Filed under Singleness Courtship
It was a year and two months after Kristin’s wedding before Steve asked Dad’s permission to pursue a courtship with me. Through a funny series of “slips” (not Steve’s fault, but a story in and of itself) I learned of his interest some months prior. So I’d been praying and talking to my parents about this possibility. But poor Steve had no idea that my entire family and I knew of his interest.
In January of 2000, when I had finally despaired of his ever making a move, Steve walked into Dad’s office and asked to talk with him. “It’s about my daughter, isn’t it?” Dad asked.
Steve, stunned, managed to blurt out, “Yes.”
“You want to know if you can court her, don’t you?”
“OK. You have my permission,” Dad said. (He already knew Steve personally by this time). “I’ll ask her and tell you what she says.”
In less than thirty seconds, a rather shell-shocked Steve stumbled out of Dad’s office. This wasn’t how he’d thought it would go. He hadn’t even used the speech he’d prepared.
But Dad wasn’t finished with him yet. After I gave my answer of “yes” he decided to have a little more fun at Steve’s expense.
A few days later he pulled Steve aside at church. “I have bad news and I have good news,” he said. “The bad news is that Janelle is not in faith to enter into a courtship with you…”
Steve frantically thought back to the brief meeting in Dad’s office and realized he had never actually said “Nicole”! All he’d said was “yes!” Dad briefly enjoyed the utter confusion on Steve’s face, but didn’t leave him in turmoil for long, “…but Nicole is in faith to enter into a courtship.”
And I was in faith. In faith for courtship. In faith to take a step.
As I had watched Steve in various contexts (work, leaders’ meetings, social settings) for the past year, I was drawn to many qualities about him. He was a leader, yet drew no attention to himself. Uncommonly humble. He was a joyful, passionate man who worshipped with his long arms outstretched. He dearly loved his family—a quality that struck me as somewhat unique for a guy his age. Not to mention he loved all things literary.
As we entered our courtship, I discovered Steve was all these things and more. And yet, I had many doubts and questions, primarily stemming from the picture I’d carefully sketched in my mind of the man I would marry and, maybe even more significantly, the life I would lead after marriage.
You see, as a young child I was sure I was going to be a missionary. As this desire ripened to maturity and a love for my local church gripped my heart, I desired to be a pastor’s wife. Growing up as a PK, all I’d ever known was life in full-time ministry. I couldn’t imagine supporting a husband in any other vocation. It was familiar. It was comfortable. I knew my way around. And besides, the church was what I was passionate about. I just couldn’t envision spending myself on anything else.
“Problem” was, Steve’s calling and future were still unsure. He had graduated from the Pastors’ College and was serving an internship with the dean, Jeff Purswell. He had a desire to pursue full-time ministry. Yet, this desire had neither been tested nor confirmed. And so I wondered, Did I really want to marry a man who wasn’t a pastor? What if he pursued a different career—would I be unhappy for the rest of my life?
Pause. If I may be so bold as to offer a word of advice to single women everywhere: beware of creating an imaginary life around an imaginary man so that when a real man comes along you can’t see him for the imaginary life you’ve created. I almost missed him and I wouldn’t want that to happen to you.
In the midst of all my questions and doubts my parents graciously counseled me for hours. I also had coffee with every girl I knew who was in a courtship, had recently gotten married, or had been married for twenty years! It didn’t matter. I searched high and low for that perfect courtship stencil over which I could paint my courtship story. I figured that if I found a woman whose story matched mine, I could discover what God’s will for me.
But my search was in vain. Although many courtship stories had similarities with mine, they all had one thing in common: they were all different! There was no comfort to be found in another woman’s experience. Eventually, I realized God was still teaching me the lesson that had begun before I was courting: Trust Me. It was only in trusting Him that I found perfect peace regarding my future.
After much prayer and invaluable counsel from my parents, I realized that I had to marry (or not marry) Steve for the man he was—not the job he had (or didn’t have). And so it’s the man he is that I fell in love with, and am more in love with than ever five years later.
Today Steve is part of the pastoral team at Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax. But I will always be grateful that it wasn’t so when we got married. Because I’ll never have to wonder if that is why I married him. I married him because I loved and respected the man that he is. And that will never change.
At our wedding, a member of our church, Kevin Hartnett, wrote the following poem. It expresses beautifully what I think God was after in my heart, and every woman’s heart—married, single, or courting: a deep abiding trust in the quiet, wise, faithful, and loving providence of God.
May vineyards flow from all the good the Lord has brought to me,
And richest life extend throughout the land for all to see
That not of my good will or sense the plan unfolds this way,
But in the gracious mind of God tomorrow forms today.
Copyright 2000, Kevin Hartnett