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Baby, you're all that I want...

When I was single I read just about every courtship, dating and marriage book on the market.  Everything from, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" to "Boundaries in Dating" landed in my hot little hands, rested in a stack on my nightstand, took up room on my book shelf.  I'll admit to seeming obsessed, although in all honesty, I just wanted to be prepared.  I wanted to know how relationships worked.  I wanted to make sure I chose the right guy and avoided the wrong one.  I wanted to find someone who wouldn't beat me silly or demean me and definitely wanted to find someone who wouldn't make ugly babies.  It was important.  This was the rest of my life - the majority of my life - we were talking about.

And most importantly, I had to make darn sure he was Christian enough for me to go on a date with in the first place.

In my high school years I was a big proponent of the courtship movement.  It seemed to be really big around that time, lots of books, lots of home school support (and not for an entirely poor reasoning, either.)  I enveloped the idea of God knowing who was best for me and trusting my parents with an old-world control over who I would accept a diamond from.  It was a very safe approach and one where I seemingly would not get hurt.  What was the point in dating someone if I wasn't going to consider marrying them?  So, marriage material they must be.  From the first date.  I had read once that dating only teaches us how to do short-term relationships - so basically we just get "divorced" over and over again throughout our single years.  But courtship.... but analyzing the guy completely before any deal was struck - well - this would surely put me on the path for a love worth the next 60 years.

There are some errors in this way of thinking - and maybe it depends on the individual - but for me, thinking this way put me in such a tailspin, such an obsessive place and mindset of "Marriage!  Marriage! Marriage!"  It wasn't about getting to know the guy sitting across from me at Pizza Hut.  It was about whether he went to church every week.  Whether or not he knew how to dress respectfully for Sunday morning worship services.  That he was Reformed Presbyterian just like me; a five point Calvinist.  He had to have and be all these things - be prepared to be a husband, have a strong mind when it came to his personal finances, not live in his parent's basement, etc., etc., etc.

Just before I turned eighteen, I got asked to attend a high school dance with a boy I'd been sharing shy glances with since the sixth grade.  I was giddy as all get out and I was allowed to attend because it wasn't a "date date", per se, it was a school dance.  Six months later, he invited me to attend his senior prom with him and I was again allowed to go.  This is kind of where my courtship desires unraveled.  Maybe it's because I got my first taste of young love.  Maybe it's because I got to wear a fancy dress and he wore a tux.  Maybe it was the twinkle lights.  But whatever it was, suddenly I wanted relationship and I wanted this boy and he wanted me and hey, why not?  A year of flirtation followed before we were officially a couple.  And then it all fizzled within months because I was ready for serious and he wasn't even sure what he wanted in life.  We were all of nineteen.  I can't say I blame him completely, looking back.  We were babies.

From that point on, I developed a pseudo form of courtship... meaning, I didn't date whoever.  I dated guys who I truly felt held potential to one day be a great husband and father.  I said "Yes." to a lot of first dates, a lot of blind dates... and some of them were really, really bad.

Because I was my church's pianist from around age fifteen until twenty-eight, I was the perfect candidate for marriage to a young pastor or seminary student.  Anyone who was studied or serious or wore suits on a regular basis seemed like a good fit to those around me.  And hey, if I married a pastor, then I could insure that he would focus on things like private prayer, focused quiet time and he'd always know how to treat me like the rare treasure that I was.  If I married someone older, then hey, possibly even better - at least this is what a lot of people felt would be a perfect match for me.  I can't say I knew what was best for me.... Looking back, I really had a very limited clue about who I even was, let alone what kind of man would suit me, compliment me, challenge me to grow.

Not only did my qualifications stretch from, "He has to love God" but they became extremely detailed. He couldn't just believe Jesus died for his sins - he had to believe all these other things, he had to agree with the church doctrine I grew up with, he had to be older than me, smarter than me, able to "lead".  Someone who prayed over his Burger King every day.  Being where I am now (married, mothering, loved) I can look back and see that many of those things would have left me feeling controlled, not cared for.  It seems that I was (and everyone else was) looking for someone to take care of me.  Not protect me, necessarily, but someone who would keep me in line.  And had I married someone who was so "above me", I would have lived my whole life feeling snuffed out.  If I had ever grown enough to realize that's what was happening.

Fast forward to my twenty-seventh year of life.  I'd been on lots of dates.  I'd had a handful of serious boyfriends - some fit the mold perfectly and others were a form of rebellion, a reflection that my heart was tired of hoping and trying to find "the perfect fit".  It got so bad that oftentimes the good guys treated me worse than the bad guys and so I was left wondering, "What's the point?!" and why was it so wrong to just love and be loved and let everything else shift into place, instead of stressing and forcing like an evil round of Rubix cube?  I got hurt and I struggled and I made mistakes and I ended up in a season of singledom that was liberating and I ran with it.

I found myself truly content being me.  And that's because I had gone through things, sat in the middle of my bed talking to God and had been placed in a world with amazing girlfriends who were strong, passionate and unafraid to embrace life right now vs. waiting on some Mr. Perfect List guy to come along and make their worlds go round.  I decorated my apartment and bought dishes I liked and invested in things I wanted vs. waiting for a wedding band to allow me to shop regularly at Bed, Bath and Beyond and Target.  I was creative and alive and I went to movies and out to breakfast and ballets.

And when a friend told me she had met this guy I just "had" to meet, I was skeptical.  For one reason, she had set me up the weekend before and it was a total bust.  I trusted her judgement, but at the same time I was sick and tired of meeting guys who weren't worth their salt.  I somewhat reluctantly emailed the address she had Post-It noted to my desk and a few days later, I had a date at a local Mexican restaurant to meet this guy.  This guy whom I knew very little about.  He sold tractors and was from Indiana, same as me, so I assumed he was a good ol' country boy.... and this made my heart sink.  What was the likelihood of him being this awesome, upstanding guy who loved God and wanted to make babies with me?

I purposefully dressed down for our date.  Even my Mom gave me a questioning glance and said, "Is that what you're wearing?" as I slipped my sunglasses on the top of my head to hold my hair back.  She had seen me prepare for dates before.  This was not how I prepared for dates.  I told her that yes, this is what I was wearing and as soon as we had finished our chimichangas, I was hitting the road and going back to my cat and my apartment and my awesome life of crepes on Sunday morning after church with my best friend.

And then my silly heart tipped over inside my rib cage the first time I saw Aaron.

Dinner went famously despite my prior negativity and trepidation (I had called my best friend on the way there and actually CRIED.  This guy was going to be like every last one of them and I was over it and couldn't I just skip tonight altogether?  Ironically, she was out eating Mexican at the time with the guy she ended up marrying, too.)  We lolly-gagged over chips and salsa until it was like - okay, what do we do now?  The night was young and so were we and so we opted to go walk around at a nearby park vs. ending the date.

We walked and walked.  We sat up on a picnic table and talked about our lives, our jobs, things we wanted to do.  I found out he'd grown up in church but had spent the past few years doing his own thing.  Shockingly, I didn't write him off.  I could sense his sincerity when he said he wanted to get back to his roots, to the things he had been taught - out of the rat-race of the past few years.  He jokes that I was nothing but difficult that night, but he could tell I had serious walls up.  I melted a bit when he seemed to see through my smart-alecky shell and said, "You're really just a sweetheart, aren't you?"  Crap.  He'd found me out.  I wasn't rough and tough.  I was a woman who wanted to get married and be barefoot and pregnant and gosh darn it, he knew it from day one.

I didn't fall in love with Aaron because he fit a list of qualifications that made him good enough for me to consider.  I fell in love with Aaron because he's Aaron.  I fell in love with a guy who kissed me on the forehead before he ever really kissed me.  I fell in love with a guy who admitted to messing up, making mistakes and wanting better.  I fell in love with a guy who didn't give two whits about church doctrine but cared more about what the Bible said and how to flesh that out in daily life.  I was frustrated.  I was challenged.  I was growing.

The thing is... I could have missed out on it all.  I could have missed out on someone who really, really loves me and who really, really leads me and takes care of me and who encourages my independence and my strengths.  I could have married someone who went by the book and who had a personality duller than cardboard.  But instead I married a real man and we have a real life.  And it is beautiful and it is grace-giving and it's a challenge and we get messy... and it follows no rules of "Christian couples do x, y and z."  We love each other, we love God, we love our boys.  I'm embarrassed by the legalism of my past "Future Husband List Must Haves".  I had no idea what I ultimately needed or what would make me truly happy... or best: what would have the potential to be used by God for holiness.

And for the record, we make super cute babies.


"When one loves somebody 
everything is clear - where to go,
what to do - it all takes care of itself
and one doesn't have to ask 
anybody about anything."
~ M a x i m   G o r k y 

Comments

  1. Love this, Laura. So similar to my own story. Love this, Love you, Love your heart!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love what you say near the end: "I could have married someone who went by the book and who had a personality duller than cardboard. But instead I married a real man and we have a real life. And it is beautiful and it is grace-giving and it's a challenge..."

    Aaaaaaamen! I am so thankful for my rough-and-tumble, UFC-loving, sci-fi-watching, inappropriate-joke-cracking, foul language-spewing, obscure comic book-adoring, sweet sweet sweet sweet man of a husband. He loves God and others, prays diligently, thinks intelligently, is soooo good with children, does more than his share of the chores without complaint, gives of himself, and constantly seeks the best for our family. We are never going to be "bored" as long as he's around.

    Praise God for your Aaron!

    ReplyDelete
  3. i love this! i know i've said it before, but i truly hope that i am half as blessed as you are one day. and i will probably say it a thousand more times too. i know God has a plan, but its so cool to read about the journey you have taken, and what its like to be on the other end of it. there must be hope for me yet!

    beautiful family, and the most adorable kids ever :)

    -jodi

    ReplyDelete

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