chapter 3: moment of truth.
the next few months in mt. vernon were especially good from the standpoint of preparing me for what God was calling me into next. i started seeking out my pastor, kevin, and my brother-in-law, ron, for advice and guidance on marriage, and just being a man in general. they talked me into doing pre-engagement counseling with alisha. they both separately spent time with us to prepare us for the future by talking about the past and helping us communicate expectations.
it was a very fruitful time for myself and for both of us together. coming from broken families, it was easy for us to set a goal on what this counseling would accomplish... we wanted to break the generational cycle. that shouldn't be a big deal, right?
we were doing great to get prepared for marriage all while not feeling the pressure of the wedding. it seems like the modern engaged couple focuses way to much on the event and not enough on everything that comes after the event. i suppose that most people assume that their love is good and strong enough to carry them through whatever problems might come their way. the wedding is obviously way more fun to plan, so it makes sense that people fall into that trap of focusing more on the event.
because of the conflict that occurred with the reception hall, we totally stopped the process of planning for the wedding and that was exceptionally healthy for us. it allowed us to seek God and figure out how to keep Him at the center of our relationship. not that we mastered that or anything, but the effort and the desire has been really fruitful for us. if we hadn't done that, if it hadn't been for my time in mt. vernon, i actually doubt we would have made it... God prepared us in an incredible way!
on july 1st, 2006, i finally asked alisha to marry me.
i wish i could tell you some really cute story about the thoughtful way i proposed. but i would be lying. it was about the lamest proposal ever... i ding-dong ditched her.
i had thought of all kinds of ideas, including a party or a scavenger hunt. i contemplated doing it on the jumbotron at the st. louis cardinals game. i even considered staging a fight with her and getting her to the point of being so mad that she would want to scream at me, only to pull out a ring and tell her that i can't wait to fight with her for a lifetime. all of those ideas were just not going to cut it.
i determined that this particular saturday was going to be the day. she thought i was working that morning in mt. vernon, but in reality i was driving back to pop the question, but i just wasn't clear on what my plan was going to be. i sat outside the house that she was staying at for quite some time looking at the clock tick away. it was getting close to the time that i was supposed to leave work and she would begin calling me to make plans for the rest of the weekend. i had with me a few things that i knew she loves: a bouquet of brightly colored flowers, her favorite drink from starbucks, and a card that i had wrote to her. i decided i would just go up to the door with this stuff and the ring and ask her to marry me when she opened up the door.
when i rang the doorbell, i realized that i still had no idea what to say. i really should have role played this with someone ahead of time! i could hear her inside walking to the door and i felt like i was going to soil myself, so for some reason i just set the stuff down on the porch and ran to the side of the house. she opened up the door and saw the items sitting there, but i could not see her or her reaction, i just stayed frozen in my ridiculous game of hide and seek. finally i heard the door close and then i realized that i had botched this up big time. i went and rang the doorbell again and nearly ran off a second time, but decided to stay put.
"oh, hi... thanks for the stuff! aren't you supposed to be working?"
"yeah, i guess."
"do you want to come in?"
ladies, please stop your swooning... this romanticalness is often attempted, but rarely duplicated.
i got down on my knee in the hallway and awkwardly asked her to marry me. she was excited at least. i really thought that she was going to tell me to try again with a better proposal attempt, but she said yes anyway. that's on her, i didn't force her!
shortly after all this excitement and embarrassment, i asked alisha when she had reserved the reception venue for. i knew she hadn't cancelled it, because she owned her part about not doing any wedding planning. and since there was no fee to move the date, there was no hurry to change anything.
the place had been scheduled for september 8th, less than 10 weeks later. i asked her if it is possible to plan a wedding that quickly. as an overly organized planner, i think she wanted to tell me that there was no way; but she was way too excited to say no to anything on that particular day! she told me that it would be a significant challenge, but we could figure it out.
so that is what we did. we planned the most spectacular wedding event in less than 70 days. the place she booked for the reception was absolutely perfect. it gave her such relief that i liked that place as much as i did and that we did not have to push the wedding back at all. in talking with the manager of the place, we probably would not have been able to reschedule until almost a year later.
during those ten weeks, there was so much to accomplish. there were tasks to complete almost every single day. it was hard to keep up, especially for a procrastinator like myself. somewhere around week 5, i had pretty much hit my max of what i could handle. that is about the time where alisha tasked me with the responsibility of determining our wedding verses. i told her that i thought we should do this together, but she told me that she trusted me to choose wisely.
a week or two later, she asked me if i had figured it out yet, but i had forgotten all about it. of course, i had no intention of telling her that. i said something like, "i need to pare it down more, there are so many good verses to choose from." i bought myself some time, but it was only a matter of time before she bugged me again about it. i probably gave her the heisman stiff-arm 3 times, telling myself every time that i really need to get things in gear and not let her down on this.
she finally called me out and said that i was out of time. she was not happy that i kept forgetting and was making herself very clear about it. i tried to smooth things over and tell her that i hadn't forgotten, so when she asked me what verses i had chosen, i literally put random books, chapters, and verses together and told her that i really wanted to use judges 14:7 and titus 2:4. this was a very insane thing for me to do, i wasn't trying to lie to her... i guess i thought it was funny. i could have fessed up that i hadn't done what she asked me to do, but instead i chose to give her verses that i had no idea what they said, nor could i recall what verses i blurted out. i could not check them out for myself to figure out a way to spin them as valid options. i just knew she was going to call me back within a few minutes of hanging up with me to yell at me twice as hard!
but she didn't. i assumed that she read them and knew how much of a turdbucket i was and just chose appropriate verses herself. i never brought it up with her and because she never brought it up, i just moved on with other plans.
the best planning i did for our wedding day was to order personalized thundersticks. i was so proud of this decision! please tell me you know what thundersticks are.
they are these long inflatable plastic tubes that when you bang them together, they make a terrifically loud clapping sound. they used to hand them out at cardinal games all the time! one time i came home from a big playoff victory with a pair of thundersticks and walked into the house banging them as loud as i could. at that time, i lived with my niece, her husband, and our dog (kelli, joe, and rigby- in that order). rigby completely freaked out, ran upstairs, jumped on my bed, and urinated all over my mattress. when i saw her finishing up and wiping her paws, she gave me a look that said "i dare you to try that again." which i never ever did again.
because rigby wasn't invited to the wedding, i knew that i could get away with thundersticks as a giveaway for everyone to bang together in epic fashion as we entered into our reception. it was so cool to kick the party off that way! it felt like the noise was so loud that probably all of st. louis could hear the thunder coming from our reception.
the whole day was unreal. neither of us were nervous. we managed to stay in the moment and enjoy every part of it. i will never forget seeing alisha when the doors of the chapel opened up and i saw her for the first time. it was pure magic. for several minutes, i forgot that other people were in the room... i was just so locked in on her! for as much fun as the reception would prove to be, the ceremony itself was full of fun and laughter.
i was totally taken off guard when kevin started the message by telling everyone that we had carefully selected verses to be preached on during our ceremony. i tried so hard to keep it together. but i just couldn't. it is hard to tell whether i thought it was funny or if i was nervous about being found out, because i typically laugh really hard at both. what verses did alisha choose? certainly, she didn't just pass the random verses along, did she? her eyes stayed locked on me, but she did not seem mad. what in the world was he about to say??
as he began to read them aloud for everyone, alisha gave me a giant high-five... "i know that you plucked those verses out of thin air, but they work perfectly!" and they really did!
7 Then he went down and talked with the woman, and he liked her. 8 Some time later, when he went back to marry her. Judges 14:7-8a
4 and so [the older women should] train the young women to love their husbands and children Titus 2:4
it was pretty easy to work those verses into the message. i was completely shocked. and it seemed like alisha had told everyone at the ceremony what the situation was, as the whole crowd had a good laugh at my expense. but it seemed like God had delivered for me, so i hoped that this would be amazing foreshadowing for the future.
before we lit the unity candle together, we shared our vows. we decided to write our own, instead of using generic ones that were not personalized to each other. i had no idea how significant these words would be. i knew the significance of them, in that they were promises that i would be making to alisha in front of all of our friends, family, and most importantly, God.
i took writing these a ton more seriously than choosing verses. on september 8th, 2006, i said... and meant, the following words to alisha...
i love you alisha, believing that only genuine love can come from God. confidently, i give myself to you. our lives joined together will enhance all that we do for the glory of God. i take you as my wife and closest friend, promising to be with you through...
good and bad,
joy and pain,
sickness and health,
to love, comfort, and support you,
seeking God's will for our family
living united as one in Him.
these powerful words were said with an odd amount of confidence. i would not characterize myself as an overly confident person in general, but in that moment and in that setting, i was more certain of this than anything i had said or done in my life. i recall thinking that i should be more afraid than i was because those words had extreme weight to them. but instead, i had so much peace in that moment. i knew that my mt. vernon experience (that had ended with a promotion, and a move back to st. louis, a mere week before our wedding) was a true gift from the Lord.
i am definitely of the opinion that God put the two of us together for a reason. unlike samson, as seen in judges 14, it's not enough to simply like someone. marriage is a spiritual union that requires true love in order to succeed. during the time of being mentored by kevin, he helped me understand the components of real love. he told me that it is impossible to love someone if you don't trust them. in other words, when you trust someone long enough and deep enough, you will end up having love for them. in order to build trust with another person, it simply comes down to constantly and consistently telling the truth to them.
truth. trust. love.
this is such a simple concept that i whole heartedly agree with. obviously, there are more building blocks that contribute to loving someone else, such as sacrifice or commitment. but nothing will build a solid foundation for love like trust... likewise, nothing will destroy love faster than not telling the truth.
i really tried to practice telling the truth during our dating life (except when it came to choosing wedding verses), but that day when i said those vows publicly... it was the most epic and intense moment of truth. i meant each and every word i said. i still do. i photoshopped the vows i promised over my favorite wedding picture and printed that so that i could see them every single day. i have them proudly framed in my bedroom so i can see them each morning, and it has been a great daily reminder.
of course, it's one thing to make a promise, and a totally different thing to keep a promise. and that is where trust really converts over to love. i thought i loved alisha when i married her. which i did, but that love has only grown over the years. what caused that growth was right around the corner... when truth/trust/love meets suffering.