Sterling’s Love Story

This story is about pride. I struggle a great deal with this sin. I think too highly of myself, and I’m often too judgmental of others. Don’t get me wrong, I also struggle with deep, wallowing, self- loathing too. Inflated pride and self-loathing are merely different sides of the same coin – both are focused on oneself. I’m working on curtailing these tendencies, and I’m a lot better than I used to be (through no power of my own). Having children has greatly hum- bled me. I also spend a great deal of time praying to Jesus, Mary, and the saints. Goodness knows I need all the help I can get!

My husband helps me battle my pride, too. I need his help every day. God gives us marriage so we can help each other get to Heaven. Most days, I am grateful for my husband’s gentle nudging toward sainthood. If ever I squirm a little when he gently reminds me to let the air out of my own balloon a bit, all he has to do is give me a small smile, and we both know why. I instantly stop resisting and start praying!

I met my husband on eHarmony. I was certain that I was too cool for him, and that we’d never get along. He was N-E-R-D-Y, and I don’t mean the cute, hipster kind with black rimmed glasses and skinny jeans. He studied analytical chemistry, which is considered nerdy even by the other chemists. I deigned to give him a chance because he was the only guy I had been matched with who said Jesus multiple times in his profile.

I had been searching for a strong Christian man, but I was meeting a lot of “I go to church sometimes and I listen to Christian music” type guys, who didn’t seem to have a real relationship with Christ. I decided to give this goofy chemist a chance. God soothed my doubts along the way by revealing that this man was a huge dog lover. We found common ground in that and started correspond- ing a little. Then it turned into a lot.

Suddenly, I found myself getting quite attached to these words on a screen and the person they represented. I started to wonder,

“What if I’m wasting all this time writing to this chemist, and it turns out we have no chemistry together?” I reached out to my nerdy chemist and said, “Let’s meet.”

On our first date, he wore light blue denim shorts with white puffy tennis shoes. It was a nod to the 80’s… not because he sported vintage fashion, but because he’d literally been wearing the same style of clothes since the 80’s. His phone was in the front pocket of his white polo shirt like a sad Dilbert joke. I smiled and fought the urge to run away.

I had struggled to find any young man who loved Jesus (both on- line and in the person), so I couldn’t simply throw this guy over be- cause of some unfashionable clothes. I’m glad I stuck it out though because we had a great first date. It was full of laughs. It also had plenty of heated debates. I was a die-hard Protestant and he was an uber-conservative Catholic, so we had a lot to spar about. It turns out we liked our debates because we had four dates in four days.

We were quite smitten with each other despite my constant claims that it would never work out because of our differing religious beliefs. He had enough hope for the both of us, and we continued to date. On the fifth date, he graciously, and most impressively, made me a delicious salmon and asparagus dinner at his apartment. He opened up a bottle of wine and offered me some.

PAUSE. I always pause for a moment before drinking alcohol. I’m a very lightweight drinker. In fact, I can handle just about two drinks. Sometimes not even that if the glasses are too big. I don’t drink of- ten, but whenever I do, I always make a plan in my head to only have two drinks followed by two glasses of water. I know this about myself, and I respect my boundaries.

There we were. I was sitting on his awful, green, puffy microfiber couch in his poorly decorated apartment. I still thought I was way cooler than him. He took out these tiny wine glasses. They are the kind of wine glasses you would get in a wine tasting room. He told me he used to enjoy wine tasting when he lived in upstate New York. I thought this was adorable and I gladly accepted my tiny wine glass. That was my problem right there.

I just assumed the glass was so tiny that I could probably have three glasses of wine and be just fine. I’m not even sure that this was a conscious thought, but there we were, cozy on his couch,

watching a movie, and sipping wine. I was super nervous, and I wasn’t paying attention to how many glasses I had.

Another thing you should know about me: I have a great game face when I’m drinking. I appear to be absolutely sober until two minutes before I jump down the rabbit hole and appear totally sloshed. There’s almost no warning. Now don’t get the wrong idea about me. I rarely get drunk. Really, I’m a nice girl, and I hate feel- ing sick. But that night, while sitting on the couch, watching a mov- ie with this man I didn’t know would become my husband, it hit me. I realized I was about to throw up.

If you can’t read stories about throwing up, bail right now. If you can handle it, the story gets pretty funny. I stood up, headed quickly, but not running so as to create alarm, to the bathroom. I walked through the door and I realized I wasn’t going to make it to the toilet. It was an absurdly long bath- room with the toilet at the end. So I did the only thing I can think of…I put my hands up to catch my throw-up.

For future reference, your hands aren’t really capable of hold- ing liquid. It basically hit my hands and then splattered back on my own face and shirt. I stumbled to the toilet by the second heave and threw up all over it. I’m not sure how I got so little actually inside the bowl. I sat back with wide eyes. I just stared for a few minutes at the scene before me.

Feeling much more sober and void of anything in my stomach, panic and adrenaline set in. What else was there to do? I started cleaning. I grabbed toilet paper and started sopping up the mess. I wiped down the floor and the seat. I couldn’t tell if two minutes or twelve minutes had passed by, but everything looked clean except the wad of toilet paper I’d put in the toilet. Without thinking, I went to flush the toilet and it started filling up… and it didn’t stop.

It was going to overflow. I think my heart stopped in that moment and with no time to come up with a better plan, I reached in, grabbed all the toilet paper, which was now covered in yuck, and held it up above the toilet so the water flushed. I was kneeling on the floor, holding a wet mess and I didn’t know what to do. I looked over and noticed a small waste bin. I had no choice. I tossed the wet wad of toilet paper into the garbage.

At that point, I was just going through the motions. I’d stopped asking myself how awful this situation was. The floor and the toilet looked clean and the puke-soaked paper had been contained. I

looked down at myself and saw that there was throw up all over me and in my hair so I did what any reasonable girl would do in this situation. I decided to take a shower.

I hopped in the shower, thinking I’ll never get another date with this man. I mean, this poor guy must think I’m a crazy person. I’d spent so much time thinking I was better than him and suddenly there I was, cleaning throw up out of my hair.

Turns out, he did think I was crazy. I love my husband’s version of this story. When you ask him, he’ll tell you that when he heard me turn the shower on, he definitely thought I could be a psycho. He was actually worried that an insane person was in his apartment. He didn’t have much time to dwell on this, though, because he re- membered that he had done laundry that day and had taken all the towels out of his bathroom.

I cleaned up, turned the shower off and reached for a towel but of course, there wasn’t one. I heard a very gentle knock on the door. “Are you alright?” He asked. I didn’t say anything because really, what could I possibly say at that point? He quietly asked, “Do you need a towel?”

“Yes,” I squeaked out in the most embarrassed, mousy voice adding, “And a t-shirt.”

He opened the door just a crack and handed me a towel and one of his t-shirts. I came out of the bathroom, and my eyes were on the floor. I didn’t know what to say. I was mortified. I had no words to explain that I really am a nice girl. Previously a crazy night to me would be drinking a Coke with caffeine after 7 p.m.!

“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” That’s all I managed to say. And with no more words, he just let me lay down on the ugly couch, which now mocked me with its cozy puffy pillows. This man, who would one day become my husband, didn’t say anything about my wet hair soaking through the microfiber. Instead, he gave me a blanket and said, “It’s okay. Goodnight.”

The next morning we talked for four hours. Amazingly, our relationship survived and grew even stronger. I think God allowed this embarrassing event to happen in order to knock me down a few pegs. I immediately stopped looking down my nose at my nerdy chemist and began pleading for him to give me another chance. I stopped thinking of him as this nice, funny guy who I could never really be with. I started to see him for the strong, forgiving man 

who was able to see through my façade. He gave me a chance when I certainly didn’t deserve one.

We often joke about that night. We say that God had to knock me down a few rungs so I could see what a good thing I had right in front of me. Ultimately, I would love and trust this man so much that he would lead me to Catholicism.

I was confirmed in the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil in 2010 and we were married two months later. We have four, soon-to-be five, children which is quite incredible for a previously agnostic girl who thought she’d never tie herself down with marriage or kids. We still struggle with the scars of our sexual past and our lack of healthy marital examples to look up to. We have put Jesus in the center and we place our hope in Him even when we have no idea what the future holds!