Learning To Say I Do
Discerning the Call to Marriage
I’ve been asked how Justin and I knew we were called to marriage. It’s hard to describe, because there was never really a huge “aha!” moment. No one moment when I was entirely unsure if “we” would have a future and the next moment knew I couldn’t live without him. It was a natural process of gradually growing together. It was a million small things throughout our entire relationship that led us to the conclusion.
Before Justin and I met, I made a wish-list of things for an “ideal” man. I think I had 25 or 30 things on the list, including being willing to do dishes, and putting my needs before his. I knew it was highly unlikely I’d ever find a guy to fit all of these. After I got home from the retreat where I met Justin, I was curious to see how he measured up. I think I really started thinking about dating Justin seriously when I realized he met every single requirement.
Justin was a little more grounded. His “measuring stick” for dating were the five P’s: Pretty, Playful, Prayerful, Played Pinochle (his favorite card game), and Pies (the way to a man’s hear is still through his stomach). Thankfully, I was able to bake him a great pie with my secret family recipe!
Justin and I knew each other for over two months before he asked me on our first date in September 2008. In fairness to Justin, when I tease him about taking so long, Justin reminds me he spent three of those weeks in Costa Rica. And as much as I tease him about being slow to ask me on a date, it actually was very good for our relationship. We were able to discuss how ideally dating and courtship should work without necessarily speaking of our situation in particular.
Before Justin asked me out on our first date, I had several other guys ask me to go on a date. I said no to all of them. A year or so later, Justin asked me why. I told him it was because Justin “reeked manliness.” It wasn’t just his ability to hunt, and fish, and tend a fire, but it was his whole attitude on life. Justin knew he wanted to be a man in every sense of the word – trustworthy, self-sacrificing, and totally dependent on God.
Much later, Justin told me that the reason he finally asked me on that first date was because he knew he could no longer pay me the attention he wanted to without taking our relationship to the next level: dating. He didn’t know the next step beyond our first date, but he needed to go where God led. At that point, it was a first date.
Before starting to date, we both knew that we believed dating should be purposeful to determine if you were called to marry a person – not simply about having fun as I had done in the past (not that we didn’t have fun!). Marriage was truly on the table when we said, “I love you” to each other on Easter Sunday 2009 (which conveniently was also my birthday). Justin had already seen me during my best and worst. He had seen me excited when I published my first article in the newspaper, upset after an argument with a family member, and possessive when I thought another girl liked him. And likewise, I had seen him both at his best and worst.
Throughout our dating relationship, I grew a lot as I strived to be the girlfriend Justin deserved. We both learned how to better communicate with each other. When we first started dating, Justin told me to “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.” He thought that was the only way to communicate. It took me a while before I was comfortable with the idea. Sometimes, it took guts to say what needed to be said – like after realizing I loved him over Christmas break during his three week trip to North Dakota and finally asking him when we were going to go steady.
Around that time, Justin’s 1994 Chevy Lumina (also known as the Luminator) began having some problems. A breakdown with its guts spilling in the local grocery store parking lot finally convinced Justin he needed to start car shopping. He asked me to come along. One of the first cars we looked at was a Chevy Malibu. I had bought my car just a year before, and I told him to buy it on the spot because of the great price. A week later, after looking at numerous cars, Justin went back to purchase the car. Unfortunately, it was sold.
I learned Justin was not a quick decision maker, like I am. Throughout the entire car shopping experience (all six months of it!), we learned that Justin and I have very different decision making styles. Typically, I make a split second decision based on my gut, and Justin needs to reason through a situation and make a logical decision. We’re both good for each other because throughout the decision making process, I speed him up, and Justin slows me down. For the record, Justin did end up with a Chevy Malibu.
Another big stepping stone in our relationship was meeting each other’s family. Justin was able to meet my parents rather nonchalantly when they flew out of Kansas City and Justin happened to be with me as I picked them up from the airport.
Meeting Justin’s parents took a twelve hour drive and a week -long vacation eight months after we started dating. I was super-nervous to meet Justin’s family, and worried they wouldn’t approve of me or the ten year age gap. Little did I realize how excited Justin’s mom would be that he was finally bringing a girl home! Justin’s family was wonderful, and I greatly appreciated their hospitality. Meeting them within the first year of our relationship was really good for me, as it provided some valuable insight on how Justin was raised that I never could have totally gleaned just from conversations.
To be continued…
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