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  • Writer's pictureJoshua Bentley

Grief Gab #10 And The 16th First - 25th Anniversary 2: Electric Boogaloo

WAIT! If you didn’t read part one, go do it or you’ll be pretty lost.

When last we left our hero, he was supposed to marry Joni. This was a thought that seemingly came out of nowhere, but was a thought as sure as his own name.

“Wait a sec! ‘I’m going to marry Joni?’ What do you mean ‘I’m going to marry Joni’? I asked myself. As I said in my previous post, I wasn’t thinking about marriage, or praying about the future, or praying for Joni, or thinking of anything of great import. Honestly, I was probably driving home way too late at night just listening to Petra (yeah, you read that right) and rocking my way home. And there it was - that thought. It caught me seriously off guard but so powerfully that I couldn’t dismiss it. Over the next day or two, I took some time to pray about it and just felt so sure of what I had heard: this was from God.

But what if it wasn’t? What if He hadn’t told her? What if I was wrong? The tidal waves of doubt began to swell. There was only one thing to do: ask her. I knew exactly how I’d do it too. Every night we had a scheduled time to talk on the phone. You see, one Christmas my parents gave my sister and me our own landline. BIG. MISTAKE! I can’t even imagine the phone bill. My sister and I fought for phone time in the evening and so we came up with a schedule. If I recall correctly, my time to call was 8pm and I could talk for an hour. So 8 o’clock rolled around and I began to dial that number I knew by heart (and still do). Busy signal. Hang up, try again. Busy. Lather, rinse, repeat. Nonstop. Incessantly. MUST. TALK. TO. JONI.

I finally got her on the phone. I told her I needed to ask her something important, but it took me at least fifteen minutes to get up the courage to say anything. I was basically silent with just a couple little phrases thrown in like “OK, here we go” and then more silence. Finally, I just blurted it out:

“Did God tell you who you were going to marry?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said after a long pause.

“Do I know him?”

“You could say that.” Bingo, I thought to myself. There was my answer right there, but just to be sure, I pursued further.

“Is it me?” I inquired.

Then there was a much longer pause. Later on, Joni told me that she had been sweeping the floor and just about dropped her broom.

“Yes,” she finally said.

I was overjoyed! I was trying to live my life following God’s will. I wanted to do what He told me. And the fact that He told both of us that we were intended was more than awesome.

But what were we supposed to do now? Neither of us had been betrothed before - a divinely arranged marriage. So we talked with our youth pastor. He and his wife at the time talked to us and began to encourage us in how to develop our relationship. He encouraged us to really get to know each other. We dated, we read relationship books, we talked about the Bible. I would stay over at her house until the wee hours of the morning sitting on the couch just talking.

One of our proudest accomplishments was that we remained chaste until our marriage. I was used to very fuzzy boundaries when it came to romantic physical contact during the dating phase, but Joni wasn’t. She needed tight boundaries (I won’t go into why). As I mentioned before, she had made a decision before God told us we were to get married that she would only date the man she was going to marry (like steadily date) and would only kiss the man she was going to marry. This was a boundary she needed and I was very happy to oblige...but boy oh boy was it hard. Especially on prom night. She looked so fantastic and the whole evening was very romantic.

The Engagement

We got engaged on our one year dating anniversary. We were attending LIFE Bible College in San Dimas, CA. We were going out for our anniversary, had to borrow a friend’s car since neither of us had one, and I was so nervous I couldn’t even eat. I had an elaborate plan to bring her back to the dorms to have her go on a scavenger hunt all around the school to eventually bring her to me where I was waiting with the ring. (Side note: the engagement ring was INCREDIBLY delayed so I bought a fake ring from the craft store and used that as a temporary ring.)

Joni noticed that I was so nervous I couldn’t eat, of course. She just thought it was about exchanging gifts. XD After we finished dinner I told her I needed to go to my room for a minute and that she should put her gifts in her room. Later she told me that she was really disappointed. She just wanted to stay out - “Why did we have to go back?” I made like I was going to my room, but detoured to the laundry room where I would be waiting. I had placed notes everywhere and told people what was going on.

Joni went to her room and found the first note pinned to her door. The scavenger hunt took her everywhere: to my saxophone case, to the couch cushions in the common area, to the chapel, etc. Until she finally showed up at the laundry room. Little did I know it, but a crowd was casually gathering outside the laundry room on the courtyard steps. They actually didn’t blow it! I was very impressed. She entered the washing room and I asked her to marry me, she said yes, and I kissed her for the first time. After the kiss, she says “You just asked me to marry you. You just kissed me! I need to sit down.” We walked out of the laundry room and the gathered crowd BURST into applause. She was embarrassed, I was grinning from ear to ear. “Did the whole school know??” she asked. Pretty much. Everyone except her roommate who I knew wouldn’t be able to keep the secret so I made sure she didn’t know!

We continued to work on our relationship, talked about marriage things, planned the wedding, and almost a year to the day of our engagement we got married. Our youth pastor officiated the wedding at the church where we met and we spent our honeymoon at the Juan de Fuca Cottages in Sequim, WA. Two nineteen-year-old “kids” dedicated to each other, their hearts dedicated to Christ, and their marriage build on Him.

We were friends before we were anything else to each other. My previous girlfriends and I were very physically affectionate and I put too much importance on that aspect of our relationships, but I didn’t want that to be true with Joni. My priority was to the precious relationship we were building and honoring what God intended for us.

We were friends first, constantly growing in our relationship with each other, and we remained best friends through all of our days together. We always felt that it’s how a marriage should be and I highly recommend it.

As always, thanks for reading.


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