Steve's offer to start a relationship with me was the very last thing I expected to happen on New Year's Day 2003. I had all but convinced myself to date Tom when we returned to school after Christmas break! Now everything had been turned upside down again. But in the end, there was no way I could *not* say yes to Steve, when it was what I'd dreamed of for three years.
What in the WORLD was God up to in all this? I wondered.
Steve and I spent time together over the next couple of days almost as if nothing had ever happened--though he, too, was questioning what God was up to a bit. Sometime after "The Drive," Steve suddenly had this urge to "cast lots" about the whole situation with me. He just couldn't get his mind off the idea, so he went and found two Yahtzee dice and sat in the living room at his parents' house, half-thinking he was crazy. He already felt pretty sure of what he was supposed to do, but he said, "OK. If the right hand is higher, I'm supposed to date her, and if the left hand is higher, I'm not supposed to." Imagining it would be a four on the right and a three on the left--confirmation, but barely--he tossed the dice. The right hand came up six; the left hand, one.
Finally on January 5, the day before I went back to college, he came over so we could talk.
I explained that if I had seemed less than enthusiastic the night we had gone for a drive, it was because I had felt completely blindsided and overwhelmed. But after having a few days to process, I really liked the idea of giving it a try. However, in light of all the events of the preceding month, I didn't at all feel ready to jump into a new relationship. For starters, it seemed incredibly disrespectful to Tom to show up back at school dating someone else so soon. Besides that, I felt like I really did need some time to refocus and get grounded again after the exhausting, emotionally intense semester I'd just had.
Steve agreed that waiting a month or so sounded like a good idea. The whole time we talked, we both had this huge sense of, "I can't believe we're having this conversation!" Then he did two things that really impressed me. He told me he wanted us to talk with my parents about the whole thing. And he prayed with me. Steve asked God for direction and guidance, and also thanked Him "for getting my attention, finally." :)
It felt good to part ways knowing that I could trust him--believing that he really would spend the next few weeks praying and seeking the Lord, figuring out how to lead the way as we took our friendship in this new and slightly scary direction. (What we didn't realize until several years later was that we left that afternoon at my parents' house with different ideas of what had been decided. In my mind, we were going to wait a month and then start dating. In Steve's mind, we were going to come back together in a month and decide whether we were going to start dating!)
So a month to the day after that infamous drive, Steve drove up to Marion, Indiana, for our very first official date. It was February 1, 2003. I have to smile when I reread my journal entry from the night before, when I battled "this is too good to be true" doubts and tried to preach the truth to myself:
1.31.03 …I can’t shake this nagging fear in the back of my mind that Steve is changing his mind, that on second thought, he doesn’t really want to date me and he’s coming up to tell me in person and clear it all up, and after all the spazzing out I’ve done with all my friends, the whole thing will be over before it began. I know that’s not extremely likely, but…I’m anxious to get everything out on the table tomorrow night. And, you know, the Lord is my strength and my song, and if it doesn’t work out with Steve, well, I’ll undeniably be very disappointed, but my hope is in Him.
After we went out for dinner, we came back to my townhouse on campus and spent a couple of hours having this slow, wonderful, honest talk--laying out our uncertainty, our expectations, how we might handle the long-distance thing, etc. Steve said he felt like he was blindfolded on a ship, and he had no idea what he was doing, but he was willing to just jump. At that point I mentioned a quote I'd run across that afternoon--and Steve laughed and said his roommate had shared that same quote with him earlier in the week.
“Gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain of all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sign of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation.” –Oswald Chambers
By 11:00PM, Steve still had a three-hour drive home ahead of him, so he asked in conclusion, "So, do we know what we're doing?" I said, "Um, pretty much no." And he laughed and said, "Good! I wanted to make sure we were on the same page, and we are." :) He prayed with me again, promised to call the following week, hugged me goodbye. And that was the end of my last-ever "first date," the beginning of the next ten years and counting of my life.
The very next day and for several days (weeks? months?) after, I struggled with plenty of fear. It seemed so clear that this new relationship was a gift from God, that His fingerprints were all over it--and yet I still had this gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach. Again and again I had to take my doubts and fears to the Lord, laying this relationship at His feet and trusting Him to do what was best in my life, even if that meant leading me to walk away from Steve. Obviously (thankfully) that was not the case :)
At this point it seems appropriate to add a postscript about Tom. A couple of days after my first date with Steve, I emailed Tom to let him know what was going on. It was a super difficult and awkward email to write, but I felt it was important that he hear the news straight from me. His reaction floored me: he actually picked up the phone later that afternoon and *called* me to congratulate me, to say he was really happy that this had worked out for me. I was absolutely flabbergasted, just humbled and amazed at the genuine sincerity in his voice. I mean, can you believe a human would react that way?
Later that night, Tom rode with me to a Chinese restaurant for a short-term missions class we were both taking that semester, and he asked me for details about how it all had happened. Needless to say, I didn't give him the 12-part version--but after I shared [the world-record shortest version I'd ever told before or since], he again affirmed what great news it was. I was pretty much speechless. I wrote in my journal that night, "Wow. Some amazing girl someday is truly going to get a treasure in him, I'm convinced. What a weight off my mind, too, that he would be so mature, so gracious and selfless and sweet." And though it took a few years, Tom indeed got a happy ending of his own :)
While I'm at it, I might as well go on to share some highlights from our dating relationship and the story of how Steve proposed--but that will have to wait for another day. In other words, the end of this interminable series is actually in sight, but first, another guest post from my dear husband, a few more stories, maybe some love letter and/or journal quotes, and some beautiful gospel thoughts from Steve that came up just recently as we reminisced about all this :) Or to put it more succinctly, the story is still
[...to be continued...]