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The story of my college romance

On this mother’s day, I’m thinking about romance – after all, that’s what gets a woman moving down the road to motherhood. And this being a blog about spiritual things, it’s worth noting in passing that God wants to romance us. If you’ve never been romanced, this may be a hard concept to grasp….
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

On this mother’s day, I’m thinking about romance – after all, that’s what gets a woman moving down the road to motherhood. And this being a blog about spiritual things, it’s worth noting in passing that God wants to romance us. If you’ve never been romanced, this may be a
hard concept to grasp.

Fortunately, I’ve
had a little experience. Here’s my
story as a tribute to the mother of my children – the only woman in my life to absolutely take my breath away.

In 1978, as a junior at Wheaton College,
girls were the furthest thing from my mind until one evening in Traber Dorm. Across the lobby I spied a beautiful blonde –
I was immediately smitten. She was goofing around with a spray bottle squirting
people with water. Something went off inside me and
completely sideswiped my rational mind. Suddenly, all I could think of was answering
one question: “How do I get to know that

The direct approach wasn’t my style. I needed some kind of an excuse. Fortunately, God provided me with one. Her best friend, Debbie, liked my best friend,
Dave. Soon the four of us found ourselves
regularly studying together at a table downstairs in the library.

Gradually the facts came out. She was from the Chicago area. She was majoring in Elementary Education. Then, horror of horrors, out came the
revelation that she had been dating another man for three years. My consolation was that he was attending
another school, leaving me room to swiftly move in for the kill.

Karen and I began seeing each other unofficially. We flew kites, we went for walks, we studied and
ate pizza together. It was a great fall

But what I didn’t understand is that Karen was actually torn
between her two suitors. One evening she
came walking into the library. As usual,
my heart jumped as she sidled up to where I was seated and said, “How about if
we go for a walk?”

“Great idea,” I thought. So, out we went into the frigid night air. I remember the snow was coming down and crunched under our feet. Our breath hung in the air as we walked
together. Karen was fishing for
words. She had something on her mind
that wasn’t easy to say. Finally she blurted it out: “Seth,” she said, “I
don’t quite know how to tell you this, but I’ve decided to get engaged to this
other guy.” Then, almost sheepishly, she
showed me the rather impressive diamond ring he’d given her.

This was like something out of a bad chick flick. What? I
already had made up my mind that she was the one for me. In my version of things, we were together for life. For weeks I had been plotting how to win her
heart. Rewind the tape – this was going
off script! I felt like an idiot.

I’ve always been something of a poet, but after that, I
wrote poetry in prolific quantities. How
could I express the pain that I felt? I
was a mess. I still saw her and
periodically and would show her one of the poems so she knew how forlorn I felt. My friends tried to cheer me up, but there was
no hope. Life was bleak and I was beyond depressed. I told my mom, “I don’t understand it, but I’ll wait for her. I know this guy isn’t right for her – I may have to wait five years before she realizes it, but I’ll be there.”

Finally, after a month of this, she recognized that she’d
made a mistake. She told me on the phone
that it was over with the guy.

Wow! Strike up the
brass band! It was time to celebrate! I can still remember the incredible exhilaration
I felt. We began a hopelessly romantic and
magical courtship. Every day,
hand-in-hand, we went walking somewhere, talking about life as we walked. We talked about everything under the sun. I was endlessly curious about her. We would stay up till early morning studying at the local round-the-clock diner. We’d go walking thru the arboretum together. We laughed all the time and were transported out of that suburban campus setting to a place that seemed to exist outside of time and space.

Two years later, we were married and living in Indonesia. Since then, our lives have been full of adventure. We’ve traveled the world together. We’ve seen amazing sights. We’ve raised five children. And now as the last of our children approaches 18, we’re entering a new stage of life still very much in love. She still puts the sparkle in my day. Her laugh is every bit as infectious as when I first heard it in Traber dorm nearly 30 years ago.

What a gift God has given me. Maybe that’s why I’m a sucker and cry at the end of romantic films when the guy goes running thru the crowd and at last embraces the girl as the camera circles around them. I’ve seen that you

can have your dream.

Here’s a sonnet I wrote for her during that tumultuous time:

Prison Paradox

Captured there sits my bluebird will,

Where once on sky’s soft breath it ranged and sailed,

Brought down by an arrow that did not kill,

But left a throbbing heart impaled.

Behind the bow shone sure eyes goddess green,

Guided my will to a carnation cage –

Flower prison built on scaffold unseen.

Luscious constrainment, though it seems unsage

To start searching for fledged freedom there.

Yet truth hides often, here in paradox;

Sometimes it’s silent, quiet in its lair;

This time I have found it, to me it talks:

Only placed in a cage which I see

Can my winged will in warm rapture fly free.

Comments (20)

  • How beautiful! I love hearing stories like yours & Karen, remembering they don’t just happen on movies. What an amazing example of our Lord’s love for us! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Got all choked up. Glad you became a blogger instead of a poet. So since when is Karen a brunette? She is definitely a gift…to us to.

  • Hey, what are you saying about the poetry??

    On the hair – yeah, I knew that’d be a problem – maybe it was a darkish blonde – she went back to full blonde after we got together and that’s been pretty much standard since then. OK, I switched it to say “blonde” in the text so people don’t get confused.

  • Love I see, why do you flee, never comest nearest me
    Oh that I could drink from thy cup or even just a sip, enough of this I hear you quip
    Continue to believe – one day you too will dance as freely as you dream
    Only now pursue me for this is what I’ve deemed – a season a time to purge your mind of darkness yet unseen
    Until then remember when, I modeled love for thee, when thou can love her as I loved the church then will your heart be redeemed.


  • Seth, I know you don’t know me but enjoy reading your blogs. This really touched me and gave me huge hope. It’s tough when you think you had it all and would have it forever only to be told, “nah, nevermind”. Thanks for sharing. Loved your poem and what Hugh wrote above.

  • thanks, Tracie. It was a terrible feeling wondering if I’d lost her forever, yet not being able to do anything about it!

  • Seth,

    I can’t help but giggle everytime I learn something new about you, whether through your blogs or through stories from Jeff. I think Jeff turning out similar to you in a “few” years isn’t that far of a stretch with how much your personalities resemble each other (that wouldn’t be a bad thing by the way); it’s no wonder you two have the relationship you have… I told Jeff after the last GA training that you two were two peas in a pod. 🙂 And that’s why I giggleit’s not laughing at you.

    I’m thankful roads have led you guys’ paths to cross. I hope to finally meet you soon!!!!

  • Ashley,

    Good to “meet” you. I do look forward to actually meeting you at some point.

    It is wonderful to get to know someone like Jeff – I look far and wide for protégés, and he’s got something very special. I love his consecration, his wisdom, and his vision. And on top of that, I love his honesty, his love of God and his ability to write. He’s a gift.

    In any event, you are very lucky to have someone who can be so driven and yet so deep and people-focused.


  • Ha! My friend. I’d love to hear her version of the story! Gotta say Karen is one of my favorite friend’s wives. Um – wives of a friend. Um crazy wife! Wonderful woman! Good catch!

  • Wow, I’m not for sure how I came across this, but when it came up I read all of it and all I can say is that your wife is one lucky woman. I loved the pictures too.

    Batavia, Illinois

  • Seth in christ we r brothers an sisters God bless you two u dont me nor i u but I lve reading yr blogs Alleluia for guys like u never knew people like u exsist.

  • …so maybe I teared up.

    Also: what a relief it is that there are still happy endings in the world 🙂

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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