I met my husband in post-war Kosovo. He was helping rebuild widows’ houses devastated by the recent war between the Albanians and Serbs, and I was serving as an English tutor for teenagers in a tiny, two-bit town sitting right on the border between Serbia and the Kosova province.
These were lofty job assignments given essentially to kids — a 22-year-old guy enjoying life out of a duffle bag, and me, a 23-year-old testing the waters of life cross-cultural. My question for the year — is this what I want to do the rest of my life?
We met on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, and over the span of a few months, we became fast friends. It wasn’t hard, living in a country sparse with young, single English speakers living remotely without regular lighting, running water, or, God-forbid — Internet access. You cling to each other as comrades, understanding both life back in the homeland and your present-day experiences.
I secretly wanted to marry Kyle the moment I met him. But I never told him this.
About a year after I met him, I was due to pick up my parents from the train station in nearby Macedonia, the bordering country with enough infrastructure to stomach a train schedule. It was a four-hour bus ride from the capital of Kosova to Skopje, where Mom and Dad would be at about 10 p.m.
I can live in a lot of challenging environments. I was used to hearing gunfire from my kitchen window, and knew to watch out for land mines.
But I was nervous about going to Skopje by myself. I had to cross an international border, sit on a bus by myself as an English-speaking 20-something female, enter a country where I didn’t know the language or have the currency, and navigate my way from the bus stop to the train station (of which I didn’t know the location). In the dark.
For safety, I asked Kyle to accompany me. He couldn’t.
Disappointed, I boarded the bus in Kosova and endured the sweaty, bumpy journey solo. I brought a banana and some stale M&Ms, just in case we never stopped or, more commonly, broke down en route.
Four hours later, and I arrived in pitch-dark Skopje, armed with a sketchy map and decent walking shoes. I knew to look straight ahead and ignore the cacophony of offers from men waiting as the bus unloaded. “Hotel! Very cheap!” “Money exhange! Sprechen sie Deutsch?” “Taxi! You need a ride?”
Ignore, ignore, ignore. Look straight ahead.
I barely walked ten steps when I noticed a man following me. He was fast, so I picked up my pace. He sped up, matching mine. His shadow loomed directly behind me, in the dark of the cobblestone streets.
“Oh, pretty American!” he said in a thick accent I couldn’t place. “Pretty American girl! Where you going?”
My heart palpitated. I stared straight ahead. I walked faster.
The stranger could outpace me, though, and he moved to my side, mimicking my gait. He was desperate for my attention.
“Pretty American girl! Where you going? Need help?” I vigorously shook my head and forced out a firm, “No.” But the man wouldn’t let up.
I looked over at his feet, breaking my straight-ahead stare. I recognized those shoes.
I nervously glanced up to meet his gaze.
It was Kyle.
“What are you doing here?” I asked in disbelief. “I thought you couldn’t come.”
Turns out he finished his work early and raced to the bus station in Kosova. He missed the noon boarding by minutes and watched my bus leave without him. So he hailed a taxi and told the driver to follow the bus.
A drive that long, crossing a border, was not cheap. But Kyle spent the money anyway. He arrived before me, and waited at the foreign bus stop, in the dark, for me to arrive.
Kyle met me in Macedonia and guided me to the train station. He met my parents, found us all a cheap hostel, and used his few Macedonian denar to buy us all a sub-par meal at McDonald’s. And then he accompanied us all back the next morning back to Kosova.
It is one of the most romantic things he’s ever done. I knew then that he was marriage material. We did, about a year later.
But really, how much more harrowing is all of our journeys to eternity? How much more romantic and jealous is God’s love for us? And how much infinitely, extravagantly more are His lengths that He’ll traverse to get us to safety?
As romantic as Kyle’s heroic rescue, it pales to God’s rescue of our souls. He swoops in and brings us home via the cross. And it’s devastatingly romantic.
If your journey is fraught with danger, where all you know to do is look straight ahead and put your feet one in front of the other, listen for that voice. Indeed, there is a voice following you. “Pretty girl. Where are you going?” Listen for it, and take up His offer to lead. He’ll be your hedge of protection.
God loves you. And he’ll chase you to get your attention.
What’s your journey?