Saturday, November 27, 2010

His Lady


This was taken from Richard's blog, which is currently down. I'm putting it here for safekeeping. He wrote this shortly after we were engaged. 

*~*~*~* 



We’re interrupting our regularly scheduled broadcasts to talk about a very important subject. In fact, it’s almost the most important subject of which I can begin to think. This post is about Sophie.

Yes, Sophie. I was 14, I think, when I first really started to get to know her. We’ve been fast friends since then, I guess. Sophie is 4 years older than I. When you’re 14, that’s a lifetime. So I was the little brother, and she was like an older sister. We had a lot of the same interests and the same circles of friends, were involved in some of the same activities and groups. So it wasn’t hard for us to become close friends. Sophie encouraged me greatly in spiritual areas. I was challenged by her example to commit large portions of Scripture to memory. Perhaps most importantly, God used Sophie to point out certain attitudes I had that were damaging many of my relationships with the people around me. She is, as Dickens might say, my “good angel.” That is, she has always motivated me to good things.

It wasn’t until I was 18, though, that I started realizing that our relationship might be headed toward being more than just friends. Toward the end of the summer of ’08, I wrestled with the Lord and with my own heart and mind regarding the subject. I distinctly remember walking one cool August night, praying that God would show me His will. I prayed then as I had prayed many times before: “Lord, if my relationship with Sophie is not what it ought to be, I pray that you would remove her from my life.” And then, as before, that was not what He chose to do. And the long and the short of it was that I decided that there would be no realistic way for me to ever start that kind of relationship with her because of how long it would take to be in the state of financial readiness that I felt necessary.

On about November of ’08, I was driving my Dad back from Tyler and he asked me point blank, “So what are your plans regarding Sophie?” We ended up talking about it the whole way home, and in the end I felt myself even more confused than before. I lost sleep for two weeks while I wrestled with God, but in the end I yielded to His timing and His plan. In December of ’08 I got my father’s approval to pursue Sophie. The next step would be to get her father’s approval.

I have to say, I always thought I’d be a lot more nervous about that part than actually asking the girl herself. But, as it turns out Jeff (Sophie’s dad) was very easygoing about the whole thing. Probably much more so than I deserved. So I got her father’s permission (he wasn’t surprised by any of this – both sets of parents had foreseen our match for years) and all that was left was to plan exactly how it would be done.

I probably need to interject at this point that there are a lot of people who have a lot of different ideas of courtship. For some people, courtship is a period when two people who don’t really know each other that well get to know each other better under the supervision of their parents. That’s when they figure out if it’s God’s will for them to be together, what their beliefs are and if they’re compatible, and all that fun stuff. It was a little different with Sophie and me.

Having almost grown up together, and having actually had the opportunity to shape one another’s thoughts and beliefs, we two were already pretty certain of those things. And we both knew without a doubt that it was God’s will that we should marry. In fact, Sophie probably knew before I did – but that’s her story, and she can tell it better than I. This is not to say that we did not have our fair share of challenges and learning experiences in store for us. We are not the perfect couple by any means. But we are of one mind and one accord – and that is worth the world to me.

So with the help of my Dad and a lot of other people, we made plans for my church’s Valentine’s Day banquet. We pulled out all of the stops, down to the detail of renting a suit of armor. Dad gave a lecture on courtship, engagement, and marriage, and God’s purposes in each stage of a relationship. Toward the end of the lecture, when Dad was talking about a man’s calling to be a woman’s “Knight in Shining Armor”, I entered, crossed the floor, and asked Sophia Grace Rhoades if she would do the honor of allowing me to pursue her. She said yes. As it turned out, she knew the whole thing was coming – but that, as I have said, is her story.


Skip forward over a bit of time – the best year of my life, so far, though I’m sure that’s going to change in 2010 – and I have been working at Reliable Reports Inc. for nearly a year. The only thing that’s kept me from making the next big step forward has been finances. I needed to be able to support a wife. That all began to happen in January, when God provided in a way that would allow me to move from courtship to engagement – and a wedding. So I began planning another special Valentine’s Day event.

But God’s ways are not our ways. Providence decreed that February was not a good month for such things, and so money I had hoped to spend on an engagement ring ended up going toward a new car instead. By His grace I was able to accept this. A few weeks later I was able to get the ring and plan for the next big day – Sophie’s birthday. April 4th – which also happened to be Resurrection Sunday.

So again, with a lot of help from my Dad and others, we proposed that after Sophie’s birthday festivities (after Church services) our two families should go to the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens to have family pictures taken. Sophie agreed (she likes pictures). I spent much of the previous week handwriting a long letter to my beloved, and arranged to have a page of the letter hidden at a different location of the Japanese Garden (which is the prettiest garden on the property). After we’d taken family pictures for an hour or so, I took Sophie off alone and announced to her that she could have her birthday present from me now – but that she’d have to find it first!

There is a book called the Five Love Languages that is recommended reading for anyone thinking about marriage. I think, though, that if I had written it I would have called it the Six Love Languages and the sixth love language would have been “Letters.” Sophie absolutely adores letters – probably the more so because I am really bad at writing them with any kind of regularity.

She ran me all over the garden looking for them. When we got to the last page, I told her to close her eyes so I could give it to her. And that’s when I went for the ring. I reached into my pocket, pulled it out, opened the box and…

OH!

My heart literally skipped a beat as I found was not where it should have been. But the horror was only momentary. In all of our running around the ring had somehow fallen into the other side of the case. I righted this quickly enough, got down on one knee – or maybe it was both? – and held the ring up to her. “Open your eyes,” I said.



Her mouth gaped in half-confused, half-stunned, and absolutely glorious surprise. You see, Sophie hadn’t the slightest inkling of how God was providing for our needs, or that I had purchased a ring, or that any of this had been planned. I hadn’t told her about any of it because I wanted her to be surprised. And if you know me, you know that that in and of itself is a miracle.

“Will you marry me?”

I think know said yes, but I really don’t remember the exact words. I was too happy and she was too excited. And then we talked. And talked. And she read my letter. What did we talk about? Well… I’m sure you can imagine.

After a while we went to rejoin the rest of the world. There were hugs and congratulations to be had all around, of course. Afterwards we went to one of my favorite restaurants. I got a pie in my face.

But that’s another story.

Sophia Grace Rhoades – I love you, I take great joy in you, and I cannot wait to make you my wife. And get rid of that annoying “Rhoades” part of your name.

*~*~*~*~*

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Love is Pain, January 2007, Part 7

Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4Part 5, Part 6

There is a spanish proverb that goes, "Where there is love, there is pain." To love and to be loved  is to experience the deepest joys of humanity, but it is also to open yourself up to the deepest pains. It is to be vulnerable--both to the other person, and to things that effect the relationship. Things like separation.

It had been a long day, and Richard and I hadn't said our usual good morning. I knew it was because he had a dental appointment, and the appointment was supposed to take awhile. I was disappointed, of course, but understood. As the day wore on, however, I began to get concerned. It wasn't like Richard to not call, and as he was having two root canals done, I began to be afraid something had gone wrong in the process. I wasn't sure WHAT, but I did know under normal circumstances he would have called me at some point when he got home to let me know things had gone okay.

When he did call, I knew things were definitely NOT okay, but it had nothing to do with the dentist. Despite our precautions, his parents were concerned that I was giving my heart away. Because of this  we were to now act as though Richard were 5 years older. Instead of 20 and 16, we were to consider ourselves 20 and 21.

 The main reason we had been so successful in being as close as we were without romantic attachment was our age difference. We were nearly 4 years apart--and that's a pretty big difference when it is 16 and 20. Totally different life stages. As dear as we were to each other, at 20 years old I was not expecting to find a lifemate that was only halfway through high-school, and Richard was certainly not expecting his life mate to be older than his big sister. Sometimes I'd even teasingly say, "boy, if you were five years older, or I were 5 years younger, I'd totally fall in love with you." We would both laugh. Such things are Divine Providence, and that was fine. We enjoyed our friendship, and didn't wish for it to change. But now we could no longer observe that age difference. Richard was now to be treated as though he was an eligible bachelor. To his family that meant no personal correspondence, no conversations over skype, and no contact with each other except at previously scheduled events. Effective immediately.

The change devastated me. Up until that moment our friendship had been rock solid. I could count on Richard to always be there for me, and now he wasn't. I could count on his honesty, his dependability, his trustworthiness, and steadiness. I could share things with him and trust that he wasn't harboring any secret romantic expectations. I'd never, before or since, experienced the kind of cutting pain I felt when that friendship was taken away. I couldn't talk to anyone about it--or even tell anyone. I didn't want comfort. I just wanted time to grieve--alone. The pain was intensified because just as I hung up the phone with Richard, Amanda (who had moved back a few months ago) walked in to say goodby to me. The one person who might have been able to support and help me, the one person who I could have talked to who would understand my hurt, was going away to a ministry thing for two months. Our only communication would be through snail mail letters. Within an hour I lost both of my close friends.

Obviously God knew what he was doing--and I never doubted that he had a purpose. Looking back, I think his purpose for the seperation was three fold. 

First, it provided a valuable check to our friendship. During the time of separation we both did some soul searching to make sure that our friendship was completely pure and without reproach. We found that it was. We had done nothing we would be afraid or ashamed to tell our future spouses about.

The second purpose was to remind me that God had to be first in my life. Jesus would always be there for me--my friends would try and fail. The period of separation didn't come till an end until God was able to show me that I could find joy in him, even when it felt as though I were abandoned by everyone else.

The third purpose was, I believe, to put Richard on my map for prospective spouses. It had, of course, occurred to me that someday Richard MIGHT be the one God had for me, but I'd never up to that point allowed myself to seriously consider the possibility. I did during that time. I remember just after Richard told me what his parents had said exclaiming, "Richard--do they even know what not observing the age difference means to us??" It meant, in effect, that as of that phone call we were free to fall in love because the one safety net, our age difference, had been removed.

The separation didn't last long. It didn't take long for God to accomplish His purposes. But after that our friendship changed, and not just with the minor modifications his parents requested.  From that point on my love from Richard deepened and grew  from the affectionate love a sister has for her younger brother to the love and admiration a woman has for the man she will someday marry.

And how it broke, Part 6

Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4Part 5

Well, not broke exactly. Amanda, Richard and I were too close to get upset and leave each other. What we didn't count on was The Move. In the early summer of 2006 Amanda came to us and told us that her parents had just informed her that they were moving to Virginia. She had just one month left. It was a very sad time, full of whirlwind activities, and excuses to see each other nearly every day.

When the dust had settled Richard and I were left alone. Though we deeply missed Amanda, our own friendship continued to grow. We carefully observed the line between loving each other as siblings in christ, and going over the line into something else. In truth, "something else" never occurred to Richard, and I was far too content with our relationship to risk any changes to it.  Within our brother/sister relationship we had great freedom.

We began a daily scripture memory accountability program--every morning we would recite whatever scripture we had chosen to memorize to each other. This habit we maintained for several years. Over that time Richard memorized the life of Elijah, plus a large portion of Revelation. I memorized over half the book of Romans, plus a third of Proverbs, and other smaller sections--individual psalms and such. It got to where our mornings didn't feel complete without that time in the scripture together.

Our spiritual closeness naturally brought about a deeper relationship in other areas as well. I remember one year God had done an amazing work in my life freeing me from a sin I'd grappled with for years. I'd never felt free to share the struggle with anyone, but the joy of God's release bubbled over. New Years day arrived, and it is my habit each year to write a review of the year and what the Lord has done. I usually sent this to Richard as well. As I knew he would be reading I only vaguely referenced my newfound freedom--but woudn't--couldn't!--leave the joy out entirely. I didn't expect Richard to catch my reference, but he did and asked. I could have easily chosen not to answer, and I'm not entirely sure now why I did choose to share my past struggle. All I expected was rejection--I would have rejected myself had roles been reversed. But not Richard. He wrapped me in such warm love and acceptance--I'd never experienced anything like it before. Since that evening, even when we weren't "in love," I have known that he would never reject me--no matter what I'd done.

Of course, there were challenges with a friendship like ours. We tried to be very cautious about how we related to each other so people didn't get the "wrong idea." Yes, we thought of each other as siblings, but we didn't take the same freedoms of affection that siblings take. Other people wouldn't have understood, and besides, we both had a strong desire to save everything possible for our future spouse. What if the future spouse didn't understand that the affection we'd shown to each other was truly, entirely, sibling-love and not something else? Neither of us wanted our future spouses to have any doubts in their mind as to what our friendship had been, so we followed a very strict hands-off policy.

Of course, despite our cautiousness, there were still people who misunderstood. To some degree that is to be expected, but what is truly difficult is when those who are close to you misunderstand. It was just such a misunderstanding that took our friendship "to the next level."

Part 7