As far as I know we only have one picture from the days when we were dating, and this is it. Someone snapped this picture in late 1973 or in early 1974, when we were seniors at Tennessee Temple College in Chattanooga. We were so engrossed in conversation that we didn’t notice the photographer and therefore didn’t know about the picture until it appeared in the yearbook months later. That accounts for both the picture and the location, at the corner of Union and Orchard Knob, across the street from the Happy Corner, where students congregated to get their mail and to visit the snack shop (where I spent a lot of time, as Marlene has often pointed out).
The story of our courtship and marriage begins with a simple prayer. One day my college roommate told me that he had started dating one of the nicest girls on campus. When I asked him how it happened, he said that he had prayed and asked the Lord to give him a pure girl to date. That seemed like a good idea to me so one night I knelt by my bed and prayed the very same prayer: “O Lord, please give me a pure girl to date.” I must confess that I didn’t put much stock in the prayer. I just prayed it because it worked for my roommate and I thought it might work for me. I prayed and promptly forgot all about it.
A few weeks later I began to notice a beautiful, vivacious, lively, attractive, friendly, outgoing girl who seemed to pop up everywhere I went on campus. It turned out that she was the secretary of the music department and had guys buzzing around her all day long. She was much too good for me even to think about dating her. But eventually I worked up the nerve to say hello and we struck up a casual acquaintance. The turning point came one Monday night when I came back to campus from leading a Word of Life Bible Club about 8:30 PM. There was a basketball game in the gymnasium so I went over to see what was happening. When I walked in, I saw her in the stands, and in the providence of God (I mean that literally) the row to her left was empty. I walked up, turned on as much charm as I could muster, and said, “Is anyone sitting here?” She said no, I sat down, and we began to talk. A few weeks after that we went out on our first date and several months after that began to date regularly. I do remember our first kiss. It happened one night on top of Lookout Mountain overlooking the beautiful Chattanooga valley.
About a year later I asked her to marry me and she said yes. Four months later we were married in Phoenix, Arizona. It wasn’t until we had been dating for some time that I remembered that simple prayer: “Lord, please give me a pure girl to date.” As I look back on our relationship, I’ve always believed that God brought us together in a direct answer to prayer. Last August we celebrated our 36th anniversary together. Psalm 37:23 declares that “the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,” and Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desire of your heart.” Both those verses have come true in my own life. My marriage to Marlene is proof that God always gives more than we ask for and much more than we deserve.
I’m happy to say that she is still my one and only Valentine.