly freezing self into the barn. She moaned as though her dreams had taken a terrible turn.
When I opened the door, Rachel Sidwell, the wife of our leader and the woman I had once thought to be my girlfriend, was there to meet me. "Now you're bringing them in from the highway?" she said. "Are you so selective that you have to import them? Besides, I thought clubbing a woman on the head had gone out of fashion."
"Look here," I said, "this is serious."
I lowered the girl from my shoulders and rested her on one of the common tables, just cleared of the dinner dishes. And that's when Rachel saw the color of her face.
"That's what I've been saying."
"She must have...