When I met Mark he was already in ministry as a Junior High Pastor at a large church (New Life in Renton, WA). Little did I know the fishbowl of a life I was diving into, but our first date should have given me a clue!
We met at a youth summer camp we were working at a couple of weeks before he asked me on our first date. We had acquired a following of teenagers who were excited to see if we would hit it off. When Mark did ask me out, those teens were beyond elated. Our first date was going to be lunch after church…how fitting for a future ministry couple.
On August 18, 1996, when I pulled up to Mark’s church, dozens of teenagers poured out of the building to greet me. Did I mention that I wasn’t raised in the church and I was suddenly thrust into the limelight of a megachurch? Overwhelming! Over the next couple of hours I would meet all of Mark’s bosses, coworkers, the 225 teenagers he helped lead, every little old lady in the church who had helped “raise” Mark, and his parents. I pasted on the perma-grin and shook a million hands. Welcome to ministry!
I had also brought three friends to church with me as moral support that morning. We had taken two cars since they would be leaving before me. As I was getting out of my car, I gave my friend a bag to take back with her to Lake Stevens (one hour away). What I didn’t realize is that my car keys were in the bag and after church they would be driven far, far away to a camp with no phones. (For you younger readers…in 1996 we didn’t know what cell phones were, so don’t even go there!)
Mark and I proceeded to attend church, have a nice lunch, and then we took a tour around the Seattle waterfront. It was in the midst of this that I realized the enormous problem I had without my keys. Through a series of phone calls, we arranged to have another friend go to the camp to let my friends know they had my keys. Although they were gracious enough to come back, it would be many more hours and I had nowhere to go.
With no other option, we went back to church to lead a special Sunday night service with a performance by a man named Donny. It was also Mark’s job to take him out after service, so I tagged along. Donny, not realizing this was our first date, took it upon himself to make sure our dating relationship was healthy. He asked us about 100 questions about dating, marriage, and ministry. If I wasn’t already on the spot, I certainly was now!
What do you think about sex before marriage? How do you feel about divorce? How many kids do you want? Do you think a woman should work outside the home? And on and on and on!
We were given no other choice but to “show our cards” on the first date. We knew how each other felt about nearly every controversial topic out there. Now I look back and think what a providencial blessing that date extension was. In a matter of hours I knew that the man I was looking at was exceptional. I would be a fool not to marry someone of his character.
Mark drove me back to my car that night where my keys were tucked neatly under the floor mat. Although we were going on about the 12th hour of our date, I didn’t want it to end. He gave me his bright smile and thanked me for a wonderful day. He didn’t kiss me goodnight, probably because Donny had covered the fact that I didn’t kiss on the first date…or the second…or the third…And I already knew that Mark would be happy to honor that.
Sometimes I feel like that date was a prophetic glimpse into the future of what we would become…husband and wife, partners in ministry, best friends, and a determined team for the cause of Christ.
So, Happy Valentine’s Day, Mark! I still smile when I think of those first hours of our relationship. You are one amazing man!