Mary Paulison

Bologna, Italy

It's a Love Story

"I'm going to start running," I declared in my head sitting in the summer heat, feeling frumpy after my first year of university and too many beers and late night runs to the local sandwich shop.  "I think if I lose some weight I'll feel better about myself," I pondered.  "I'll never find a boyfriend at university next year if I look like this," I had decided.  

I was a far cry from the girl that started college a year earlier.  I had happily packed up my car, driven 6 hours from home, and dived into university life with full force.  I had big dreams of great grades, a cute boyfriend, a great friend group, a fun church life, a Bible study.  My first year mirrored few of those dreams.  

When I wasn't crying to my mom about the thousands of dollars of loans I had taken out after I was denied financial aid, I was drinking my life away with a group of friends surrounded by guys who cared little about me or my college dreams that were shattering as I changed majors on a weekly basis.  My high-school-youth-group days ended abruptly after learning that there were few opportunities to study the Bible on campus, and my university only offered a Sunday night service since most students were hung over Sunday morning or still drunk.  My convenient check-mark tasks to please God had been stripped away.  So any conversation I once had with Him had fallen by the wayside.

"I'll need an iPod to run.  I don't think I can be a runner without an iPod," I had deduced.  Following in the spirit of spontaneity and frivolity that my life had become, I hopped in my car with hopes of shelling out some of my summer job cash to pay for an iPod.  At 11 pm at night.  What a great time to purchase electronic musical devices.

As I drove up to Walmart tasting the damp summer air flowing into my open windows, I was excited to take this next step of running.  My summer of debauchery and promiscuity had left me quite literally empty and broken.  I thought if I could change universities, get a new group of friends, find a new major, get a boyfriend, I could be happy.  Running seemed to fit into my life-betterment mental plan.  I just need to do x, y and z.  Then everything will be better.  But then I thought about the beer I was illegally hauling around in my trunk and my incessant desire to party and my poor judgment with guys.  I had an intense longing to be loved, accepted, valued; but this is what college girls did, right? Right?

My grasp of reality fled as I parked and strolled the fluorescent lit aisles back to the electronics section.  And then I saw it.  The most glorious view of the back of his head.  "There's no way that's him," I hoped.  Upon further creeping in and out of the CD aisles, I realized it was him.  

I had liked 'him' for nearly half of my high school years.  We spent late nights flirting on the phone, grabbing ice cream around town, and kind of, sort of, but not really ever dating.  He was awesome.  He was handsome and smart and loved Jesus.  He always talked about Jesus in a different way than I had heard.  I had dreamed of dating him.  Marrying him.  But I had been foolish.  I never could stay focused on him for more than a minute.  He went on to date another girl.  She was really spectacular.  And cute.  And skinnier than me.  And she really loved Jesus too.  "They're totally going to get married.  Just walk away.  It's not even worth it to talk to him," I decided.  I stalked a little while longer.

"I can't walk up to him.  I've gained weight.  I've become a drunk.  He has no idea what my life has become," I thought as my feet disobediently carried me in his direction.



"Ya! How are you?"

"Wow!  You smell nice!  Can I hug you?  Can we hang out?"

"Yes to all of the above," I thought.  "You're a complete babe."

Once I semi-gathered my thoughts, we carried on a normal conversation catching up.  I heard what he had been up to, and he shared with me that he was there grabbing a bag of candy and a new CD before going on a church trip the next day.  He was eagerly telling me about his new church and the things God had been teaching him. 

"What's God been teaching you?" he asked.


"Who's God?!  I haven't talked to him in ages.  I'm an absolute hot mess completely unworthy of conversations with any higher power.  Smile and act like you still talk to God…" I clamored in my mind.  

I changed the subject.  We took a short drive.  We had a great chat.  He was absolutely dreamy.

And I was absolutely not.  My mind raced as I drove home, "Who was this Jesus that he knew?  Who was this God that I had forgotten? What has my life become?  Where am I even going?  How can I overcome this addiction, depression, frustration, aimlessness, emptiness?  Who is this Jesus?"

So I sat digging my toes into the carpet of my bedroom and thought on the things that I had heard about Jesus.  Jesus was the redeemer, sent by God to save me from my sins and selfishness and reunite me in a relationship with him.  He came at just the perfect time in the perfect way to pay the penalty for my imperfections: past, present, and future.  Because of Christ, God could look at me through Christ and see perfection, not the chubby, drunk transfer student I felt like.  I wanted that.  

Thoughts swirled in my head as I sat next to my bed, "Running can't fix me.  I can't stop drinking.  I can't stop chasing guys.  I can't fix me.  I can't fix this mess.  Jesus can fix me.  Jesus can fix this mess."

That hot July night I unexpectedly bumped into a friend that unexpectedly bumped me into Christ.  I started a relationship with Jesus realizing that no x, y and z formula could make me a perfect person.  The Holy Spirit revealed that fixing my eyes on Christ was the cure.  

I did start running.  And I did transfer schools.  And I did stop abusing alcohol.  And for the first time in my life I wasn't chasing boys.  I started at my second university chasing after the Savior of the Universe and desiring everything that He could give.

That night I met the love of my eternity.  Jesus Christ.

And I am spending my life with the man who pointed me to that love in a Walmart parking lot.

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