Rachel Pellerin, dirty-blond hair falling around her shoulders, sat on a park bench outside her classroom as her classmates nearby headed to the Great Hall for lunch. She brushed her hair out of her dark blue eyes, a small tattoo of a sword visible on the back of her arm below the cuff of her t-shirt.
Cody appeared moments later, laden with a packed lunch for the both of them. Passersby smiled and waved to them as they shared a bag of pretzels and discussed the classes they were taking for their shared major, Biblical Studies.
Rachel grinned as Cody related a story about how a student had smuggled a hamster into class in her sweatshirt pocket and spent the whole class period feeding it carrots and covering its small rodent noises with coughs and throat clearings. Rachel noticed the tattooed wedding band on his left hand, her handiwork; it matched the one on her own ring finger. She remembered the first few weeks of their relationship.
They were both office interns for their youth pastor, which is where they met, both brand new Christians, both high schoolers, and both struggling to hold to their faith in lives surrounded by opposition; the year was 2015.
Rachel remembered their relationship moving fast, beginning with Cody telling her he liked her, immediately followed by him asking her what her views on marriage and divorce were. Though immediately taken with Cody’s pragmatism and general popularity, it took Rachel longer to fall in love; however, they began dating at Christmas, by this time both convinced this was meant to be. Two years later Cody was on one knee on their riverbank.
After lunch, Cody kissed Rachel goodbye and went back to class. Rachel got into their car and began the descent down the mountain to work. She had managed to get a desk job in Chattanooga taking surveys over the phone for a local company. When Cody had started making plans to marry her, he had begun to save and plan for the future, and when they got married and applied to Covenant together, they were given scholarships, but the extra job was valuable. Rachel considered this one of the best parts of their young marriage; they got to be poor together, figuring out a future with each other.
As she parked her car, yawning to pop her ears after the quick trip down the mountain, she remembered their early relationship again; they were both baristas. Life was spent working, completing dual credit courses, and spending all their free time together at the river and Taco Bell.
Every day they would collect the tips they earned together and place them in envelopes. Now that they were in college, whenever they got a free evening they would pull an envelope, see how much was in it, and choose something fun to do together. Last night the couple had gone to Milk and Honey, a local coffee shop, which they both agreed, in their experienced opinions, had the best coffee around and finished the evening with a traditional taco.
After a long day of calling numbers, being hung up on, calling numbers, talking to strangers, calling numbers and being hung up on, Rachel was glad to see Cody’s familiar grin as she drove around Carter Circle to pick him up and head to Calvary Chapel. For the rest of the afternoon, Cody talked with 8th-grade boys as, down the hall, Rachel led a small group of 9th-grade girls teaching, ironically perhaps, about marriage and divorce. Her heart ached for, and sympathized strongly with, the girls in her group as they described the broken homes they were coming from and as they asked questions, yearning to know what marriage was supposed to look like.
Cody took Rachel to a mountainous trail a classmate had told him about, and they took a nighttime hike relishing the limited time they had together.
Rachel knew that if they had waited to get married, as they had been relentlessly advised, they would be in dorms. Though separate, they would have no apartment or car to finance. They would be able to spend more time together. However, Rachel felt no regret for her commitment. It was hard, there was no doubt about that, but it was do-able, and she had never been happier. They hadn’t needed to wait until their lives were figured out – they had already found each other and waiting was fruitless. They were growing up together, and Rachel could think of no other way she would rather spend her college life.