Every Monday and Wednesday morning I lug my bag of books and papers up the eight steps that lead to Sutherland Hall's shady courtyard at Biola University. If I'm not in a rush, I stop at the base of the steps to breathe in the California morning, and then I lift my eyes to the banner that is stretched across the hall's faded brick face.
The banner is a blown up vintage photo of college kids from Biola's early days: youthful faces beaming down at me, excited to change the world. I'm not sure what year the picture was taken, but it looks like it dates back to the days when my grandpa and grandma were in college.
My grandparents aren't in the photo, but each time I look I half expect to see them, because I know my grandparents walked Biola's halls in the university's early days, eager to change the world. And so some days I look up at the life-sized picture and I imagine my grandma's sweet face smiling down at me and my grandpa's twinkling eyes looking out next to hers, and then I thank God for Biola University, where my playful grandpa fell in love with my brilliant grandma and the two of them decided life would be best if they lived it together.
Their life together turned into life with a lively brood of seven: four boys and three girls. The girls grew into women with sweet faces, and the boys grew into men with twinkling eyes; and when the middle boy left boyhood behind, he fixed his twinkling eyes on Biola University where he enrolled in a class in Sutherland Hall, back when the bricks weren't so faded.
Sutherland Hall is big and musty and perfect for large seminar classes packed full of enthusiastic students. It's also the perfect place for scoping out the hottest chicks in the house. At least it was for my dad.
It was hard for him to miss my mom that first day of class, with her wide green eyes and long, softly curling hair. She was lovely and full of life, and once he saw her he couldn't forget her.
And so he devised a plan to meet her. He sat near enough to her one day that he could scoot out of his row after class and walk out next to her. His timing was impeccable (not surprising; strategery is one of his many strongsuits). He fell into stride with her and said hi and asked her her name and where she was from and was smooth as salt water taffy. But my mom didn't notice his winsome words as much as she noticed the handsome smile wrinkles around his eyes and how much taller he was up close.
That first meeting led to another and another, and those meetings led to a date over pizza where my mom convinced my dad to put down his fork and eat it with his hands. And so they munched and wiped greasy fingers, and learned that they both really loved Jesus and wanted to use their short lives to change the world. Many pizzas later my dad and mom realized they were in love and decided life would be best if they lived it together.
And life together turned into life with a blond brood of four: two girls and two boys. The girls grew into women who want to embody their grandma's sweet spirit, and the boys grew into men with twinkling eyes, and when the oldest boy left boyhood behind, he fixed his twinkling eyes on Biola University, where he decided to run track.
Biola's track team is big and loud and perfect for getting sweaty and fit. It's also perfect for scouting out the hottest chicks on campus. At least it was for my brother.
It was hard for him to miss Natasha that first day on the team, with her bright blue eyes and long dark hair. She was kind, genuine, and full of life, and, as it turns out, really really fast. And once Aaron saw her, he couldn't forget her.
And so he devised a plan to spend a day at the beach with her and two mutual friends (strategery runs in the family). That first "hang out session" (third party presence means it wasn't a "date") they played frisbee and had handstand competitions and raced each other along the water's edge, and Natasha realized Aaron was considerate and sincere and fun, and, as it turns out, really, really fast.
It didn't take long before Natasha and Aaron learned they could talk together just as easily as they could race together, and they spent many evenings outside the Biola dorms digging into God's Word, talking about life, discussing the cool tricks they were learning on Natasha's BMX bike, and figuring out how they could change the world for Jesus. Weeks faded into months, and the months added up to almost two years, and they realized they were in love and decided life would be best if they lived it together.
They don't know what "life together" will look like exactly, but they know they will merge dreams and ministry, hopes and hearts. They will seek and serve Christ together and grow to love Him more dearly as they learn to love each other with His love.
Aaron and Natasha, I pray God fills your future with fresh adventures, unexpected pleasures, developmental challenges, glorious victories, and lots and lots of handstand competitions.
I love you both,
And I am very thankful for Biola University.