Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Story Begins (3)

The 3 in the "Big 3" conversations began only a few weeks later. I felt that we had done a pretty good job keeping our interactions with one another to a minimum. We had seen each other often around campus, since we had both adopted the same group of wonderful friends (including Bethany, who is now our sister-in-law!). I looked forward to seeing him every day, even just briefly, but I also respected the fact that we were deliberately trying to keep our distance from one another. I considered him a trusted friend and the more I got to know about him the more I grew to care about him deeply as a trusted friend. 

One evening, as I was coming out of class, Kris waltzed up and asked if I had time to talk. I wasn't concerned about needing to study, since it was a Friday evening, so I happily agreed. It had been a few weeks since our previous long conversation, so I was excited to have another chance to talk with him in more depth.

We sat across from each other in the "fish bowl", an aptly named room, as it was in the center of the main building on campus. Kris pulled out some 3x5 cards, which were filled with hand written notes on them. I was a little surprised and wondered if I was to hear a lecture or the practice for an upcoming presentation. Kris said, "I've been wanting to talk with you because I have thought more seriously about you these past several weeks and decided that I want to pursue you for marriage." I do remember being speechless. Then, he said, "I spent the past few days writing out pros and cons (as I see them from my limited perspective) to us pursuing marriage to one another." I don't remember a lot of the detailed pros and cons, but a few I do recall were:

  • I want to reach people, care about people and touch their lives through my home. You are naturally inclined toward hosting people and opening up 'your space' to them. I think you would help them feel welcomed into our home.
  • I am not a particularly social person and find it difficult to connect with people, but you seem to connect easily with people.
  • I have a LOT of graduate work ahead of me. That means no stability for many years ahead and no guarantees of anything even once I finish my PhD. It will be tough for both of us.
  • Given the path ahead of me, you will most likely have to live away from your sister (Krista and I were roommates, and pretty much inseparable - he knew all too well how difficult that idea would be for both of us) for a good many years.
There were so many things on that list, but they were all well thought out and though I didn't agree with all of them it was obvious to me that he had put a great deal of time and effort into his consideration. He had approached the whole notion as one would totally expect from a scientist. After what seemed like a very long time, he paused for a while and said, "What do you think? You haven't said much." I chuckled. Then told him that I was probably going to need some time to mull over all of this. I told him I was honored by it all, but definitely overwhelmed. He said, "Oh, of course, take all the time you need. I just wanted to make sure you knew clearly where I am coming from. I don't think it's fair to you for me to be spending time with you, stalking your friends for information and not telling you that I am intentionally pursuing you, (if you agree, of course)." I asked him if I could give him an answer after our Christmas break, as I knew that would give me 2 months or so to get away, "clear my head", talk with my family and create my own set of pros and cons to the whole matter. That night I told my 3 closest friends (Krista, Bethany and Laura) and watched them go from shock (maybe horror?) to excitement. We all agreed to pray A LOT. Going home, that Christmas, I was filled with trepidation (Was I ready, AGAIN?) and hope. This felt like the decision of a lifetime... and it was.  


My dear wife is a talented and entertaining writer, so if you have enjoyed this post so far, you should probably stop now. My writing is torturous and tedious by contrast and far less informative.  Every time I and my siblings or father get together or talk by phone, Eryn asks me how they doing afterward and I never know since we spent the entire time engaged in abstract discussion (really enjoyed your last visit Lisa!).  So, you've been warned, don't blame me if you keep reading! In particular, skip the following post on my blog which includes a rant Eryn didn't want cluttering up her post: Marriage theory soapbox

Having worked out my own analytic angst about marriage and taken a prior dip in the mud puddle of romantically driven relational entanglement, I set to work creating a heuristic algorithm for choosing a mate that would complement my role in God's grand trajectory (at least I knew better than trying to find an equation with a formal proof) and where my strengths would serve as a complement to her role.  As noted in previous posts my preliminary reconnaissance and analysis had identified Eryn as potentially complementing my cerebral analysis with people-oriented focus. But it was time to put it all down on paper, or, more precisely, 4x6 card stock (not 3x5, as has often been rumored). After only two conversations, I did not expect Eryn to be particularly enthusiastic about the prospect of marrying me, but I thought it important to let her know that my interest was beyond Platonic. What is the ideal form of a marriage proposal anyway? 

The Fishbowl, as the main entrance to the main building was called, just happened to be a convenient, public place to converse. Retrospectively, Eryn was obviously squirming a bit about the combination of subject and location, since we had friends drifting by, but I was pretty oblivious.  Doesn't everyone take an objective, detached approach to decisions as important as marriage?

Although I was definitely interested in Eryn, it was not yet a particularly strong emotional attachment, so I didn't feel like I had a lot to lose from laying it all on the line.  Quite the opposite, I wanted her to evaluate the prospect of marriage objectively and commit to a serious pursuit of making an definitive decision, which my previous love interest had long avoided.  Since I was looking for a life partner, I laid out the pros and cons as best I could. By that time, I had a pretty good idea of the likely trajectory of my life calling, so my goal was to ensure that we focused on how our complementary strengths would help us pursue a shared vision of our kingdom service together, rather than win her heart. I was actually trying to scare her off a bit (just not too much :-), since I wanted a wife that was willing to pursue life purpose over material goals.  As an academic, my income is never going to be great.  

Eryn's phenomenal hospitality and ability to connect was just what I was looking for to balance out my Asperger-like tendencies (BTW, I'm sorry if I've ever offended you, it *probably* wasn't on purpose). My abstract theological focus needed grounding so that it could be of use to anyone and I had long believed that this would be best pursued in home bible studies (and now a house church). Eryn's welcoming ways ensured that her dorm room was packed full on a regular basis, so I knew she could help make others comfortable (and leave the opposite to me :-).  On the other hand, it was clear from our earlier conversations that my analytic abilities might further her role as a peer counseler, which others frequently sought. Eryn was far more interested in helping others work through things productively than just giving an indulgent listening ear.

During a move a couple years ago, We found those cards and decided that my pros/cons were not that far off. Since my professional career is all about making accurate predictions, it was satisfying to see it work in real life too. The happiest couples I have known pursue Kingdom work together and value each other's contribution to their fulfillment of their own life role. Unfortunately, outside of the life callings of pastors/missionaries and their spouses, churches don't provide much of a cultural pattern for couples to consider as they seek God's Kingdom together. I hope that will change! 

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