If you missed Part 1 of Chase and Sarah’s Courtship Story, go back now and read how it all began! (I’ll wait:)
You remember that when we left the story last time, Sarah said, “I tried to put Chase out of my mind, and if I had a hard time doing that, I prayed, ‘Lord, if Chase is not the one for me, please help me not to think about him; and if he is the one for me, please work through my parents and Chase to reveal that to me in Your time.’ And then I tried to go about life not worrying about it, but trusting it to the Lord.”
Less than 2 months after that “match-making” dinner, I woke up one morning to find that my mom was making my favorite muffins (Almond Poppyseed), and she proceeded to tell me that we were going to have breakfast down at the dock with my dad, because my dad had something to tell me. Now, she didnʼt say anything, but whatʼs a girl to think? Dad wants to talk to me about something? Special breakfast, setting the scene for a special moment down at the dock… I donʼt claim to be Nancy Drew, but Iʼm not clueless either. Of course my first thought was that somebody must have come to my dad and asked to court me, and my second thought was, “Who?”
Even though he had not let on to me that he was interested in me as more than just a friend, Chase came immediately to my thoughts, and I got so excited! Now, to paint the picture a little more, my dad was already waiting at the dock, no doubt running through in his head how to tell me. My mom had baked these Almond Poppyseed muffins in her special leaf-shaped muffin tin (it was autumn) and had napkins with pheasants on them (Chase is a hunter)–lots of thought into the simple details of a special moment (thatʼs my mom). I donʼt remember the exact words, but as we sat on the dock swing, my dad told me that Chase had come to him and asked to court me, and what did I think? I donʼt remember what I said. I think I probably let on to the fact that I was excited about it, but I do remember saying that I needed some time to pray about it. I donʼt think I felt unsure exactly, as much as I felt I needed time to gather my thoughts and actually allow myself to let my thoughts go in this direction. So, I spent the next hour in my room, praying and seeking the Lord. Within that hour, I felt the answer was clear… not only did I want to go ahead with the courtship, I felt sure that I wanted to marry Chase. But I was so nervous to talk to him. Talking with him had always been so comfortable, but this was different. Our relationship was at a whole new level, and I had no experience in this level of relationship. That night, I went out to Perkins with Chaseʼs mom. We had a close relationship, and I felt it would be easier to start by talking to her than to Chase. I was so nervous, I only ordered a hot chocolate. I was able to hear her side of the story, and she helped me to feel more comfortable about talking to Chase. Chase was up north on a scouting trip, and that night he called, and we talked. The courtship process had begun.
Chaseʼs Side of the Story:
FFF: When did you first notice Sarah and what stood out to you about her?
Chase: When I was 16, we went to a party at Sarahʼs familyʼs house. Our families were just getting to know each other. We were playing a game of Bible Blurt, and I noticed how competitive she was, feisty, and just fun to be with.”
FFF: When did you first start to think that Sarah might be the one for you?
Chase: Well, considering physical attraction only, you could say it was love at first sight, before we had even met; but I knew I had to curb those feelings due to the fact that she was 2 years older than I was and she was a great catch (also, I was too young). When our church was going through a tough time, we talked more as friends and realized how likeminded we were on spiritual issues. This is when I started to pray about whether or not she was the one for me.
FFF: How long, from that time that you first started praying about her, was it before you took the next step?
Chase: About 9 months.
FFF: What was the next step for you?
Chase: I talked to my parents (each separately) and asked for their blessing to move to the next level. They were ecstatic. When I told them, they both expressed that they had been hoping it was Sarah. The next step was gaining enough courage to meet with Sarahʼs dad. It took me about a week. I called him and asked if we could meet for lunch, to which he said, “Sure.” I met him and basically asked him for permission to court his daughter and went on to explain to him what I saw in her that attracted me to her, to which he said that he and Sarahʼs mom had been specifically praying about me, but that he needed to discuss it with his wife and, obviously, Sarah. Then, I waited an eternity for an answer. They decided that they were going to tell Sarah on the weekend that I was going to be out of town on my annual scouting trip. During that scouting trip, I didnʼt get anything done. All I could think about was Sarah; and my friends that I was with (one of my friends knew, the other didnʼt) saw me with a blank stare on my face all day and letting them do all the work. I couldnʼt wait to get to the hotel room that night and find out what happened. Finally, I got the opportunity to call and talk to Sarah for the first time. I was on top of the world; she was very nervous. It was a little awkward, but I tried to assure Sarah that this was new for both of us and we were just going to take it one step at a time. The next day, my friends and I raced home. We stopped because I wanted to get a dozen red roses for Sarah. I was warned that red roses mean, “I love you,” and may be a premature step, to which I responded, “I know, and thatʼs exactly what I want to express to her.”
FFF: What were the best decisions you made regarding your courtship?
Chase: Going to Sarahʼs dad to ask his permission and blessing before talking to Sarah. Being willing to talk about the hard things and going through challenges and struggles through our courtship. (A favorite phrase: Rose colored glasses off before marriage, rose colored glasses on after marriage.) Saving my first kiss for the altar was something that was very special.
FFF: What would you have done differently?
Chase: Looking back, I think I would have asked to be able to talk to Sarah herself to ask her if she would be willing to let me court her.
FFF: How long did you court? Was this too long, too short, or just right?
Sarah: We courted for 8 months before getting engaged. I think it was just right. It took about 4 months before I started coming down from “Cloud 9” and really started thinking straight. I think Chase and I knew from the start that we wanted to get married, but it was also an important time of growth in our relationship. There was a lot of adjustment for our families also. We were spending a lot of time working out issues with siblings and parents. We wanted to be sensitive to how much this was affecting their lives (and we made many mistakes not being sensitive to them). So, I think thereʼs so much more to a courtship than even just finding out if youʼre right for each other.
FFF: How did you prepare for marriage during courtship?
Sarah: We learned how to communicate, especially face to face and in writing (not as much over the phone). We watched (along with both sets of parents) a video series by Gary Smalley on marriage. (I think one of the sessions discussed marital intimacy, and I watched that one with my parents separately from Chase watching it with his parents.)
We worked through a book called, “101 Questions Before Getting Engaged”, giving our answers in writing over e-mails. By the time we were married, we had already worked through so many issues, some of them being very hard, and some of them involving a lot of mistakes on both our parts. By the time we got to the altar, our eyes were wide open, our love had developed from the “fluttery-feelings stage” to the “Iʼm committed to you no matter what stage”.
FFF: Did you have guidelines/rules (touch, being alone, curfews, phone calls, etc.) and how did those come about? Who “led” the courtship or determined how things went? Was this the way you’d do it if you had it to do over again? Would you think this would be good to do with your daughter/son and their courtship?
If you could go back, what additional preparation would you do?
How much, if any, physical contact was there before marriage? Did this make it easier, harder, better/worse, or didn’t it matter, once married?
Knowing what you know now, would you change anything?
Sarah: When we began our courtship, we knew we needed to establish some guidelines, but we didnʼt get started on that right away. As a result, we started out with very few spoken guidelines. Even though we knew each other very well, we really didnʼt know each otherʼs boundaries, and we were kind of just feeling our way into it. Besides, to have a conversation about physical boundaries seemed very awkward. As we started to get into the relationship, we began to realize that it wasnʼt easy to draw a line in the sand as to what was okay and not okay regarding physical touch. Could we sit close on the couch, and how close is too close? Could we hug? Of course, a hug hello and goodbye is normal…oh, and if one is really hurting…oh, and if youʼre apologizing for something…but the hug shouldnʼt last too long…so, how long is too long? It was a few months before Chase and I sat down and really talked about having clear-cut physical guidelines. In the end, we decided to have a “no-touch” courtship. We didnʼt feel that all touch before marriage was wrong, but not knowing where the line was, we didnʼt want to flirt with danger. Many people had shared testimony with us that the combination of having feelings for each other and physical touch could be likened to a fire that can easily get out of control even with the best intentions. We wanted to focus on cultivating our spiritual relationship and communication first, and having to express our feelings in words versus a hug really forced us to be open with each other. This was hardest for Chase because his love language is “physical touch and closeness”, so to not express love to me in this way was extra-challenging for him. I needed to remind him that I was confident in his love for me, because he was making a sacrifice for me. He was laying aside his desire and natural inclinations for the sake of building a stronger relationship. Although I love physical affection, this decision did give me a great freedom. I didnʼt have to be constantly wondering or worrying about crossing a line or where the line was. We basically removed the entire subject at that point, and were freed up to focus on all the other aspects of our relationship. One of the hardest things about our choice to have a no-touch courtship was when we would be in a group setting, seeing each other for the first time there, and others found it strange that we did not hug in greeting, almost as if they thought there was something wrong in our relationship. So, there are pros and cons to both sides, and I think thatʼs where each couple is going to have to make this decision for themselves.
FFF: How did this affect you after you got married?
Sarah: The one negative effect was that I was uncomfortable on the day of our marriage being in front of everyone, having never kissed before, and being expected to kiss not only at the altar but for multiple pictures and glass-tinkling at the reception. But, when I was alone with Chase I was very comfortable to take it slowly, and my trust for him was even stronger because he had proved himself patient. Would we encourage our children to make that same commitment (no-touch before marriage)? We have discussed it many times, and admit to going back and forth on it. We have a lot of great things to say about how it blessed us during that time, and how we believe it can bring many blessings into a marriage. We pray God will give us the grace and wisdom at that time as to how to counsel our children.
As for communication, we started out mostly talking on the phone. Our conversations seemed to get longer and longer, and there was no end to what we could talk about. This began to take its toll on both our families. Eventually we did have time limits on the phone. I came to realize that I communicate much better in writing than on the phone (I communicate terribly on the phone.), so we started e-mailing back and forth. Due to the phone time limits, Chase was forced to start e-mailing, too. He didnʼt like it at first. For one thing, it took him a lot longer to write an e-mail than to tell me over the phone. He also was not used to expressing his feelings in writing. During that time of our courtship and engagement, he developed a skill in writing to me that lasts into our marriage. It is such a blessing to me! E-mailing also allowed for our communication not to cut into our time with our families as much. We could each write at times that were more convenient to us and our families. Eventually, we started using a book called, “101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged” that we got at Northwestern Book Store. We actually started it after we got engaged. It was great, because it brought up important questions to talk about, but that might be awkward to just come out and ask one another. We both answered each of the questions through e-mails. Today, we have 3 binders full of e-mails that we can enjoy reading for years to come. Our e-mails were open to our parents to read if they wanted to, for accountability, which did affect, sometimes, our openness in communication through emails. It was important for Chase and I to have one-on-one time to share more openly.
Chase came over to my familyʼs house one night a week, and we spent some of the time with my family and some of the time in the basement talking face-to-face, and ending in prayer. My family tried to give us privacy while also holding us accountable. If we were not within eyeshot, at least someone could walk through the room at any time.
We had a few dates unaccompanied by parents. Communication and accountability were heightened for these (e.g. phone calls to update where we were and when we were expected to be home). These were very special and treasured times for us and times we now see as a necessary part of the process.
As for who “led” the courtship, I think in some ways it was Chase and in some ways it was my dad. Chase was the one “courting” me, so he was usually the initiator.
My parents had a lot of say in establishing guidelines, especially as I was still under the authority and protection of my dad. Yet, my parents wanted us to come up with our own guidelines, which we did, but they were also in a place of being able to step in if they felt protection was needed. Chaseʼs parents did not have a lot of say in establishing guidelines, as they had largely released Chase to be free to court, though they were a huge source of counsel for us. I was very vocal about my views and Chase was very interested in my views and in honoring me. We often had different perspectives and this was a great time of learning how to work together.
I think this question of who is the leader in a courtship is a hard one and probably one we stumbled through on our way through it. It is delicate in the sense that the girl is still under the authority and protection of her father, yet to be in a courtship also means her heart is gradually being transferred to her potential future spouse.
We’ll conclude next Monday, with the Courtship Story of Chase and Sarah, Part 3, in our Love and Marriage Series, but I want to give you all a chance to ask any questions, if you’d like! You may comment here on my blog, or if you’d rather, you may email me directly by clicking on “Contact” at the top of the blog. Any questions received will be given to Chase and Sarah immediately, and we will try to get answers into next week’s post. Feel free to post a comment or question anonymously. Please remember to respect Chase and Sarah as you write, and be discreet, but feel free to ask any questions about courtship that you might have!
Whether courtship is a new concept to you, or you’re completely familiar with the idea, I hope that you’re enjoying the Story of Chase and Sarah’s Courtship!