Our Story: Maria has written here a brief account of our courtship. We’ve not included a long account because it’s our hope that you will not try to copy our courtship but follow the principles described in this book and see what beautiful and perfect plan God has in store for your life! As I write this, we are approaching twenty-five years of marriage and are going strong. May marriage be as great a blessing to you and your spouse as it has been to us. Soli deo Gloria.
The first words Vic ever spoke to me were, “Hello, Partner!” Little did we know then that those words were prophetic, that God had designed us to be life partners. No, Vic did not see me for the first time and immediately say to himself, “Here’s my wife!” We were both training to be summer missionaries for Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) and we had been assigned to work together as partners in a children’s Backyard Bible Club. We were only sixteen then, and for the next couple of years I would see him at different CEF events, and we remained just friends. Every once in a while, we would send a note to each other. I was impressed by him, though, even during those early years. I had never met a guy as fully committed to the Lord as Vic. I observed him as he taught children, as he prayed, and as he interacted with others.
When we were both eighteen, I received a letter from him out of the blue. He was going to be in a nearby town for a Promise Keeper’s convention and wanted to know if he could come by and take me out for lunch. [Vic: It really was not as close as I made it sound! It was a two hour round-trip and I missed hearing Chuck Colson so I could have lunch with Maria. Everyone knew I was taken with her!] Well, I was thrilled, but as my parents and I were committed to courtship rather than dating, I did not think my dad would allow me to go. But Vic had impressed them as well, and so we went out for lunch at a quaint Mexican restaurant. Vic was so easy to talk with, and we had a great time together. I found out that he was soon leaving for the summer on a mission’s trip, and I told him that I was going on one as well to Russia. I would be there for several months, and during that time we corresponded by mail.
I came home from Russia for Christmas, and over that time we did a few things together with friends. On one hiking trip, we sat on a rock away from our friends and began to talk. At this point, I could tell that he was interested in more than friendship with me and that I needed to tell him about my conviction of courtship. God directed our conversation naturally, and I was able to tell him—although I was so uncomfortable! Vic had never even heard of courtship, but instead of saying, “That is the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard of.” He said instead, “Great! I’ll call your dad on Monday!” He did, too, and they set up a meeting for the very next weekend. At that meeting my father explained further to Vic what courting meant, and received Vic’s assurance that our relationship would grow under my father’s authority and guidance. Vic agreed, and my dad gave his permission for us to begin courting.
[Vic: Though I had been raised in a strong Christian home, my parents had never been exposed to the principles in this book. They did their best to teach and guide me in the ways of Lord throughout my teen years, and because of this solid foundation, courtship was not too far a stretch for me. I did date during high school and my freshman year of college, but all these relationships ended in frustration and brokenness, because they were all premature. If I had known then what I know now, I would have intentionally made sure that none of those relationships evolved past simple friendship.]
And so our courtship began. At first, we had a long distance relationship, and did a lot of letter writing (I went back to Russia for a few more months and then we were at different colleges in different states.). Once I was back in the States, we would spend weekends visiting with each other’s families. We had a great time getting to know one another. Vic was very romantic, sometimes surprising me with visits to my school. I would get pressed flowers in the mail. One Valentine’s Day he hid valentines all over my car. We went hiking and had picnics. We went out to dinner. We went snow skiing, water skiing, to conferences, etc. with our families. During this time, my Dad also was in contact with Vic. They read books together, and Dad made certain that Vic was knowledgeable about finances. Vic felt at that time that the Lord was calling him to ministry, and so one day while we were picking cherries, he questioned me about my willingness to live a life of ministry.
After about a year, one weekend Vic came down and spoke with my parents, asking their permission to marry me. I spent the weekend alone in the mountains praying and asking the Lord’s guidance. I came down that mountain, feeling a peace about becoming his wife (if he should ask me). My parents did give their blessing, although I wasn’t told. It was pretty apparent that the question would come soon, but I just didn’t know when!
On July 31, 1998, I was at the beach with Vic and his family. He took me out that night for a romantic dinner, and then ordered our Key Lime pie to go. We drove to the quaint historic town of Beaufort, NC and then Vic drove to the end of a peninsula, where we had a beautiful view of the water and live oak trees were overhead. At this point, he had planned to bring out a blanket and have a picnic with our pie, but as it was pouring rain, we had to stay in the car! It was still romantic though, as he lit candles and brought out sparking grape juice. He pulled his Bible out and said he wanted to read the Proverbs for the day. As it was the 31st, it was Proverbs 31. After he read it, he told me how I was a Proverbs 31 woman. In the margin he had listed the highlights of our courtship. Then he said, “There’s only one thing left to do.”, and he pulled out a ring. “I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?” And of course, I said, “Yes!!” About eleven months later, on June 19, 1999, five years to the day when Vic and I first met, we became partners for life.
Bradley and Brittany
Bradley and Brittany’s story is different from ours. I have included this great story (as told by Brittany) mainly because of the devotion it represents of a young single woman willing to serve the Lord, in a personally sacrificial way, even at a time when it seemed that it may take away the very thing she wanted most. It is yet another example of how faithfully serving the Lord will lead you right to the person of the Lord’s choosing, and in the Lord’s time. May this testimony especially encourage you to use your single years in devoted service to Christ.
I (Brittany) was 27 years old when I met the man who would become my husband. I had spent many wonderful years serving the Lord as a single woman. Although I had moments of questioning God’s timing in my life, I always knew that He had a plan for my life. I hoped that this plan included my having a husband, but I also had a confidence that if this was not part of His plan that my God would sustain me through this life. I had always envisioned myself becoming a wife and a mother, but I also knew that not everyone gets to experience this aspect of life.
I began dating in college and had several relationships that I felt might lead to marriage, however, none of them did. With each one I knew early on that the relationship was not part of God’s plan for me. However, with each relationship I did gain a friend and valuable experience. After college I began working on a master’s degree and also became involved in mission trips through my church. I worked 60 hours a week and stayed quite busy. Honestly, I was so busy that I did’t have time for a relationship. I knew that God would have to drastically change the pace of my life if His plan involved my settling down with someone.
It was at my brother’s wedding rehearsal dinner in October 2006 that Bradley first noticed me. After hearing me tell a few stories in group conversation, he formulated a plan to introduce himself to me. His plan didn’t work, since his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th trips to the food table where I was serving dinner went unnoticed due to my busyness serving guests. Had I known then what I know now, I certainly would have paid closer attention to my surroundings!
Life went on as it always had and one day a few months later I checked my e-mail to find a letter from Bradley introducing himself. His e-mail said, “I don’t believe we have actually met before, but I wanted to see if we could change that. Would you like to meet me for coffee sometime?” By the time I read this e-mail, it was a month old! It was around Thanksgiving, and I wrote him back explaining why it had taken me so long to reply. He responded with a more specific invitation and we arranged to meet at a local Starbucks the following week.
On a cold night in December, I sat in Starbucks drinking herbal tea to try to calm the butterflies in my stomach. Then he walked in. At that time, I had no idea what he looked like, but I hoped it was the tall handsome man who just walked in the door with the best smile I had ever seen. It was! We sat there that evening until they closed and talked as though we had known each other for years. After we parted ways outside of Starbucks I went home and tried not to think too much of our meeting. But that proved to be impossible. His heart was tender, compassionate, and overflowed with the joy of the Lord and I was completely taken with him.
We met for lunch a few times during December, but I was not getting the sense from him that he thought of me as anything more than a friend. So, I decided not to get my hopes up and to simply enjoy his friendship.
In 2007 I had one year left until I completed my master’s degree at seminary. The end was in sight, and I felt that the Lord had given me a love for missions. I planned to go to Asia as a missionary after graduation. One day my dad called me and asked me to pray about moving to Austin, Texas to live with my Grandparents who were in need of a live-in caretaker. He remembered me saying as a young teenager that if my Grandparents ever needed someone to care for them, that I would like to be the one to do it. I reminded my dad that I had said that many years ago and that my life was quite different now. He knew about my plans after graduation. He knew how busy my life was! I wondered, “How could he ask me to pray about this?” I told my dad that I did not feel as though I could uproot my life at that point and relocate for this reason. I would have to quit my job, postpone completing my degree, and change my plans altogether. At the end of our phone conversation, I agreed to pray about his proposition.
Over the next week the Lord made it abundantly clear that I was to move to Austin, Texas. One of the best things about this process is that He actually gave me the desire to be the caretaker for my grandparents and I could hardly wait to get there. Within three months I quit my job, put school on hold and sold most of my belongings in preparation for my move.
In early March I was having lunch with two of my dearest friends. As we were getting ready to leave when I broke down and told them about my upcoming move. They were so sweet and supportive, although we were all sad about the idea of living apart for the first time in years. We talked a while longer and one of my friends asked, “What does this mean for you and Bradley?” I asked what she meant by that and assured her that he and I were only friends. She raised one eyebrow and said, “Well put it this way, I know from a reliable source that his intentions go beyond friendship.” WHAT???? I was completely stunned. However, I quickly snapped back into reality and reminded my friends that his intentions were irrelevant at this point because I had already committed to move to Austin. I was left to wonder what might has been.
A few days later I was home packing when the phone rang. It was Bradley! He told me how things were going with him and why he had been out of touch for a while. I was really humbled when he told me that his dad had been in a horrific car accident (but was ok) and that he had gone home to help take care of his dad for a while. All that time I assumed he had just lost interest in our friendship.
After explaining to me why he had been out of touch for so long he said, “I am sorry that I have not been clear with you about my intentions with you. I want you to know that I have prayed about this and that it is my intention to pursue you, with marriage as the goal. Would you be open to this?” Well, I replied, I would have, however, I am moving to Texas next month. He replied, “That’s not a problem for me! I want to get to know you no matter where you live.” Needless to say I was completely taken aback by the proposition he had just made. He was asking me to agree to a long distance relationship. I told him I would pray about it. And I did.
Keep in mind that I had less than a few weeks to sell most of my belongings, pack the rest, leave two jobs, finish out a semester of school and do everything else that is involved with moving to another state. All my life I had waited to meet this man and then he came into my life at a time when I was the least prepared to meet him. However, God’s timing is perfect, even though it may conflict with our ideas and plans.
I agreed to a long-distance relationship, but I will confess, I was skeptical as I had never been in a such a relationship before. How was this supposed to work? What does this kind of relationship look like? The next few weeks flew by, and Bradley and I tried to spend as much time together as possible. He helped me pack my belongings and prepare to move. Over that short time, he managed to capture my heart in such a way that there was no doubt in my mind that this man was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Sometimes God gives us gifts when we are least expecting them.
I moved to Austin and began caring for my grandparents. Bradley and I talked on the phone every day and wrote countless letters. He came to visit a few months after I arrived in Austin, and I took him to meet my parents. They loved him from the moment they met him. It was as though the Lord prepared him to fit in with my family perfectly.
He came for another visit on Thanksgiving Day and surprised me by asking me to marry him that weekend. I had no idea he had this planned. He had been talking with my Dad for quite some time about this and had received my parents blessing to ask for my hand in marriage.
Our relationship happened so fast and yet throughout the entire process God’s hand was evident as He revealed to us that we together were part of His plan for our lives. We were married five months after our engagement. We had a small, private wedding with our family and closest friends. It was the most precious day of my life. God’s hand was at work throughout our lives to bring us to each other. As we look back on our single years, both Bradley and I are so thankful that God allowed us as many years as He did to be focused solely on serving Him. We are constantly telling our single friends to get busy serving God. He knows exactly where you are and has already written your life story. When He reveals His plans for your future, you will be amazed at how He planned each step of the way, even the single years. These are the times that you learn to rely solely on Him. You will look back and treasure your single years and all that you learned during them.
After nearly fifteen years of marriage, Bradley and I are more in love now than ever before. With each passing day we learn more about each other, about ourselves, and most importantly, about our Savior. God used our single years to teach us certain things about Himself and is now using marriage to teach us even more. He is intimately concerned with every detail of your life. He desires your sanctification and will bring this about in your life when you are obedient to follow the path that He has made for you.
By way of summary, Bradley and Brittany’s story displays the principles of courtship in at least thirteen ways:
(1) Brittany focused her single years on knowing and actively serving Christ. It was in the midst of this setting that God brought her and Bradley together.
(2) Brittany trusted God to bring the right young man at the right time.
(3) Brittany was constantly in a healthy church and amidst godly friends that encouraged her spiritual growth.
(4) Brittany was committed to uncompromising physical purity in all her relationships.
(5) Brittany was committed to god-honoring feminine modesty and beauty.
(6) Brittany sought, was patient to wait upon, and then joyfully responded to Bradley’s leadership toward marriage.
(7) Even as an independent and self-sufficient young woman, Brittany recognized and honored the protective care and leadership of her father.
(8) Bradley and Brittany’s courtship involved building relationships with their extended family members, further confirming the wisdom and goodness of the relationship.
(9) Bradley sought Brittany’s father’s permission for her hand in marriage before asking her to marry him.
(10) Bradley and Brittany had a short and defined engagement.
(11) By the time of their wedding, both Bradley and Brittany both met all six aspects of essential preparation for marriage.
(12) Bradley and Brittany held a Christ-honoring wedding that was both beautiful and within their budget.
(13) Bradley and Brittany’s courtship and engagement led to the desired end of a joyful and Christ-honoring marriage!
Drew and Esther
I have included Drew and Esther’s story (as told by Drew) for a number of reasons. Drew is very honest and thoughtful in recounting the struggles, and failures, of his high school and early college dating experience. In many ways, I think Drew’s story is typical of most late teen young men that are struggling to “do what is right” before the Lord—but they don’t have enough direction to know what that means. As you will see, this story ends well because Drew would not give up the struggle to do God’s will. As Drew kept seeking God’s best, God kept guiding and forgiving until Drew came to a place of spiritual maturity where he could more clearly understand God’s will concerning his relationships. Then God brought Esther on the scene!
In my (Drew) mind “our story” can’t be separated from my history before my time with Esther. God allowed me to make a lot of poor relationship decisions so that I would be able to learn from those mistakes by the time He brought Esther into my life. Being raised in a Christian home, I was instilled with a number of values and good morals. By the grace of God, I thought they made sense and were reasonable. Because of that, and ultimately because of the Holy Spirit’s guidance, I maintained a physically and emotionally pure lifestyle until late high school. I had a few of the “going-out” relationships prior to high school that most kids and adolescents go through, but although my peers were already taking those relationships to further limits physically I never felt like I should. I think these feelings were a mixture of my upbringing, common sense, and the Holy Spirit’s urging—which was normally being muffled in the back of my mind, but nonetheless protected me until late high school.
Joe, my church youth leader, was probably the first person that took up any meaningful time telling me about relationships, purity, and marriage from a biblical standpoint. He was leading the teenage guys in Bible studies occasionally and was mentoring us a little. It was always a bit confusing trying to understand relationships from a Christian point of view. It was a subject I often heard about, but it was never explained well or deeply, and never backed up by the Bible. Relationships seemed to be a worldly subject, and to be in a relationship as a Christian you were supposed to “not sin.” So that meant, “Don’t go too far?” But what did that mean?
I knew that being in a relationship as a Christian meant more than that, but I had never been instructed on what should happen, or how. How to go from single and alone, to married. Getting to know someone enough that you’d want to marry them, but not end up doing something stupid in the process that you’d regret. Through talks with Joe, and his wife Susan, and some literature that Joe gave me, I learned that focusing on just “not going too far” was not enough. You need to have a whole different mindset for the relationship. The relationship must remain a friendship. If you allow yourselves to get very romantically involved and start talking of love and babies and the future, when you actually don’t know each other very well, then you’re going to end up in a mess. Such things will get you overly attached, and you’ll find it hard to not end up going too far physically or committing to things that you shouldn’t. This advice sounded simple enough to me, and made sense, but I wasn’t quite sure how to carry it out.
At the beginning of my senior year of high school I met Clare (fictional name, but real person). She was the friend of a friend. We first got to know each other by sharing the same lunch period. At first Clare was dating someone else and wasn’t interested in me but that soon changed. When Clare split with her boyfriend, I was also leaving a relationship. I think we were both in “rebound mode” and ended up spending more and more time together. Over time I started liking her but had no desire to be in a relationship. We started hanging out all the time, but called ourselves friends because even though I knew I liked her, she always denied liking me. By the end of high school, regardless of what name may have been attached to it, Clare and I had formed a very close and exclusive relationship. I had allowed myself to hang out with her almost constantly – spending little time with other friends and often seeing her much more than my own family.
I had become fairly attached to her, and she had become in a way dependent upon me. Over that summer during a church retreat that I invited her to, she told me that she liked me a lot. I was pretty surprised because of her consistent stance that she didn’t and just liked me as a friend. I asked her why she wanted to make our relationship more exclusive. If we weren’t going to do any more physically than we currently were, then what would be the difference between “going out” and being “just friends.” I didn’t want to be in a dating relationship with anyone. I didn’t want the stress that went with it, and I didn’t want to do anything stupid that I’d regret. At this point she already had me wrapped around her finger in a way, and when she began to get sad because I didn’t want to be in a dating relationship with her I grudgingly gave in. It felt strange and stupid as I told her, but I was so attached to her that I didn’t want anything to mess up our friendship.
That decision was a turning point. Within a day, we shared our first kiss. Even though I was hesitant at first, in the same way as the previous night, she won me over with her attitude and emotions and I gave in because it would have been awkward and uncomfortable if I didn’t. That became a common theme for the next year and a half. It was the strangest time. I was a follower of Christ (well maybe “believer” would be more accurate for this period because I wasn’t following very well. One step forward and two steps back), but was consistently disobeying His commands and word. It was an emotional roller coaster because I would be happy and enjoy my time with her, and then I would be miserable, angry, and helpless feeling because of my sin with her.
It was also strange because I became attached to her family as well, who all liked me. They looked to me as a sort of spiritual leader. Clare was the weakest of Christians, and though I had known the truth for years, was failing as a spiritual leader. I had unwisely placed myself in a situation where we were both in deep water and I (a mediocre swimmer) was being forced to keep us both from drowning. Our heads would continue to go under the water, and though I would bring us back up occasionally, we were both running out of energy. I feel certain that she was not maliciously trying to lead us astray, but we just never seemed to recognize temptation until after we gave in to it.
As the stronger Christian, I was responsible for leading, and making good choices, and I accepted that responsibility. Unfortunately, as I was often ignoring God. I only had the will power to keep myself from giving in to temptation, but as soon as I had to lead both of us I would fail. A good phrase to describe my feelings for the majority of this time period would be “utter helplessness”. As we were so overly attached to each other I could only see two possible outcomes, with one being more likely. I would either totally have to break off our relationship / friendship and stop talking altogether so that we could just stay away from each other, or since we were taking so many serious emotional and physical steps, we would need to eventually get married.
The latter seemed more likely to happen even though I didn’t feel good about it. Even though I cared a lot for her, inside of me I knew that there were serious problems with our relationship and that we often didn’t get along. I couldn’t even imagine breaking things off with her though because of how attached I had become to her and her family. I was trapped in my sin, and unwilling to follow God’s calling. I knew in my heart that I should just run from the sin, but part of me thought, “If I totally break off this relationship that wouldn’t be loving of me.” It’s amazing how confused and naive you can get when you allow yourself to get closer than you should.
My freshmen year in college I attended a very biblically based Sunday school class for students. Although I didn’t get very involved that year, I was learning from my teacher and his wife some important basics of living for Christ. I was shy and didn’t make any friends there and only hung out with my non-believing dorm mates. My sophomore year I continued at that church and began to get involved in the activities there. As I made new friends that were strong in the Lord it was like a new beginning for me. I began to listen to the Holy Spirit again and not keep Him muffled in the back of my heart. This awakening gave me new happiness as I became more serious about my relationship with God and saw what a blessing it was to be around people that were positive influences on me.
Although I was still keeping up with Clare, the relationship had soured terribly and I wanted out—completely. I wasn’t sure how to pull away from it. We were still very involved, normally talking on the phone for two and three hours a day. As I began to pull away, she became more desperate to not let me go. When I talked of just being friends she would get mad, or sad, or whatever it took for me to change my mind. She still had a lot of control over me and convinced me to visit her at college one last time around Halloween, “just as friends” since I hadn’t come in months. I later discovered that her purpose for the trip was to woo me into staying in the relationship. During my visit, I shamefully fell back into some of my old sin with her.
God greatly convicted me of my sin and used the trip to finally embolden me to end the relationship. When I left her school that weekend, in my mind, we were finally over completely. My complete and utter disgust with myself for giving into temptation again caused me to run from her and the relationship. I didn’t want to talk with her anymore because it reminded me of my sin. Even though it hurt me to hurt her feelings, I was tired of being directed by her feelings. I would be friendly when we talked, but I wouldn’t be more than that, and I was very brief, because I genuinely wanted to be off the phone. She was very hurt by the whole process, but slowly stopped calling me after a few months. When I would see her back in our hometown it would be awkward, and for over a year she would tell me she couldn’t get over me.
That relationship started wrong, was carried out wrong, ended badly, and resulted in two hurt and scared people with memories that they shouldn’t have made.
That fall (2005) I began to draw closer to the Lord and started reading books about godly relationships. Things had gone so wrong with Clare and I, that I wanted to be prepared for my next relationship. These books brought into focus things I had been learning about carrying out a relationship in a Godly way, and getting to know someone enough to want to marry them, but doing it in a way not leading to sin or regrets. The best thing about it, was that it was full of examples, anecdotes, and true stories (much like the one I’m now accounting) of people doing things wrong, and right, and eventually finding how God led them to each other. It was so encouraging to read of others who had gone through the same struggles that I had and were able to eventually go on to godly relationships and healthy marriages. Mentoring I was getting at church was also very influential and gave me hope for the future. I also gained a sense of contentment with where I was. I wasn’t looking for a relationship, but I wasn’t sad or lonely. I was just enjoying life and hanging out with my church friends, working in the community, going on mission trips, and just getting closer to God through prayer and studying His Word.
As I made friends at church I met two girls that were a few years older than me. They were friendly and helped me get plugged in with the church college group. I was eventually invited to a birthday party for their roommate, Esther, whom I had never met. There were so many new faces that I didn’t really focus much on Esther. As I occasionally came by their place with other friends to hang out, I would usually only see Esther for a few moments. At the time she worked an internship with strange hours and was normally out. However, over time she began to really capture my attention in the spring of 2006.
Esther had completed her internship, which created more social time in her schedule. Beyond her general kindness and personality, I noticed that she had a real servant’s heart. She would do things for people, not anything flashy, but little things here and there just because she liked to. She would make people food, clean up after people, let her roommate use her car whenever she needed to (because she didn’t have one). She also taught Sunday school for kindergarteners at church and was employed as a social worker. Esther had a fun personality that was different in a way that I enjoyed. She was more genuine. She liked to rearrange an entire room’s furniture on a whim. She enjoyed trying to make a new kind of food from scratch that she’d never made before (At this moment she just finished baking Challah bread. It’s delicious.). She suddenly decided to pick a cherry tree in the woods and make preserves from it. She loved being outdoors and liked to have picnics on hikes in beautiful places. She would go and pick up friends’ dogs from their houses and take them on hikes with her.
On top of that she had stronger convictions than her roommates seemed to. It especially caught my attention when she got up and left when a movie that a group of friends were watching began to get graphic. Normally, I was the only person that would do that. It meant a lot to me that she had strong personal convictions about holiness. She had been on six mission trips with our church and Samaritan’s Purse when we met (Ghana, Bolivia, New Orleans twice, Turkey, Paris), and was considering being part a team for an indefinite amount of time that were starting an orphanage in Africa.
All these things, plus so many other quirks and characteristics, revealed Esther’s godly character. I knew she would be a great wife and mother, and that I loved being around her. She brought out the best in me, instead of the worst. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t looking to find someone, nor was anyone coming after me. Instead, I noticed someone because of their godly characteristics and just felt compelled to pursue them. I felt confident about her being “the one” in late fall 2006 and felt certain that God was leading me to her by the following spring, but I wasn’t sure how to approach her with my feelings.
I just continued observing her and being her friend. It was important to me to make sure that I could marry her before I ever approached her. I knew that the Bible never supports some sort of half-hearted relationship that seems so common today. I was tired of that kind of relationship. I knew that neither Esther nor I would profit from it. I needed to focus and be completely certain of my feelings for her, and that God wanted us to be together before I initiated anything. After much prayer and consideration, I built up the most courage I’ve possibly ever had and on May 8, 2007 told her that I had feelings for her.
I told her that I would like to begin the sort of relationship with her that would remain a friendship but be aimed at getting to know her to see if we should get married. She was silent for a while. Then said she was very surprised and had no idea that I liked her (punch to the gut!). She said that the next boyfriend she had would be her husband. I repeated that the intent would be towards marriage. She said that she would have to pray about it, so I got up, took the vacuum that she was giving me and my roommates (my excuse for coming over, though we really needed it) and left. I felt so dumb! I was so sure she liked me, and then as it turned out, it hadn’t crossed her mind. She didn’t know I liked her (even though apparently a number of her friends told her that they thought I liked her, but she didn’t believe them). I just prayed for peace on the way home and then tried not to think about it.
The next afternoon she asked me to come over to talk and said that we could try to get to know each other better. Over the next three months we hung out a little more and tried to talk and learn more about each other. It was mostly her learning about me because I had already done my observing of her for over a year. On August 5th, I approached her again and asked her how she felt about us. She said that she liked me a lot and was acting like we were already in a relationship—I guess we were. From this point I started focusing more. I had done so much thinking, reading, and praying about relationships since my last one, that I knew I had my work ahead of me, but I was excited and felt mostly prepared for what I thought should happen.
I received wise council from my cousin who had courted his wife before marriage and he encouraged me to, among other things, approach her father from the outset to ask for his permission to be in the relationship with her. Even though Esther was twenty-four at the time and living alone in a different city from them, he thought that it would show respect and from the outset bring her family into the relationship. This early permission from her parents hadn’t crossed my mind but seemed smart and proved to be so. The first time I approached Esther’s father might have taken more courage than did asking Esther her, but it certainly was worth it! He agreed to our courtship and was thankful that I asked.
Esther and I decided to keep our relationship exactly as it had been before, focused fully on the development of our friendship, only it would now be intentionally aimed at considering marriage. We set strict guidelines at the beginning to have no physical contact, no talking of lovey dovey things, or anything of the sort. She told me that she really appreciated that I laid that out firmly at the outset of the relationship. I also wanted to have occasional progress checks of how things were going with her. What she was feeling like, what she liked that we were doing, if we were doing anything we shouldn’t be, other things she’d like to know about me, etc. Above all I just wanted to go extremely slow with the relationship and not push her into anything or get in over our heads. I already knew I wanted to marry her, but I wouldn’t be graduating until May 2008, so I knew we couldn’t get married anytime soon. All we had was time, so we needed to take advantage of it and not rush. In my experience, rushing always led to regrets.
Time really flew by during this season. We remained friends, and gradually hung out more often, but made an effort to not go overboard with time together. It was almost as if God had planned it out to work perfectly if we followed His Word, because everything went perfectly—really! We went slowly, and it was a different feeling to go slow. It really made the whole process so much easier and not stressful. We weren’t physical, we weren’t worried about what the other was thinking, or worried about anything, because we weren’t doing anything that would make us feel stressed or awkward or jealous, or any other negative feeling.
Eventually, we held hands for the first time, and she gave me our first hug in November. At this point, I was finishing up my next to last semester of college and from what I had heard from Esther in our talks, I knew that the Lord had given her a peace about marriage. My cousin had earlier encouraged me to not have a long, drawn-out engagement period. If you give yourself too much time during that season it can lead to impurity because of overworked and unfulfilled passion. I’m very thankful for that advise. Our engagement was just over six months, but it still seemed like it would never end. I don’t think it would have been healthy for us if it had lasted any longer.
In mid-December I chose the ring that I planned to give to Esther. Luckily, one of her close friends had told me that she preferred rubies over diamonds. In Proverbs, a virtuous woman’s worth is compared to rubies, which seemed fitting to me since I found Esther’s virtue to be far more valuable than any gem I could afford. I knew in my heart that her parents were going to be happy for us to wed, so I wasn’t worried when I purchased the ring two days before asking her father. Once I did approach her parents about asking Esther to marry me, they gave their full blessing.
I proposed on January 5th on a grassy hill during a sunset. It was a strange feeling, but it was so exciting. We tried to maintain the same sort of non-physical friendship during the engagement, but the passion we had for each other grew fast! We began spending much more time together. During this season, we kept most of the same rules as before, and I continued to do occasional progress checks to make sure we were in line with our goals and boundaries. Our engagement flew by, but we had enough time to plan a beautiful wedding. We were glad that it went quickly, because even though we had maintained purity for so long, the separation made us even more passionate about each other. We were married on June 21, 2008. For our honeymoon, we went to a place that was very relaxing and not very busy so that we would have lots of time to spend together undistracted by other things. We were able to focus on each other and it was wonderful!
I am so thankful to have been blessed with direction and knowledge about biblical courtship just when I needed it most. It was like the blossoming of a wonderful friendship that just progressed in a positive direction all the way to marriage. Since being married I have realized on countless occasions that we have a special marriage that produces a joy that other young couples don’t have. Esther and I have both had our co-workers talk to us about our marriage and been surprised, and at times confused or almost in disbelief, that we didn’t sleep together first or live together first. Or that currently we don’t have fights or argue about common issues like money. As we meet other couples living together, as well as married couples, we are finding more and more often that our relationship is abnormally agreeable, loving, faithful, and positively beneficial for both of us. I am certain that this is because we are both believers and followers of Christ, but beyond that, it is also because we planned for marriage and slowly got to know each other.
That doesn’t mean that we always agree on everything, but we do agree on topics of eternal worth, and we are both loving, understanding, and attentive to each other’s needs and desires. Circumstances that might have been rough for us, have always worked out with relative ease as we seek to follow God’s direction for our lives. Delaying gratification early in our relationship has paid off in spades now as we are married and living as one, peacefully and very happily. I can’t recommend enough for others to take the same approach to relationships. Whether the final result is marriage or not, if you take it slowly and only as friends, it won’t leave the same emotional scars and regrets that seem to always result from the average dating relationship.
By way of summary, Drew and Esther’s story displays the principles of courtship in at least fourteen ways:
(1) Eventually Drew came under enough conviction that he made a clean break with a cycle of sinful and destructive dating relationships.
(2) Drew began to seek the Lord (personally and in a healthy church setting) in a fresh and personally motivated way. This resulted in rapidly increasing spiritually maturity.
(3) Drew reset his commitment to physical purity, and by God’s grace, stuck to it.
(4) Drew did not rush into another relationship quickly but found his meaning and purpose in serving and living for Christ.
(5) Drew seriously worked toward financial self-sufficiency through applying himself and building marketable job skills.
(6) After observing and interacting with a godly young woman in a group setting, Drew sought the counsel of his parents.
(7) Drew stated his intentions of potential marriage at the outset of his conversations with Ester.
(8) After a positive response from Esther, Drew went and expressed his intentions to Ester’s father—to bring the relationship under his authority.
(9) Drew and Esther’s courtship was focused on the building of a friendship and continued discipleship (personally and in the church). Their courtship was also governed by strict purity guidelines.
(10) When it became clear that they wanted to marry, Drew sought the permission of Ester’s father before asking Esther to marry him.
(11) Drew and Esther had a short and defined engagement.
(12) By the time of their wedding, both Drew and Esther met all six aspects of essential preparation for marriage.
(13) Drew and Esther held a Christ-honoring wedding that was both beautiful and within the budget of their families.
(14) Drew and Esther’s courtship and engagement led to the desired end of a joyful and Christ-honoring marriage.
It is my hope that this book will inspire young adults to marry and give them the guidance necessary to bridge the gap between singleness and marriage. Below is a brief summary of the general courtship principles outline in this book. May God bless and guide your journey!
- It is God’s normal plan for men and women to marry (Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 7:1-2, 8-9).
- Years of singleness should be focused on devoted service to Christ (1 Corinthians 7:8-9, 32-35).
- It is right and good for parents to raise their children with an expectation of future marriage, and to accordingly prepare them for their respective role in marriage.
- It right and good for parents of young adults to serve as guiding authorities to help usher their prepared children into marriage, or to bar them from error, as the case may be.
- It is right and good for young people to desire the companionship of marriage and to work hard to prepare themselves for it.
- It is right and good for a young man to pursue a young woman for marriage when he is appropriately prepared to do so and has the blessing of his and her father.
- It is right and good for a young woman to respond to the overtures of a virtuous young man when she is appropriately prepared to do so and has the blessing of her father.
- It is right and good that prepared young men and women marry and bear children, and by this glorify God, increase their own happiness, and increase the stability and strength of society.