We’re getting closer to that fabled time of the year where people get all lovey-dovey with each other, Valentine’s Day! It was actually eight years ago when I started talking to a pretty girl named Heather, who would later become Mrs. Honeycutt.
In case you were wondering, we actually met through eHarmony.com. Not sure if that changes anything in your opinion of us, but hey, it worked! We both lived in rural areas of the Carolinas at the time (I was in Lake Waccamaw, NC and Heather is from Enoree, SC). Single young adult Christians weren’t exactly in ample supply in those parts!
Thank God for free communication weekend on eHarmony.com! ;)
One funny aspect to it was that Heather had pre-paid for a one-year membership, while I signed up on “Free Communication Weekend”. I always tell folks I got the better end of the deal for sure! I paid nothing to meet the girl of my dreams.
I can remember our first date like it was yesterday. We met half-way in Columbia; me driving one hour west from my parent’s house in Hartsville in my “modest” Honda Civic sedan, while she drove one hour east in her “far-from-modest” Chrysler 300C (yes, it had a Hemi). I’ll get back to the cars a little later…
It was the first time we had met face-to-face and we headed out to dinner at California Dreaming in Columbia, SC near the USC campus. It was converted from an old railroad station (Union Station) into a fairly nice restaurant. We both had been there plenty of times before and seemed like as good of a location as any for a first date.
Since I was “raised right”, I did all the southern gentlemen-ly things, starting with opening the door for her. Inside the restaurant, I would’ve pulled her chair out and seated her at the table, but they put us in one of those half-circle leather booths. Kind of big for just two people, but it worked out fine (obviously).
I ordered the marinated sirloin steak, while she got the chicken tenders. Heather would later comment that she thought I was nervous, as I put a lot of fresh ground pepper on my side salad. I was using one of those provided pepper grinders where you have to twist the cap repeatedly to get anything out of it. The salad looked like it had black sawdust all over it by the time I was through. I just like a lot of pepper!
We talked, laughed, and enjoyed our food, but more so just enjoyed each other’s company. I paid for the meal (which wasn’t cheap) because I wanted to make a good first impression. This was despite the fact that she made a whole lot more moolah than I did as a youth pastor! After dinner we walked back outside to where we had parked. It was there where she held up her car keys and asked me a defining moment kind of question:
“Would you like to drive?”
Without any hesitation whatsoever, I replied, “Sure!”
Did I mention her car had a Hemi V-8? We’re talking a brand new Chrysler 300C in silver with stock chrome rims, Bose sound system, sunroof, and leather seats. I eagerly received the opportunity and off we went, driving around downtown Columbia. I often half-joke and say that was when I knew she was the one!
You see, I wasn’t the only one who was “raised right”. Heather recognized not only that I admired her car, but also that the guy should lead in a relationship. If the date were to continue, it would move forward with me behind-the-wheel. This was one small way, perhaps subconsciously, that she was testing to see what kind of man I am. It’s not an absolute tell-tale sign, but it was in our case.
She would say later tell me about how previous boyfriends of hers were very passive, not “taking charge”. They would just go along with whatever she wanted or said and at the end of the day, not lead her in the relationship. As we would continue to court (yes, “court”, not “date”) the more she looked to me for direction. Direction not in, “What should I do next?” but “Where are we going together?”
Women really would like a man who has passion, but their true desire is a man with vision. This is why the term “dating” is inadequate, as a courtship deals with a long-term defined framework. Marriage here is the intent, but it doesn’t have to mean the outcome. A healthy courtship will of course grow into that if covered in prayer and trust is established in who the other is currently and will grow to become.
A man’s role in a courtship isn’t necessarily about proving you’re worth loving. Instead, it’s more about whether you’re worth following. Love, as it turns out, comes easy, honor does not. Honor is related to respect, in that it is more the practice of it rather than merely the attitude/opinion. Relationships shouldn’t just be about love, there needs to be respect in action. Otherwise, the foundation of the relationship is on shaky ground. I’ve seen too many marriages end up in disaster because of there was a severe lack of honor!
While all of this may sound offensive, sexist and old-fashioned, it is Biblical. You see, the man is supposed to be the leader of a household. This does NOT mean a license for abuse or that a marriage is a dictatorship. This is about things being in proper order.
1 Corinthians 14:33a (NIV):
“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…”
And we see that order in…
1 Corinthians 11:3 (NIV):
“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”
Someone has to lead the tango, so to speak, and our gender roles complement and build up the other.
1 Peter 3:7 (ESV):
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
Heather and I courted for six months before I asked her to marry me. Six months seemed like such a short amount of time to some folks. My poor mother freaked out! Even though I had roommates in college that got engaged after one month, I was crazy for jumping in so soon. However, I was at ease about it because I knew Heather’s heart.
The boat dock in the Rose Garden at Biltmore Estate, where I proposed to my wife Heather
One of the misnomers about the dating/courtship/engagement period is that you must learn every detail about a person; each little tick, quirk, and habit they possess. You just want to see if they’re compatible, right? The most common manifestation of that idea is living together before marriage. This however, is sin and just not a good idea. (more on that at a later time)
I’m here to tell you that you really don’t need to know everything there is about the person! You just need to know whether or not you can trust them. What are you trusting them for? In short, that your marriage will give glory and honor to God. A successful marriage is measured on that criteria alone, not its longevity.
And while Heather, as a pharmacist, made a much bigger paycheck than me, she still saw me for who I am supposed to be in the relationship. Our marriage stands on that foundation established during our courtship. Never once has she tried to “pull rank” on me based on our financial worth, but rather we come to make decisions together, but with me leading the way.
Another dinner we had at California Dreaming, when our parents got to meet each other for the first time
Listen… I am by no means a relationship expert, but I get to work with a pretty good instruction manual! I also happen to have someone I’ve been able to grow in knowledge with. I’m undoubtedly a blessed man!
Come out this Sunday for the start of our new series, “Love with Honor” as we learn more about the dynamic of love and honor and what that means for our relationships.