Love Comes Loudly
Listen to us tell our story: here
Jesse’s side of the story (Heidi’s side is below)
Jesse: I am going to admit something right now that I never would have admitted while growing up with seven brothers: I am a romantic at heart. I love candlelit dinners and long moonlight strolls. I love spending time with the most beautiful woman who has ever walked the face of this planet – my wife, Heidi. In 2005, Heidi burst into my life with a brilliant blaze of color and changed me forever. I have fallen under her spell and hope to remain captive for life.
God made us to crave romance and the companionship of some special member of the opposite sex. While single, I dreamed – far more than I let on to my brothers – about how wonderful it would be to enjoy the companionship of a wife. Nights when I would baby-sit, after everyone else was asleep, I’d sit up in the living room and wish I had a wife to share this quiet moment with. Whenever we would meet a new family, my first thought was, “I wonder if they have a girl my age.” I was always on the lookout for the future Mrs. Jesse Jost. My path to nuptial bliss was not what I expected (as you will read in the following pages), but what did prove true was that there is a good God who has shown time and time again that He can be trusted. As a young man, I committed to God my desire for a wife. He has blessed me beyond my imaginings.
I am the oldest of eleven children and I loved all that this distinction entailed. I changed diapers, enjoyed cooking, loved sporting and working with my seven brothers, and simply adored my little siblings. But even though I loved my family, I longed for the day when God would give me my own family, especially a kind-hearted and thoughtful woman with whom I could share my deepest thoughts and feelings.
Longing for marriage led to some mild heartache and disappointment. However, I tried to remember that since it was my Creator who made me with this desire, my Creator would also fulfill this desire to the greatest degree. I also realized that these single years were a valuable time in a young man’s life. I immersed myself in some of the great works of literature. I took several journeys through church history, examined different philosophies, studied numerous arguments for the truth of Christianity, and memorized much of the New Testament.
Through all this, I eagerly awaited the day when God would say, “The time has arrived! Come meet this beautiful bride that I have prepared for you!” There were a couple of times I excitedly thought this day was dawning, only to see the imaginary sun dissipate and awaken to the cold reality that it was still night and I should still be asleep. These experiences taught me humility and gave me a firm grasp of how deceptive human hearts can be.
Love at first sight
When I was nineteen, I met – and was immediately attracted to – a girl who lived far away. I didn’t care what James Dobson said; I suddenly believed in love at first sight. I’d grown up hearing that when my mom met my dad, she had the thought cross her mind, “I just met my future husband.” I believed I was having a similar experience. I should have noted one key difference between Mom’s experience and mine – this girl that I liked was beautiful and attraction to her was natural. On the other hand, when Mom and Dad met, Dad had yet to emerge from his gangly, geeky stage. Today, of course, Dad is a rugged, handsome hulk, but back then it had to be the voice of God giving Mom a thought like that.
Over the next year and a half, I prayed that God would give me this girl as my wife. I was really sincere about the whole thing, surrendering her to God and sharing my feelings about her with my mom. I prayed in a somewhat cowardly way, “God, if she’s not the one you have for me, please take away this desire, but if she is the one, help this desire to grow.” I thought it was a win-win prayer. If God took my desire away, there would be no disappointment if nothing came to fruition. I should have realized that we are responsible for directing and diligently guarding the desires of our heart instead of expecting God to do it for us. So rather than guard my heart, I followed my heart and found that my infatuation increased. I thought I was falling more and more in love.
The crazy thing was that I had only seen this girl a few times and really didn’t know her. I have since discovered that it’s easier to have crushes on people you don’t know very well than on those you do. When you meet someone for the first time, huge unknown areas make up who that person is. It’s like a lift-the-flap grid put over a picture. You flip back a flap at a time, trying to guess what the rest of the picture is like. It’s similar in new relationships. You get to pull back a few flaps as you spend a little time together, revealing a bit of the other person’s nature and character. We don’t like living with unknown areas, though, so we often fill in the blanks ourselves, assuming things about the other person that may or may not be true. When a girl is outwardly attractive, it’s easy to assume she is perfect and godly in other areas. (On the flip side, it’s easy to be critical of a less attractive person’s character.)
When we know a person really well after years of time together, many more of the flaps have been revealed and we see more of that person’s faults and shortcomings. But with a new friend, there are still so many delicious blank spaces; our searching heart loves to imagine what lies behind that beautiful face.
I found this happening with me. This girl was beautiful and I assumed many things about her. I took her face, name, and the few things I had observed about her, entered these facts into my mental “create the perfect lover” program, and it filled in the rest of the picture with details I wanted to be true. Voila! A classic recipe for infatuation. I am not saying that this girl was not a wonderful person in real life, but rather that, in hindsight, I see I really didn’t know her as well as I thought I did.
A cruel awakening
Finally, after much prayer and waiting, my mom and dad suggested that I approach the young lady’s father about beginning a relationship. So we went to visit their family. The first night we stayed there I was woken up by a little sibling who wet the air mattress we were sharing. I cleaned up the puddled mess but could not get back to sleep. Lying down on a big bean bag couch, I contemplated what I was about to do… and then the gravity of the situation hit me full force. My conviction was that when I started a romantic relationship I wanted it to be for life. I was not in this for casual fun; I was about to commit for life. It suddenly dawned on me how little I knew this girl. What was I in for? I tossed and turned and committed the whole thing again to God.
The next afternoon, with great fear and trepidation, I trembled up the stairs and into her father’s office. He was on the phone and asked me to wait in the hall. “What am I doing?” I quivered. The young lady’s father turned out to be very kind and relaxed. I poured out my heart, trying to persuade him that it was God who put this desire in my heart and that I would do my best to take care of his daughter. Graciously, he said he would pray about it with his wife and get back to me in two weeks. Immediately after the conversation, I was flooded with peace. I had been obedient and stepped out in faith. I felt like I was Abraham, George Mueller, and Hudson Taylor all rolled into one, and God was beginning one of the greatest love stories of all time. It seemed I had done everything right. Now it was just a matter of time. The two weeks were filled with apprehension, but by the end of the second week, I had a growing certainty. I was really excited.
Then the phone rang. It was the girl’s father, and he wanted to talk to my dad first. Not a good sign. I talked with him a few minutes later. Actually, “talked” is too strong a description. It was more like I mumbled a few things while trying to get rid of the huge lump in my throat. With a few simple words, my fairytale train crashed abruptly into the face of rocky Heartbreak Mountain. It was over and I was stunned.
Was this some cruel cosmic prank? I had surrendered her to God, waited for confirmation from my parents, and now it was over! How could this be? Did this father have any idea that he’d just thrown to the wind a golden opportunity to guarantee his daughter’s lifelong bliss? Did he know who he’d just turned down? I went downstairs to my bed and soaked the covers with tears. When I got up, I reached for “A Grief Observed” by C. S. Lewis. I thought maybe he knew how I felt. After reading his heart-wrenching account of real grief, I realized things weren’t really all that bad. While it hurt my pride to be turned down and it was painful to have my expectations crushed, I was glad I had approached her father before starting a relationship. I had not communicated my affection to the girl and we had no shared romantic experiences so there were no soul ties to be severed. From what I have heard from others, that is when the real pain occurs.
A woman of my (not) choosing
Broken and humbled, I moved on. Ten months later, still feeling like a total failure in being able to read God’s direction for love, I told my parents to choose a girl for me and that I would just learn to love whoever they picked. I know that decision may sound crazy, but I was beginning to realize that true love is a choice, something you cultivate and nourish. I now saw that there can only be infatuation at first sight, not true love. So I was willing to let them pick The Woman for me, trusting God to lead through them. My parents had been praying for my future spouse since the day I was born; I knew that they wanted what was best for me even more than I did.
They talked and prayed about it together and felt that there were two godly young women who were possibilities for me. One of them was someone I had been interested in before; the other one had not caught my fancy at all. They decided on the former, a young lady whom we all knew well. I had been attracted to her when I was younger, but had since totally died to that interest. Though I was not in love with her, I knew that, with time, I could be. But I was not joking when I said I had totally died to my desire for her. So when they told me who they had chosen, I had a sinking feeling in my chest. I was excited that my life would be moving forward, but struggled to wrap my head around this one. I stayed up till one in the morning praying and trying to turn my heart toward this girl. I felt like a noble martyr of love…with a case of nausea.
With slightly less apprehension, I called the girl’s father and asked to begin a relationship with his daughter. He sounded positive at first, but decided to wait awhile before giving me permission. So for the next six weeks, I was learning to love the young lady my parents had chosen. It was beginning to work, too. The only problem was that the young lady’s father was not getting back to me. I couldn’t figure this out. When the opportunity of paradise for your daughter knocks on your door, why take so long to decide if you should let him in? Isn’t it a no-brainer?
Eventually, the second father did decide: No. He said he really wanted to say yes, but he had no peace and was not getting any sleep. I began wondering if there were any monasteries for Protestants. Thankfully, I couldn’t find any. But I did wonder if my strong desire for marriage would ever be fulfilled.
Look who’s available!
Shortly after false awakening # 2, I began to take more notice of a young lady in our church fellowship. She was the other girl my parents had thought was a good fit. They had suggested her to me before but in the past I had always rejected the idea. You see, I thought my cousin was interested in her. My cousin is about 6’1” and built like a lumberjack. I can make 5’10” with a good hair dryer, and am built for reading, so I wasn’t about to get into a stag fight for her. I already had enough headaches in the love department. It turns out that my cousin was interested in this girl’s younger sister and they had just announced their engagement a few months earlier. Their announcement opened up a new world of possibilities, and I had no idea just how wonderful this world would be!
I had always respected this slender, blond woman but could never figure out what she thought of me. I loved talking with her; she struck me as a very thoughtful person who listened carefully and weighed what was said without becoming defensive or argumentative. Nevertheless, even though my cousin was out of the way and The Girl was now available, I could not think of her as more than a friend – a possible great friend perhaps – but just a friend. Love was NOT my favorite topic any more.
Turning twenty-two had brought a dose of reality about all that marriage required, and that, much as I wanted to be married, I would be unwise to try to manipulate things to make marriage arrive sooner. “Just trust God for His timing,” I said to myself, for with His timing would come His grace. I decided the wisest thing to do would be to pursue my interest in writing, be open to more job opportunities, and be content right where God had me.
She loves me, she loves me not…she at least knows I exist, right?
A growing fascination with this striking blonde led to more and more “coincidental” encounters with her. Our chats reinforced my belief that she would make an awesome friend, but I was still clueless about how she felt. I was pretty sure she didn’t hate me! Beyond that, I couldn’t figure her out.
In spite of everything, I could not ignore the increasing hold she had on me. I began to look forward to seeing her, and tried harder to arrange coincidental conversations, all the while trying to convince myself she would just be a great friend. I started to look hard for any indication that she might view me as more than a friend, but alas, I could find none! I thought about approaching her father, but wanted to first make sure she was interested. I didn’t want to finally get past the father only to be turned down by the girl!
In early June, I went hiking with a group of friends that included this particular young lady. I was eager to talk to her. I had recently begun writing an article for a periodical, and used it as an excuse to talk to this girl, who just happened to be a very talented writer. (A disclaimer to you guys: The pickup line, “I’m a writer, would you like to edit my work?” worked great for me, but it might not have the same effect on all girls.) The amazing thing about the hike was that I almost always found myself with HER! The young lady, on the other hand, appeared to be running away from me down the hill, forcing me to inauspiciously run after her. I couldn’t figure out why she kept running away! “She wants me to follow her,” I assured myself, proving once again that the male brain’s version of logic is worthless when it comes to figuring out a female. At any rate, I loved every minute of talking to her. I found out later that during this hike my dad was praying that God would bring me and this young woman together if it was His will.
Love written in red
The next day, our church had a Sunday school picnic. I could not fight my newfound attraction. I watched The Girl closely – I wanted her attention. Where I was concerned, the facade of “just friends” was gone! This change of heart resulted in frustration for me, because this girl would not give any hint of interest! I was confused. I knew where my heart wanted to go, but because it had led me wrong before, I tried to keep my desires in check and wait on the Lord. When I got home, I sent her the article I was working on. She promptly sent it back full of red ink. At this, I fell hopelessly in love. Not only was she beautiful, she also knew how to edit! What more could a man want?
With each passing week, I experienced a growing certainty that, if it was what God wanted, I would be thrilled to have this girl as my wife. My parents gave their approval when I shared my desire with them, but they also expressed a need for confirmation from the Lord and some indication that this young woman’s heart was turning my direction. “Even if she isn’t attracted to me now, she still could be the one!” I hedged.
Once again, I made the mistake of trying to interpret her actions using male logic. Was she blushing? Was she comfortable or uneasy around me? Was she looking at me? These questions yielded no answers. I knew as much as rocks do – nothing!
While I had no idea how she felt, I knew how I felt! I couldn’t get her off my mind. One evening, on August 12, 2005, I sensed I had clear confirmation from the Lord: Yes, she’s the one for you. I was instantly excited, but I quickly tempered my soaring emotions by reminding myself that one’s thoughts tend to be deceitful and mine had deceived me before. Still, it seemed clear. I prayed that God would unmistakably direct in this situation. God had showed me in the past that if something wasn’t His will, He could protect me from it.
I felt I needed to approach her father. Having gone through the pain of being turned down in the past, I was reluctant to do so now. I had to be sure this was God’s will before venturing down that difficult road again!
God sure knows how to surprise us! The young woman’s parents contacted my parents about meeting together for coffee. Because they live a hundred miles away from us, the get-together was not some casual suggestion. Mom suspected that it might have something to do with their daughter. I went for a walk with Mom the night before the parents’ meeting and once again shared exactly where my heart was, but also said the future looked so uncertain.
I left early for work the next day (Tuesday, Aug. 23), anxiously awaiting news about the meeting. Shortly after 11 a.m., I got a call at work from Mom. She relayed the conversation, sharing that the girl’s parents started things off by saying they had noticed how much attention I was giving their daughter, Heidi, and were concerned about it. My heart sank. Oh no, not again! Strike three.
“They wanted to know where your heart was,” Mom continued, “because” – her next words jolted my mind with a rush of joy – “Heidi has believed you were the one for her for six to eight months!!!” I discovered then what it was like to lose touch with reality. My head was in the clouds – I ran on air all the way to cloud nine!
“Heidi has so much respect for you,” Mom said. “She just thinks the world of you!” I simply could not believe what I was hearing! I finally knew what ecstasy felt like: I’m twenty-two and for the first time in my life I know that a girl likes me!
Life in the clouds
I hung up the phone in a daze. I couldn’t stop grinning. In my delirium that afternoon I ran into a combine – which is different from a concubine – on my way home from work. There were four in a row coming down the gravel road toward me. I missed the first two, but the third one’s header hit the corner of the windshield and scraped along the roof. This temporarily dampened my enthusiasm, as this was my brother’s car I was driving. (He later sold it to me at a reduced rate.) But not even a damaged windshield could keep my spirits down.
The next morning I experienced two firsts – writing my first love letter and filing my first police report. The love letter is more interesting, so I’m including it here.
My beautiful and lovely Heidi,
I am so totally excited and overjoyed at the sudden turn of events that God has brought into our lives. As you may have noticed, I have gradually been falling madly in love with you. (Despite the fact that, frustratingly, I had no idea how you felt… I was pretty sure you didn’t hate me! J) When Mom called me at work, telling me about the visit and how you felt, I was rocketed to cloud nine, I felt like I was on top of the world, the luckiest man alive! (Please overlook all the clichés. I will work hard on avoiding them in future letters!) I had a big goofy grin on my face for hours. I would try and sober up before asking someone a question, and then I would go back to my work and just grin!
I had a great talk with your parents last night. They are awesome people that I already love dearly! They have given me permission to ask you if it would work to take you on a walk Friday afternoon. I hope you will say yes. I am so excited about talking to you and pouring out my heart! I am simply overwhelmed with God’s goodness that He would honor me with such a gem as you. I can’t wait to start sharing life with you, growing closer to God with you, and together enjoying the great adventures He has in store for us.
I LOVE YOU, Heidi Wahl!
Love, your not-so-secret admirer, Jesse Jost
I had it delivered to her as she was staying at some friends in the area and waited for her reply. On Thursday, morning I received the first of hundreds of special emails from Heidi:
YES! Any time on Friday afternoon works GREAT! – I don’t know what else to say… Jesse, I don’t even feel like I’m me anymore, and I’m not sure what daydream I just walked into, or who I’m sharing it with, or why this happened to me of all people. I don’t know which way is up right now, and seeing you – talking to you – would straighten it all out. You have always straightened things out for me, seems like, ever since I first met you. And I can’t wait to tell you what God has done over the past year! He is amazing! I am so in awe of His love – open-hearted, unreserved love. Like yours. I don’t deserve either, can’t comprehend either!
Don’t examine and re-examine this email, please, Jess. I’m not sure what to say or how to say it just now and my words are clumsy. There are a million things I want to say, but email isn’t the place for it. I just need to see you and be reassured that you are the same person I have always looked up to and appreciated, and then maybe the reality of all of this will begin to settle in!
Learning to love,
Caught in love’s overwhelming flow
Contrary to what she said, I did read that letter over and over and over. It is hard to describe the rush of emotions I was feeling. It was like I entered some kind of alternate reality. Friday morning, (August 26, 2005) I finished up a job and then, with fluttering insides, drove to meet Heidi. After pondering what I would say first, I stepped out of the car, and walked toward Heidi, who was sitting on the lawn in front of her sister’s house. Ultra-smooth, I began, “Nice day, isn’t it?”
I sat down beside her and handed her some gifts. Every member of my family had written her a note welcoming her to the family, so I gave those to her. I had also bought her a white gold necklace with a ring through a heart.
“It symbolizes that my heart is yours forever,” I said, and bashfully looked away. My metamorphosis from he-man to soggy milksop toast was underway.
On that hot sunny afternoon, Heidi and I officially began our relationship with an eight-hour conversation. I shared my heart, which had already been obvious to Heidi, and then Heidi shared part of her journal with me. I sat dumbfounded to hear this account of her long-time interest in me. She read how she became convinced that I was the man for her. She read of her struggles to surrender me to the Lord and how difficult it was to see me on Sundays… and how difficult it was when I wasn’t there. She read of her growing certainty that I was the one she was going to marry. I was blown away!
We began our relationship that day with commitment to marriage. I told her that I had received the green light from God, my parents, and her parents, and that I was committing to marriage. No matter what, I would not back out of this relationship. I did tell her that if she found something in me that she did not like, she could back out. She refused the offer and committed to me as well.
This commitment soon became important to the health of our young relationship. I let loose twenty-two years of pent-up emotion. This emotional outburst – I wore out my exclamation point key in my e-mails to her – put the brakes on her falling in love with me. But because we were committed, we didn’t panic; we worked it out and I learned the proper way to win a woman’s heart. Hint: The best way to cause a delicate flower to blossom is not to spray it with a pressure hose.
To propose to her, I’d carved out a ring box-sized hole in a big green book entitled “Life Begins” and took her for a walk. I handed her the book and watched as she flipped though the first few pages. I wanted her to get further back where the ring was, so I said, “I think chapter ten was a good one.”
She found the ring and said, “Would you put it on?” I shakily slipped it on her finger. Twenty-four hours later, I worked up enough courage to hold her hand for the first time. The first time either of us had held hands, actually… in a romantic sense, of course! Those who have been initiated know the difference between holding hands and holding hands – much different from the family prayer circle! WOW! Six months later we shared our first kiss immediately following our wedding vows.
God is so good! There have been so many times I have looked at Heidi and been flooded with gratitude that those two previous fathers turned me down. God showed me that He is sovereign and that when I surrendered the choice of my lifelong spouse to Him, He lovingly ensured that I would marry the woman He had for me. I love her more than I can say.
Heidi’s side of the story
Heidi: I feel like Rembrandt plopped one of his masterpiece paintings in my arms, and I want to yell after him, “Please come back here and take another look at me. Double-check. Are you sure you’ve got the right person, sir?!” I am so unworthy of Jesse, and so in awe of God for this gift that has come in spite of – well, in spite of ME.
A cut above the rest
Jesse caught my attention the first time I visited his church (December 2002). That Sunday morning as he shared some insights from the Bible, his simple, wise words instantly won my respect. I saw that this guy had rare qualities: discernment and maturity beyond his years. He stood out even more when contrasted with the guys I’d been around at Bible school for the past few months. This night and day difference got me curious to learn more about what made Jesse such a great guy. When I found out that he liked books, boy, was I hooked. But my shy and retiring nature held me back from pummeling Jesse with questions. So, I kept my ears and eyes open. I heard good reports about Jesse from various friends – how he served his family selflessly and how he spent so much time in disciplined study of the Bible. Sunday after Sunday, I saw for myself how he reached out to others in love and compassion, with well-seasoned words. I was all agog, but not in love yet.
The Lord had work to do – still does! – however, in honing my focus on Him and His will. In order to do that, He had to remove some things that were cluttering my way to Christ-likeness. Okay, I’ll drop the vague and go specific. I was really discontent at home, and wishing for some kind of thrilling, center-stage work to do. Jesse seemed pretty content at home. How’d he get that attitude? And how, in a world where men are expected to leave home right away to learn a trade, did he find the purpose to stay back, juggling studying with serving his family? Jesse’s example fueled in me a desire to please God. He knew God’s standard in purity, faith, love, and speech and proceeded to live by it. Without realizing it at first, I was increasingly drawn to the freedom and joy I saw in his life.
Time went by. The good reports about Jesse kept coming, and I kept filing them in my memory. People instinctively looked up to and turned to Jesse for wise counsel. Maybe he didn’t see this, but I sure did! I began to wish that I could get to know him better and find out for myself what was going on inside his active mind. But I was also intimidated by his great, though humble, knowledge of spiritual things, and I believed that if we got to talking together more, he’d find out what a pompous ignoramus I was, and – well, that would be the end of that! Or so I thought. Still, I couldn’t get him off my mind. There were times that I would be reading a book and come across some new idea that made me wonder, “What would Jesse think of this?” Or I would be seeking to share Christ with some stranger, and when they threw out some argument against Christianity, I’d ask myself, “What would Jesse say?”
When summer 2004 rolled around, I admitted it. I liked Jesse. And I liked him a whole lot more than the passel of other guys I’d been infatuated with.
While I got ready to leave for a two and a half month-long music tour with a Christian family, my younger sister started courting another guy from our church. Yeah, the cousin Jesse was talking about. Perhaps it was Rebecca’s courtship that really increased my own desire for marriage and for Jesse. I don’t know. But leaving on that tour was one of the hardest things I ever did. I took with me a verse that straightened out my focus again and again as the weeks of the tour passed by: He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered. In hindsight, I see more clearly the necessary lessons God began to teach me during my time away from home – lessons that are now a huge blessing in my relationship with Jesse: open communication, frequent encouragement, and transparent honesty. Though I had started out the tour with tears, I finished it with a heart full of gratitude to God for changing me to become a little more like Him. All He wanted was for me to trust Him so that He could do more of His perfect work in me.
My tune in December was: Home again, home again, jiggety-jig – yahoo! I was excited to see Jesse again, and also excited to see God change certain areas of my life. I purposed to work harder at being encouraging and open with my family. For the first time, I began to truly give my heart to my dad by confiding in him my questions, doubts, struggles, and anxieties about a lot of matters. And as I did, I experienced more security than I ever had before. Daddy started asking me on Sundays, “So how did it go with Jesse today?” And I would answer, “Fine – great – not-so-good – it was tough – I don’t know,” depending on what had happened that day. I can’t describe fully to you how protected and secure I felt during this time, knowing that Daddy was looking out for me, and feeling free to talk to him about whatever was on my mind.
Somehow, without my initiating anything, Jesse and I started talking a lot more. I would go home and analyze each conversation: Now did he answer this way because he’s interested, or was he just being friendly, like Daddy says?
I grew tired of the inner conflict of warding off thoughts about Jesse, and I finally decided that instead of suppressing these thoughts, I would take them captive by turning them into prayers for Jesse: Lord, make him Yours completely. Teach him to love You better than anything and anyone else. Increase his hunger for You and protect him from impurity and worldly wisdom. Feeling both confident and foolish, I wrote in my journal, “I want to marry Jesse.” But I didn’t know where Jesse’s heart was in relation to me, so I went on analyzing and guessing: Did the guy even want to get married? Or was he oblivious to the world of girls? In his interactions with young ladies, he was always so careful about protecting their hearts and his own. Sunday encounters with Jesse continued to be enjoyable – and difficult; our friendship was great, but I wanted more than friendship.
The famous June hike showed me where things stood with Jesse; I could tell that his heart was turning toward me. And the verse that had guarded my own heart for so long – what was I to do with that now? He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered. That night after the hike, I turned this verse over and over in my mind, and finally came to the conclusion that maybe it was possible for me to have this desire for Jesse, and still walk wisely.
As my certainty about him grew, so did my impatience. Late one night, I sat at the kitchen table with my parents (poor them! – they listened to so many of my heart palpitations!), and poured out my frustration and impatience about having to wait for something to happen. Everything seemed ready – set – but no go! What was up with that?! I was sure that “Jesse + me” was God’s will. So why was it taking so long for Him to get this good thing going? Daddy remarked that my unpeaceful spirit was not a sign of contentment; his gentle words cut deeply. I felt awful that I hadn’t trusted the wisdom of the Giver of all good things, and I repented there at the kitchen table. Then – and only then – God began to give me peace, and an incomprehensible contentment.
When our family took an August holiday, I had a lot of time to journal – and to think. Most of my thoughts were about Jesse, and so were my journal entries, “Now I believe I have freedom to write another statement, borne out of a growing desire: I will marry Jesse. And soon. Probably within a year. I am willing to wait now – not forever (that is too great a weight, under any circumstance, for anyone to bear), but one day at a time. It is always happier that way, anyhow, to get a thing in God’s time.” In hindsight, I see how easy it was to write such a prophetic statement, because I was feeding off my own desire and my strong (narcissistic?) assurance that Jesse was interested in me, too.
Could I live without him?
The Saturday after we got back from our holiday, I went on an afternoon river tubing trip with a group of young people from our church. Jesse managed to keep his tube near mine the whole time, so we talked a lot as we floated down the river. That night I tossed restlessly in bed, turning memories of the day over and over in my mind. I kept thinking, too, about something my sister had said, “I’ve heard you shouldn’t marry the person you think you can live with, but rather the person you can’t live without.” Then she asked me: “Can you live without Jesse?” She said that if I didn’t think I could, then it was a pretty clear indicator that he was the man God had for me. Problem was, I could honestly answer “yes” to that question. Yes, I could live without Jesse as my husband. I could even live without him as a good friend. I felt guilty about this conclusion. Did this mean I was fickle and didn’t care as much as I thought I did? Or did it mean God had somebody else for me?
Eventually I realized that my sister’s well-meaning question was flawed, not my answer. With relief, I fell asleep in the security that whether or not Jesse was part of my future, I knew God would be sufficient for me. I couldn’t live without God, but by His grace, I could handle it if He didn’t bless me with Jesse as my life companion.
Getting things out in the open
The next day, Sunday, August 21, my dad came to me after we’d gotten home from church, and he said something to this effect, “That Jesse sure was obvious today!”
I nodded. Our church had met at a riverside park for worship, and the whole hot afternoon, it seemed like Jesse had been wangling ways to talk to me. In the few times he wasn’t nearby, it sure looked like he wanted to be. Then again, maybe that was my ego reading into things a bit, and assuming he was like everybody else – just perishing to hang out with Heidi. I was chatting with my friend Ashley before we left for home, and then Jesse joined us. He asked Ashley a question, but interrupted her answer to ask me something. Ashley gave us both a funny look. I was delighted beyond description: this incredible guy liked me and liked talking to me! But I was also unsure what to do about it, because if this kept up, more than just Ashley might start to notice. Why hadn’t Jesse approached my parents yet? I’d been hoping for that.
I sensed approval not only from Jesse, but maybe also from his parents… which just sent me through the roof with joy at the possibility! A week earlier, his mom mentioned to me that they were going to an outdoor symphony performance, and it would be so fun to take me with them, but “people would probably wonder,” she smiled. I thought there was a question in her expression: Was there anything on my end? Was I interested? I didn’t have a clue what to say, so I said nothing and tried not to show anything either. Which wasn’t exactly helpful to Jesse or his parents.
Now back to my dad and his observation: “Jesse was sure obvious today!” Daddy went on to say that he felt the Time Had Come to talk to Mr. and Mrs. Jost. He’d suggested this several times before, explaining that he could just let them know I was interested in Jesse and ask them to pray about it. Till now, I always vehemently refused. I did not want to go down in history as the girl who basically went to her future husband’s parents with a marriage proposal. I already had a reputation, earned or otherwise, in my family for being independent-minded and strong-willed; I didn’t want to add to that image. Because I really, really desired to clearly see God’s will regarding Jesse and me, I tried to step out of the way by not flirting or showing any especial interest in Jesse. I didn’t want to tweak things in my favor. I had no idea that my unreadable behavior was part of the reason Jesse hadn’t talked to my dad yet. I figured Jesse was the kind of guy who would be upfront with a girl’s parents about his love-interest, so I was surprised – with all the attention he’d shown me – that he hadn’t followed it up with a talk with my parents.
But now I felt like things had come to a head, and something needed to be done about Jesse’s interest and mine. So I told Daddy it was okay by me if he and Mama talked to Jesse’s parents and asked them what his intentions were, because I wanted to know. If Mr. and Mrs. Jost asked whether I was interested, too, I told Daddy he was welcome to tell them… I figured that was better than just volunteering the information.
Since I had made plans to visit friends who lived near Josts, Daddy and Mama took me north with them and dropped me off on the edge of the town golf course before going to meet Josts for coffee. It was a warm, mellow day, and I fell asleep by the eighth hole. When I woke up, an older lady was standing by her cart, looking at me with concern. She said, “Are you okay?”
I answered, “Oh yeah, just enjoying the day…” And waiting for my future to be decided, I added mentally.
How wonderful to hear those incredible words: “Jesse is interested in you, and believes you’re the woman God has for him to marry!” The day after Jesse’s parents met with mine, I wrote, “I am at an awe-filled loss for words. What a God, what a God! I can’t comprehend the half of this gift, these circumstances, this amazing man who wants to marry me.”
Overwhelmed and weirded out
Mixed with the awe of having my dreams of Jesse fulfilled, I felt awkward and, for awhile, pulled back my emotions into a shell. Jesse wasn’t sure what to make of me, nor was I of him. In my eyes, he turned into this impassioned lover, spilling over with words of love. I didn’t know what to do with that. Where did the Jesse I was familiar with go? – the Jesse I loved to talk with about books? Was his exclamation point key on his computer stuck, or did he really feel all that overflow of love for little ol’ me? I’d never had much attention from guys before (a good thing for me, who was ready to become infatuated at the drop of a hat), and all of a sudden, here was this good, godly, pure-hearted man who apparently adored me and thought I was the most awesome woman ever. I was pretty shell-shocked. It’s one thing to hope and dream of marrying the guy and to have all those feelings lived out in the la-la-land of my mind, but when the dream becomes reality, there’s some adjustment I didn’t expect. (Yeah, yeah, fickle, bizarre female emotions, I know. J)
There’s something I wished I’d thought of at the beginning of Jesse’s and my relationship, when I was feeling really weirded out and overwhelmed. I wish I’d realized that the emotions I was feeling would settle down in time – such as being nervous about marriage, or feeling hesitant to share myself with another person I didn’t really know, or wondering what was wrong with me and why I wasn’t more excited or acting more myself. Before I even saw Jesse for our first date (after we knew this thing was a “go”), someone counseled me to just be open with Jesse about everything I was thinking and feeling. In hindsight, that was some of the worst advice I got. Later on, when we were more comfortably settled into who each other was, that would have been wonderful advice. But at the beginning, when I was overwhelmed with all these new emotions and didn’t know how to handle them, I followed the advice I was given and ended up saying things that really weren’t me. For example, I told Jesse emphatically that I was a “no-touchy-touch” girl (just because I was nervous about physical affection), and I also said that I hated flowers as a romantic gift – stuff like that. So Jesse was quite confused for awhile about who I really was; I gave him a conflicting picture with my emotionally driven statements. I have changed a lot as time passed. Obviously.
Anyway, in the midst of confusing emotions, I came to recognize that I would eventually return to the person I was. As it turned out, I kept a lot of my feelings to myself for the first couple of months and just held out on the waves I was riding. I finally figured that I didn’t have to have an explanation for everything I felt… I could go ahead and just feel it, and then give it to God, and realize with relief that things would settle down and I’d really start falling in love with Jesse. And, boy, did I ever! It helped so much to look back at the confirmations God had given me up to the start of our relationship, and remember that yes, Jesse was the one God had chosen for me, and the man I had committed to that day in August. My parents’ and his parents’ approval was also a huge, huge confirmation and such a strength to lean on.
Back in February 2005, Jesse and I went on a day trip with several friends, and as we were heading home, somebody suggested that we say something encouraging about the person on our left. Jesse turned out to be my “encouragement assignment.” I was so glad for that, because I’d long wanted to tell him how much God had used him to challenge me. I quoted the verse that I’d often thought of in relation to Jesse and his influence on me: Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
So that’s pretty much the sum of it: I am thrilled to spend the rest of my life with Jesse, following his example, and through it, loving God more!
Jesse: We were married on March 25th, 2006 – exactly seven months after our relationship began. Our engagement days were wonderful, but they were filled with ups and downs. Saving your first kiss for marriage is very hard on the neck muscles when you are as in love as Heidi and I were. (The magnetic pull put lots of extra strain on the muscles) We had to work through different issues and expectations that we had, but it was so wonderful to have that security of commitment while dealing with the challenges that are inherent in romantic love. The month before the wedding I wrote a song for Heidi. I surprised her and sang it to her for the first time just before our first kiss. I think the lyrics are a fitting conclusion to our story.
Words by Jesse Jost
Music by Lisa Jost
Darling, as long as we can breath, I will never love another,
I will always be true to you my bride, in my arms you can take cover.
I am yours and yours alone; it will always be this way,
I lay down my life for you this day, by His grace, I am yours alone.
Beloved, my eyes are yours alone, your beauty’s enough for me,
I will always delight myself in you, you are all I want to see.
Because my God owns all of me, I can give myself to you,
His almighty grace, is sufficient and free, He alone can make this true.