Eighteen years ago this week, Dave brought me home for Christmas. Except that he didn’t tell his parents we were dating. He hadn’t told me, yet, we were dating. We had, in fact, been “hanging out” for about six months (yep, that’s months) and he had yet to declare his intentions. But there I was, at his parents’ house, the week before Christmas.
Let me give you some background: David McGee is one of the smartest guys I know. He is also one of the godliest. And he never makes rash decisions. He’s researched cars for close to a year before making a purchase. When he was choosing a seminary, he poured over pamphlets, spoke to every seminary graduate he knew, seeking advice. Whatever the opposite of “spontaneous” is — that’s Dave. And it’s a great thing. God made him cautious, wise. And we balance each other out well because I hardly every think before I make a decision. My gut and a credit card is all I need!
So when we met, Dave was attracted to me, but he was cautious. I was only 19 – a baby. He was 25 – a college graduate. He knew 19-year-olds tended to be fickle and immature. He was at the point where he was ready to find his future wife. And he wanted to be sure he made the right decision. So he watched me. All summer. We worked together at a youth camp. He was one of the Unit Leaders (in charge of a group of counselors), and I was a counselor (not in his unit). His sister conspired to get us thrown together in some activities. Shoot, the whole camp worked on throwing us together. I wasn’t sure I was interested in someone that old, but I had to admire a guy whose Bible was so worn it was held together by duct tape!
That fall, he decided to go to the Word of Life Bible Institute’s (WOLBI) School of Youth, Ministry and Evangelism. He had finished college and he had attended WOLBI’s one-year Bible program the year before me. But he felt God wanted him to study the Bible more, and so he came back. With me. And we hung out. Now WOLBI is super strict, so no couples are allowed to go off campus together or touch at all — not even hold hands. So we spent that fall talking. A lot. That’s a good thing. We really go to know each other – what we liked and didn’t like, what we believed, what we thought God wanted us to do in life. But we didn’t talk about “us.” Didn’t call each other “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” or even (a WOLBI favorite) a “special” friend.
I was getting a little impatient. I mean, we met in JUNE and it was NOVEMBER. I understood cautious, but this seemed excessive! And then he asked me to come home with him. I was so excited! That meant something – we were ready to put the “special” in front of the “friends.” And then he told me he had invited someone else home, too- a friend from school, John, who lived in England and couldn’t go home for the holidays.
“So,” I tried to be as diplomatic as possible. “Do your parents know anything about me?”
“They know you’re coming.”
“Do they think I’m with John or with you?”
“We didn’t talk about it.” He said. “It doesn’t matter.”
It doesn’t matter. Right. But then he said his sister, whom I had known from camp that summer, had been talking to their mom, and she filled her parents in on who I was. Nice.
So I was in Long Island with a guy I was falling hard for and I wasn’t even sure if his parents knew who I was.
Why would he do this? Because I had gotten to know him, I knew it was because he had gotten hurt in the past. He had dated girls and had his heart broken, and he didn’t want that to happen again. His mom had gotten her heart broken, too, when Dave was hurt. So he didn’t want to bring any but “the” one to meet his parents. I knew him asking me to come home was a big deal. But I also knew it was scary for him.
The week ended up being great. Away from the rules of WOLBI, we sat close on the couch, held hands (!), and just had fun. By the time I left, we were official. I think I could have flown home without the aid of an airplane!
Now, eighteen years later, it is a fun story, one we laugh about when we tell our friends. But, I have to say, as impatient as I was, I am glad Dave was so slow. In a time where life is fast, girls and guys are fast, being slow has major advantages. We spent a long time building a foundation of friendship before we began speaking of love (that was still several more months after this story!). That friendship, built on Christ, is what has sustained us for the sixteen years we have been married, through global moves, heartache and hard times. It has allowed to stay together “For better or for worse.”
And now, eighteen years later, it is still one of my fondest Christmas memories!