Matti_Clint_Esesh-23To tell you the story of us, we will have to backtrack and start with the story of me a few years prior. In 2010, I met a mentor of mine at a young life camp called Creekside while I was working on summer staff there. We immediately loved each other and formed a bond we continue today. She asked me to start leading Young Life in Mercer Island, Washington which was just 15 minutes east of Seattle which was the town I had just started to call home about six months earlier. I spent a few months meeting up with Emily to talk about life and Jesus and what it looked like to really walk this whole Christian life out. One night at her house, I was looking at all the Christmas cards that she had in her kitchen and I spotted one particular card with a really cute boy on the front. “ Who is that?” I asked her. “ Oh those are our guy leaders on the island”, she replied. “No”, I corrected, “who is THAT?” And pointed directly to my future husband’s face. “Oh, that’s Clint Gresham! He’s from Texas..and he plays for the Seahawks.” So of course I asked her, “Um I’m sorry, there’s a cute fellow Texan who plays for the Seahawks that you know? Why are you holding out on me!?” But she responded, “Oh, you are SO not ready for that.” And you know what? She was right; because I was also dating someone else at the time, HA.

It wasn’t until a few months later that I went to my first young life leader meeting and met Clint for the first time. I remembered that cute face from the Christmas card and I made a beeline straight for him in and introduced myself as a lover of Whataburger, football, and all things Texas. He was kind and adorable and I remember thinking to myself that the conversation was going a little bit TOO well. So I decided I should cut it off early and wrap it up to leave it on a good note. I’m assuming I did this because I had a habit of doing something I called “keeping them dangling” in high school. Which really just means I led a bunch of guys on but was terrified to commit. I don’t recommend it. Anyway, I left the conversation thinking he was cute but he definitely wasn’t my type and I was likely going to marry the guy that I was currently dating so we would probably just be friends. But as soon as we got out the door my mentor turned to me and she said “You guys are going to date”. “No we’re not. You’re just saying that because we’re both from Texas” I said. But my mentor just said, “I don’t know, I just have a feeling about it.” Which now, makes sense, because I would come over to her house every week and vent about my then boyfriend, talking about all the things I was hoping he would change. All the while, she knew Clin fit the bill of exactly what I was needing: loyalty, honesty, integrity, kindness, thoughtfulness, and a heart devoted to God. But I honestly didn’t have my priorities straight. So I didn’t even know that I would want a man who had those qualities. I was settling for what I assumed was the best that was out there and called it good enough. So my mentor knew it would be a good fit. But I definitely didn’t.

A few months went by as we led together and got to know each other. My then boyfriend and I ended up breaking up, and then making up several times which was exhausting and confusing. So that made me pretty unavailable but simultaneously interested in getting to know Clint. In the gaps of me being broken up with my boyfriend, Clint asked me to go out on a few dates. Now the dates were good don’t get me wrong, but I was so confused and hurt and conflicted with my past relationship that I didn’t even really give him a shot in the first place. So I didn’t take it very seriously, which I know now was very unfair for Clint. So after a few dates, I ended telling Clint that I thought I was going to marry that other guy. But knock knock, who’s there? It’s me. I’m wrong.

After another tumultuous end to my unhealthy relationship, I had the lowest self-esteem I’ve ever had, the most anxiety, the most depression, the most fear, and the most hopelessness I think I’ve ever had. The way the whole last year of that relationship unfolded left me feeling so betrayed and humiliated and just plain heartbroken. I really wanted nothing to do with men.  But a little while after, I decided to go to a housewarming party Clint was throwing. I ended up meeting a guy who was pretty forward and into me, and in that instant I thought of Clint, who was upstairs, not trying to charm me, just letting me be. I knew that he was still interested in me but he gave me space out of respect for what I had said. I hadn’t realized that I so needed someone who was going to let me arrive at my own destination, if there was any destination at all, because of my past. So I ended up going upstairs, and talking with Clint the rest of the night. Then I begged my married friends to take him on a double date with me and we have been dating ever since.

I didn’t know this at the time, but I later found out that Clint had been praying for me the entire time that we weren’t speaking after I called things off. When he told me that, after we had been together a few months, I wept at our dinner table in the space needle. I had never been with anyone before who had been so faithful to me. Especially if we weren’t even talking and it wasn’t assumed we were exclusive. I was so used to having to search for evidence of deceit, prepare my heart for disappointment, lower my standards so that men could meet them. So when I heard that, it so touched my heart. The level of his devotion and love for me was so foreign I could barely accept it. He had even turned down dates with other girls who would hit on him while we weren’t speaking and told them he was “interested in someone else”. Guys like this are real!?

So ya, you marry that guy. You take him straight off the market, ASAP.

The first six months were filled with me pretty much trying to sabotage our entire relationship. I had never had a healthy one or even seen one done well. I was so afraid of commitment and true intimacy and I tried to poke every single hole in him that I could. I made crazy assumptions about him, I decided the things we would get divorced over in 30 years, I came up with the most irrational things I’ve ever heard. And I believed them because I had so much fear in my life and so many experiences that had left me jaded. God bless this patient man who walked with me and showed me grace. He just kept telling me who he was, who I was in Christ, that I didn’t have to be afraid and I was free to be me. Then slowly, I would let fear slip away inch by inch and more love could come in.

Over a year and a half later, we were married. And I feel like I’m still doing the dance of learning to let more love in as I say no to fear. It’s difficult, but it’s so worth it. God is faithful to bring you peace when you follow where he leads. It may not be the easiest and simplest road, but he always leads us away from fear and pain through the process.