Here's Part 2 - Enjoy!! If you missed Part 1 - here's a link.
Back at home, I gave up on the end-of-July-job-thing in favor of preparing for the upcoming school year. Knee deep in lesson plans and copies of worksheets, I got an email from my traveling buddy. She told me that she’d gotten an email from Mike asking her for my contact information. She wasn’t sure what to tell him and I was scared out of my mind that a guy was actually interested in me. So after a week of indecision, I finally emailed her back to tell her to give him my email.
He emailed me a very cordial note and in the third person tells me about how he met a really neat girl at the campout and wondered if she was interested in getting to know him better. I obviously was able to put two and two together by this point, but seriously - the third person??! I emailed him back in kind. I told him that there were lots of really neat girls there and I wasn’t sure which one he was referring to. I wasn’t prepared for the list he sent me of all the things he had noticed about me that weekend!
I replied that he would need to talk to my dad in order to date me - figuring that he’d turn tail and run. Nope. That man kept on pursuing me! He even conspired with my father to surprise me by showing up on our family vacation. On that vacation, my dad unknowingly threw down a gauntlet. He told Mike, an engineer, that courtship is the only biblical model for premarital relationships. Telling an engineer that there is only one way to do something is one surefire way to discover at least 3 more ways to do it!
They agreed to research their ideas and come prepared to discuss their findings on Labor Day. Yes, indeed! That man of mine wrote an eight page paper to prove to my father that God does not specify a formula for a relationship. Rather, He states very clearly what a godly man or woman is to look like! My indomitable father pointed out that he would still call it courting even though we considered ourselves dating. Yeah. Can you see one other facet to complicated relationships?? Parents contribute their issues as well.
To refresh my memory, I just dug out my ½ inch thick folder of emails we traded the first few weeks we began to know each other. Rereading them took me far, far down memory lane! I remember how I felt more comfortable conversing in letters and keys rather than voice. We’d begun to call each night for a couple of hours – depending on our schedules. School hadn’t started yet so I had flexible evening hours. It was obvious to both of us that we each wished it were more like 4 hours – and sometimes it was! We just couldn’t talk enough! He seemed to intrinsically understand me and vice versa. We even finished each other’s thoughts.
For me, in those first conversations, it was scary how deeply my father-relationship issues affected our relationship. There were times while talking through hard memories, I didn’t know what to say or be afraid to say what I really felt. He simply allowed the silence on the phone and waited. He told me over and over that I was worth the wait. I had never felt more cherished.
Long distance relationships are not easy nor are they uncomplicated – though I’d like to point out that no relationship is uncomplicated! We learned to hear each other’s heart as we spoke over the phone. Both of us were sold out to God and open for His leading. We were very careful to go forward in the relationship with a clear purpose.
God answered our prayers; making it very clear to us as well as those around us and close to us that we were made for each other. That phrase has gotten rather raggedy and tired after being used in far too many chick-flicks. What I mean here is that we’re better suited for God’s purposes together than apart. What’s the point of a relationship? Marriage. What’s the point of casting off a life dedicated to serving God as a single person? Being used MORE as a married person. Relationship has a very clear purpose in God’s eyes. We are made to glorify Him – and Him alone. If you will not be glorifying Him more by being married to this person, then you need to reconsider.
Time began to be a factor in both of our lives; mine as a teacher and his as a busy engineer. We both quickly realized that we needed to set guidelines so we could keep our commitments to others as well as get to know each other more. A schedule was put in place of calling certain days and emailing the between days. It was hard to keep, but we managed. Absence certainly did make the heart grow fonder, as the saying goes.
After Labor Day, we added the dating aspect. Each weekend, depending on our plans, Mike drove 4 hours to my apartment to pick me up and bring me back to Michigan. This scenario brings me to the next critical part of any relationship. We made Physical Contact Guidelines and circulated them to the people around us so we would be held accountable. Both of us were in our upper-twenties, we were head-over-heels in love with each other, and we both wanted God’s best for this relationship. That meant self-control. It’s easy to justify a little bit here and a little bit there, but before you know it, you’re in bed and scary-close to crossing sacred lines.
We talked openly and very honestly about our pasts and what we wanted to include in the guidelines. I didn’t have much of a past, except that I knew my love language was physical touch. He did have a past and some regrets, but he was determined to do this God’s way. The guidelines will be very unique to each couple and their areas of temptation. It was very important to Mike that he not make promises he couldn’t act on. For example, he decided that we would refrain from saying “I love you” until there was a proposal and ring. I decided that we wouldn’t kiss until then. I’d never kissed anyone before so it was very special to him that he was my first and only.
We held hands and learned more from listening to each other than touching. It was good. It was also very hard. I don’t think I’ll ever know how hard it was for my man, though. He told me once that he could never let his guard down. It would be far too easy to give in to his feelings if he did.
Then one day, the day after Thanksgiving 2002 to be precise, he and I went for a drive to a nature preserve called Volo Bog in Northern Illinois. It was cold but not much snow on the ground yet. The sky was gray and overcast, but we walked the boardwalks over the spongy bog and enjoyed the occasional bird call. We came full circle to a large grove of evergreens. Those gorgeous trees had to be 15 feet tall, but the bottom 8 feet of their trunks were bare to give room for bog trekkers to relax on wood benches and take in the view over the bog.
It was here that we stopped to rest and sat shivering together. My heart almost stopped when he got down on one knee right there and opened the book he’d had inside his coat. It was a Bible. He opened it and read to me from Genesis 2, Ephesians 5, and Ecclesiastes 4. As he closed the Bible, he told me he’d been waiting for this moment for a long time. Then he showed me the cover where he’d imprinted my new name in gold letters – Ruth Lynn Verkaik. You see, my parents had given me a special Bible in 6th grade with my name on it. That same Bible marked and underlined my spiritual journey from 6th grade until that moment. He knew the significance of it and had seen how only a marriage based on His word will make it. As I saw that cover and heard him ask me to be his wife, I just balled – happy tears of course! He slipped the ring on my finger while I tried to see it through my tears. He already knew my answer. J By this time, we both were so cold we could hardly stand. We headed back to his car and then to my apartment where we kissed for the first time.
As we headed back to my parents house to share the news and begin the rollercoaster ride they call “planning a wedding”, I couldn’t help but look over at the tall blue-eyed man driving and think, “Wow! I get to be his wife!
God, you are too good to me!” Never did I think on that campout, we’d be getting married one year to the day later!
As for long-distance relationships, they can work. But remember, God has to be the author of the relationship for it to work. Let God write your love story.
He’s the best Author I know!