[Finding My Voice is a series of blog posts on key decisions I made in my 20s.]
Defining Decision: To marry Tim
Since my previous post was about the decision to date Tim, it seemed only appropriate to continue with my decision to marry Tim. In writing about the marriage decision, I’m really going to be writing about what the dating/courtship process looked like for me (and us.) [Disclaimer: this was the way we approached the subject; just because we did it this way, doesn’t mean we think it’s for everyone.]
Looking through my old files tonight, I came across something I wrote three days before Tim officially asked me out. I think it gives you a sense of what was going on in my heart at the time, so I’ll let you read a snippet of it:
So here I am feeling like I’m on the verge of something great. Like I’m sitting in my car at the intersection, waiting for the light to turn green. The other set of lights are already yellow and just about to turn red. But I’m afraid of what it’ll be like once our light turns green. Oh Lord, help us keep a good pace.
I’m afraid of opening up. I know I’m selfish and independent. I’m an only child who fights against herself to care and consider others. I’m afraid of hurting him. And I know I will. Just as he will hurt me. Dare I risk the pain? Logically, the “big rocks” are right. But what if it isn’t? What if the light turns green and it’s all a huge mistake that came out of nowhere?
Love requires sacrifice. Am I willing to let go of myself? To love another? Life is so comfortable on my own. But I suppose that’s why God gives us people to love. So that we learn that life’s not about ourselves. It feels odd to write about loving Tim. In so many ways, we’re still such strangers. I suppose love is an organic thing that can grow. But really God, I feel like I’m about to enter a courting relationship without feeling “in love”. There are many things I admire about him, but it’s not like I’m super attracted to him emotionally. It’s all very new and exciting, like he said. But will You take it beyond the intellectual and transform my heart? I almost feel like I’m saying yes out of obedience to You. Is this really the desire of my heart? Only You know, Lord. I want to know him better. That much is for sure.
From the get-go, we defined courtship as this: an exclusive relationship with the intentional building of a deeper friendship to the goal of discerning compatibility for marriage. We decided that although the term “courtship” described the type of relationship for us, it sounded out of place in our everyday conversations. So we agreed to use the language of “dating” instead.
Just how would we discern if we were compatible for marriage? Aside from the generally expected notions of whether we enjoyed each other’s company and felt attraction toward each other (i.e., if we were good friends), we wanted to consider several other factors:
- Discovering whether being together glorifies God more than being apart.
- Commitment and adjustment – could we live committed to each other and adjust to each other for the long run?
- Could we resolve conflicts as they arise?
- Inviting our families and others to give input into our relationship; keep us accountable; treat each other fairly, pray for us, give us insight, help us resolve conflict
- Respecting each other’s time. We would give ourselves the maximum of 2 years to arrive at a decision about marriage. (Side note: at the time, I wanted 3 years. But in the end, I was ready with my decision before the 2 year mark!)
Additionally, I needed to answer this question for myself: Can I trust Tim to lead me and our future family well?
At the start of our courtship, Tim’s mom gave us a piece of advice that we thought was wise to heed. Being a counselor, she sees many marriages in trouble, so she advised us to let ourselves date through all four seasons – literally and figuratively. Agreeing to give ourselves a minimum of one year and a maximum of two years gave us the freedom not to rush things, but also not to drag things out. It also allowed us to see each other in the various ups and downs that a year could contain. I appreciated this perspective because it gave me confidence in my choice to marry Tim. I had seen him in difficult and stressful times, and he had seen me in similar times. I had also seen how he responded to me in those situations and he had seen how I responded.
I knew I was ready to say yes to marrying Tim when I could see that we did work well together (we served together at the same small church plant when I moved out to BC for 5 months shortly after we started dating); when I could say in all truthfulness that despite our quirks and differences, I was ready to choose to love and adjust to him for the long haul; when we had had practice bringing up hurts and working through conflicts (this was and continues to be an area of growth for us!); and when the people closest to us gave us positive feedback about our relationship.
In deciding to marry Tim, I knew I was making a choice. I was choosing to love this man (not the mushy romantic feeling kind of love, but love that sought the best for him regardless). I was choosing to risk being hurt. I was choosing to let this “other” expand my little world and move me toward being more selfless. And I could make this choice because I got to know him well enough to say I could trust him fully.
Here’s Tim’s version of the story.