Today Dad and Mom are away celebrating thirty-three years of marriage (May 17th). In honor of their anniversary, we thought it would be nice to re-post their courtship story, written from Mom’s perspective.
Picking up where she leaves off, Dad summarizes the story of their married life in one sentence: “By God’s grace it’s been 33 years of sizzling romance for the glory of God!”
Happy Anniversary Dad and Mom!
Love, your family
It all started with a cold hot dog. Or at least that is what my husband claims was the temperature of this All-American staple food I fixed for him the first time we met. Though we had been officially introduced earlier in the day, it was the “hot dog incident” of that unforgettable evening in the summer of 1974 that inaugurated our relationship. Let me fill in a few details of the story.
At the time of our meeting, I was living at and working as a secretary for a Christian conference center in Bradenton, Florida, where guest speakers came to teach for week-long series. CJ had just arrived from Maryland as the new speaker for the week. The reason I was serving up hot dogs instead of attending to my secretarial duties was because I had recently quit my job as secretary. I had planned to move back home with my family before heading off to a Bible college in Texas in a matter of days. However, my friends hounded me until I reluctantly agreed to stay one extra week to hear and meet a passionate preacher named CJ Mahaney. And I was doing odd jobs for the week to compensate for my extended stay—thus my canteen duty where hot dogs and the like were served. But truth be told, I really did not want to be there. And I really did not want to meet CJ Mahaney.
So when he showed up at the canteen after the 11:00 PM closing time and asked for a hot dog, I said, “Sorry, we are closed.” He explained he had been traveling most of the day, just finished preaching and praying for people, and had hardly eaten a thing. He wondered if I would make an exception. With evident displeasure, I agreed. But I guess I didn’t boil that hot dog quite long enough to make it truly hot!
And I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to be at that place at that time. CJ had also worked through his own struggles with not wanting to be there. After accepting the invitation to speak at this conference center in Florida, he had received another invitation to speak at Jesus ’74—one of the largest and most popular events on the Christian landscape at that time. So needless to say, he would rather have accepted that invitation. However, he believed integrity required him to be faithful to the commitment he previously made to the conference center.
So even though neither of us wanted to be there, he had come and I had stayed. We could not have imagined what the quiet providence of God had in store.
Apparently it was my lack of interest in CJ that, among other things, first captured his interest in me.
He couldn’t understand why I was being rude and unkind about simply fixing him a hot dog. He was curious. Intrigued. He wanted to find out more about this girl. He began to look for ways to interact with me.
I, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with him and purposed to avoid him.
Little did CJ know that he fit the profile of the kind of man I had vowed I would never marry—a preacher. See, growing up in the church I had observed many men in pastoral ministry who had mishandled finances, or committed adultery, or neglected to make their families a priority. Consequently, I had determined at a young age that I would not marry a man who was a pastor.
However, God in His great mercy had different plans for me.
As I began to listen to CJ preach over that week I was captivated by his passion for the Savior. So much so that by the time he asked me to take a walk with him several days later, I actually agreed. I was now the curious one. I wondered: Was this guy as passionate in real life as he appeared to be on stage?
My questions were quickly answered in that one walk. Because the only topic of our one-sided conversation (he did all the talking!) was about Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for our sins. And it was this same topic that dominated our conversations in many walks to follow.
I was smitten, and began to rethink my vow not to marry a preacher.
By the time CJ had completed his week of teaching at the conference center, he had communicated his interest in me, I had introduced him to my parents, I had decided not to go to Bible college and was rehired to my previous secretarial position, and a courtship had begun!
Or so I thought. However, I did not hear from CJ for several weeks after his return to Maryland.
You see, before CJ had met me, he had concluded that the most effective way he could serve the Savior was to remain single. So, when he got back home, he began to deal with a raging conflict in his soul. He began to wrestle with the question: Was he being unfaithful to God’s call on his life by pursuing marriage?
Thankfully, through the help and wise counsel of others he was able to resolve this issue and conclude that he wasn’t neglecting his God-given call by pursuing me. However, he had some big-time explaining to do when he finally phoned.
After we surmounted this hurdle, the courtship took off. However, the long-distance factor of our relationship, made the times together too infrequent, the good-byes extra difficult, and the phone bills way too high. So it was sweet indeed, when CJ asked me to marry him. Or more accurately, he asked: “Will you be engaged to me?” I think he had difficulty getting that word “marry” out of his mouth. But after my asking for clarification, he was able to say: “Will you marry me?”
I said “yes” and by far it is the best “yes” I have ever uttered.
In spite of the fact that each of us wanted to be somewhere else the day we met, that I didn’t want to marry a preacher, and that C.J. wasn’t sure he should get married, God’s quiet providence had other plans in mind. C.J. and I were married on May 17, 1975. He was 21 and I was 19.
This year we celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary, and this post is not long enough to tell you of the love we have for each other today. However, I have included a tribute to my husband, given at the occasion of his turning over leadership of Covenant Life Church. In brief, it tells the story of our thirty years together.