For as long as I can remember, I have desired to be a wife and mother. I distinctly remember the day my grandfather asked me the perennial question, “what do you want to be when you grown up?”. I made him guess, and after suggesting an enormous list of occupations, ranging from gynecologist to zookeeper, he gave up. “What do you want?” “To be a mommy”, I replied. That, to me, was the greatest aspiration a girl could have. I knew my mother was pretty special, and I wanted to be just like her. This was when I was about twelve years old. That desire never left me. But as my high school graduation neared, I began to have doubts as to its validity. I again had opportunity to answer the perennial question. But this time, I found that my answer would be countered with, “Yes, but what do you really want?” And I began to wonder if I was supposed to have some other goal in life. So I turned to my music—piano, viola, and theory. But I soon reached the end of my musical goals, and felt at a loss.
That was the beginning of my time in God’s school of contentment and humility. My first lesson was realizing that much of my life had been spent in the pursuit of selfish pleasure. As God changed my heart, I began to find joy and fulfillment in serving others, and especially my own family. During this time, I began to realize I had bought into many unbiblical preconceptions of what womanly fulfillment meant. I’d grown up hearing about the rebellious feminist, and found to my horror, that I was one myself. This was hard to swallow, and I began to spend time reading my Bible to find out what God had to say about His plan for me. I found that I didn’t have to leave my home to do important work. The simple task of washing the dishes grew in my estimation, as I learned that this, too, was serving God. The next lesson was the most humbling yet. I realized that I had placed my desire for marriage above God. I had allowed the lack of one thing to make life seem hopeless. When I read the story of King Ahab’s lust for Naboth’s vineyard, I saw myself.
By God’s grace, I began to get my priorities straight. And thus began some of the hardest years of my life. For, as my relationship with God grew, and as I sought His will for me as a woman, I became completely convinced that marriage was a good thing. And more than that, that it was His will for me. On the one hand, this was freeing. Now I knew what I should prepare for. On the other hand, it was discouraging, for the years passed by without a prospect in sight. It was tempting to despair.
In the summer of 2008, I became increasingly burdened to pray for marriage for myself, as well as for my single girlfriends. So much so, that for the first time, I voiced that desire in public at a ladies’ prayer meeting at my church. This was a significant step; over the years I’d become cynically silent on the subject, feeling I’d heard enough pat answers. I felt immediately rebuked for my assumptions, as several ladies began to encourage and pray for me. Something one of them said in her prayer prompted me to take a fresh look at God’s Word, and what it said about godly men. I began to surrender many of my preconceptions of how things should be. In retrospect, I see this as key preparation in order for me to be receptive to the idea of long-distance courtship.
Also that summer, I participated in a young ladies’ Bible study on prayer, at which many helpful conversations on the subject of marriage were held. I also read and reviewed Candice Watter’s book, “Get Married.”
By August, I felt that I had come to the absolute end of myself. I had studied what God had to say about marriage and godly womanhood. I had prepared to the best of my ability. My lifeline became the prayer of faith. I took comfort in Jesus' parable of the importunate widow, grasping the promise that God would hear my prayers.
In September, one of my dearest friends began courting. And for the first time, I felt no jealousy, simply joy. Joy that God was doing great things. I thought those great things were for my friend. Turns out they were—but, in the biggest surprise of my life, I found God was working on my behalf, as well.
October 3rd began as a normal, sunny Friday. As I waited for my family to gather for morning devotions, I began the routine check of my e-mail on my sister’s laptop computer. There was a Facebook message from John Dekker, someone I vaguely knew through blogging. The first line was all I could see: “I feel a bit awkward sending this…” And as I clicked on the message, my first thought was, “Oh, no! What did I say?” For I distinctly remembered John’s precision with words; one of our very first blogging exchanges involved me having to explain ambiguities in my writing. I was not expecting what I saw next: “pursue friendship….contemplate marriage…”. My jaw dropped. It was all I could manage to hand the computer to my mom and say, “read this”.
I was completely shocked. For, all my thought and prayers about marriage notwithstanding, I had never once thought of John as a prospect. He had similar interests in literature, yes. But he lived on the other side of the world! I really knew next to nothing about him. He was simply a name in cyberspace.
But I immediately knew that I was interested. The reason was this: I had been praying a very specific prayer that week. I had prayed that God would prompt whoever he had for me as a husband to show some initiative in beginning a relationship. There were secondary reasons for my interest: John’s taste in literature, his evident sense of humour and his work as a minister. But these were dwarfed by this one apparent answer to prayer.
The first test of whether it truly was God’s answer was my father’s response. I knew if my dad said “no”, it was a closed door. And I fully expected him to refuse. I knew he was not at all keen on the idea of internet relationships. So when my dad decided to write to John, I was both surprised and scared. A reserved person by nature, I like my life to be certain and safe. The outcome of this situation was definitely uncertain, and it did not feel safe at all. The two weeks Daddy spent writing to John felt like the longest of my life. I was still in shock, and my days became one long prayer. Prayer simply that God would make His will clear. Because, now that the opportunity had come, I didn’t know what I wanted. The decision was too big. Yes. No. Yes. No. My wishes changed daily, even hourly. So when my mom came to me on Saturday, October 18 and told me she and daddy were happy for me to pursue friendship with John, I felt relief and happiness that the first answer had come.
Now for a timeline of our courtship:
October 19, 2008. John and I begin corresponding via e-mail. I feel completely out of my depth. It is a struggle to overcome my feelings of vulnerability, and to be completely honest. I discover that I didn’t trust God as much as I thought I did, and grow in faith.
November 17, 2008, my birthday. I am no longer fearful. By now we have discussed many foundational beliefs, and I begin to feel a growing interest in this man.
December 2008. I realize it is nearly impossible to remain emotionally detached. By the second week of the month, I surprise myself by falling in love. My prayers change at this point. I don’t understand my feelings, and ask God to give us both direction, and that if it is His will for us to marry, John would propose when he visits.
January 20, 2009. It is an answer to prayer that when we finally meet in person, it doesn’t take long for us to feel comfortable together. There are no surprises: John is the same in person as he was long-distance. After spending 3 days together, I felt as if we’d been friends for years.
January 24, 2009, Saturday morning. John makes me the happiest girl in the world, when he asks me to be his wife. Eight long years of prayer are brought to fruition.
That’s our story. I’m still in awe of it all. God has blessed me far above what I asked or even imagined. There are so many things I love and admire about John. He challenges my thinking-- this even from our very first blog discussion. He is a spiritual leader. We have had the blessing of studying several books of the Bible together. He is a teacher—I learn something new, nearly every time we talk. He is considerate of others. This was demonstrated in how he was careful to spend time with each person in my family when he visited. He is deliberate and intentional in his actions. I saw this continually throughout our courtship, and was often amazed at his forward thinking. He is patient. He always waited until I was comfortable before beginning a new stage in the relationship. (e.g. moving from e-mail to instant messaging) He can talk to strangers. This is a skill I greatly admire, as it is an area I struggle with. He had ample opportunity to demonstrate it, as I introduced him to many of my friends and church family during his visit to Wichita. He is discreet. He makes me laugh! And most of all, he points me to Christ.
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21