When a Good Marriage Just Isn't Good Enough
By JUSTIN DAVIS TRISHA DAVIS
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2012 Justin and Trisha Davis
All right reserved.
Chapter One NO ORDINARY BEGINNING
FOR MANY OF US there is a gap between the marriage we have and the marriage we thought we would have. Sometimes that gap is created by unrealistic dreams and expectations. But more often that gap is created by a subtle equation that defines many marriages:
Time + unintentionality = ordinary marriage.
It isn't that we intend to drift away from our spouses, but over time it just happens.
Do you remember the hope you had the day you got married? Do you remember the vows you made—"in sickness and in health," "for better or worse," "till death do us part"? Your marriage was going to be different. Your marriage was going to be special. Your marriage was going to be anything but ordinary.
Is your marriage extraordinary today? Or are you miles away from those early feelings, hopes, and dreams? Even the healthiest marriages have the potential to drift.
You may not be sure how it happened, but over the course of time, your marriage may have become ordinary. You are not the spouse you imagined. You don't have the marriage you dreamed of when you said, "I do." Words that once defined your relationship—intimate, fun, exciting, romantic, growing, loving, patient, forgiving—now seem to describe another time and a different couple.
It isn't that you wanted a marriage of mediocrity; it's that you've drifted into it.
Do you remember what it felt like the first time you met your spouse? How about the late-night conversations and the crazy things you did to impress him or her? What was your first kiss like? Can you picture the backflips your stomach was doing before you asked her to marry you, or while you were waiting to be asked? No matter how long you've been married, there is something special about remembering the extraordinary beginning of your relationship. It takes you to a place of hope, allows you to remember your dreams, and reminds you why you chose to commit the rest of your life to your spouse in the first place.
When I started college in 1991, I had my life and my future planned out. I had played basketball in high school, and Lincoln Christian College in Lincoln, Illinois, was only a temporary stop on my way to greatness. My plan was to go to Lincoln, play basketball for a year, take some core classes, and then transfer to a bigger, better school and play basketball on scholarship. I wanted to be a teacher and a basketball coach, and Lincoln wasn't where I wanted to be for the next four years. I was a late bloomer in high school and didn't get really good until my senior year, so my freshman year at Lincoln would serve as a nice prep year for bigger and better things.
A few days after I arrived on campus, the local paper did a story on Lincoln's 1991 freshman recruits. The article described each new player, calling me "the Cadillac of the recruiting class." That statement summed up how I felt about myself. I was the Cadillac of this little campus. My playing for them was a gift.
My attitude toward God was similar to my attitude toward the school. I was a Christian and went to church, but my life was pretty compartmentalized. Basketball had its place, dating had its place, and God had his place in my heart. I knew what I wanted to do with my life, and God could come along for the ride, but I was in the driver's seat. I had a plan.
Basketball season started, and I performed as expected. Lincoln had won eight games the year before I arrived. My freshman year we won eighteen games. At the end of my first season, I expected offers from bigger schools to come flooding in. I led the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman; I thought that should be impressive enough. No offers. My plan wasn't working out.
I went home for the summer feeling defeated. It seemed that I had failed and didn't have a backup plan. I would have to go back to Lincoln in the fall. I started work a few days later as a cashier at Walmart in my hometown, Crawfordsville, Indiana.
As I was working one afternoon, a familiar face came through my checkout line. Kurt was a few years older than me, and his dad ran the church camp I'd attended as a kid. We recognized each other, and I asked him what he was doing in town. He was a pastor at a small church about ten miles south of Crawfordsville.
Then he said something that changed the entire trajectory of my life: "Why are you working here at Walmart when you could do something great with your life?"
My first thought was, Dude, step off, this is only a summer gig. I looked around to see where my boss was before I answered. "I don't know. I've never really thought about it."
"You should come be my youth pastor," he said. "I'll pay you a hundred dollars a weekend to teach Sunday school and children's church and to start a youth group."
Was this guy crazy? How did he get in my line at Walmart? I had no idea what a youth pastor was supposed to do, but a hundred dollars a week for a few hours of work sounded like easy money.
I went through the formality of meeting with the leaders at the church, and a few weeks later I started as their weekend youth pastor. My first Sunday I had eight kids show up for youth group. They ranged from fifth to tenth grade. I had prepared a message (my first), and it covered Genesis all the way through Revelation. The message lasted almost an hour. I didn't want to leave anything out!
At the end of the talk, I closed by saying, "Okay, if you don't want to go to hell and you want to invite Jesus into your heart, raise your hand." Kyle, one of the younger teens, raised his hand. I didn't know what to do at this point. I never thought anyone would raise their hand, so I hadn't thought through what to do next. Awkwardly, I said a prayer with Kyle, dismissed the kids, and then went to Kurt's house to make sure that Kyle was saved, because I didn't know what I was doing.
God used that moment to open my heart to his plan for me. I suddenly realized that I could partner with God to change eternity. I had never thought about that before. Over the next year, I would come back to that church each weekend the basketball team wasn't traveling, and God would use the church youth to mold me more than he used me to mold them.
My sophomore year, I didn't fall out of love with myself, but I fell more in love with Jesus and his church. I came to terms with being at Lincoln and changed my major to Christian education. Reluctantly, I was opening myself to God's plan for my life and surrendering parts of my plan to him. God was preparing me for the plan he had in mind.
That plan began to unfold in the fall of 1993, when Trisha and I met. I was a junior and she was a freshman at Lincoln. After one of our first chapels of the year, my friend Kenny asked, "Have you seen the hot girl with the bright red lipstick?"
I hadn't ... yet.
I have to admit something: I am not proud of the story I am about to share. I wish that the details weren't true, but unfortunately, they are.
Kenny and I walked from the chapel over to the cafeteria, and there Trisha stood—big 1993 hair coupled with bright red lipstick. She was indeed hot. I wanted to make a big impression, so I approached her with confidence.
"Hey there, beautiful. I don't think we've ever met." She smirked with what was either charm or disgust. So I continued to wow her. "My name is God, and—" pointing to Kenny—"this is my son, Jesus Christ."
I don't really know what I was thinking with that introduction. Maybe because we were at Bible college, I thought it would be both spiritual and endearing. Trisha thought it was neither.
I thought it was money.
Trisha reluctantly shook my hand. "I'm just kidding," I said. "I'm JD, and this is my buddy Kenny. You should really get to know us."
Honestly, I don't remember what Trisha said at that point because I was so impressed with my introduction.
I knew I had made an impression. Kenny begged me to set him up with her, and the next morning, I saw Trisha walking out of the cafeteria. I approached her believing I could convince her to go out with Kenny. After all, I was a well-known junior all-American basketball player, while she was a freshman who, by now, had probably heard all about how great I was.
"Hey, Trisha," I said. "I'm sure you remember me from yesterday. I wanted to talk to you about something." She looked annoyed, but I wasn't fazed. "It's really early in the semester. Having been here a couple of years now, I wanted to let you know how dating works here at LCC. This is prime time because there are a lot of dating options right now. Those options tend to get less attractive as the semester goes on."
She looked at me as if I had a third eye.
"My friend Kenny that you met yesterday—" "Jesus Christ?" she interrupted.
"Yeah, Jesus Christ. He may not be the best-looking guy, but he is really nice. You should consider going out with him."
Obviously this wasn't the best way to set someone up, but I was expecting that she wouldn't be interested in Kenny. I wanted to ask her out, but I couldn't do that to my good friend ... until he was denied, that is.
"Sorry," she said. "I'm not interested in going out with Kenny. I have a boyfriend back home." "Boyfriend back home" was often code for "not interested." She wasn't interested in Kenny, but I walked away with an assurance that given some time, she would be interested in me.
I called her the next day to ask her out. Her roommate answered the phone.
"Hey, this is Justin Davis. Is Trisha there?"
I could hear her roommate whisper, "It's Justin Davis. He wants to talk to you." I was expecting Trisha to be excited to talk to me, but she sounded more confused than excited. Maybe she was just intimidated.
"Hey, Trisha. It's Justin Davis. I wanted to see if you'd like to grab some dinner, maybe go to a movie this weekend."
"Do you remember yesterday when I told you I had a boyfriend back home?" she asked.
"Yeah, I vaguely remember," I admitted.
"Well, I have a boyfriend back home."
"Oh, you were serious? That wasn't just because you weren't interested in Kenny?" "I was serious."
"So me asking you out doesn't change your 'boyfriend back home' status?" I pressed.
"No," she said, and that ended the conversation.
She said no? I thought. What just happened? Maybe she hasn't heard about how great I am.
What she didn't know was that I had three guys from the basketball team in my room when I asked her out, since I was going to show them how to capture the heart of a lady.
I'm competitive, I don't like to lose, and my pride was hurt a little by this rejection, so I made a bet with one of the guys in the room that I could get Trisha to go out with me by the end of the semester. But even after my friend gladly pocketed my fifty dollars—way too many rejections later—I continued (unsuccessfully) to ask Trisha out.
But Trisha had made a fatal mistake in her strategy: she became a cheerleader. And since the cheerleaders traveled with the basketball team to away games, naturally, we began to spend a lot of time together.
In 1993 I found myself, as if beamed from another planet, in the middle of a cornfield attending Lincoln Christian College in Lincoln, Illinois. It was a far cry from the hustle and bustle of living in the inner city of Joliet, just south of Chicago. It makes me chuckle when people talk about the "inner city" as this dark place in need of rescue. From my point of view, this poor little town in the middle of nowhere was in desperate need of some rescuing. For example, how can a respectable town have only two fast-food restaurants and one gas station?
I came from a high school with rich culture in which fashion trends were an eclectic mix of Salt-N-Pepa meets Nirvana. When I came to LCC, I definitely represented a fashion style the campus had never seen before. Cross Colours clothes and bright red lips were the norm back home, but it was apparent that Wrangler jeans and clear lip gloss ruled here. What else could these people wear when the only place to shop for clothes was the farm goods store?
I was the first in my family to go to college. I had no idea what I was doing, and the fact that I stood out like a sore thumb didn't help. As I sat in my dorm room terrified, I thought, I'm so out of place. I don't belong here. But I'm from Joliet! I'm strong and street smart. I. Can. Do. This! So I stood up and went to the dorm room next to mine.
My introduction to a group of girls huddled together on the floor talking—who I assumed had all just met—didn't go so well. I was greeted with a look of "What in the world is this girl doing?" Apparently they did all know each other, and I had just interrupted their conversation.
"Hi, I'm Trisha Lopez!" I said. Why I felt the need to share my full name is still a mystery, but I continued, "Are you guys freshmen too?"
In my desperate need to fill the awkward air, I kept going with the questions. "Where are you guys from?"
Giggles. One of them blurted out, "Effingham, Illinois!" Now I'd lived in Illinois my whole life and had never heard of Effingham, which sounded to me like they were trying to say a bad word in code. I stood there speechless.
Eventually Jodi (who had more energy than all of us combined) spoke up and introduced me to the rest of the group. Angie, Jodi, Brooke, and Beth became not only my best friends but Justin's, too. Without my knowledge this crew became "Team Justin," his partners in crime to convince me to date him.
It started with plans of attack like Justin's driving to my hometown to a party that he wasn't invited to. Then there was the day he talked Team Justin into breaking into my dorm room to get my dirty laundry so he could wash and dry it for me, underwear and all. I was mortified!
Justin was the big man on campus. Everyone called him JD. Girls would rub his bald head and say, "Hi, JD!" So I called him Justin. I thought he was an arrogant country boy who considered himself the Michael Jordan of our campus. He definitely wasn't the guy you wanted washing your dirty underwear.
But something was changing in our relationship. The more time we spent together, his need to be "JD" melted away, and I was given a view into his heart that he'd never shown to another girl before. What he didn't know was the grander the view he gave me, the more my heart was falling in love with his. Team Justin was starting to win.
We started to share about our families. Justin was the oldest; I was the middle child, yet we both played the role of the peacemaker in our families. Our dads were both the blue-collar, jack-of-all-trades types. Our moms had both worked hard to advance in their careers. Justin's mom was a teacher's aide but earned her college degree to become a special education teacher. My mom was a paralegal who landed a job in downtown Chicago at one of the largest law firms in the world. There was so much we had in common.
Yet Justin was bold; I was timid. He could sell a used doughnut; you might buy one from me out of pity just because I lovingly offered it. He was book smart; I was street smart. My very first test at LCC was writing the books of the Bible in the correct order and spelling them correctly. It might as well have been the bar exam! Justin, by contrast, could glance at a textbook's table of contents on his way to a test and ace it.
The once-arrogant jock who relentlessly got on my nerves was now a friend I started to miss when we were apart. Rather than dreading his calls, I anticipated them. After turning him down fifty-one times, I was praying for the fifty-second!
I will never forget coming back to the dorm after my first official date with Justin. Team Justin was waiting for me in my dorm room. As I entered, we all giggled, and Angie, who was never shy with words, spoke up. "So ... what happened?"
"We kissed!" I said as I slid to the floor with my back against the door, my eyes closed as if I were back in that moment. "When he kissed me it was like fireworks!"
Team Justin had won, and I'm so glad they did!
When Trisha and I were away on basketball trips, we would sit together on the bus and talk, hang out in the lobbies of hotels and talk, and sit on the bleachers and talk. We talked about everything: our families, relationships, God, ministry, our hopes and dreams, and everything under the sun. There was a natural flow to our conversation. Perhaps because dating initially was not an option, I felt a freedom to relax and be myself, and soon we became best friends.
The semester ended, and we both went home for Christmas break. We missed each other. When we returned to school in January, there was a sense of romance and attraction in our relationship that hadn't been there before. (It had always been there for me, but Trisha was now open to reciprocating.) Approximately the fifty-second time I asked Trish out, she finally said yes.
We went to Bennigan's on our first date. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I had a 1988 Ford Taurus, but I didn't want to drive that on our first date. I borrowed a friend's beat-up, run-down Chevy Cavalier convertible instead. It was January in Illinois, so we wouldn't be riding with the top down anyway, but for some reason, the convertible made the date more romantic. Trisha ordered a grilled chicken salad and didn't eat more than two bites. She was nervous; I was nervous. But despite our nerves, it was easy to be with each other. I had never gone out with someone who already knew me so well. When we got back to campus, I asked if I could kiss her. She said yes, and I'm not going to lie, it was amazing!
Excerpted from BEYOND ORDINARY by JUSTIN DAVIS TRISHA DAVIS Copyright © 2012 by Justin and Trisha Davis. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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