I've been on a writing hiatus for about 6 months now. Why? Because Mack Johnston had the audacity to love me. To woo me. To ask me to marry him.
And I said YES.
So, for the past 6 months, I've been planning our wedding. Ordering Star Wars cuff links for the groomsmen. Negotiating contracts with 7 horses to use their barn as a rustic ceremony site. Searching for a giant Chinese gong guests could ring to make us kiss. You know, cool wedding stuff like that. (All of which is absolutely true.)
On August 23, 2014, we got married.
It was perfect. God blessed us more than we could ever imagine. And let me be clear: We're giving God all the glory. He gave us a beautiful day without rain for an outdoor-in-a-field-wedding. He blessed us with friends and family who cooked and baked and fed and watered our guests like professional caterers. He protected us from bugs, mosquitoes and unseen horse patties. And He didn't let anyone pass out in the heat or cause any drama.
God gave my husband and me the drive, perseverance and strength to use limited resources to create a beautiful, intimate wedding day. And we believe He did so because we were obedient to Him in our courtship.
Glorify God in Everything.
First, let me say, if you don't court the way we did, that's fine. I'm not condemning you. I'm not bashing the normal ways of dating. I'm just telling you how we did it and why. Also, don't think courting is great for some people, but not for you. I believe anyone can do this if you commit to it and ask God to give you the strength to stay committed, because it is definitely not easy.
I believe we should glorify God in everything we do. Shouldn't you want to bring Him glory in the way you date, too?
When Mack first told me he wanted to be more than friends, my initial reaction was "Not gonna happen." That's mostly because I'd never dated. Anyone. Like ever. And I've never wanted to. I was protecting my heart. I'd watched my friends date, watched their hearts get broken and watched the cycle continue.
For me, I didn't want to date someone unless I knew I could possibly marry him. And I had to be in that PLACE to want to be married, too. So until everything fell into place, I would be single, happy and content.
Then Mack came along. And he was cute. Charming. A follower of Christ.
On the first day we met, we were playing Phase 10 with a bunch of friends. During the game, we all started talking about God, and I realized I really respected him, unlike any man I'd ever met. His opinions were well thought out and deeply rooted in the Bible. Plus, he'd had the courage to voice them to a group of strangers.
From that day on, the boy kept hanging around. A month later when he asked me out to lunch to talk, I knew what was coming. My defenses shot up, and I stayed up all night asking God to give me the words to let him down easy. I figured he'd run away after finding out that I didn't want to date someone without the intention to marry. That would be the deal breaker: MARRIAGE.
Well, to my surprise, this man began the conversation by saying he didn't want to date the way the world dates. He then proceeded to tell me why he liked me, giving me reasons I WASN'T prepared to hear. Reasons I'd never heard before! And each one was centered around his love for Jesus.
So, after a couple weeks of many deep discussions--sessions of talking about deal breakers and visions for the future--I decided God was telling me to get off the fence. To dive in. To trust Him.
Our Courtship: Boundaries are Blessings.
Boundaries. It was all about boundaries. The first thing we agreed on was that boundaries are blessings. They're meant to keep you safe, close to God. We established these boundaries early and added to them as we grew more fond of each other:
No physical touch. That meant no kissing. No hand-holding, hugging or snuggling. Why? Neither of us wanted a physical relationship. We didn't want to let attraction rule. We wanted to grow our friendship and not let anything sexual hinder that growth or lead us away from God.
No riding in cars alone. Having this boundary prevented temptation from breaking the first boundary. Because let's be real, we would have been all over each other in a car alone. We also didn't stay in any room alone, and we only hung out in public places.
No texting after 10 p.m. or before 9 a.m. This boundary was important for our mental and spiritual health. We never wanted to be obsessed with each other, staying up 'til all hours of the night chatting. You know what they say: nothing good happens after midnight. This boundary also helped us stay focused on God and friends and family before each other. We had to remember we couldn't be each other's world. Not yet.
No proposals for 1 year. Early on, I felt God telling me we had to go slow, mainly because it was the first relationship I'd ever been in, but also because we wanted to build a solid foundation. It sucked not being able to say "I love you" until we got engaged (another boundary we implemented to protect our hearts). But once that ring was on it, the power of those three words was awesome! I wouldn't go back and change a thing.
Was it easy? Heck no. Did we push the boundaries? Of course. But because we knew God was calling us to trust Him and stick with it, we did everything we could to uphold the boundaries. In fact, my best friend graciously accepted the role of "Sheriff" to help hold us accountable.
Exactly 1 year later, after honoring my request to court for 1 year, Mack proposed. We amended the rules to allow hand-holding and the occasional 30-second hug. We finally said "I love you." And we prayed a lot for God to give us perseverance until our wedding day.
How Courting a Man Ruined Me.
Ah, yes. To the point. Courting Mack ruined me for other men.
Pretty early on I realized God wanted me to marry him. I'm not even kidding, it was within a month. I remember exactly when, too. I was cleaning out the dishwasher and it hit me: He's going to be your husband. And I walked into the living room where my roommate sat and said, "I'm pretty sure God wants me to marry him."
I realized it because of the intricate ways God prepared us for each other. In our likes and dislikes, in our passions and dreams, and in our beliefs and actions. We could look back and see God's faithfulness. He'd brought us through trials separately so that He could mold us to enhance and balance each other together.
Every step of the way, I looked for the red flags, but found none. I went to friends and family for their opinions, but was only given more approval. The more our relationship grew, the more I knew God had His hand in it because it was so ridiculous! We weren't dating like the norm, and it was working! It was ridiculous because I knew that our chemistry was off-the-charts, and we'd never even kissed.
God knows what's up, and He wants to give you the desires of your heart. He may not bless you in all the ways you're expecting, but just know that if you're faithful, He'll bless you.
Because we committed to this crazy idea of upholding boundaries and keeping God at the center of our relationship, courting Mack ruined my single life. Like wrecked it.
It's pretty wonderful.
So Ladies, Find a Man Worth Courting.
Find a man, not a boy. Like a guy who has a steady job. A guy who has his own place. You know, a guy who has a life in general. A man who's actively striving to be a leader, protector, listener and provider.
Find a man who sets boundaries. For us, we decided not to kiss until he put two rings on it, meaning not until our wedding day. But you should also look for a guy who is serious about waiting to have sex until you're married. A man should want to protect your body and keep it pure. Temptation has a way of breaking you down, so for us, we decided not to ride alone in cars. We didn't cuddle on the couch (as much as we wanted to). We didn't hang out unless it was in a public place. And we didn't rely on each other--we relied on God. Mental boundaries are just as important as physical boundaries.
Find a man who follows Jesus. I'm talking loves the Lord and follows Him. Walks with Him. Has a solid relationship with Him. A guy who serves in the Church. Who actively pursues God on his own. A guy who knows he's not perfect, who knows he needs a Savior, and who wants to become more like Christ. God has to be his foundation. This isn't a negotiating point.
And don't settle for anything less than God's best for you!