Every so often, I see a magazine cover story with a headline that reads something like this: “How I lost 100 pounds!” Usually in the market to lose a few pounds myself, I’m sucked in. The article typically tells the stories of three or four people and how they lost the weight. Each story is different, but each one also offers some helpful tips and ideas on getting the job done.
You may be wondering what that has to do with this article. Well, if you’ve read Boundless for any length of time, you know we encourage Christian single men to move toward marriage and pursue women in a godly way. But I often read letters from single guys who want to be married but seem a bit mystified by how to go from admiring a young lady to marrying her.
All the advice out there can make the process seem daunting. And it doesn’t help that movies, TV shows and even married friends can make marriage look like an ending rather than an exciting beginning (See “Giving Marriage a Chance“).
With that in mind, I set out to accomplish two things with this article: 1) I wanted to give several real examples of how Christian guys went through the process of pursuing their wives; 2) I wanted to hear these guys talk about why marriage is worth it. My goal was not to propose a formula for getting married. If anything, I think these stories demonstrate that each journey to marriage is different, but all work best when God is a major factor. My hope would be that whether you’re a guy or a girl — single or married — you would take away a gem or two from each story.
“I Got the Sense to Ask Her Out”
The first time Matt met Emily, they sat across from each other at a friend’s birthday party. “I thought she was extremely attractive and fun to talk to,” he says.
The 26 year old had never had a girlfriend. But growing up with godly parents who had been married for more than 30 years, Matt had a positive view of marriage. “I just had to meet that person,” he says.
After meeting Emily, Matt got to know her better at a few group events during the following months. But when summer hit, his job kept him too busy for a social life.
“I hadn’t seen her in a while,” the six-year Army veteran says. “I figured she was dating someone, and I realized that made me sad and a little jealous because I knew how great she was.”
But a few months later, he had the opportunity to see her again at a game night. “I was happy to learn that though she’d been on dates, none of them had been that great,” he says. The following day, when the group of friends met up again, Matt and Emily had a great conversation by the fireplace. “I was starting to come to my senses,” he says. “I got the sense to ask her out, a day or two before Thanksgiving, and the rest is history!”
That history didn’t begin smoothly. Their first date took place on a snowy evening. “On my way to pick her up, my truck hit an ice patch, and I planted my red Toyota firmly against the side of a light pole — totaling it,” Matt says. “I called her to let her know I would be late, and like the angel she is, she came and met me at the site of the accident. After the police left, she followed me in my barely drivable truck to my apartment.”
Matt was still determined to take Emily out. “After putting her through the night so far, she deserved to be treated,” he says. “I borrowed my friend’s truck, and we went to dinner. We both had a wonderful time.
“After that we continued to spend as much time together as possible. My parents came out for Christmas, and we had dinner with them. They were absolutely blown away by her.”
From that point on, Matt knew he wanted to marry Emily. “As I got to know her, our relationship progressed so naturally that marrying her was the next step. It was such an easy decision. Not marrying her seemed like the worst idea ever.”
The couple married on July 10, 2009, and Matt considers it one of the best decisions he’s ever made. “Having your best friend around all the time is amazing,” he says. “I have learned to connect with her on so many different levels. She loves me — despite me — with all my faults and quirks. Having her to share life with is so wonderful that it’s difficult to describe.”
“I Hated Dating”
Don was excited about the possibility of marriage but didn’t care for dating.
“It felt like there was so much pressure to do everything just right from the beginning,” the Southerner says. “The girls I knew, in particular, made dating really hard for guys — though I don’t think they realized it. If a guy ever did anything wrong in a dating relationship, they all talked about it to each other and effectively ruined that guy’s reputation and his chances of being able to date again.
“This made dating very unattractive to me, and I was unwilling to go there with a girl, even though I knew I wanted to be married.”
Don gives God credit for changing his heart. “He had to teach me a lot about what it meant to be a man before I was ready to lead the woman He wanted to give me,” the 32 year old says. “Because of my fears and disdain toward dating, I wasn’t willing to risk much with my female friendships. Yet God was trying to teach me that men are designed to take risks — to enter with confidence into situations where we don’t know the outcome.”
I needed to worry less about the results of a dating relationship and more about how I would care for a woman’s heart. Once I had learned that lesson, I felt that — maybe for the first time — I was ready to be in a relationship.”
That’s when Don got creative. He worked at a ministry where he was the only single guy in an office with eight single women. “At the time, they had all gotten hooked on the TV show ‘The Bachelor.’ So one day, they all arrived at the office with a rose on their desks and an email from me portraying myself as ‘The Office Bachelor.’ They had been entered into a contest where they would have to compete with each other for the prize of a date with me. I would pay for dinner and an event of their choosing if they won the contest.”
Don wanted to be sensitive to the feelings of the women, so he kept the contest lighthearted, emailing them made-up, humorous reasons for why each contestant was eliminated.
The winner was Courtney, a woman Don had been friends with for a year. “While I didn’t have romantic interest in her at the time, I learned a lot about her that I really liked,” Don says, “her creativity and playfulness, her tenderheartedness and even a little bit of a competitive edge, which I hadn’t seen before.”
After the contest ended, Don and Courtney spent a lot of time together at church and with friends. “When we finally began dating, I already felt like I knew her so well. We only dated for two months before I proposed.”
Married for eight years now, Don is glad he took the risk. “One of the things I have loved most about marriage is how Courtney has enabled me to be a better man than I could have been on my own,” he says. “She has been so supportive and encouraging of me and of my desires to pursue my dreams.
“I have also loved the companionship aspect of marriage — the joy that comes from shared history over our accumulated years. The ways that we know what each other is thinking in a certain situation, or how a funny movie line makes us think of a specific memory, or simply how our ‘home’ is created by a sense of being known. This kind of love is what comes from being committed to each other, even in the hard times — and it is so worth it.”
“God Changed my Preconceptions”
As a 30-something, Ryan was beginning to wonder if he’d ever get married.
“I went from feeling like I was really ready for marriage in my early 20s,” he says, “to feeling like I was completely ill-prepared by the time I was 30.”
The constant pressure he felt from others didn’t help. “I was facing a lot of concern from family, friends and even strangers wondering why I was not yet married,” he says. “It was difficult to be constantly questioned about the topic by nearly everyone I knew and not feel some anxiety about it.”
But Ryan’s concern led to a breakthrough. “I committed to pray regularly about my marriage and future wife, whoever she was. I knew that my heart’s desire was to get married, and I believed that God would give me the desire of my heart as He promises in His Word.”
Ryan had known Dannah, a fellow engineer where he worked, for six years. During that time, her strong faith and zest for life had not escaped his notice. “My initial observation was, ‘Dannah is alive!’ She was full of fun and joy and expressed strong character and love for God.”
Still, Ryan didn’t see Dannah as anything more than a friend. “Only months before we began dating, the Lord gently dismantled some preconceptions that had prevented me from considering a relationship with her,” Ryan says.
One of those hurdles was the fact that Dannah was a coworker, and Ryan had made a commitment to treat all the women on staff strictly as sisters in Christ. More specifically, he says, “I had decided that I would not like to be in a relationship with another engineer and someone serving in the same ministry.”
God changed Ryan’s thinking. “He helped me realize there was more to her (and me) than our professions and that He could call us to serve in ministry anywhere.”
That discovery led to another. “God distinctly impressed upon me that He was asking me to risk,” Ryan says. “I had to step out in faith and risk being rejected. I needed to do my part, which was to actively pursue Dannah, express my interest in her and risk the possibility that it may not be reciprocated.”
After years of working together — with Ryan mostly in India and Dannah at the headquarters in Colorado — their romance suddenly ignited. “Our relationship began by faith, in a miraculous window of just a few days together in Colorado,” Ryan recalls. “I was home for my brother’s wedding, and I asked her to dinner and coffee on a Thursday night. The following evening, I expressed my interest in her, and she responded with joy.” (What Ryan didn’t know, was that Dannah had been interested in him for a long time.)
The next few days were a whirlwind as Ryan met Dannah’s family and helped her prepare to leave for a ministry trip to Sudan. The night before she flew out, the two stayed up talking and praying. “We were able to enjoy the few days together, filled with grace and fresh love, and trusted that God would sustain us until we could be together again. Our relationship was (and is) a gift from God, because He is good and kind. We did not strive for it or try to make it happen ourselves — all we could do was receive it with joy and thankfulness.”
The couple continued their relationship long-distance during the next 10 months until Dannah came to India to serve with Ryan on a project. It was then that he asked her to be his wife. They were married on Sept. 10, 2010, surrounded by family and friends, who Ryan says, “have celebrated our relationship and rejoiced with us in God’s spectacular plan for our lives together.”
The couple continues to serve together in India. Of married life, Ryan says, “One of the greatest joys is having Dannah present with me in so many life experiences, especially in serving together in ministry to the poor. We see clearly how our individual gifts complement each other so that together we serve more effectively. We are so thankful for one another.”
Copyright 2012 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.