You know the scene from You've Got Mail where it shows Tom Hank's character and Meg Ryan's character occupying the same sliver of New York City, crossing paths over and over but never meeting? If you don't, I apologize, I couldn't find a clip on YouTube. Anyway, that was us. But without NYC.
We both graduated from high school in 2000 (old, indeed), and trotted off to the same university. Not too surprisingly, we didn't immediately run into one another among the 45 million or thousand or whatever other students. He didn't get his college career off to an auspicious start, and deciding that Tucson wasn't the right place for him, moved back to Phoenix at the end of the year. I made some friends, studied abroad, finished in four. You know, we lived our lives.
We walked along life, blissfully ignorant of one another's existence.
Fast forward to about 2007. Ifinishedcollegeandwenttolawschoolanddecidednottobealawyer. Heworkedandgothisassociate'sdegreeanddecidedtogetseriousaboutschoolandgointothemedicalfield.
At that point, I was living in an apartment in a large-ish complex a couple of miles from ASU while I was a 3L (3rd year law student). He was living in the same apartment complex in his second year at ASU pursuing a biology degree, working in a neuroscience lab. We both attended the Newman Center on campus. He remembers following a car from the apartments to the Newman Center and mentally noting that someone else in the complex went to Newman. He's convinced it was me, but admits that he isn't really sure that it's not an invented memory, inserting my car into the scene. I'm pretty sure I remember seeing his truck in the parking lot, but I also don't know how real it is. Regardless, the car's owners remained unknown to one another.
The next year, still at the Newman Center, we were both regular attendees of the 7pm Mass. I started serving as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. I had been participating with the Young Adult group for years. He began volunteering and doing other service work with the Young Adult Group. Result: mutual friends. We both attended a series of catechesis lectures from the associate director of the parish. Late in the year, I started serving a different Mass. The team of servers for that Mass was frequently led by Charles' then-roommate.
We never met.
One particularly memorable non-meeting was at a party we both attended. Both of us were driving (read: sober), but an attendee who was not had too much to drink. The results were particularly memorable. Since everything ended okay, and since I don't even know this individual, I'll spare the details. The important (to this story) thing is that later, that event came up in conversation. He started telling me about it, and I gasped that I was there, too! After a little recounting, we realized that we must have been mere feet from one another that evening.
We still never met. As far as I can recall, we never even saw each other.
I've spent a lot of time pondering our not meeting. For a time, I wondered why we never met, in spite of ourselves, especially those last couple of years. Were we thwarting some bigger plan by not meeting? Or thwarting it by coming perilously close to meeting? Now though, I am increasingly convinced that God blinded us to one another until the time was right for us to meet. I understand free will enough to know that there isn't a "plan" in the sense of the future being spelled out for us, but I do know that God has goals for us (Heaven) and wants us to have the best chance possible to attain them (vocations). He's looking to help us, if only we'll listen.
During that time, I was feeling particularly antsy about being single. One particular time during prayer before Mass, I got the distinct message from God to be patient. I misinterpreted it at the time, but looking back, the answer is obvious.
I didn't plan to do this in two parts, but I think I'll leave it there for now. I probably won't get around to posting the second part until next week. We might be two married years old today, but someone will be one tomorrow.
I'd call it a cliffhanger, but . . .
(Link to Part II)