we were dating long-distance, much of our relationship took place over the phone with long conversations, which really helped us get to know one another in a concentrated sort of way. So much so that just a couple of months in, we both were pretty sure that we could see ourselves getting married.
Things between us—mainly our minds and hearts for God—just clicked like they never had with anyone else before. I remember thinking that sometimes when I talked to him, it was just like I was talking out loud to myself or to an imaginary friend, the conversations just flowed so naturally and we were crazy in-sync on tons of things that mattered, like how we wanted to raise children someday or what we saw as priorities in our lives.
Being with him also really challenged me. I mentioned before that I was so impressed to see him hunkered over his Bible while the rest of the world was swirling about him; he always made that a priority. At that point in my life, my Bible reading was not so intentional (whenever I could spare the time), but he challenged me on it. He set the example but he also called me out on my own passivity. Part of it bothered me, of course, but it also showed me who this guy was. He was willing to journey through the discomfort for the sake of truth and obedience. And for my sake, too. He was a man of integrity, and I saw that through and through.
I remember early on in our relationship reading a verse that says, "I will bring you gold in place of bronze, silver in place of iron, bronze in place of wood, iron in place of rocks." (Isaiah 60:17) In its biblical context, that verse has nothing to do with dating, and instead comes when the Lord is calling his people to be faithful again and promising them that their punishment will not endure forever, but mercy is on the horizon.
But during that time in my life, I saw in that verse how the Lord makes it his gift to take what we have and dazzles us with things more brilliant than we could have even expected, much less deserve: We have bronze, but he gives us gold. He gifts us riches that make us stand in awe. I had expected someone who was "bronze." And yet the Lord did not stop there, but gave me a man who was stronger, purer, wiser than my wildest dreams. God chose to, in love, give me “gold.”
That is not to say that things were perfect between us. Things were better with him than they were with anyone else I’d ever dated and I felt more accepted and loved and more myself around him than with anyone else, period. But we also did our fair share of arguing and not seeing eye to eye and getting frustrated with each other. (A lot of it was over issues that really probably weren't the effort. I remember getting into a fight once about the evils of big-box stores and another about how much the Old Testament applies to our lives today.)
Yet, it was conflict, and conflict was something we had to learn how to process and address early on, since nearly all we had was the phone to keep our relationship going. We couldn’t just go buy an ice-cream cone and push it under the rug. It forced us to really weigh what we were doing here; were we going to fight for this relationship even when it’s difficult and when it hurts and when it isn’t pretty? Or were we just going to give up on it? We decided to keep fighting, to keep working through the issues, to get really good at apologizing and to start to figure out the dance of communication and conflict resolution and compromise and picking our battles.
But I totally believe that was another aspect where God knew what he was doing as he was writing this love story of ours. We had to face those situations (which we all face at one point or another) while we were still dating, which gave us a chance to address and learn from them then, before our hearts were married together.
And by addressing them then, those times of conflict gave us the chance to work on our communication even more. I think it really paid off down the road because although it felt like we had a lot of arguments while we were dating, once we were married, the frequency really abated and today, we find ourselves in disagreements very rarely and even when we do, we’re able—because of all the “practice” we’ve had—to address them in more constructive and loving ways that make them a lot more effective a lot more efficiently.
In that aspect, even though there were tons of bright spots in our dating relationship, it was also hard, as I think most relationships are at one point or another, in one way or another. I don't want to gloss over that because the truth is, that's par for the course in any human relationship. But it's also a chance for us to learn more about ourselves and what it looks like to live in Christ's footsteps, forgiving and serving and loving even when it takes effort to do so. And only then can we learn to appreciate those hard parts because they have the potential to shape and chisel our hearts so intimately—if we let them.
The Truth About Conflict in Relationships
Notes from Love and Respect: Insights for Wives