Like so many great happenings in my life, I met Ruth Elaine Martin around the same time I met Jesus through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Florida State University. I recall attending a Bible and Life conference somewhere in Florida. There was a Christian commune where we stayed for the weekend. I met Ruth at a nearby fast food place where some of us had gone. I had one of those M.C. Escher shirts on, the one with the image of the stairs that inexplicably go nowhere. What I remember about her was her smile. Even as I write this, I can feel the warmth in that smile.
We became friends after that. She noticed I was driving around on a temporary spare and convinced me to let her help me change it (I’d been immune to my father’s efforts to teach me). We became prayer partners (against the rules as a guy/girl combo), but we prayed earnestly and well together. One day we had dinner with a friend. Ruth mentioned she was thinking of never getting married and giving her life to medicine. It was as if she had picked up a steak knife and stabbed me in the heart. But I didn’t say anything.
About a year later, I found myself hiking on a mountain in California and had a thunderbolt realization that she was the one and had to be the one. But knowing it and convincing her of it were two different things.
Through God’s providence I finished graduate school in Athens, Georgia and got a job in Jacksonville, Florida only two hours away from Ruth in Gainesville. By that time, she was a driven and determined medical student. I visited her at a dorm she stayed in while spending a month rotation in Jacksonville. The intensity of the students in the building was palpable. I mentioned it to Ruth. “These are such serious people.” She responded, “I’m a serious person.” She was right. And she’s still that way. I love the fact that she cares and is all business when it counts, especially for her patients.
I eventually got that serious girl to include me in her plans. We’re 23 years into this marriage with as many years as God will give us ahead. As much as I liked her back then, I like her so much more today. The serious girl is just as focused and determined as she ever was, but it is a beautiful thing to be married to someone of her character and spiritual commitment. If you could win the lottery or marry well, I think I’d advise you to marry well, because I wouldn’t trade Ruth for as many millions as you could muster.
Happy 23 years, sweetheart. Let’s put together 23 more and then maybe another 23 after that. — HB