Despite the fact that I was occassionally a jerk to my boyfriend, we were still mostly together when he graduated in the spring of 1999. We decided to live together again that summer, a sort of last hurrah before I returned to school in the fall and we permanently broke up. He would spend the first half of the summer out of town in Connecticut, training for his new corporate job, so I was a secure roommate taking care of our Minneapolis apartment. I was hired by ACR Homes, an organization assisting people with disabilities to have independent living situations.
I should have known that God was out to get me when I interviewed - and was subsequently placed - at a high-functioning home directed by a Christian woman. Apparently, a high percentage of PCAs are Christians. But it wasn't until the end of my first week on the job, while I was innocently watching a training video, a co-worker entered the house, introduced himself as Mike and headed into the kitchen - then, my world irrevocably changed.
As a logical person, I cannot believe in 'love at first sight.' But as a Christian, I absolutely believe that the Spirit of God affects powerful and immediate conviction. And from the moment I met Mike, I was drawn to him. I was physically attracted to him, yes, but there was something else that made me want to know him, to be around him, a something that I couldn't name but instantly recognized. And so I unabashedly pursued him. He made it clear to me that our lives were not even close to running in the same direction, given that he was a Bible-believing Jesus-lover and I was an athiest living with my boyfriend. But he agreed to hang out with me at Perkins most nights when we got off of work, and he always had his Bible with him, ready for any debate that I initiated.
[insert now-husband's brief background:]
Michael had been working for ACR for over a year when Nicole started. This was an unheard-of length of time for the home in which we worked, which boasted 2 extremely difficult residents. And although Michael wanted to leave, he felt that God was keeping him in this place. When he met Nicole, he claims to not have been attracted to her. He asserts that he befriended her simply because he realized that she was the reason God had kept him in this job - that God wanted Michael to tell Nicole all about him.
Even though I had never been interested in God, I found myself asking and challenging Michael about his beliefs whenever we were together. He was simultaneously the most inviting and the most formidable Christian that I had ever met. He was completely unfazed by my mockery of his faith, by my insults to his intelligence, and by my dismissal of his religion. In fact, he not only had a calm, well-thought out answer for every one of my remarks, but he also threw my questions right back at me. It was the first time that anyone had ever challenged me to explain my views.
Essentially, Michael commanded my respect. Even though I radically disagreed with him, I found him to be wise, kind, analytical, and humble. He was extremely confrontational with me, but in a way that communicated care.
And about 4 weeks after we met, two unbelievable events forever changed my course.
The first was a normal night for us, although for some reason Michael had come over to my apartment (obviously, my boyfriend was still out of town). We had stepped into the kitchen and suddenly, we were facing each other, about 2 feet apart. Michael looked straight into my eyes and began speaking with conviction...and he didn't stop for an entire 60 minutes. We were rooted in position, standing close, eyes locked, and Michael spoke with the power of God. I can't explain it any other way. I only remember one thing he said - "Nicole, you are letting Satan run your life and you are heading straight to hell."* But I will never forget how I felt while I was listening to him. It was like a holy slap in the face. I felt like someone else was in the room with us, controlling Michael's mouth and speaking through him. And when he was done, he leaned over, put his head down, and exhaled this huge breath, like he was exhausted. He looked up at me and said, "I hope you know that it wasn't just me speaking to you just now." And I did know. I didn't understand, I had no idea that the Holy Spirit worked like that, but I knew that I had just witnessed something bigger than Michael and me.
The second event - was the night we kissed.