I had seen him before, although I had not “noticed” him. He was just the class clown of-a-guy with bleached white tips in his hair, the one who was really loud and always drew a crowd. Not my type. We were in a class of 107 students going through YWAM’s “Discipleship Training School” in 1998 and I was more of a wall-flower girl.
I remember once, the girl from Pennsylvania mentioned him; “You know who I think is really cute?” she asked to the group of us sitting around doing each other’s hair. “Nathan Fair.” “Are you serious?” was my reply, “That guy needs WAY too much attention.” And I was serious. I had just seen him do a flip off the stage that night at the end of our program at a church and was annoyed by his audacity. Had you told me he would be the father of my children, I would have laughed and said “no way. No how.”
And if it hadn’t been for the ashtray, I might have been right. Let me back up.
A couple of years before I went to YWAM my little red Honda Civic had been broken into. My window was smashed out and all of my CD’s, along with my CD player were missing, oh and the ashtray. Why anyone would steal the ashtray still baffles me, but they did. So I drove in silence and without an ashtray for the next two years. At some point I saved up enough money to purchase a new CD player and have it installed, but didn’t waste the money on replacing an ashtray I would never use.
By the time Nathan and I returned for our secondary YWAM training school we were acquaintances. We had mutual friends and always seemed to get grouped together on local ministry outreaches. We spent time serving at a local hospice house for HIV infected people and even spent a week in New Orleans together learning about urban ministry, though we seldom interacted or even noticed each other. And then we unknowingly signed up for the same ministry outreach team that would travel across the western states and up into Canada for over a month. We spent the next several weeks in a 15 passenger van becoming friends. I was fasting from make-up in an effort to seek God only and His opinion of me without regard to what guys thought and God was setting me free in a lot of ways. For the first time, I wasn’t trying to impress anyone or seek my identity in a relationship.
And that’s how he became impressed with me.
All I knew, was that he was the funniest person I had ever met. I mean snot and tears kind of funny. I had never laughed so hard in my life as I did with Nathan Fair. And then I noticed how he loved people. All of them. The lovely, the unlovely, the underdog, the loner; he made everyone feel important. He made everyone feel like he was excited to see them. And he was kind to children and animals. And did I mention he was funny? His heart was beautiful, simple, straightforward, love. And he became my best friend.
And we were friends. And we talked and laughed and got to know each other and it never occurred to me that I might be talking to my future husband. Because we were “buddies” you know, but he was just the class clown sort of guy and I was expecting…what was I expecting?
And then one day I was sitting across from him at lunch and it was as if God removed a blindfold. I was looking at Nathan as he talked about whatever thing he was talking about and I realized I loved him. I realized that he was the first person I wanted to tell when something exciting happened, he was the one I thought to call first and relive my day, he was the one I went to when I was struggling or feeling down, and he was the one who made me laugh like no other. It hit me that he ALREADY was everything I wanted in a husband, and he was sitting RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. And it scared me and made me feel like Jell-O on the inside and I was overcome with the whole revelation.
So I stayed away for a few days while I prayed about what to do. I was in agony. My thoughts went something like this: ” What if I tell him I have feelings beyond friendship and he turns me down? It will ruin our friendship and things will be akward forever!” or “What if he says he feels the same way and then something goes wrong and it ends badly, then I will lose his friendship..” , “No, I can’t say anything, I’ll wait for him to say something.” “No, if I don’t say something he might not say something…then what?” So, I tormented myself like this for a few days, then came out with it. Yep, I did.
And he said he felt the same way. J And then he said he was glad I told him because he never would have spoken up for fear of losing our friendship.
And then we took a month apart and prayed. Because we had both done things the wrong way before and we had both had our hearts smashed to pieces and we knew we didn’t want to start this deal if it wasn’t for forever.
And right about now you’re wondering about the ashtray.
So, we were apart and I freaked out. And my thoughts went something like this: “He is too valuable to me as a friend to lose, I don’t think we should chance it because one of us will probably get hurt, so I am going to tell him when I see him that I’ve changed my mind.” And I decided that would be best. He was coming back from out of town the next day and I had resolved to tell him all of this.
When I got off work the next day I was dreading confronting Nathan. My only hope was that we would still be able to maintain our friendship despite this blip in the road. I walked down to my dorm room on the base and plopped down on my bed and there was a box.
It was from Nathan. I opened the box and was perplexed to find a 1995 model Honda Civic ashtray. What in the world? And then the note fell out, and this is how it read:
THE ESSENCE OF LOVE
Love…how can it be quantified, expressed, tamed or achieved? This wonderful, horrible thing, love; haunts, drives and controls us. So how can love be expressed? A flower, a kiss, romantic words?
NO I SAY!!! One thing throughout the ages has remained true. This one thing brings an intimacy unrivaled by all else. It bridges the seemingly insurmountable gap between man and woman, puts to rest the endless battle of the sexes and joins the two as one.
The ashtray, overlooked by many, utilized by few, is a true expression of love in its purest, unmolested form. Love it, cherish it, and true oneness will be attained.
WOW. What a weirdo. I LOVED IT!!! And it was then that I knew I wasn’t going to have that conversation with Nathan after all. We were going to be okay. I just needed to trust God and follow His lead. And so I did, and I have never regretted it even once. And that is how the ashtray saved the day.
Happy Twelve year Anniversary Nathan! I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.