A Church “Meet Cute” for Valentine’s Day

One of the well-established plot devices of the modern romantic comedy is the first meeting of the would-be couple. Known in movie parlance as the “meet cute,” it is the defining moment of the story and sets in motion the machinations that typically lead to a happy couple.

With Valentine’s Day approaching, I started thinking about my own “meet cute” with my wife 23 years ago, and the role our church played in getting us together.

It is no exaggeration to say I was the only single guy under 40 at Highland Hills Baptist Church at the time. I did not make my church selection on the basis of eligible women to date because as far as I knew, there were none.

I was starting my career in newspaper journalism in a new town where I didn’t know anyone, and the church had been recommended to me by a friend of a coworker. I found the church and its staff to be exactly what I needed for growth and development and for service. They welcomed me with open arms.

Perhaps because I was the only single guy, my love life did attract quite a bit of attention from the matchmakers in the congregation. At the time I didn’t fully appreciate their efforts and worked to keep news of my socializing to myself. Who I went out with was none of their business, I reasoned, and besides, as a preacher’s kid, I had been through the whole “church meddling in my relationships” thing before. I was not eager to go back to having everyone in the church in my business.

I had been a member for about four years when I started hearing about a young woman who worked in the nursery. I don’t know how deep the conspiracy ran, but I know it included the pastor’s wife, Susan; the children’s minister, Ruth; and the director of preschool ministries, Carol. The holy trinity of matchmaking was working overtime to finagle a “chance” meeting for me and the nursery worker.

This was more challenging than it should have been for two reasons: First, the nursery was on the lower level and, since I didn’t have kids, I never went down to the lower level. I didn’t even know the church had a lower level until I started working with the youth group during the week.

Second, I was full in monastic mode. I was coming out of a string of relationships that had caused me to pull back from dating, and I was more interested in trying to get myself in order than finding someone to spend the rest of my life with.

The matchmaking committee worked the problem from both ends. Not only were they working on me, they regularly suggested to the nursery worker that there was a nice young man in the church she should meet. I’m sure she had her reservations, too, but the committee was persistent.

One Sunday night in January as I was unsuspectingly exiting the chapel after vespers, I was greeted by a crescent of smiling faces. A quick scan of the half dozen or so greeters failed to register what was happening until I saw someone I didn’t recognize. A young, attractive woman. I wasn’t so deep into my self-declared monasticism that I couldn’t recognize true beauty.

That’s when it hit me. This was the nursery worker. This was a set up. I was introduced to Carla, the nursery worker who had just finished at Mercer University. Because I had already prepared for the cold and put on gloves, I had to awkwardly remove them and even more awkwardly shake Carla’s hand.

I can’t say there was electricity, except may the static kind that frequently strikes during the winter when the air is dry, but there was definitely curiosity. And as the old campfire chorus goes, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.”

The committee would in the weeks ahead arrange an after-Sunday night church group dinner at Cracker Barrell that just coincidentally included both Carla and me. I somehow doubted that nursery workers were invited to such gatherings, but by then the conspiracy was in full bloom.

Although I waited another four months after that initial meeting to ask her out, I did begin to frequent the lower level on Wednesday nights, chatting up the nursery workers, you know, just checking in on their charges, who I couldn’t name. And all the while the committee did their work. Ultimately, it was Susan who proved most persuasive when she pronounced Carla “quality.” I finally asked Carla out the second weekend in May, and we were married 51 weeks later.

With love in the air at Valentine’s, I’m grateful for the church and the matchmaking committee who could see what I couldn’t and persisted when I resisted. My life has been immeasurably enriched because of it.

Lance Wallace_for_webLance Wallace is a Baptist layperson and member of Parkway Baptist Church in Johns Creek, GA, does media relations and issues management at his day job, and blogs at newsouthessays.com.
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Comments

  1. Beautiful story!!!! I like the ending too!!!!
    Congrats on a beautiful family!

    Jan

  2. Gerald Carper says

    I remember those days well, and am so grateful that you and Carla have a wonderful life together.
    Blessings,
    Gerald