Let's begin by getting thing straight. I married the most incredible, loving, gentle, strong, funny, and Godly man in the world. It took me awhile to realize all of those things though.
It all started in 2002, the summer before our senior years of college. I was at the University of Colorado in Boulder, CO and he was at Berry College in Rome, GA. I was supposed to spend the summer in China, and about 3 weeks before we left, our trip was cancelled due to SARS. In a last minute decision, my friends and I changed our trip to spend the summer as English teachers in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Technically, Jonathan and I met in the Orlando airport, but we tell people it was in Thailand to speed up the story...and make it sound cooler.
Jonathan's first impression of me, as written in his journal was, "Sarah is an interesting girl. I can’t wait to get to know her!” My first memory is sitting outside with him while he played guitar. (Is there anything better than guys and guitars?) We became early-morning running buddies and co-teachers for our 7 weeks in Thailand. We definitely delighted in one another’s presence, but had no dreams beyond a friendship (though our boss tried to set us up on more than one occasion).
After those seven weeks, I returned to CO and Jonathan spent another 5 months in Thailand until he returned to Rome, GA to finish out his Psych degree.
We saw each other the next March (2004) for a few days when Lesli and I met up with him and some friends at Mt. Rushmore.
Then, that summer, Jonathan and I road-tripped to TX in order to visit Lesli before she got married. (I might add that this road trip never would have happened had I thought clearly and realized that there are a number of states in between GA and TX!) The next August (2004), Jonathan moved to South America for the 1 ½ years. He lived in the jungles and gave his time to developing relationships with the people. We talked on the phone every couple of weeks or month, and were able to share in a lot of personal growth together. It’s amazing how we could be learning similar things, but in completely different environments. And yet, we still remained just friends. I won’t deny I didn’t entertain the thought that there could be something more between us, but it was merely a fleeting thought that I quickly moved past. It just wasn't time.
He returned to GA in Jan 2006, as I was beginning my preparations to move to Egypt. We continued talking on the phone and Jonathan came to CO to visit me for a week that July. We, as seems to be characteristic of our friendship, road-tripped to Chicago for a Cubs game, and enjoyed every minute!
My parents also fell in love with him and told me a number of times that there is no one in the world like Jonathan. My response was always, “Yes, I know. And if something is to happen, that would be great, but now is not the time. We’re not there yet.”
I moved to Egypt in August of 2006 and Jonathan and I continued our friendship and talked every couple of weeks via skype. Through the spring, Jonathan became one of the people I shared the most about my life with and was an incredible blessing support to me.
I returned to the states for a couple of weeks in June for a wedding and Jonathan offered to visit me, but I told him not to since my time in the states was already short. We talked quite a bit on the phone while was there, and during one of our conversations, he ended up sharing his feelings with me. I accidentally forced him into confessing his feelings by talking about another guy, so neither of us were really expecting a conversation like that. In all honestly, I was completely shocked and quite speechless, because I had no idea it was coming. I had talked quite a bit with my roommates in the past year about how much I valued my relationship with Jonathan, but kept feeling that there was nothing there. I spent a few days praying about it and came to the conclusion that I wasn’t ready. So, I called him back and said to him, “I think I’m crazy for saying this because you’re so amazing, but I’m not there. This isn’t to say I’m never going to be there but it’s also not saying I am going to be there.” I realized that with Jonathan, I couldn’t just step in and feel things out for a bit. Because of the length and depth of our relationship and our respective personalities, we would get serious quickly and I was terrified of hurting him, so I decided to say no. Jonathan’s response was, “I’ll wait for you.” I was shocked! So, I reemphasized that I wasn’t there, and he, in great nobility and humility, reaffirmed that he would wait. So, after a long conversation, we decided we would talk again once my first year in Egypt ended. (I committed to not date for my first year overseas.)
When I returned to Egypt, my heart was very torn. My heart wasn’t there with Jonathan and I was so afraid of hurting him. I was also having a mini-crisis feeling that I wasn’t even ready to enter into a relationship with anyone, nor did I want to because of how much I loved being single! But, one night, I was writing an email to a friend of mine about marriage and I realized that all I long for in life is to be closer to Jesus. As I sat in that knowledge and presence and desire of this, I realized that no one in the world would show me Jesus more than Jonathan. His heart and passion and desperation for the Lord leave me awestruck. It was at that moment my heart was suddenly liberated from all fears holding me back and I began to see Jonathan with new eyes. Before I knew it, I was in a place where I couldn’t imagine life without him, and as my love for Jonathan grew, my love for the Lord grew, and vice versa.
We began to talk a couple of times a week, and with every conversation I became more and more convinced that what we could have was “immeasurably more than I could ever ask or imagine.” We had our official “us” talk on August 9th, in which we both spoke that we were absolutely committed to one another. Our first step in the relationship was that we needed to see one another, so considering the busyness of my schedule, he ended up getting a ticket to come the next week. I had no doubt in my mind that this was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, it was just a question of when and how, considering that I live in Egypt and he was committed to his work in GA for the next couple of years. I shared everything with my bosses and language tutor and they were all completely behind me, giving me their blessing to return to the states when I felt it was time.
Jonathan arrived on the night of the 20th and after spending a couple of hours with my language teacher and her family (where he was staying), we went for a walk. Neither of us said much because we were so overwhelmed with being in one another’s presence. We were walking around in Meryland, a very Egyptian park, when he invited me to sit down. He then began to quote a poem to me he wrote for another friend’s wedding last December, called “Invitation to Run.”
Invitation to Run
In this race called life I run
I’ve got my gaze fixed on Christ, the Son
All once was gain I count as loss
As I die this day and run with my cross
To tell the truth sometimes the road is tough
I turn black and blue, I feel I don’t have enough
But in those times I hear a whisper in my soul:
Do not fear, press on toward the goal
I rest assured I’m not alone in this race
Lacking not, I am complete in His grace
And although it’s only in Christ I abide
I’d be blessed to have another at my side
[at this point he got down on his knee]
So here I am down on bended knee
Asking: Will you run with me?
How long is this road? Only God knows
But with each passing mile my love for Him grows
And if the Lord grants another breath with the morning dew
I pray tomorrow finds me running with you
Then, he asked me to marry him. Of course I said yes! I was thrilled and though I was expecting to get engaged within the week, I definitely wasn’t expecting it only 2 hours after he got off the plane! When he proposed, he did it with empty hands, which I was expecting since we had a conversation a few days before about how he had no money. He mentioned it to me again, and I reminded him that it didn’t matter to me (which it didn’t, but I did have to talk myself through it a bit, because what girl doesn’t want an engagement ring?). He sat down next to me and began telling the story of his grandmother’s engagement.
Fifty-six years ago in the Philippines, his grandfather had just finished medical school and his grandmother was still in university. He came to her and said something like, “I’ve loved you since the first day I met you and you don’t know how deep that goes. I want you to marry me, but I don’t have much money so all I have for you is this simple ring. But, I promise you that on our 20th wedding anniversary I will exchange it for a diamond you deserve.” They married of course, but one month after their 19th wedding anniversary, he passed away, so his grandmother never received the promised ring. Obviously, she treasured the engagement ring greatly.
Jonathan then brought up a conversation we had had a couple of weeks before when he had told me the greatest gift he’d ever received was his guitar, and he said, “Sarah, when I told you that, I lied to you. In reality, the best gift I have ever received was the engagement ring my grandfather gave to my grandmother. She gave it to me and now I’m giving it to you.” Then, he put it on my finger and it fit perfectly! I was speechless and overwhelmed and stunned. This ring was more spectacular than anything I could have ever imagined in my entire life! I’ve never been more honored with anything in my life!
(Uhhh, can you tell it was like 110 degrees in Cairo at the time?)
Jonathan left a week later, and I was on my own again in Cairo, but not for long. In October of 2007 (2 months later), I packed up my two suitcases and moved to Georgia. We spent the next 3 months both jobless getting to know each other in real life, as this was the first time we'd ever lived in the same place for any amount of time. On top of that, Jonathan walked me through some really tough struggles of dealing with culture shock from leaving Egypt as well as learning the culture of the South. He never wavered in the support and grace he offered me.
And then, on January 19, 2008 we were married in Boulder. The wedding was beautiful. Jonathan cried his eyes out while I laughed through the whole thing. (I guess we express joy in different ways.)
We got lots of well-meaning "warnings" about our marriage: It'll get better after the first few years, marriage is soooo much work, it's really hard, etc. Instead of listening to that advice, we chose to believe that marriage diddn't have to be hard. And it wasn't. It hasn't been. We are a perfect match in every way and so thankful that we made the choice (and vow) on our wedding day to always give one another the benefit of the doubt, trusting our love for each other. We believe we would never do anything to intentionally hurt the other. Because of this conscious choice we've made (and mostly through the grace of God), we've never raised our voices at each other, we've never said harsh words we regret, we've never accused one another of anything, and we've never spoken poorly about the other to our friends. Not every marriage is this easy, but ours has been so far, and we are so thankful for that. It's definitely possible.