“Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer…”
I first remembering seeing Ashley at a Monday Night Prayer meeting at the church we attended when we went to college in Carbondale, Illinois. She prayed loud and bold and quickly learned how things were done in my church’s prayer meetings…which, by the way, are usually loud and bold. She fit in well. I did not get to meet her that Monday night. Our introduction would come later.
“Later” when I met Ashley, we were at a dinner party at a mutual friend’s house. We were running around helping get things ready to eat and somehow we got into a competition over who could quote the most verses from the book of 1st Peter. So there we were, me rattling KJV and her firing back her NIV. I don’t remember who won.
I gradually came to be aware that she was pursuing a relationship with me. I was flattered by the attention and knew I had to figure out whether or not to respond to her interest in kind. After a year and a half of a weird more-than-friends-but-not-dating limbo, we made a clean stand and chose to be “just friends” again. I walked on from that experience having concluded that there was no potential anymore to be more than friends with her. Apparently, she walked away with the same conclusion.
Well, life moved on for both of us, Ashley eventually settling in Denver and myself landing in Chicago. But even after we both left Carbondale we still kept in contact, talking on the phone every few months to say hello and share news. I listened to Ashley go through a dating relationship and breakup, and she got to hear me go through a few of my own dating experiences. We were good friends, nothing more.
Then things started to shake loose in my life…first my mom asked me if I ever thought of dating Ashley. I responded in the same way I had back in college, but my answers sounded kind of hollow in my ears. A few days later, I asked a good friend why he thought my relationship with Ashley hadn’t worked out in college, and he said “Because she was too immature and you were too legalistic.” As he said that, the thought struck me, “I know I’m not the same man I was in college. Maybe she’s different too.”
The real clincher, however, came from Ashley herself as I (ironically) was talking to her about possibly dating one of her good friends. She interrupted me and said, “I’m not comfortable talking about this [your dating life] with you, when there’d be an opportunity for you in Denver if you were to ever ask.” My response was to ask her if she really meant all that was implied in her statement, and she said that she had meant it all. I said I’d have to think about it and call her back.
That conversation was on a Tuesday night. I called her back that Saturday night, and we were officially dating Sunday, the 16th of June, 2014.
Ah, but the madness doesn’t end there…the first time we saw each other after beginning our dating relationship was with some mutual friends on a long July 4th weekend vacation in Durango, Colorado. I knew we both were taking our relationship very seriously and I knew that, for the sake of her (and my) emotions, I had to make a decision pretty soon what direction I was going to try to pursue this relationship. So I flew to Durango with the clear objective of deciding whether or not I wanted to marry Ashley Reign Andersen.
During our long drive to Denver from Durango, I came to the definite conclusion that, yes, I would make this woman my wife if I could. Remember how my friend said “she was too immature”? Gone was the immaturity we had both seen in her college life. Sitting in the car beside me was a woman of God, a grown, mature, attractive woman who I could gladly trust with my life, my honor, my dignity, my commitment.
The next time I saw her after Durango was mid-August when she attended a pre-engagement/pre-marital class at my side at my church in Chicago. She met some of my friends and got to visit the church I had been attending. The third time I saw her after we started dating was in September when I flew out to Denver and (upon bended knee, with my elbow on the table and my leg sticking out into the aisle) asked the love of my life to marry me.
So it was that “She said ‘yes’ and I said ‘wow'”
This story is one of surrender and trust.
My relationship with Peter has taught me more about surrender and trust in God than any other aspect of my life.
Peter and I met in church and Chi Alpha student ministries while attending college. From the first time, he distinguished himself by his service to others. He was always giving someone a ride, or helping in various ways. A group of people in Chi Alpha started hanging out and cooking together. On one such night, Peter and I were talking and discovered that we had both memorized copious amounts of scripture growing up and entered this contest to see who could remember the most.
Over the next two years or so, we continued to hang out together with other friends. We served on church tech team together, and a few of us hiked around Shawnee national forest. I started liking him really early into our friendship. I was attracted to his work ethic, character, nerdy sense of humor and really enjoyed being around him. I always had this innate sense that I could trust him. He didn’t pursue me, but we became the typical “just friends” for the rest of my time in Carbondale.
When I graduated from college it was becoming clear that Peter and I would never be more than friends. There were a couple months when I was very uncertain about where I would live, what I would do for work, and who I would live my life with. A midst all the change and chaos, I drew close to God and allowed that relationship to sustain me through changing career paths, moving to Colorado, and the letdown of not being wanted by a man I really liked.
While Peter and I stayed in touch over the years, talking every 6-8 weeks and hanging out when I’d visit Chicago, I still had to let go of wanting to date him.
I established an awesome habit of surrendering my hopes for life. Like a well-worn soul path to peace, security, and confidence of my heart within God. As I built that foundation, I “got over” Peter and we had a great friendship. I discovered and fell in love with rock climbing and moved to Denver to find a christian rock climber, while Peter dated some wonderful women in Chicago.
During my time in Colorado, my priorities refined. My love with Christ and the attributes I value in people evolved. Although I haven’t dated a lot, I’ve realized that bedrock character traits like humility, courage, service, work ethic, creativity, love for scripture, love for marginalized people, hospitality are more important in a man than style, personality, religious habits or lack thereof.
Early this spring Peter asked me to pray about him pursuing a high caliber woman, so as usual I went to that awesome place with God and continued to pray for God to bring my brother a wife. This time, the path to quick surrender was gone. The more I prayed, the more annoyed I felt that Peter and I were both failing at dating, yet not dating each other. Still I really didn’t think too much of it. I told God everything in surrender, and trusted that God would do whatever he wanted with my heart. I was convinced that the awesome place of surrender was still there, I just was having bad luck with my keys that week. Still feeling exasperated, I decided that for Peter and I to be successful in our other relationships, we needed to stop confiding in each other about our dating lives. In the spirit of establishing better boundaries I also decided that I would establish these boundaries the next time he brought up a woman.
A couple weeks later, a friend very nonchalantly mentioned that the reasons Peter and I had for not dating in college were irrelevant now. I was taken completely off guard, because I believed that I had an inherent attribute that caused Peter to dismiss me.
The comment agitated me all weekend, and I was starting to crush on Peter more than I had in years. I knew that he had no idea that I was an option.
Then he called me to talk about a woman. I cut him off right away and told him I was no longer comfortable talking to him about our dating lives. He asked for further explanation, and I told him that he had better chances in Colorado.
A week later, before church on Father’s day, he called and asked me to start a relationship. We spent three weeks talking on the phone, still testing the waters with each other. We got to see each other over 4th of July weekend while spending time with close friends. At the end of the weekend we decided to start pursuing marriage and began a couple different pre-marital methods. It was the right time.
On September 14th, he said “ I love you, will you marry me.”
So now I’m more in love than I ever thought possible, planning a Colorado Wedding on February 21, 2015, and I will join Peter in Nashville right after the wedding.
Over the years, many wise women would advise me to trust surrender because God could bring a relationship back, or that it was just the wrong timing, or to follow the example of other couples that have obeyed God in letting go of a relationship because God brought it back later. However I have found that trusting God and letting go by grace IS NOT a means to an end. It is the means AND the end. If Peter and I never got together, if the crushes still stayed dead crushes, I would still have the greater love of God, I would still have empathy for an aspect of Christ’s own rejection.