Rebekah blogs about recipes, writing, and family life with her sweet new baby girl, Ellie, over at A Mad Tea Party. I was so glad when she asked to share her love story here! Without further ado...
I was knee-deep in textbooks and half-folded sweatshirts. Saturday morning in my dorm room at Hillsdale College, and I'd just started to unpack: I had arrived back in Michigan the night before, and was gearing up for a fabulous spring semester. In a couple of months I would graduate and head home to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Now it was time to dig in for my last academic hurrah.
"Your mom is on the phone too."
"Crap. What did I do this time?"
"Ha, ha. Nothing."
"So what's going on?"
"I had breakfast with Jared Randolph this morning."
That is when Daddy called.
People are usually skeptical when I tell them that. Really? After lacking any interest whatsoever in this boy, I agreed to date him just like that? Yes, I do solemnly swear. I had good reasons. First off, I felt that God had been preparing me for a relationship all year. More specifically, Jared and I had talked several times the previous summer and again over Christmas Break (of course this was part of his strategy but I didn't know it at the time), and because of those conversations my opinion of him had really changed: I thought he was smart, interesting, and funny. Everyone I knew respected him and that spoke volumes to me. Besides, he was pretty cute.
I called Daddy back. I said yes.
Back to the story. Once my father gave Jared got the go-ahead, he sat down and wrote a letter. A real pen and paper letter, you bet. I checked my mailbox twice a day until the blessed envelope arrived. As I read, I was astonished to find out that Jared had been interested in me since the spring of 2008, exactly the time that I'd felt a push towards marriage myself. He had actually been studying abroad in Germany and for no reason whatsoever. found himself thinking about me; we hadn't communicated for months! Yet there I was in his head, and apparently, I wouldn't go away. Jared mulled over this newfound interest all semester (while in Germany), then all summer (while we were both back in Lancaster), then all fall (when, still oblivious, I had gone back to Hillsdale). He wasn't sure whether he should keep it under his hat, or bite the bullet and ask me out. He talked to people and he prayed. A lot. He did know that he liked several things about me-- and I'm sure I don't know what they were, for I am loud and weird and emotional, all the things he isn't-- but anyway! There I was, and there he was, and he decided to do something about it.
Jared suggested that we stick to letters until I came home on Spring Break (both snail mail and email). That was fine with me, since writing generally requires more thought than talking and I wanted this first stage of the relationship to go slowly. We both stocked up on stamps and envelopes and settled in for some serious correspondence. I spent a lot of late nights writing . . . and I can't say that I worked very hard on my senior thesis.
With each new letter from Jared I grew more excited. I felt as if I had a permanent grin on my face; I couldn't believe that this wonderful young man had reached out to me, and was now putting up with all my silliness and sauciness. Jared made me laugh, encouraged me, and asked great questions. When I got horribly sick in February, it was good to know that he cared, although he couldn't be there. It was a giddy, exhilarating time.
When Spring Break rolled around, I started telling more people about our relationship; I knew that the beans would spill as soon as I got back to Lancaster, so I wanted to make sure that certain people heard it from me! Again, everyone shared my excitement. I'd been a rather stubborn non-dater throughout college, so my friends knew that if I had a boyfriend, it was serious.
When I flew home for Spring Break with my friend Gretchen, I felt like I was about to meet my boyfriend for the first time. Weird. Despite this, I never contracted the case of first-date-nerves I had so dreaded. When Jared knocked on the door the next evening, all spiffed up and a white rose in hand, I couldn't stop smiling. As we chatted over our tortellini, there were no awkward pauses, and I don't think either of us were afraid. We had already said so much in our letters-- revealed good and bad about ourselves-- that this part was easy.
When I came home that night, Gretchen took one look at me, laughed, and said, "Shall I buy tickets for your wedding?" I must have been glowing.
The rest of the week, Jared and I saw each other almost every day. I had no illusions of love just yet, but I did know that I really liked this boy, and was thrilled to be with him. To me, spending time with Jared over Spring Break had been a way to gauge the quality of our relationship. All indications were positive. Once back at Hillsdale I found myself missing Jared immediately.
The semester rushed on. I completed that thesis, I took my finals. I graduated, and my entire family plus Jared came to watch! Then the summer began.
Now that I had come home for good, Jared and I were together two or three times a week, whether out on a date, at a church event, or with our families. I enjoyed doing normal things together, not just "date" things. I loved it when we had a chance to work alongside one another, whether helping our parents with a project or participating in some church event.
One of the greatest things I realized in those months was that I could trust Jared-- a rare thing. I was so happy to find that when I admitted my weaknesses, he moved in to meet them. Furthermore, whenever we had a conflict we addressed it head-on. Neither of us liked letting arguments simmer on the back burner. We talked about our problems, honestly addressed the issues behind them, and did our best to restore peace quickly.
Mostly, I wasn't certain how he felt. Did he like me? I supposed he did, since we were still dating. But really. Did he like me?
I wished for some words or actions that would tell me which way he was leaning. I had a tight grip on my heart and refused to open it up for love until I knew it would be reciprocated. I wanted to love him, but pretending would do no one good. I grew frustrated and a bit frightened. To make matters worse, I felt as if most people around us assumed that we were madly in love and that we'd already made wedding plans. Everybody had a clear vision of my future . . . except me.
One Sunday evening, I finally spilled these problems to my parents. I had no idea where our relationship was going and felt unfairly benighted on that score; I was convinced that Jared liked me no more than any other girl in the universe; I was terrified that love would never appear at all and our courtship would stall, yet outwardly putter on because we had no way of discussing that issue. When was love supposed to appear anyway? It seemed like we had done the "getting to know you" thing long enough. For goodness' sakes, how was I supposed to know if I wanted to marry him, if he didn't do something to take our friendship past its current level? And so forth.
Obviously, I needed clarity. My dad, who had much more compassion for my poor boyfriend than I did, offered to broach the subject with him. (I am grateful that as Jared and I dated, we were "under" our parents, who kept a loving eye on us and helped us to sort out tangled issues. They never gave us orders; they knew we were adults and had no interest in micromanaging our relationship. Yet they also knew that we needed help, and were glad to give it.)
So. My dad bought some beers, called Jared, and went to talk business. Jared was informed that 1) I did not think that he liked me very much, 2) he therefore needed to chase me, 3) I was not at that point particularly inclined to be caught, 4) he therefore should feel free to do so in any manner he saw fit.
As I understand it, this conversation was very helpful to Jared. All of a sudden, I found myself being romanced. Apparently he didn't need too much encouragement. Within a few weeks of conversation number two, I had no doubts about his feelings, and of course, I found it indescribably sweet.
Smooth sailing from here on out? Ah no. I still couldn't see myself marrying him, and I felt pretty guilty about that. Here I had gotten exactly what I wanted, and my heart hadn't budged a bit.
Well, I wanted to wait and see. However, I also wanted Jared to know where I stood so I wouldn't end up leading him on. Which was approximately the last thing in the world I wanted to do. (You know, it sounds paranoid now that I put it into words, but at the time it was a legitimate concern. I just can't squeeze all of the events or emotions of that month into one blog post. You'll have to take my word for it.) Hmmm. Cue one of the most awkward conversations of my life.
One warm summer morning, Jared took me to the gardens at the Masonic Village in Elizabethtown. Lovely gardens, truly, but I was occupied by my own worries. Why don't I like him? He's amazing. He's a great friend. And he likes me, I know he does. This is ridiculous. I'm ridiculous. Wouldn't any other girl be in love with him by now? What's wrong with me?! We finally sat down on a bench and started to talk. I honestly don't how I managed to tell Jared that I had noticed his recent change of tone, deeply appreciated it, thought he was a wonderful person, was still not in love with him, thought I might get there soon, was frustrated with my own emotions, and hoped that he could be patient.
But I did. He understood. We ate Vietnamese food for lunch. None the worse for wear, Jared continued on his new trajectory, "chasing me" with obvious gusto and never minding if I reciprocated. If it took time to win me over, so be it. He had to find a job anyway.
If my dad's conversation with Jared was a big turning point for him, this other conversation at the Masonic Gardens was a big turning point for me. I'd finally owned up to my weakness, that is, my inability to boss my emotions around. I had admitted that if anything was to happen here, it would be God's doing, not mine. I turned my heart over to Him-- the creator of love, after all-- and waited.
By the beginning of August, I was feeling a lot more stable. That breakdown had been the beginning of a renewed trust in God, which produced a serenity I had not felt since the beginning of our relationship. Time for me to stop striving, to let go of my timetable, to be quiet before Him. Jared was leading me; my parents were watching over me; God, above all, loved me. Everything was going to be okay.
Stay tuned for Part 2 next month! Meantime, be sure to visit Rebekah at her blog and to share your thoughts on courtship with us in the comments!
Want to share your love story on Captive the Heart? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!