Written By: Cassandra Harrsion
Our love story started out in a not-so-typical way. I was a sixteen-year-old girl living in California, who had just enrolled in an distance learning college program. Austin was eighteen and living in Illinois pursuing his degree in Business Administration. We were both active on an online forum for our college where students could share study tips, prayer requests, and encouragement. In the year that followed, our online paths kept crossing in little ways. Nothing significant. He was just one of my fellow students. Not even a friend. He was “that guy,” you know, the one who builds replica lightsabers and quotes movies, and who published the online newsletter that I was Editor-in-Chief of. I had noticed that we had similar interests (example: Star Wars, and Pixar, and intelligent conversations, and Jesus) and I wanted to get to know him better.
About a year after we first met online, Austin decided to run for Student Body Present, and he asked me to be the Chairwoman of his party. We started an online chat room with a few friends to discuss the campaign, but we ended up talking about so much more. We would visit daily; sometimes to have long conversations, other times just to share a little thought. We shared our lives with each other and were there for each other. Our friendships grew and flourished faster than I could have imagined. We talked about family life and our studies and movies, and then we delved into theology and politics. It became our safe place to vent and anytime one of us experienced anything particularly frustrating, that’s where’d we go.
I wanted these “online college friends” to know me for who I really was because it’s all too easy to make yourself seem perfect online. I wanted them to know me as the girl who is a sinner and saved by Grace, the girl who doesn’t have it all together. I was real about my flaws and my quirks and the mistakes I made and the failures I experienced and they were too. Quickly, our motto became “No Masks” and we were intentionally being real and honest with each other. It took deliberation, but we made it through the Conversations-That-Should-Have-Been-Awkward-But-Weren’t and our friendships emerged even stronger on the other side. The simple, beautiful “everydayness” among us continued to thrive and, almost two years after we first all met online, it was time for us all to meet in person. Other students on the forums were arranging a gathering for fellow students from all over the country. Specifically, in April in Virginia. This was it.
I first met my husband face-to-face on April 1st in the living room of a college friend in Virginia. There was no love-at-first-sight. Nothing magical. No fireworks. Just two friends meeting in person for the first time. The entire rest of the week was amazing, though, and I will always remember it as one of the most incredible and most memorable weeks of my entire life. I remember the beautiful hike along the Potomac River, the evening we watched Star Wars together. The night stuck outside in the pouring rain. The mangled musical attempts at midnight. The smiles and genuine laughs. The honest conversations. The late-night Starbucks. The exploring of Washington D.C. and Mount Vernon. The first time I played Ultimate Frisbee. The ukulele improv. The encouragement and the fellowship. I remember how I felt at the end of the week realizing that our friendship was one of the most valuable things in the world to me and how hard it was to say “goodbye” and go back home.
Two years after I started college, I officially finished my Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Humanities and was immediately left in an in-between season that I hadn’t anticipated. I wasn’t sure what exactly to do with myself or my time and even though I knew that it was time to start pursuing my Biblical counselling studies, my courses didn’t start for several months. That summer was immensely challenging for me. As much as I valued my friendship with Austin and my college friends, I decided that I couldn’t allow that friendship to dictate the direction of my life. I wanted to see them again, but I also began to question if or how they would fit into my future life. No longer were those people at the forefront of my mind as I shifted gears and started pursuing other paths. I was drifting in another direction completely until five months later and I finally got to see them all again.
At that second gathering, we made ice cream, took awkward selfies, explored the zoo, and
listened to quirky music on long drives. Somewhere in the good-night texts and the early
morning just sitting and talking by the cornfield. Somewhere in the first-airport-hug and the “I miss you” text message. Somewhere in the midst of that week, I found myself starting to really begin to hope, for the first time, that Austin and I could be something more than friends. After getting home from that gathering, life was still complicated. And I was frustrated because I was the one making it complicated. Things were so much simpler when I viewed Austin as just a friend. Now that the little seed of hoping for something more had started to grow, it was harder to stay focused. It was all in my head, I tried to convince myself. He saw me as a friend, a sister, and that’s how it would always be. Time to move on.
My parents were amazing throughout all of this. Countless evenings were spent sitting on the couch with them, telling them both about what I was feeling and thinking. About what I was hoping. About what my fears were. They lovingly and patiently counselled me, and guided me, and helped me to consider everything objectively and maturely. I am so thankful that, over the years, our relationship had cultivated such trust and openness, and I will always be thankful for their willingness to listen and to be there for me, and for the wisdom both of my parents shared with me throughout that season.
I had started to love this guy who had become my best friend and I couldn’t do anything about it besides wait and trust and hope. It was a complication that I didn’t need so I began to earnestly pray that God would take away what I was feeling for Austin because it wasn’t beneficial or productive for the season of life I was in. It was a distraction and it wasn’t appropriate. Before too long, God answered my prayer of asking Him to take my desires and conform them to His will. I prayed that He would give me the strength and trust to hold my friendship with Austin with open hands. After months of saying these prayers over and over, I was finally able to fully surrender my will to my Lord’s.
I was no longer interested in anything other than just a simple and wonderful uncomplicated friendship with Austin. Happily, I embraced the fact that I wasn’t in a relationship unlike so many of my friends. It seemed like everyone was getting engaged and married and I most certainly did not want to be counted among them. Marriage was for sometime later in the future. Not now; I was too busy. Work was good. Life was good. Perfect. Beautiful. Uncomplicated. I didn’t want anything to change. Little did I know then that, right at the exact same time when God finally answered my prayer and took away any hint of a yearning for something more, He was starting to work on Austin’s heart too, doing the exact opposite.
It was an unsuspecting spring day. The day Austin called my dad and asked if he could get to know me better with the intent of marriage. When my dad told me, I was in a state of complete and utter shock. I had hoped to hear that for so long and yet I felt … absolutely nothing. No excitement. No joy. Just confusion. Great. I had grown to being not interested in pursuing anything like that at all. I had spent hours praying that God would allow me to focus and not have any feelings for Austin (or for anyone, for that matter) and He had answered my prayer and took all of that away from me. Obviously, I knew I wanted to get married one day, but I hoped that day was still several years away. The next week, he arrived with our small group of college friends to visit my family in California for a week. It was a wildly unpredictable week and it took every effort on my part to keep my emotions from spiralling out-of-control. I knew that we had a lot of ground to cover together, but I grew more confident that we would be able to tackle all of the discussions as friends and I looked forward to when we could start talking on the phone regularly and get to know each other better in this new context in which we found ourselves. I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, but I had hopes that, in our quest to become better friends, our intentional conversations would lay the foundation for something more.
After he left, though, doubts crept their way into my mind. I had a hard time accepting everything that was going on. Because of my plans. Because of what I wanted. Because I didn’t feel ready. Because … me. Because of me and my selfishness, and me and my not trusting. I spent a lot of time in prayer and I did a study of Philippians with my life-long friends, and it was so clear. I was complaining and I wasn’t thankful and I was discontent because I thought that I knew what was best for me and I thought that I knew better than God.
Who am I to question God’s timing? Obviously, He thought that I could grow more and glorify Him better and become more sanctified through this relationship with Austin than I could have if I was still very much single and unattached. God’s timing is perfect and He said that this was the right time. Even if I didn’t think I wanted this or didn’t want it now. After that I finally began trusting Him again to guide me through this new season the same way He had guided me through every other season before. Even though I was scared and even though everything was so new and I felt incredibly skeptical, I trusted that God knew what He was doing. I planned to honour God with it and hold my relationship with Austin in open hands. Open because I am willing to accept the blessing He chose to give me, but keeping them open acknowledging that it is His to take away if that was His will. Even though that gave me peace that I didn’t have before, I still wasn’t confident that it would work out.
Austin and I continued talking on the phone for hours a couple evenings per week. We talked about so much over the course of such a short time. Theology, family traditions, personal convictions, quirks, ideals, our strengths and weaknesses… we already knew each other so well as friends but we were working hard to know each other on a deeper level. Questions were asked about fears and hopes and I found myself understanding Austin better than I ever had before and I was sharing things with him that not many people knew about me. We read through The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller and I filled my moleskin with copious notes. I was ready to see him again. Over the summer, I travelled to Illinois and spent a week with his family. It was during that week that I finally began to feel at peace with everything and realize that I really did want to marry this guy.
Two months later, in August, he was in California. It was a beautiful summer day and we had plans to spend our evening at the beach and have a bonfire once the sun set. The overcast skies had spots where the sunlight streamed through in the most magical way. When the light started fading, my best friend asked if I would go on a walk with him and that’s when my best friend asked me to be his wife. Up until the day this whole crazy thing became For Sure, I had been praying that God guide us and just reveal whatever His will was for us in this. Some times had been easy. Other times not-so-much. I had been battling insecurities and fears since the very beginning but this made one thing very clear. I didn’t want to have to face those fears without Austin by my side. I was ready to let down all the barriers I had put up and I wanted to take them down with him. Getting married at 20 was never part of my plan, but God knew what I needed better than I did and when the shock and surprise settled to reveal absolute joy and happiness I knew with all certainty that saying “yes” was the best decision I ever made.
After an eight-month-long, long-distance engagement, we said “I do” at my church in California in a beautiful ceremony that I still look back on as being a perfect day. It went way too fast, but that’s all right because that one day was just the beginning of something else wonderful that I get to experience every single day for the rest of my life. It’s almost been a year now, and I love being married. It’s so much more wonderful that I thought it would be. Austin shows me every day what it means to love someone fully, and truly, and sacrificially, and I am so excited to continue to grow closer as husband and wife in the days to come.
Cassandra is a sinner saved by Grace and was born and raised in Southern California. After getting married to her husband, Austin, she moved with him to Chicago. They have been married for ten months and she works as a blogger at The Poppy Anthology and Box Office Manager at a local performing arts theatre. Cassandra views life as a beautiful adventure and loves exploring, natural living, old books, warm drinks, good food, striped socks, geekery, open windows, Disney movies, road trips, and interesting people.