Newlywed Love (#110)

October 20-23, 1970

As the days passed, we didn’t see or hear from either Cathy or John. Our history had been to check in with each other frequently, and it wasn’t unusual for us to get together 3-4 times a week.

But our last conversation had ended badly with unresolved tension over the differences in our spiritual beliefs. As Nate and I talked about it further, I got an idea that was probably from God. Never once had Cathy and I done something apart from our guys. So I thought I’d reach out to her just one-on-one, two wives trying to be friends.

Nate thought the idea had promise, so I called Cathy. We talked without any strain, and then she came up with a great suggestion… a way to spend time together while also being productive. As a team of two, we would home-make all our Christmas gifts.

Just CathyThe next day she came over for coffee, and neither of us brought up her amorous professor or the subject of open marriage. Instead we listed gift ideas that would be inexpensive and fun to make – candles, chocolates, simple sewing items, and maybe some knitted things.

Cathy had a natural ability to organize and troubleshoot (skills I lacked), so she would assemble our supplies, and I would develop the ideas of how to use them.

A few days later we began by melting chunks of wax in my double boiler, coloring them with stubs of broken crayons I’d gleaned from my school’s waste baskets. At the end of the evening, we had several finished products and were ready to run a test on one of them. Hopefully it would actually burn.

Which two...It lit right up, and our victory shout was loud enough to bring Nate from his paper-writing. Never mind that the candle burned down twice as fast a store-bought version. It had a flame, it was a candle, and we were thrilled.

Gradually we worked out an efficient assembly line and were churning out all kinds of candles, no two alike — some thin, others fat, and some hand-shaped in rough-looking balls. When they were all lined up on my pull-down ironing board, they were an impressive sight.

But best of all was that Cathy and I had deepened our friendship without a hint of tension. As we parted, we set a date to start making chocolates.

Fanny May“I know how to do hand-dipping that will look as good as Fanny May!” she said. Both of our extended families loved chocolate candy, and we couldn’t wait to get started on Phase 2 of the Christmas Gift Adventure — and to continue growing a new friendship.

“Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.” (Luke 6:31)

Newlywed Love (#106)

October 7, 1970

Nate continued his industrious studying, and I did my best to help him. The tapping of our typewriter was the music of our evenings. Once in a while, when we both needed a break, we’d call Cathy and John to see if they needed a break, too.

CakeOn one of those evenings we invited them over for a quick cup of coffee and a piece of chocolate cake at 8:30 – but our quick break didn’t end till after midnight.

Nate and I brought up something from our Sunday school class that was Bible-based, which made no sense to either Cathy or John – who had no personal faith in Christ.

When they left, there was a new tension in the air between us. Something had changed, and as Nate and I did the dishes, we tried to figure it out. How could four good friends fail to come together by the end of the evening? We’d been pals since Nate and I had gotten engaged and had never had a break in the relationships.

We wondered if maybe they were unhappy as a married couple. They never said so and seemed to love each other, but John had quit law school and wasn’t working either. Maybe that big shift was taking a toll on them both.

We tried to recall anything we’d discussed over our cake that might have offended. One thing that stood out was when Cathy told us about her professor making a pass at her on several different days.

“Wow!” I said. “Didn’t he see your wedding ring?”

“Yes, but that didn’t seem to bother him.”

Three's a crowdThat’s when we refilled our coffee cups and began round-tabling the subject of open marriage. Nate and I had talked about this new trend weeks earlier with a different set of friends, astounded that any thinking person would condone such an idea – husbands and wives inviting other partners into their relationship.                                                                                   (Illustration by Ben Barrett-Forrest/The Globe and Mail)

But there we were, chatting with close friends… and they liked this bizarre idea, too. We tried to convince them it would destroy their marriage, while they tried to convince us it was the open-minded, free-thinking, modern way to live.

The chasm between our opinions widened as the hours of our chocolate-cake-break passed, and our introducing God’s Word into the mix only made matters worse.

God's instructionAs Nate and I covered the leftover cake and turned out the kitchen light, we concluded it was these opposing views that were responsible for the tension between us. Scripture was black and white about marriage, but our friends saw marriage as evolving into something different… to suit the times.

 

We worried about Cathy’s welfare in light of her professor’s advances. Though she assured us she wasn’t interested in this particular man, would she eventually say yes to someone else? And if she did, how could John really be OK with that?

We also wondered if tonight’s friction would cloud our next get-together. Would the same discussion continue where we left off? Or would we go back to being compatible by just avoiding the topic? And most concerning of all, would we still be friends?

“Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.” (Proverbs 18:24, The Message)

Newlywed Love (#100)

September 16-20, 1970

The weather continued to be warm and summery, tempting us to take longer walks around the neighborhood. Sometimes we’d hike the mile to Cathy and John’s place and knock on their door unannounced, but they always welcomed us in for cookies and coffee.

Good pals

Then, as we walked home, we’d rehash the conversation, usually landing on the mounting differences between us. Although we four had always gotten along well, whenever we discussed anything related to Christianity, friction developed.

It was frustrating for all of us as each couple tried to convince the other of a better way to think about life. On our walks, Nate and I wondered aloud where our friendships might be lead.

But on most nights, our evening walks brought nourishment to our marriage. Stepping away from law books, dinner dishes, and teaching prep allowed us to share what was on our minds and stay current with each other. It was also a chance to count blessings.

sidewalk.One night as we were walking to no place special, Nate said something surprising. “I made a big decision today,” he said, “and I think you’ll be pleased.”

“What is it?”

“I’ve decided to interview for my first law job in the Chicago area rather than anywhere else.”

 

“Oh wow!” I said, genuinely elated. “That’s fabulous!”

“I may not find one,” he said, “so don’t get too excited yet, but I’m going to try.”

We stopped walking so I could smother him with kisses. I couldn’t wait to move back to where so many relatives and friends lived.

The last time we’d driven past the city on our way back to Champaign, I’d snapped a photo — quietly hoping I’d one day be able to call Chicago home again.

As we turned back toward our apartment, my feet could hardly keep from skipping. Nate had put his undeserving wife at the top… again… giving me what I wanted most, and I was overwhelmed by his selflessness.

Job hunting in his home town of 30,000 would have been the more comfortable choice, but apparently Nate was willing to comply with whatever Chicago might require. He’d have to learn how to do life in a giant city for the first time — but he was game to try.

And I was thrilled.

SkylineOur walk concluded with his statement that the upcoming new semester would be his last in law school. He would graduate in January of 1971. The challenging Bar Exam would follow, two days of demanding tests every grad had to pass in order to practice law. Many didn’t succeed on the first try — something new to worry about.

That night we began praying about the changes coming, each one with heavy decisions attached. And we asked God to please go ahead of us and set things up before we got there – wherever “there” ended up to be.

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)