A Man Of Excellence: My Love Story
I have known Stephen Snyder for as long as I can remember. He is six years my junior, officially making me a cougar (which was hard to stomach at first, but now I just laugh). He is 3 inches taller than me, drives a 1967 Mustang coupe that he drove home on a trailer when he was 14, and works as a mechanical engineer. He is a wakeboarder, plays banjo and guitar, and can fix or make just about anything. He is an impressive man. Almost everyone who meets him likes him and he has the respect of men twice his age. Me? I have admired him since he was 13 when he would hang out with me at the pool while I lifeguarded.
Before I get carried away and tell the story of how I came to be Stephen Snyder’s wife, let me pause and say that none of this story would have come into being except for the fact that Stephen is a Man of Excellence. He is a modern day Boaz. A man of character. A man who will listen to God and stand and do what God has told him to do. He will tell you that he was initially uneducated Biblically, and yet He has always loved Jesus and prayed with a faith I’ve rarely seen. It is this faith that was at the center of our friendship and later, much later, our marriage. So with this preface, here comes the story of how I gained my modern day Boaz.
After the summer when Stephen turned 13, he started to spent a lot of time with me and my brother. That’s when our friendship began to develop. And I can remember a friend once telling me, “Hannah, one day Stephen will grow up and you will marry him.” I laughed. You see, I was working in the ER as a nurse and Stephen was just graduating high school.
Despite our varying positions in life it was easy to spend time with Stephen. He was respectful and kind to myself, my brother, my parents, and to our friends. He made the effort to listen in conversation and proved himself to be reliable and trustworthy. He was teachable and served others. He quickly became one of my dearest and most trusted friends.
When Stephen was a sophomore in college he came over late one winter night and sat with me after I had gotten home from working a swing shift. I had taken a quick shower, had no makeup and wet hair, and was sipping on hot chocolate to ward off the chill of the night. It was then that Stephen told me that he was in love with me...and he had been in love with me for over three years.
He asked nothing of me and only requested that I tell him how I felt, so that he could decide what he should do with his feelings. I was shell shocked -- he asked nothing of me. No manipulation, no demands, no guilt. He protected me even from himself, and knowing his goodness I floundered within myself.
I adored this man to the very bones of my being, but only as my friend, not a lover. I didn’t know what to say. He explained that we had spoken or seen each other just about every single day for the past three years. He knew how close we had become but I hadn’t even realized it. I will never forget the pain of that night after he left. I knew I wasn’t in love with him, and that I would hurt him. I wept, tears from the very heart of my soul. I was going to lose his friendship, and there was nothing I could do about it.
For the next 10 months we couldn’t help but run into one another. Our families were close and my brother was still one of his best friends. So, if I was in the kitchen he walked to the living room. If I sat on the couch he got up and sat on the floor. Always a dance of keeping me at a distance while being respectful and kind. I cannot think of a single time he was anything less than good to me.
Despite his kindness, it is, to this day, a string of memories that makes my chest ache inside of me. I adored this man, and he was sad and far from me. We spoke haltingly, we never touched, and I missed him to the core of my being.
Fed up with him always being on my mind, I called a dear friend of mine and told her: “I think about him constantly. I miss him so much...this can't be love can it? This isn’t what it looks like on TV...” In the midst of my tear ladened words, she laughed. It was a delightful laugh.
“Hannah,” She told me, “I think you're in love with him.”
It was an odd realization but a pleasant one. I was in love with Stephen Snyder! He was the most pleasant, funny, attractive, talented, smart man I’d ever known. He’d proven his character to me when we were friends and also when I had rejected his offer. Now I was hopelessly in love with him.
But what should be done? I wanted to rush and tell him but I stopped in my tracks. While I was on a high, he was low. He was gracious, but I knew him too well for him to hide much. He was mad, frustrated, and upset. God gently told me that it was not time.
We know that God is wise and it is nice when we can see the wisdom of how he orchestrates life. Much later, Stephen has told me how he grew spiritually during this time. He grew more dependent on God, continuing to follow the Lord even more wholeheartedly.
This time was also good for me. I wanted what I couldn’t have and so I turned to God. I wouldn’t trade that time of trusting God because it will always be an anchor for me in my faith. God is enough -- only God is enough. Stephen, as much as I adore him, would never have been enough. If I hadn’t learned this first, I believe my life would be much harder.
It ended up being a tragedy that pulled us back together. A friend of ours ended up in the hospital after an accident. The time spent together at the hospital helped Stephen and I to fall back into familiar patterns; we knew one another so well. I was delighted, but he was frustrated. Stephen couldn’t believe we were right back where we had started a year ago. He was still in love with me, we were friends again, only now he thought there was no hope of me returning his sentiments.
How wrong he was. I ached for him, steadily maintaining our friendship, pleading with God to let me have him.
Then though a providential break of confidence, my secret was out. Stephen asked me out to dinner and a movie the next week. That first date ended up, by no means, the perfect night: I almost fell into the toilet and a queasy stomach left Stephen’s expensive meal untouched. The next date was better. We dated for five months before Stephen proposed with the second most romantic proposal that I have ever heard tale of. (His second cousin wins best proposal, bar none, with a two day affair that ended up with him walking on water -- no lie.)
We were engaged for seven weeks and then married December 17, 2010. It was a Christmas wedding and it was beautiful.
Today, we have been married for almost five years and the respect I had for Stephen has only grown. My modern day Boaz continues to choose to follow Jesus at all costs. It makes him a mighty man and an attractive one.
He loves the Lord with all his heart and all his might and all his strength and he loves his neighbor as himself. Now, I am by no means implying that he is perfect. As his wife, I can attest to the fact that he is human and fallible (he would be able to say the same about me). But a human Man of Excellence, a man seeking and obeying the Lord, is a powerful thing. He blesses so many of the people that he comes into contact with.
The person he blesses the most, I believe, is me. I reap the fruit of his diligence to follow the Lord. Therefore, as someone who has been blessed by a Man of Excellence, I urge you to be like Ruth: When the choice is yours to make, choose a Man of Excellence.
PS: If you're not sure what it means to be like Ruth...next week is for you!
Hannah Michael Wolfkill Snyder has always loved all of her names (yes, each one is on her passport!). However, the name she loves the most is Jesus. Jesus taught her how to play in the throne room of Heaven and sit in the lap of God the Father. This is her identity, where her heart loves to abide (even if her hands and feet are busy on earth running a household or meeting up with people). Because of her joy in the Father, her heart’s desire is to show women their God given identity in the kingdom of Heaven. You can find her on Instagram.