Ryan and Shari Zook and family
He was a strikingly intelligent and handsome nineteen-year-old with big glasses.
I was a sweet sixteen-year-old with big glasses.
Our match, as you might say, was made in China.
Actually, this story has nothing to do with glasses, except for the fact that the first time he noticed me (really noticed me) was when mine got knocked off my face by my brother’s spike in a volleyball game. I picked myself up off the gym floor and hid most of my embarrassment. The word “gracious” came into his mind, and lingered there.
Hm. That girl over there.
But I had noticed him a couple of weeks before that. He was singing in a choir program.
I was sitting there enjoying the music, when a male solo began. I looked for the singer, listening intently to that smooth and beautiful voice. I looked and looked, but the choral crowd was large and he was standing unobtrusively in the middle. When I couldn’t find him, an odd picture came into my mind of a glorious man singing in another room, joyous and solitary, his voice being piped into the auditorium.
But I was wrong, and suddenly at the end I found him after all. He had those big glasses.
When the next Bible school term started (I was arriving for it; he was staying) and we had a chance to meet properly, he was out of commission for a few days due to sickness, and he kept to his dorm. We prayed for “Ryan Zook” to recover, whoever that was.
When he finally came around, he was cuter than I’d thought. He was also crazy smart, and he read the best books, and asked the best questions. I’d never had so much fun talking with a boy – in a group with other students, of course – mostly. We talked about benign but strangely telling topics like class material, philosophical dilemmas, and The Chronicles of Narnia. I had just discovered the series and flown through it, head over heels in love with that other world, but uncertain about a few key ideas in the story. He was cooler, deep and insightful and unafraid.
We found many opportunities to talk.
I suppose it was a strange method of courting, but it worked for us. By the time the term ended I was secretly, madly in love with him – a crush that lasted for an entire year, almost without contact – a new record for this butterfly girl. He was everything I wanted. But I would never have hinted at that, and many times I despaired of him entirely. He was level-headed and enigmatic. Just when I thought I knew him, he’d surprise me and puzzle me and seem farther away than ever.
He knew better than to rob the cradle.
I didn’t know I was already inside his heart to stay.
We saw each other a weekend or two per year from that time on. Gradually I changed my word for him from “love” to “respect.” I finished high school, had other crushes, made silly mistakes, tended my baby brother, nurtured my passion for Jesus, worked at various day jobs, and grew up.
Three and a half years after our first meeting, Ryan was driving through my area and decided, on a whim, to stop by my house and say hello. I was nineteen now; he was twenty-two, and trying to figure out how to reintroduce himself into my world. My family knew him – I had an older brother his age and a little brother who’d loved him – it wouldn’t be that odd. Except that in a strange twist of fate, I was spending the weekend in Canada on a trip with my father. When Ryan knocked on the door at lunchtime, my somewhat flustered mother invited him in and offered food, which was already in the making and happened to be, of all things, cold milk soup with fruit – utterly delicious, but never in Coblentz history shared with a non-family guest. She is still apologizing. But he was not looking to find fault.
It is a little clumsy trying to stage a meeting with a girl whose paths don’t often cross with yours.
A month or so afterward, our paths did meet – at a summer reunion of Bible school alumni from all over the country. I arrived with my family. Ryan drove out with a friend or two. He ran into a boy from my church, and they fell to talking.
Hey, Joe! Good to see you!
Well Ryan Zook! How’s it going?
They chatted for a while.
Then Ryan asked if Joe had come down with a group (no ulterior motives or undue interest going on here, I’m sure), and Joe smiled and said no, he and Shari came down together. Ryan’s hopes began to crash and burn around him. Driving as a couple was just not done in those days, unless –
I haven’t heard the news, he said. Are you guys dating, or –
Yeah. Engaged, actually. Joe was proud and bashful.
Ryan swallowed hard and made himself smile. He thought to himself how long it had been since he’d seen this girl, how little he knew of her. Is that right? he said. Well, congratulations to you. He’s been proud ever since that he offered his congratulations before asking his last question calmly, tossing it off as a matter of course.
You mean Shari Coblentz?
Joe looked startled, and then laughed.
No, no! Sherri MILLER!
I confess it: I’ve always been grateful to Joe for his naiveté. I’m privately certain that this fear-of-God moment is what tipped the scale. The next day Ryan asked my father for permission to date me, and he’s been taking me out ever since.
He still asks the best questions, and he is a glorious man.
Loved the story and the love that shines through their relationship, even when you only know them through blogging. I wonder who's The Boss this month? 😉Thanks so much, Shari, for sharing your story with me!