My wife Emily and I never dated.
Admittedly, she disagrees with me slightly on this, because we hung out A LOT. But we didn’t go on anything we called a date at the time. And since this is MY version of our story, I’m saying we never dated and you can’t just change history retrospectively!!… Where was I? Oh, yes. We were best friends. Still are. But she can’t argue with this one: our first kiss was AFTER we had agreed to get married and spend the rest of our lives together. Crazy, right?!
Believe it or not, we knew exactly what we were doing. Truth be told, I have never felt more confident or right about any other decision in my whole life. But let me back up a bit.
We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. ~ Proverbs 16:1 NLT
Emily and I first met on campus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I was a resident assistant in one of the dorms arriving to help with freshman orientation and dorm preparation. Emily was an orientation counselor. We were introduced by a mutual friend. From the outset, we really enjoyed each other’s company. Emily ‘gets’ me. We gradually became closer and closer friends. We’d hang out, watch TV, go to concerts, share meals…but it was always platonic. I know what you’re thinking, but we weren’t prudes, and though we were both Christians, we had each dated other folks throughout high school and college.
People would ask, “What’s going on with you two?” and I would always declare “We’re just friends.” In hindsight, I think I knew that there was something unique and special about Emily that made me want to cherish my relationship with her and treat it very carefully. When we met in the late summer of 1995, I was getting over being unceremoniously dumped by my high school girlfriend (two years my junior) who had just graduated. I told Emily I wasn’t ready to get into a serious relationship right then. I’m not sure I would have said that if I didn’t have a strong sense of how innately right she was for me. Frankly, I’d been on the wrong end of the dumper-dumpee relationship enough times, and I had never let it stop me from dating someone before. But I think there was just something about Emily. So we were “just friends.”
Emily figured it out before I did, but I was dense. She was probably dropping hints, but I didn’t pick them up. I had declared us “friends”, she went along with it, and I thought that was it. Her friends told her to move on, find somebody else. But somehow she knew that we were meant to be.
Shortly before I went off on an inner-city mission trip during spring break of my senior year, we had a tiff. I nearly let it spill that I was in love with her. I was dying to tell her, but I didn’t want to mess up our friendship. She got mad that I wasn’t telling her what I almost told her. So we left for spring break with things rather icy. The whole time I was gone, I was praying about her, about our friendship, about everything.
There are times in the life of a Christian where God speaks directly to your heart. In a moment of inspired clarity, I knew: She was the one I could not live without. A week without her was a week too long. We were made for each other. We were meant to be together. She was my mission in life.
Keep in mind: We had never kissed. Never been on a date.
I flew back from Denver and drove straight from Raleigh to Holden Beach, where Emily and her friends were wrapping up their spring break. It was her birthday. I made it there at a quarter to midnight.
We went out on the beach to talk. The waves were crashing. The moon was shining. There was even a comet in the sky. It was just cold enough to justify sharing a blanket. I asked her if she would spend the rest of her life with me, and she said yes. We shared our first kiss.
We got married in May of the next year. We now have two beautiful girls and will celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary in May. And I’ve never had any doubt–God made us for each other.