The This Is How We Met series is much more occasional these days but when reader Fiona sent me her story, I knew it was a keeper. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do!
It was a stunning May day, one of those with the heat of summer but still the fresh smell of spring. I left the small dark church with its pews and stained glass into the freedom of this glorious day and walked down the long hill to the Sunday market. There I found the stall with the freshly baked quiches and ordered one in my stuttering French.
I was heading for the park, where my roommate and her church friends were gathering for a picnic lunch, friends who I’d been getting to know the last couple of months, who were becoming my friends.
I attended this traditional Presbyterian church across the city, but she’d been pestering me for months to come to hers – the way they spoke of church was exactly what I was espousing in some of our late-night, wine-fuelled rants, she would tell me. And I’d shrug and say, maybe, but it’s a scary thing to start trying to practise what you preach.
That Sunday, wearing my prettiest sundress because the day seemed to call for it, I was really looking forward to the picnic. I wandered across the large park, the triumphant arches towering over it all, and found the group already spread out across rugs and blankets – a beautiful mix of Belgian, Lebanese, American, Bosnian, Icelandic...
And one Danish man. I did the normal Belgian round of the group, one quick kiss on the cheek for each friend, a slightly more awkward kiss on the cheek for each stranger. I still wasn’t used to these new customs yet. I sat down next to my roommate, sharing delicious tabbouleh with a Lebanese couple, and we chatted our way through the afternoon.
Sometime late afternoon, as they were all getting ready to leave for church, they got a call. The bar they usually met in had been closed by the council. The decision was taken fast – well, we’ll just do church here then! I glanced around awkwardly as a guitar was produced. It would be super weird for me to leave now right? Even though it wasn’t really my church? I guess I could stay.
I stayed and loved it. And afterwards, as a smaller group decided to head to a nearby restaurant and consider the next steps for their enthusiastic but stranded little church, I was ushered along with them and found myself sitting next to this young Danish man.
I liked him straight away. He was quiet but enthusiastic, a gentle strength to him. He would listen to everyone else speak, and then give his own thoughtful opinion, bringing together what everyone else was saying. I was drawn into the discussion and we finally agreed that for the coming few weeks we’d meet at his flat for church, because it was close to a Catholic church where 150 immigrants were on hunger strike to receive their papers, and we wanted to visit them.
It was exciting and inspiring, this mishmash group of people from all over the world, desperate to figure out where Jesus would be, what he would be doing, and do it themselves in their city.
The sun was setting when we parted way at the metro entrance, saying goodbye and promising this Danish man I’d see him next Sunday – part of the church without even realising how it had happened - before he got on his bike and cycled away. Oh, he’s a cyclist too, I thought, impressed.
Three years later and packing all our belongings to move to Luxembourg, I’d lift the bike off its rack, on the wall of the flat we’d met for church in so many Sundays, where we’d got to know each other as good friends, led church together, where I’d flirted shamelessly until he’d asked me out. The flat where we’d slowly fallen in love, where we’d first kissed, where he’d asked me to marry him.
I’d brush the dust off the bike and laugh to remember that first impression of the man I’d married, who’d cycled all of two times since then...
Fiona is married to her Danish husband, Rasmus, who she met in a park five years ago. They currently live in Luxembourg, where she is a wedding and events planner. She loves throwing parties and dinners, gathering people together, seeing the new friendships and plans that emerge. She loves seeing people find their role in God’s big story. Her one word for the year is Joy.