Telling Okinawa

This is a continuation of Daniel’s and my story. Click on the “Our Story” tag for context.

Cathy asked me that Friday, when I was telling her about my scheduled date, whether my family knew about Daniel.

I confidently assured them that they did–before backtracking.

Truth was, I hadn’t ever mentioned Daniel to my brother who is stationed with his wife in Okinawa. John had no idea.

I was determined to rectify the situation, and Friday night happens to be the perfect time for doing so–since I could stay up late and catch John in the midmorning.

I sent John a message that I wanted to Skype with him. He didn’t respond back very quickly, so I texted him. He didn’t respond then, so I messaged his wife.

Finally, I got a text back from John.

“Why do you wanna talk to me?”

“I just do,” I responded.

John’s reply was: “Whoever he is, I don’t like him.”

I was flabbergasted. “Who told?”

To which John responded something to the effect of: “lol, that was a lucky guess. I was teasing. If he makes you happy, I’m very happy for you.”

John eventually did come home from the basketball game he was playing, and the two of us (and Kaytee) Skyped a bit.

We didn’t have much to say. The conversation ended up being pretty short. But I let John know that I was corresponding with Daniel, that he had asked me out and that we had a date planned.

I don’t remember exactly how John responded, but I’m pretty sure he included the standard line about a six week training course (with each brother) and maybe threw in a “He’d better fly you and him to Okinawa so I can see if I approve.”

Since John usually asks, whenever we talk, whether there’re any guys he needs to beat up for me, I informed him in advance that this was one man I definitely did NOT want him to beat up. I wanted to keep Daniel around, I said.

John was less than convinced.

A guy has to have the threat of being beaten up by a girl’s brothers. No, a guy needs to be beaten up by a girl’s brothers. That way, if he sticks around, you know he really loves you.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to put Daniel to that sort of test-but I knew that, at least on this front, such a test was unlikely.

I told John so, citing his distance as a complicating factor.

John assured me that he could easily hop a cargo plane and fly back to the States for a confrontation. He could also mobilize the home troops–my remaining three brothers (and most especially his fellow Marine brother)–to make sure the job got done properly.

I told him thanks, but no thanks, and we ended our conversation.

I could now tell Cathy, without any falsehood, that my whole family knew about Daniel.

Now I had only to meet him.

Two weeks.


A Date on the Books

This is a continuation of Daniel’s and my story. Click on the “Our Story” tag for context.

Arranging a date with someone you haven’t met before, who lives quite a distance from you, can be an interesting proposition. And so it was for Daniel and I.

Where could we meet that wouldn’t be terribly inconvenient for either of us? Where could we meet that would let both of us be comfortable? Where could we meet without incurring huge costs in hotel rooms (since our respective homes are too far apart to allow for day trips)?

What’s more, when could we meet that wouldn’t conflict with our various work and church responsibilities? Daniel had just taken off several days for his retreat, I had state surveyors due any moment. I taught Sunday School, Daniel had weekend small groups.

But Daniel considered those details carefully and arrived at a weekend three weekends out. We’d meet in Lincoln (allowing us to stay at our respective parents’ houses) and go to a museum and do dinner on a Saturday afternoon.

I texted my excitement to my mother the next morning.

“I’ve got a da-ate!”

Mom just laughed at me.

I’d taken to calling Mom during my commute at least once a week, asking her advice and telling her what was going on. She definitely seemed amused by certain aspects of Daniel’s and my relationship–and this one was apparently one of those aspects.

But I was over the moon.

Scheduling a real date, an in-person date, meant that this was on its way to maybe becoming a bona-fide “relationship” (Boy, I hate that term for romantic attachments.)

I couldn’t really say we were dating, but we were about to take the first step towards it.

Yes, yes, YES! I was so excited.

But I reminded myself, as I talked with Cathy that Friday, that Daniel had not declared intentions towards me. I could not claim him as my own, could not let myself think of him beyond what I’d been given permission to think of him. I must stay where we were at, must not allow my mind to travel down the line of wish-fors.

I had something concrete: a date on the books. That was enough for joy. I would not, could not go beyond that in my thoughts.

So far, I’d been taking things day by day, week by week, from one biweekly phone call, one semi-regular letter to the next. Now the time frame expanded and I had the promise that we’d still be talking two and a half weeks down the road, when we’d meet face to face at last.

Wrestling with Love

This is a continuation of Daniel’s and my story. Click on the “Our Story” tag for context.

That Wednesday morning, I read I John, as was my daily habit.

This time, I John 2:15-17 stuck out to me:

“Do not love the world or the things of the world.”

I wrote my prayer to the Lord:

“I affirm that this is Your word and that all Your words are true and good. Yet what are these things of the world that we are not to love? Is Daniel of this world, such that I should not love him? Do I set my affections to much upon him?”

I read on:

“If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

I knew this to be true. I also knew that the love of the Father was in me. God had called me by name, had demonstrated His love to my delight. And I believed it to be God’s love, working through me, that had desired to show love to Daniel the previous week by asking about his trip.

I just hadn’t expected that kind of love to morph into this kind of love.

Was this an unholy, fleshly desire?

I John 2:16 says:

“For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world.”

I wrestled with the desires I had toward Daniel. Were these worldly, fleshly desires?

I wrote my raw prayer to the Lord:

“I want, Lord, to desire You above all things. I want, Lord, whatever You desire. But I also want Daniel. I want to know everything there is to know about him. Yet, if you don’t want that for me, for Daniel and me, I don’t want it. Not my will but Yours be done.

Consecrate me, Lord, set me apart for Your service. Consecrate Daniel. And should You will to consecrate us together unto You, would You reveal that to Daniel–and give him wisdom in communicating that to me.”

That night, after a long conversation, Daniel told me he had a question he wanted to ask me. He sounded a bit tentative, told me he was a bit nervous. But he asked nonetheless:

“Rebekah, would you…go on a date with me?”

I’d asked God to lead Daniel as he led me. I’d asked God to help me respond to Daniel’s leadership in a holy fashion.

And by this time, I knew exactly how to respond:

“(Internally) HECK YES!
(Externally) I’d love to go on a date with you.”

This man moves me

This is a continuation of Daniel’s and my story. Click on the “Our Story” tag for context.

How could I be in love with this man?

Was that even possible?

We’d known each other only two months, had only ever written each other or talked on the phone.

I’d never seen his face, never held his hand (not even shaken it).

Yet I asked God a question as I dressed for work the next morning.

“Lord, will I marry Daniel Garcia?”

God’s reply was clear and forceful: “I know. And when it is time for you to know, I will tell Daniel.”

I wrote in my journal: “Thus begins the waiting game. Now that I am officially crazy about this man…Now I must learn whether I trust him to listen to God and be obedient.”

In the meantime, I must guard my heart. I was determined to guard my heart, to not imagine beyond what Daniel said.

After our first Skype date that next Saturday, I didn’t know exactly what to think–except that my heart was fighting against my mind’s restraining reigns.

Daniel had asked me what made me feel special–what someone else does for me that makes me feel special.

I didn’t know how to answer, couldn’t answer, didn’t answer just then.

The truth was that he made me feel special. He made me feel special when he shared his heart with me. When he talked about how my note had made him feel. When I’d trailed off before completing a sentence only to have him pick up the thread, knowing my mind completely. He made me feel special with his intent attention to my face as I talked. He made me feel special by asking what makes me feel special.

It was ridiculous, I thought, how a man I’d never met in person could so move me.

And move me he did.

Talking to him excited me, thrilled me. I quickly grew to love sharing my every thought with him and hearing all of his thoughts. My heart beat wildly when he shared his heart with me.

Be that as it may, he’d not declared any official intentions towards me. I knew he was interested in me, from what he’d shared. But we’d still not even discussed meeting in person; were still only talking during our regularly scheduled biweekly calls. I mustn’t let myself consider him my boyfriend, mustn’t let myself imagine him my husband.

However much he moved me, I was determined to follow his lead, not to wrest it from him.

I waited a painfully long four days between our Saturday Skype and our next Wednesday conversation, willing myself not to write him or text him every day in between.

I wrestled with God in the in-between, sharing my feelings about Daniel, asking God to make His will known.

Hearing his heart

This is a continuation of Daniel’s and my story. Click on the “Our Story” tag for context.

Daniel got back to me after a day or so, and we arranged another telephone conversation.

This time I was determined to listen more than talk.

And, for once, I did.

I asked Daniel to tell me about his trip (letting him know that I also wanted to hear what he ate :-P) and then listened as he recounted his story in detail.

I would later describe the conversation to my friends with wonder:

So you know how I tell about my weekend? My story goes something like, “Uh, well, we had a firepit at my parent’s house and I took some pictures of the Little Miss. Other than that, I pretty much didn’t do anything exciting. I suppose, um, oh yeah, there was this AWFUL fog on the way home from Lincoln and it took me twice as long to get home because I couldn’t see. Oh–I forgot to mention that I talked to my boss on Friday and he said…” That’s not the way Daniel’s story was at all.

His was very linear, very minute. He described each event in great detail, including exactly where he was at and even which ingredients he used in his omelets.

But it wasn’t a dry recitation of “And then I went here and did that.”

This wasn’t just a recital of facts. He wasn’t just telling me where he’d gone, what he’d done, what he’d ate.

He was telling me what he was thinking, what he was feeling. He was telling me about his fears, about his anxieties, about what excites him.

He was sharing his heart with me.

Yes, I’d liked Daniel before that conversation. I’d enjoyed corresponding with him, conversing with him. I’d experienced the union of our two minds. I’d appreciated the way he thought about issues.

But this was different. My attraction to him grew with every detail. I was amazed at how different this man was than I, how detailed his mind could be. I was impressed with his love for the Lord, his desire to be obedient to God. I was humbled by his honesty about his fears and worries.

And then he described how he’d driven out of the mountains a bit to where he could get cell phone reception to call his mother, how he’d read my Facebook message. He described how my message had made him excited and nervous, how he’d thought “Wow, she sounds interested.”

Hearing that, I realized that I was. I was very interested.

I might even be beyond interested.

I might be in love with this man whose heart I’d just heard.

Learning to Love

This is a continuation of Daniel’s and my story. Click on the “Our Story” tag for context.

Biweekly calls became our standard and I looked forward to Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon conversations with Daniel. We talked very candidly about a wide variety of topics-from legalism and judgmentalism to childraising philosophies to evangelism to personality tests to how to discern whether a movie or a book is worth seeing or reading.

We continued writing one another and I’d shared my thoughts on a few controversial doctrines one Tuesday night-and then sat on tenterhooks all through the next day waiting for our evening conversation.

These topics-or specifically my stance on a couple of these topics–had been dealbreakers in previous relationships with men. Would Daniel think, like the others, that I was a heretic? Would he decide he didn’t want to talk to me anymore?

By this time, I was starting to confess to myself and to Cathy that I thought I liked Daniel.

I asked Daniel that evening what he’d thought of what I’d written-and was much relieved that he didn’t consider me a heretic. I was so relieved that I rather monopolized the later part of our conversation, going on and on about my views on some of those tricky theological points.

We wouldn’t be talking that Saturday, because Daniel had planned a camping trip/retreat so he could spend time with God. I knew this was important to Daniel-he’d mentioned some of the shopping and other preparations he’d been making for his trip.

I’d not realized exactly how big a deal this trip was to him until I saw his Facebook status update:

“Driving up into the Rockies with a manual, one of the funnest things ever. I can’t imagine how much less fun it would have been with an automatic.”

You see, I’d just assumed his retreat was a weekend thing and that he’d be camping right around where he lived. This status told me just how much I’d underestimated the scope of his trip.

I was still in 1 John and God had been speaking to me about walking in love and how love for the brethren is a sign that one is truly born again.

When I saw Daniel’s status, I realized how much I’d failed to love Daniel by not asking about his trp-a trip that was clearly very important to him.

We had communion at church the next day and I seriously considered letting the elements pass me by. I had sinned against my brother in my self-interested failure to ask about his life. I was torn up inside over my selfishness.

Once home from church, I knew what I should do. I wrote a quick message to Daniel:

“I’m wondering how long this retreat of yours is slated to last… I’m eager to hear all about it, but don’t want to interrupt your actually retreating. So pay me no mind until you’re done, but know that I’m interested in learning all about your camping and communing with God. :-)”

The moment I sent the message off, I was at peace again. I was in the process of rectifying the situation, learning to truly love my brother.

I hate phones

This is a continuation of Daniel’s and my story. Click on the “Our Story” tag for context.

Is it not just the nature of God to not allow us to become comfortable or complacent in any season of our lives? Just when I came to a peace with the correspondence between Daniel and I, things changed.

Daniel asked if he could call me.

I agreed and we arranged for our first phone call.

He called and we talked for a little less than two hours. When we hung up, I drew my bathwater and cried.

It had been awkward, uncomfortable. I’ve never been a phone person, and this had been awkward on so many levels.

Sometimes he couldn’t hear me. Sometimes I couldn’t hear him. We had to ask each other to repeat what we’d said several times. There were awkward silences while we tried to figure out what we should say next. I was pretty sure I’d been an awful conversationalist, failing to do my part to keep the conversational ball rolling.

And I realized, somewhat to my surprise, that this really bothered me. I knew the odds of his being romantically interested in me after that conversation were slim-but I worried that now that he knew that, he wouldn’t want to correspond with me anymore. And that prospect was heartbreaking.

I loved corresponding about books and philosophy and science and the sovereignty of God with Daniel. And now I had ruined it.

I considered writing Daniel, apologizing for not having told him in advance how terrible I was at phone conversation. I wanted to salvage whatever I could.

But God urged me to trust Him, to let Daniel lead. So I told God my thoughts and did nothing.

You can’t imagine my elation when I received a message from Daniel two days later asking if he could call me again.

I had not lost my new friend, this man with whose mind mine had so connected.

Walking in the Light

This is a continuation of Daniel’s and my story. Click on the “Our Story” tag for context.

I was actively at war against idolatry, but it was a private war. I hadn’t told anyone. At least, not in any detail. I had told Daniel a little about the Timothy Keller book, and had said “Even now, weeks from reading the book, I’m still thinking and praying about what I learned about idolatry, especially about idols in my own heart.”

Daniel had probed about my idols, and I was suddenly shy.

So far, we’d been writing lengthy messages back and forth, covering the usual get-to-know-you stuff and some more weighty intellectual topics. But we hadn’t entered the realm of the heart. This seemed a rather hefty topic on which to enter that realm. I hesitated.

At the same time, I was reading through 1 John daily. Just then, 1 John 1:7 began to stick out to me.

“If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, aand the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

I realized that I needed to confess my idolatry to another, that I needed to walk in the light regarding my longstanding sin. But I wasn’t sure Daniel was the best person to confess to.

I went to my friend Cathy to confess and ask for her advice.

After hearing me out, Cathy asked whether I thought it was wise that I was writing to Daniel just as God was working in my heart to overthrow the idol of marriage.

I confessed that I didn’t know, couldn’t decide. I didn’t feel that I was making Daniel my focus, didn’t think I was making marriage an idol again in my interaction with him. But I feared that I would, feared I’d been rash in accepting the introduction.

Cathy listened and agreed to pray with me about that decision. And so we did. For the next week, I earnestly entreated God to show me if He didn’t want me talking with Daniel just then. Cathy prayed too.

When we got together the next week, neither of us felt we’d received a definitive answer from God. In the absence of any word from the Lord otherwise, I continued writing Daniel.

Over the next couple of weeks, God confirmed through many sources the work that He had done in my life in overthrowing the idol of marriage. At last, I came to a peace with the fact that Daniel and I were getting to know each other.

Mixed Emotions

This is a continuation of Daniel’s and my story. Read part 1 for context.

I had mixed feelings about Jeremy’s offer. Here I was learning how to enthrone Christ and dethrone marriage–and God sends temptation my way in the form of a setup. I don’t want to lose the ground I’ve been gaining, learning to make Christ my supreme treasure. At the same time, I am acutely conscious of how often I have whined that people don’t understand how to set others up–and commented that I wouldn’t at all mind being the recipient of a setup done right.

Jeremy did the set-up right. He got the idea and mentioned it to the man (to Daniel). Once Daniel had assented to the idea of being set up with me, Jeremy had approached me about arranging an introduction. Everything was just the way I’d described “the proper way” to set someone up. I rather felt that I’d be a hypocrite if I refused the setup after all my whining.

I sent Jeremy a message that evening saying that I would be okay with a Facebook introduction, but that I wasn’t sure how much time I’d be able to spend on a relationship since I was pretty busy at work (which was very true.)

I spent the next couple of weeks second guessing myself.

Was this wise? I hadn’t spent much time praying about it-had kinda responded on impulse. I was still choosing to delight myself in Christ, wasn’t obsessing over Daniel. But the fact that I’d just agreed to the introduction before I knew for sure that I should troubled me.

Dethroning Marriage

It started when I picked up Timothy Keller’s Counterfeit Gods
from the library bookshelf. I’d read books by Keller before and knew that I enjoyed his writing style and respected his theology. It would be an easy read.

What I didn’t count on was how God would use that book to change my heart.

“Idols capture our imagination, and we can locate them by looking at our daydreams. What do we enjoy imagining? What are our fondest dreams?”
~Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods p. xxii

When I read those words, I knew exactly what served as my most prominent idol: marriage.

For years, marriage had been my fondest daydream. What’s more, it had become what Jerry Bridges calls a “functional savior”. When times got hard at work and I was stressed, I thought “If only I were married I wouldn’t have to work a job like this to support myself.” When I didn’t have time to pursue the domestic tasks I so enjoy, I thought “If only I were married and could be a stay-at-home wife.” I considered marriage to be the answer to whatever problem I felt I had.

Life would be perfect if only I were married.

And then God flashed the word “idol” with neon lights above my daydreams.

Keller’s book was just what I needed, both to identify my idol and to give direction for overcoming it. Keller emphasized that idols couldn’t just be dethroned, Christ had to be enthroned.

By God’s grace, I began to dethrone marriage and enthrone Christ at the center of my heart.

Then I got the Facebook message sent to my phone.

I want you to know that I have a policy against doing what I’m about to be doing…”

I was at my parents’ house for the weekend, there for my niece’s first birthday party. As a result, I really didn’t have easy access to the internet. I mused on the strange intro a bit, but figured that Jeremy was going to ask for nutrition advice.

When I logged on to the internet the next morning, I discovered just how wrong my assumption had been.

Jeremy was asking for permission to set me up with a friend of his–who happened to also be his sister’s brother-in-law.

To be continued…