Faculty Marriage Stories
In an effort to feature models of enduring love, we asked several faculty members to share the stories of how they met their spouses.
*This is a repost. You can find the original blog post here.*
Each February businesses reel in the cash selling bouquets, chocolates, and fruit arrangements meant to guarantee love and loyalty. While buying tokens of affection for a loved one this Valentine’s Day is innocent enough, The King’s College aims to uphold a model of Christ-centered love, based on self-sacrifice—not on once-a-year demonstrations of affection. In this model, loving a person means enduring with them through trials and remaining loyal over time.
According to Dr. Dru Johnson, “Having only one day a year to celebrate romantic love between a couple thins the meaning of genuine and enduring romance. Hence, it shouldn’t really be a holiday for dating at all. If a couple is successful by any definition of the word, Valentine’s Day should appear frivolous and irrelevant.”
Thus, in an effort to feature models of enduring love, we asked several faculty members to share the stories of how they met their spouses. The aim is to showcase both the lighthearted and the candid sides of romantic relationships and to offer retrospective nuggets of advice.
PROF. BRIAN BRENBERG
Prof. Brenberg first met Krista in driver’s ed. According to him, “I was that geeky kid in class and she was there with all her friends.” In his sophomore year of high school, Brenberg sat behind Krista in algebra class, but they didn’t really talk. Actually, he viewed her as competition: “I always wanted to get the highest grade and she would beat me on tests and I would just get so frustrated!”
Even though he attended a large school, he and Krista had several connections to each other because they were both committed athletes. Krista’s dad coached Brenberg’s track team and her brother was the captain. Even though Brenberg liked her, he didn’t ask her out until junior year and it was only because one of Krista’s teammates cajoled him into it. “I was so timid and shy in high school. I needed someone to hit me in the back of the head and say, ‘You need to do this.’” On February 7, he mustered up his guts and took her to see one of the reissued Star Wars. They dated through high school and married between sophomore and junior year of college. This year, they will celebrate twenty years of marriage.
Brenberg believes young people shouldn’t be “afraid to get married. You should be eager to endure those hard things. They are hard because they are challenging things in you that need to be challenged. When you’re young, you have a certain malleability where that can get scraped off of you a little bit easier, that can be twisted out of you a little bit more.” He also believes that sharing a common goal is essential if you want to work as a unit.
DR. KELLY LEHTONEN
Dr. Lehtonen imagined that if she got married, it would happen sometime in the years shortly after college. While she actively served in the church, nothing ever went beyond friendship. She was even advised not to pursue a Ph.D. program because “that would send the wrong message. You’ll be seen as this career woman, not necessarily someone who wants to settle down.” But, against the warning, she attended grad school where she met Jonathan her first semester. Barely eight months later, they were married.
They met in a graduate level Shakespeare class. He was getting a degree in English, while she was getting a degree in Comp Lit. Towards the end of the semester, both waiting for office hours with the professor, they exchanged papers with each other. He saw she had written on Protestant theology in The Tempest. Christians were in the minority at their grad school, so Jonathan’s slick pick up line was: “So, do you have a Reformed background?” And that was that. They both shared many interests, though Dr. Lehtonen said his sense of humor sold her over. It made her feel relaxed and showed her that they were not just practically suitable, but that they could also have fun together. They have been married for almost eight years now and have one son.
In retrospect, Lehtonen realizes that until she and Jonathan were married, “It took some time for us to see each other’s real sin.” She advises surrounding yourself with people who you trust because she thinks, “love really can be blind. In our case it was helpful to have friends and mentors who were able to look at us and our relationship more objectively and share their wisdom as we moved forward.” Dr. Lehtonen considers social media concerning since it communicates distorted ideas of what people are really like. She advises a combination of conviction and flexibility: “Be certain of qualities that are really important and make your ‘must-have’ list as short as possible; then be as open-minded as you can… So much of it is a mystery: what attracts two people together. Leave room for the unexpected.”
DR. PAUL MUELLER
Dr. Mueller met his wife, Kathryn, at Hillsdale College. Neither recalls exactly when they met, but they suspect it was while playing frisbee. They both took English class together their freshman year. Kathryn considered him loud and annoying because he relentlessly raised his hand and asked questions. But they shared a common friend group, so they started spending more time together when their older friends graduated. Mueller spent a semester in DC where he attended Capitol Hill Baptist Church. There, his pastor advised a group of men: “Guys, your job is to find the most godly woman you can and then persuade her to marry you.” Among other things, Paul felt attracted to Kathryn’s commitment to Christ and realized he wanted to persuade her.
When he first asked her out, she bizarrely replied: “There are reasons I am willing to do this.” It turns out she felt concerned about whether she really knew him since he liked to joke. She had the impression that he was all talk and no substance. After they started dating, he opened up more and, according to him, “she was ready to marry me a few weeks later.” They have been married ten years and they have four children.
Marriage taught Dr. Mueller about dependence and companionship and what it means to pursue God with someone else. Mueller thinks, “You want friends who know both of you and can observe the health of the relationship.” He advises people to be cautious about isolating themselves within their relationship. According to him, the modern use of dating apps might work in theory, but they tend to reduce relationships to common interests, which are simply not substantial enough to base a lifetime relationship on.