When Jan and I began dating in 1970, we were both students at what is known today as Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon. I was carrying 17 units at school and working full time at Elmer’s restaurant as a cook. I lived in a dirt floor basement of an old house just north of campus. Three guys shared the limited basement space and our “apartment” rooms were separated by hanging blankets for privacy. The only bathroom was upstairs in the house. We had access to the single bathroom if our landlords were home to let us in. If not, it was a 5 minute jog to campus to use the facilities. My rent was $25.00 a month.
Every single penny I earned at Elmer’s was assigned to a bill. I had tuition, books and rent to pay. My only real food was the meal I was given during work at the restaurant. I had very little money left over. I bought most of my clothes at the Andy and Bax Military Surplus store in downtown Portland to accommodate my two pair of blue jeans and combat boots. Many of us dressed like revolutionaries in those days. I was part of a ministry called the USSR - United Students for a Spiritual Revolution. We stood atop soapboxes in the middle of the street in downtown Portland during anti-war demonstrations and preached the Gospel as thousands of demonstrators marched by.
Jan would later tell me that on the rare occasion I could afford to take her out on a date she would feign being full and let me order a single dish so I could at least eat and keep from spending the extra money a second meal would require. When I transferred to Multnomah from Whitworth College, I was a 215 pound football player. After several months under the new work load and it’s accompanying stress, I had dropped down to 175 pounds. I was skin and bones.
One of our most special dates was a six mile roundtrip walk from the campus of Multnomah to Laurehurst Park. My VW bug had already been repossessed so I was without wheels. Our date was simply a walk - being together. Along the way I found .25 cents in my pocket so we entered a small family store. I asked Jan what she would like to eat. She said, “Carrots!” I think she asked for the carrots because it was about the only edible thing in the store that could be purchased for such a small amount. Off we walked toward the park munching on a bag of carrots and falling more in love.
I share our story to speak to some of you who think your life and the pursuit of the best in your life requires money, status or having to know the next step of your journey. None of these things are required to experience the best God has planned for your life. In fact they can sometimes camouflage the best. God’s best is never defined in the abundance of anything except love. Jan and I were two struggling college students who were flat broke in the world’s eyes, but wealthy beyond measure because we possessed what could never be purchased with money or labor.
As I look back on the last 45 years this truth has held true for Jan and me and I know it will hold true for you because the source of God’s love is not found in a large bank account or even a small bag of carrots. Real love is found in presence - being together with those you love. On that walk to Laurelhurst Park, Jan and I never felt poor. We were rich.