How she and I became us

Why I kissed dating goodbye:

I went on two dates in high school: a double date, and my senior prom. But in college, I went out a lot. I wanted to marry at some point, so I went after every girl I liked because I thought I could make it happen. When I liked a girl, I tried to learn about her, run into her “accidentally”, and let her know I liked her often. Subtlety was not my strong suit.

God, in His mercy, led me through a series of break-ups, some because I got too close for her comfort, and vice versa. In every case, I had no plan, just desires that had no discipline or Godly direction. I thought you just spent lots of time together, and God worked things out…and that never happened for me. I was very confused, or as Rich Mullins put it, I was “lost enough to let myself be led.” I decided to let God do the leading, and make no effort to pursue any woman, which was a new way of thinking for me. I sought God instead, and began journaling again. This blog is a direct result of the help I gained from that semester of writing with God.

My friend, Bill Thompson (Elvis and Bob Marley fan), saw a couple of cute freshmen girls in Humanities class my junior year at ORU. He thought we should talk with them. So he said hi, and I met Melody and Amy. I liked Amy. We shared a discussion class that year, and I found out she would be my sister-wing chaplain the next year, 97-98. (ORU dorms are not coed; each guys’ wing from an all-guy dorm sits together in chapel and at the cafeteria with a corresponding girls’ wing from a girls’ dorm, and the relationships are usually brother-sister.)

The next year, we saw each other some. We met in the finals of a twister game at Christmas, and my friend Ross rigged the game so I would win, but she wasn’t sore. I was impressed with a girl who was competitive, but could let it go. Later, I was the only guy who attended the Broken Arrow beauty pageant at the invitation of Betsy, a sister-winger, who was competing. Amy and I sat together, and had a blast. At the spring and fall retreats on the Shead farm in Kansas, she continued to impress me – I had never met a girl who laughed as loud and long as I did. I decided to keep my eye on her.

That spring, God kept putting us together without any of our help: on the way to class, in the cafeteria, in the parking lot, at Wal-Mart…He was making sure we had time together, and the more time we spent talking, the more we liked each other. I observed how others treated her, both guys and girls, and I knew she was valued and respected by all. So I made a bold decision: I would ask for her permission to court her.

I invited her to sit with my family at graduation (my bachelor’s degree), which was a brave thing for her to do, and gave her my request in writing. She responded in writing, and she said yes. Then she went on a mission trip for 3 weeks…to Israel. So we wrote letters, nearly every other day. We spent a small fortune in postage, but we still have all the letters. This was before web-enabled phones or laptops with wi-fi were common, and neither of us would have purchased them anyway.

Upon her return, we spent a lot of time together, and most of it was structured discussion. We asked questions about everything: having kids, life growing up, dreams and fears, siblings, parents, car experiences, house preferences, clothing, hobbies, you name it, we discussed it. It was radically different from any date I had ever had before. This wasn’t about getting something I wanted; it was about finding out what God wanted, and if we were a good fit, able to fulfill together what God had put in our hearts individually.

That winter, just after the new year, we had our first kiss..es! Wow! I was so glad we had waited. We were each others’ first kiss, and we have no regrets about that. We did have some frustration for kissing so soon before we married, because once the physical intimacy starts, it’s hard to slow down. Physical intimacy is made to grow exponentially along with your desire for more of it (God’s excellent plan), so don’t mess with it until you are prepared to take responsibility for the consequences. We had to set some hard boundaries for ourselves once we passed the kissing point. 8 months is a loooooooooooong engagement when you are already kissing. We actually knew multiple couples who waited to kiss (and everything else) until the wedding day! More power to them. I’m sure they have no regrets, and think of the example to their kids. Wow.

We wanted to marry, so I asked her father for her hand in marriage. This was easily the most awkward conversation I have ever had with anyone because neither of us had ever done it before and we didn’t really know how to begin. He had taken me out to eat, so we just picked at our food for a bit before starting a few indirect remarks to get things going. He was honest, kind, and a brave man to take such a chance on me. I am forever grateful…and he seems to enjoy his grandkids, so I’m thinking he doesn’t regret his decision. :)

We were engaged on April 16th, 1999, in front of many friends and well-wishers (whom I had invited) in front of Amy’s dorm on the ORU campus. The violinist played, the cameramen took video and candids, and my boys from the wing escorted me to the table set up outside. Amy and I were dressed up fancy to go out afterwards, and the hostess brought out the ring after seating us. I uttered a reworking of someone else’s poem, and asked her to be my wife. She said yes.

After the hugging, the oo’s and ah’s, high fives, handshakes, and many a congratulatory sendoff, we went out to eat (in my car newly redecorated by my family), walked on the 31st bridge over the Arkansas river, and had dessert at a coffee shop. We were so excited about God’s plans for us, and what life might be like (as we still are!), and we had a wedding to plan. Life was grand.

Planning a wedding is a great way to practice disagreeing vehemently over the most unimportant things, realizing how silly this is, and making up. We did this more than once, and rewrote our guest list at least as many times. The wedding was fantastic; so many contributed to it: Doris made the cake, Junius/S.W./Cathy/John played the music, Abby and S.W. sang, Ruth took pictures, Jim performed the ceremony, and Fr. Don oversaw the pre-marital counseling. We are grateful to them all and to many others who contributed. And we especially loved the birdseed shower at the end. (Mainly because it was the end. We recommend bubbles at your wedding.) But the wedding was just a ceremony – the marriage is what really counts, and God has kept us growing together for almost 12 years now. It just keeps getting better, bigger, and braver as we follow Christ’s example to lay down His life for those He loves most. He has the same joy, peace, and satisfaction we have found in our marriage in store for others, too.  Just follow Him.

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6 Responses to How she and I became us

  1. Pingback: Mark W. Shead » A great quote about weddings…

    • james.thorpe says:

      Thanks, Mark. I guess I’m official, now that I’m quoted. Thanks so much for your input and help to get this up and running. I’m enjoying the outlet of posting; it keeps me from spewing my thoughts out of control verbally.

  2. John Thorpe says:

    Great reflections, James!

  3. I seriously learned about nearly all of this, but that being said, I still considered it was useful. Very good post!

  4. Amazing post. You know I just got back together with my ex and this blog just made me even happier.

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