It was very clear to me that my future husband would be a God-fearing young man, who wasn’t afraid of my father, and who was, of course, taller than me. I was very shy and became extremely nervous and red whenever I realized a boy had noticed me. That was why that afternoon at Vila Matilde was remarkable. It was when I saw a dark handsome stranger near Ronaldo, a family friend. As our group walked and talked, I ended up walking beside him and was surprised at how calm and at ease I felt. But, that was it …
A few months later, we attended the Missionary School graduation in Curitiba. I was excited because among the graduating class were some of my friends and there, in that celebratory atmosphere with people everywhere, I learned that the valedictorian would be Helenilson, the handsome stranger! Everything went well but was soon over, and I returned home with the sensation of having gone unnoticed. At least, that’s what I thought.
Days later an envelope arrived with handwriting I had never seen. It was a card from Helenilson thanking me for attending his graduation. My mother joked that she had been there too and no one had sent her anything. My heart was racing, and I didn’t know what to think, except, could it be?
The following week, the Missionary School Director, Brother Matheus, and his family visited the property where my family lived. His wife, Sister Maria, called me over to talk. She said that in the graduating class there was a very good young man, with a promising future, who had been valedictorian and who was interested in me.
I tripled my prayers.
We spent the end of the year in Brasilia, at my brother’s house. During our visit, there was a general meeting of all the nearby churches, and I was anxious because I had heard that Helenilson would be there. Early on Sabbath morning when we arrived for the Sabbath School teachers’ class, he was the first person I saw. Before Sabbath School started, I was talking to friends and he was the topic. I certainly wasn’t the only one who thought he was handsome! But I felt sure. I had my secrets.
The day passed, and he didn’t even look at me. He had lunch with his family and stayed away. The youth program started, and he was at the front leading the meeting. I thought to myself, what would it cost to simply exchange a look? But nothing. It was as if I didn’t exist. After sunset, my sense of assurance was long gone. I was standing in front of the church, reconsidering the meaning of the card, of what Sister Maria had said, when I heard his voice: “Sister Lilian, can we talk?” We walked away from the crowd, and he told me that for some time he had been asking God for guidance concerning the next big step in his life. He asked if I would be his girlfriend. Imagine the overwhelming joy! Of course, I accepted.
I remember the trip home, people trying to talk to me, and I was in my own little world, wanting to keep every word, smile, and look engraved in my memory forever. From the beginning, we decided to have a Christian courtship, which, unfortunately, was already going out of fashion.
Many people were happy for us, and everyone told me that he was a man of good character.
But then a little problem arose. Every time I was close to him, I felt taller than usual. I wanted to stay sitting the entire time we were together. You see, he was a full inch shorter than me. This was a serious thing, very serious. Almost six feet tall, my height had always caused me anxiety. From then on my golden verse became John 3:30: “He must grow, but I must shrink” (adapted from the Portuguese Bible translation).
It didn’t help that he went to work in Roraima, over 2,400 miles away at a time when there was no such thing as the internet. But we had letters and a quick phone call once a week. We got to know each other and became friends. Shortly before our first year together was complete, he was transferred to Goiânia. Much closer! We were now only 500 miles apart. We saw each other quite often and my admiration for him only increased. He grew more and more sure, wanting to set a date for the wedding. But the “giraffe” feeling didn’t go away. On top of that, I read in Patriarch and Prophets that Eve was a little shorter than Adam, which only served to reinforce my notion. One day my mother said, “I just hope you don’t throw away your happiness because of an inch.” After thinking about it, I agreed she was right. Any time I would comment about our height difference, he would just smile and say, “Even if you were six and a half feet tall, I’d still marry you.”
It was time to set the date, and I kept thinking about the seriousness of choosing someone to be with for the rest of my life. I was happy at my parents’ house, and this would be a step into the unknown. I was afraid, so I asked the Lord to make me sure of His will, and He drew my eyes to Colossians 3:14: “And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” This verse brought met wonderful peace and assurance he was the one.
We were the first to get married at the Union Headquarters in Itú, São Paulo. It seems like it was yesterday, all that bustle and activity, so many dear people who were happy with our happiness! The ceremony was simple, we walked down the aisle together, and it was the day I heard the phrase “God bless you” the most in my life. And indeed, He has richly blessed us. Twenty-two years have passed! We received two beautiful children, have gone through some difficult phases, and overcome gigantic challenges, but we remain happy. He is still my friend, the dark handsome stranger I fell in love with then, and with whom I fall in love every day. The one I feel proud to stand beside. The one whose character helped improve mine.
The height difference? That stopped being an issue a long time ago and even brought me some advantages; when it’s time to whisper a comment or at the time of a kiss, nobody needs to stoop. The car seat and mirrors don’t need to be adjusted every time the other drives.
Our Christian courtship and listening to the advice of our family was worth it. I want to remind you that it was our heavenly Father who invented marriage. He wants to see happy homes.