Sean and Rona’s Story
Sean and I have been married for three-and-a-half years. We have three children less than three years of age, our first being a honeymoon baby. Needless to say, we hit the ground running once we said, “I do.” One thing we know for sure: the time we spent preparing for marriage has made all the difference in our relationship today. Let me set the stage for our relationship. My parents divorced when I was six-years-old. My dad raised my sister and me, and we had very little contact with my mom growing up. I am the only saved member of my family, having met Christ when I was seventeen. It would be an understatement to say I didn’t have much vision for marriage or being a mother. Subconsciously I was thinking, What’s the point of marriage anyway, if it just ends in heartache, betrayal, and abandonment? Mindsets like this do not go away automatically when you get saved, and they still affect me today. During college, I often had this sickening thought: What if this is as good as it gets? Are divorce and the broken relationships I am in and out of as good as it will get for me?
After graduating from college in New York, I moved to Seattle for a new job. Right before leaving, I had a crazy idea to make a list of qualities I wanted to see in my husband. This might seem like a normal thing for a girl to do, but for me it was the first time in my twenty-two years of life I had given a thought to marriage, let alone my husband. I had been saved for about five years at this point, but as I said before, the lies and ungodly beliefs ran deep regarding my portion for marriage. This idea has to be from God, I thought, since I have never had a desire to make a list like this before. I committed the list to God and prayed for whoever it was I was meant to marry someday. About this same time, my husband-to-be, Sean, was in Seattle giving his life back to the Lord. When he was fourteen, he discovered three key father-figures in his life were having affairs. As a result, he too, began to believe the lie that this must be as good as it gets. He went away from God for the next ten years carrying his hurt, disappointment, and lack of trust in men with him. Silently he had prayed, though, “Somehow, God, make my life turn out differently than theirs.”
After arriving in Seattle, I was invited to a co-worker’s house for brunch. Little did I know that Sean had grown up with her family and would be there, also. When he walked into the kitchen that day in November of 2000, my world completely changed. For the first time in my life, I heard the audible voice of God say to me, “Here is your husband”. Later that same night, Sean called his mom and said, “I met a new girl named Rona, and I think I’m going to marry her.” We first met in 2000, but didn’t marry until July of 2006. What took so long, you might ask? It’s funny, but I asked the same question of God a lot throughout those six years. I thank God He had spoken that promise to me at the beginning of our journey, though, since He knew I would need something to hold on to when it seemed like it would never happen for the two of us.
Having both experienced bad fruit from dating relationships in the past, we had already come to the decision separately that we would no longer date. However, we did become very good friends during that first year, so much so that you would have thought we were a couple by how much time we spent together. Even though we never crossed any physical boundaries, we completely crossed the mental and emotional ones. We were technically not dating, yet we were enjoying the benefits of companionship without commitment. Once we began to learn more about undistracted devotion to the Lord and the way of guarding one another’s hearts, we decided to pull back from our relationship. (Guarding one another’s hearts means protecting one another’s emotions by not flirting or sharing your deep feelings prematurely. It means choosing to restrain your desires until you have serious intentions of pursuing one another for marriage). As the Lord began to consume our focus, the intensity of our relationship died away. The Lord had us both go through the Master’s Commission program together as students and then as second-year interns on staff with the program. Thankfully, one of the requirements of the program is that you commit to no dating. This allowed us to focus our energies on knowing who Jesus Christ was in every area of our lives. Spending two years together in such close proximity was definitely not easy, though.
At the end of those two years, we both thought God would soon release us to court one another. However, there was still more foundation that God needed to lay in each of us before that could happen. Specifically, God began a deep work in me as I began to face the pain caused by my mom’s rejection of me during my childhood. As a result of this, I had a very hard time receiving love from other people. God knew Sean is a very passionate, demonstrative, and loving man with a huge heart for people. Our relationship would not have flourished if I wasn’t able to receive his lavish love for me. God did some major heart surgery in me during the following two years. He made me open up many old wounds with the help of some amazing spiritual mothers and then sewed me back up through their love. During this season, we worked at building a godly friendship, oftentimes crossing the lines or wanting to fall back into our old ways of relating. It took the encouragement, counsel, and accountability provided by our spiritual parents and host families who we lived with to keep us pure during that time when we liked each other but were in a waiting season.
In February of 2005, Sean received the green light from his spiritual father and the Lord to pursue me in courtship. He first called my dad in Pennsylvania and shared with him his feelings for me and asked for his blessing in starting our relationship. Even though my dad was not saved, Sean did a wonderful job of honoring his position of authority in my life. Sean shared with my dad now he had liked me all those years, but had chosen to prepare for me out of his desire to honor me and protect my heart. Dad was glad to hear this, having often questioned my decision to wait in faith for this man over such a long period of time. He gave his full blessing to our relationship.
Sean wanted to ask me to court him in a special way since it had been such a long process of waiting. He spent a month planning it and arranged for my boss to send me on a fake business trip to San Francisco for a day. I flew to California and sat waiting in the restaurant for other business people to join me. What an extremely beautiful place for a business meeting, I though to myself as I looked out windows to the San Francisco Bay filled with sailboats. As the time ticked by, my heart sank when no one else seemed to arrive for the meeting, only to have it leap into my throat when I looked over and saw a disguised Sean sitting at a nearby table. It took awhile for me to believe him when he said there actually was no conference. Then, after four-and-a-half years of waiting, I heard the words I thought I’d never hear: Sean told me how he had liked me all this time, how amazing and special I was to him, and asked to court me for the purpose of marriage.
He then began to share what his preparation process had looked like over the past few years. He would go to his spiritual father every two weeks and say, “I’m ready to court Rona.” In response, he would hear, “No, you’re not.” Two weeks later, after applying the different things his mentor had shared still needed to be worked on, he would return and say, “Okay, now I am ready to pursue Rona.” Again he would hear, “No, you’re not.” This continued for two years! He faithfully pursued the Lord, his spiritual father, and other men in his life and allowed his character to be molded and shaped into the amazing man of God he was made to be. What girl would not want to be fought for like this? He never took, “No!” for a final answer. In those moments of conversation at the restaurant, a death blow was made to that lie I had believed for so long: Is this as good as it gets? His actions said to my heart, “You are worth the sacrifice. You are valuable and someone to be cherished and fought for, no matter how long it takes.”
This was just our beginning! We still had work to do before we reached the altar fourteen months later. Our primary tool we used to guide our conversations was a list of questions our pastor had created. Some of the topics we discussed were our views on the roles of a husband and wife, styles of parenting, our goals for our family, finances, our past relationships, any hidden sins, and how we wanted to interact with one another’s families. We really liked using the list of questions since it ensured we discussed deep topics and not just sit around gazing at one another (not to say we didn’t do that, too!) I remember my dad telling me before I got married, “Marriage is 10% romance and 90% peeling potatoes.” As I write, my husband and baby both have the stomach flu. In between trying to quarantine the two healthy kids and cleaning up vomit, I think to myself, Ah, yes, peeling potatoes. I am grateful for all the hard conversations and disagreements we worked out before we got married.
Another helpful tool during our pre-marriage season was our weekly meetings with my spiritual covering. They helped us talk through road-blocks we were experiencing, as well as kept us envisioned and encouraged. Because of our past, we knew we needed to be strict in setting up our physical boundaries in order to stay pure. We kept our physical interactions to hugs and hand holding. At one point, we realize we were becoming too dependent on even these things and so chose to not touch at all the month before our wedding. One of our married friends, who had courted his wife, gave us some great advice at the start of our courtship. He said, “Base your relationship on communication, not stimulation.” We laughed each time we’d say it, but it truly helped us through many tempting times. By the grace of God, our lips never met until we were pronounced husband and wife on July 8, 2006. It took almost six years for me to see God’s promise fulfilled of Sean becoming my husband. Yet, in hindsight, I honestly don’t see how it could have happened any faster. To stand on the other side now as husband and wife is a testimony of God’s faithfulness and restoration. He healed a broken son and daughter, and brought us together to show others the world’s way is not as good as it gets! READ MORE TESTIMONIES