Andy's Story

Updated on July 31st, 2008

It all started on a cold, November morning in the Texas Hill Country. I was finishing up my next-to-last semester of Bible school and the dean of our school had come to campus for the final week. He was leading our morning devotions and had chosen marriage for his topic. I was not impressed; I had heard him share this message before, and I was in no rush to get married.

In my early teenage years, I had made a commitment to honor God in all my relationships. For me, this meant that I would not date or even show special attention to anyone I did not fully intend to marry. Honoring God in all my relationships also meant that I would practice genuine love by first talking to the girl’s father before I set out trying to win her heart. I didn’t want it to be just a friend-of-the-month club. I had seen too many young people suffer heartache when they casually “gave away” their hearts again and again. Amanda is the first and only girl that I have ever “dated.”

Sometimes I wondered how marriage could happen with all of my convictions. If I wasn’t pursuing relationships with girls, God would have to clearly lead me. Some people thought that I would never get married if I didn’t go out and “make it happen.” During my teen years, I sometimes wondered if they were right.

But as I sought to keep my heart focused on the Lord, I began to see some unique blessings. By seeking to love God and trying to use my time purposefully, I had a great freedom to serve people and learn new things. Instead of spending time worrying about what a girlfriend thought of me, I grew to love the Lord and my family more deeply and enjoyed spending time with them.

In 2003, I began working for an organization in Chicago that worked with home school families. It was here I realized how much I loved this kind of purposeful ministry. The Lord gave amazing opportunities to travel across the nation and to several foreign countries and meet families in those places. I was able to lead a team working with children in Peru and to teach English in China with my sister. I had been able to develop incredible friendships with others. Still, I wanted to develop a deeper friendship with the Lord and learn to hear His voice, so I decided to attend the International Ministerial Institute in Burnet, Texas.

aw_van One of my goals in going to this three-year Bible school was to immerse myself in Scripture and learn to hear God more clearly. I was looking forward to finishing up school in just a few months and seeking whatever work and ministry that the Lord had for me. There were so many exciting possibilities ahead!

On this November morning, just six months from graduation, as I sat listening to Dr. Logan’s words, my mind was racing with all the things I had to do before the semester ended. I needed to pack. I needed to clean my room. I needed to do a lot of things, but God had other plans for my morning. As Dr. Logan spoke about marriage, another voice suddenly interrupted. It wasn’t audible, but it was so strong it could have been.
Two words, spoken directly to my heart: “Amanda Shepherd.”

I wasn’t quite sure what had just happened. “Was that me or was that God?” I thought to myself. I don’t remember another word that was said that morning, but I do remember realizing, somewhere in the middle of the overwhelming flood of thought and emotion, “She is the Godliest girl I know!” And somehow I wanted to know her more.
After morning devotions had ended, I tried to finish the to-do list I had been so worried about earlier, but it just didn’t seem to have the same urgency. I was thinking so hard about what God had just spoken to me, I couldn’t concentrate on packing. I finally gave up and decided to talk to someone.

Dr. Mike Davis, the director of our school, had become a trusted friend and counselor. Few people had ever loved me enough to be perfectly honest with me, even when it hurt. I knew I could count on “Dr. D” in this situation, too.

“Dr. D?” I said, “You got a minute? I have a problem.” 

Like he always had done before, Dr. Davis set everything else down and invited me into his office.  He sat down behind his desk, leaned back in his chair, looked directly at me, and asked, “So what’s going on?”

“I think God spoke to me this morning.”
This is a problem?!” he said – obviously concerned that one of his fifth-semester students would find this troubling.
“It was about a girl.”

In most situations this wouldn’t be a terribly hard thing to say, but this was a little different. I had told Dr. Davis before starting the school that I wouldn’t be pursuing a romantic relationship with anyone. This school’s one purpose was to give its students the opportunity to build a relationship with God without distractions. I was two and a half years into a three year program at the school and had agreed that I would voluntarily set aside any romantic relationships during the three years. I thought it would keep me from getting distracted, and it had…until now!

Dr. Davis had met Amanda at several counseling seminars we had helped to lead in Indianapolis for Christian youth. Dr. Davis had concluded that because we were from the same area, went to the same church, and shared so many of the same interests and convictions, maybe something would eventually develop.

I had developed an appreciation for Amanda and her skills and talents, but I had never had a romantic interest in her. We had done quite a few things together. At church, she played the piano and I led the singing. We had worked for the same ministry in Chicago for a summer. My sister and Amanda were the best of friends. I thought to myself, “If a romantic interest was going to develop, it would have happened before, wouldn’t it?” Instead, God had graciously helped us to guard our hearts so it could happen without manipulation and in just the right timing.

Dr. Davis encouraged me to go home and talk with my parents about the situation and just see what God would do. A couple days later I found myself sitting with my parents by the fireplace in our living room. I told them what had happened and that I would really appreciate their help in guiding me along. I could tell they were excited, but they tried not to act too excited. They told me that this was my decision, and they didn’t want to decide for me.

Over the winter break from school, we saw the Shepherd family several times. We had a couple of Christmas parties together and I would see them every week at church. I couldn’t believe how differently I felt toward Amanda, but I couldn’t tell if she would ever be interested in a relationship with me. She was guarding her feelings well.

Because of my commitment to honor God in all my relationships, I didn’t want to just do the “normal” thing and start flirting or showing her special attention. I really wanted to see God lead in this – I didn’t want to manipulate or get in the way. I knew that if this was something that God wanted, He would also cause it to happen. I know that’s a little extreme, but I had come to trust God that much. He didn’t let me down.

At first, nothing seemed to happen. My entire winter break from school passed and I still had not said anything to her or done anything to let her know I was interested. I couldn’t get around the fact that I had given my word about not pursuing a relationship while I was still a student. I knew God would bless me for keeping my word—at least I hoped He would— because I was scared that someone else would come along—or even had come along—and that they would win Amanda’s heart before I could even say or do anything. I was really learning what it meant to trust God.

Two months before graduation, I was asked to lead a week-long retreat for thirty young men. Since I had finished my course-work early, Dr. Davis thought that this would be a good chance for me to apply some of what I had been learning at school. One morning, as I was preparing for this retreat, I couldn’t get Amanda off my mind. “God,” I said, “You’ve got to help me here. I can’t even concentrate.” I still had two more months before graduation and I wasn’t ready to be feeling so strongly yet.

After wrestling with my emotions for a while, I decided to change gears entirely. I just needed to pick up something else and read for a while. I opened one of the study guides we would be using during our retreat. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was Amanda’s picture and a story about her praying for her brothers and God answering her prayers!

I think God was having a great time watching me. Here I was trying to prepare for a retreat and I was a wreck. I did my best to refocus and I had a great time leading the retreat, but I wasn’t prepared for what would happen next.

The same ministry that hosted the retreat also has a large, homeschooling organization. At the end of the retreat, I received a job offer to be the director of their home school program. After spending several days praying and getting counsel from my parents and other older and wiser people in my life, I felt sure that God was leading in this direction. Since I had finished all of my class work at school ahead of schedule, if Dr. Davis approved, I would simply have to return for graduation.

That afternoon in late March, I found myself in Dr. D’s office again. He told me how excited he was about the offer and that he was sad to see me go, but knew it was the right thing. Then he said, “You know what this means, don’t you? You’re not a student here any more. Your commitment is up. What are you going to do about Amanda?”

I was so excited. After talking to my parents, they gave me their full blessing to pursue a courtship with Amanda. That night, I called Amanda’s dad and spoke to him for almost an hour. I told him the story that I just told you and said I was asking his permission to see if his daughter would be interested in starting a relationship with the full intention of moving toward marriage.  He asked to pray about it, but assured me he wouldn’t make me wait too long on an answer.

Two days later, Dr. Shepherd called back. He said he and his wife had no hesitation at all, and that I had their full permission and blessing to call Amanda anytime I wanted, but he also warned me that he had no idea if Amanda would be interested. He had never heard her talk about me in that way. Dr. Shepherd and I discussed the best way to ask Amanda. She was going to be out of town for a week, so we decided that when she came back home to Tennessee, he would take her out to eat and just see if she would be okay with getting a call from me.

It sounded like a great plan to me. The last thing I wanted to do was put her in an awkward situation – to make her feel like the bad guy just because she wasn’t interested. And I wanted her to know that I cared enough about her to get her dad’s permission to even make the first move.

But plans changed. On Amanda’s way back from Michigan to Tennessee, she was going to be coming through Chicago. I had just finished moving to Chicago to start the new position with the home school group. That weekend, I got a call from Dr. Shepherd. He said that he didn’t see any need in Amanda coming all the way home to Tennessee and then finding out I was interested when we would both be in Chicago and I could just tell her myself.

On Sunday night, April 6th, I arranged with a good friend a plan to have her be in a certain location where I would be waiting with flowers.  I still didn’t know if she would be interested in me, so I was taking a big risk of looking like a total idiot, but I knew that God had spoken clearly to me courtship beginsand she was “worth the risk.” When I walked in the room, my planned speech and smooth ways all went out the window – I could hardly remember my name! I’ll never forget the look on her face when she realized what was going on. We were both so nervous and so excited! But I was thrilled when she said that she would be interested in a relationship and that I could call or write any time I wanted.

Six weeks and many phone calls later, we were both in Texas for my graduation. One hour before graduation, I took her to the spot on campus that had been so special to me - the place where I had spent hours of fellowship with God, including praying about her and how to handle the whole situation. We were in the Texas hill country on the edge of a desert, but I had a small round table, some roses, and a ring box waiting for her. I went down on one knee and she began to cry. And she said , “Yes!”

During our courtship and engagement, we decided to add another extreme idea to our relationship. We made a commitment to each other that we would have no physical contact until our wedding day. No hugs, no holding hands, no nothing! We chose to do this, not out of fear, but because we both desire to learn to skillfully communicate with each other’s hearts.

andy and amandaThis discipline of learning to communicate using words, tones, and facial expressions will be with us for the rest of our lives, and we look forward to a lifetime together of “having and holding.” When Amanda’s dad walks her down the aisle and “gives her hand in marriage,” it will be the first time that I have held her hand; and when the preacher pronounces us husband and wife, it will be a first kiss for both of us.

God has truly blessed us both! I am so glad that God spoke to me about Amanda and that He spoke to her about me. We are both so thankful that we have developed the discipline of listening to God and cultivating our relationship with Him so that He could lead us to each other. We hope that you’ll be able to join us on our special day when we agree with God and say, “I do” to what He brought about.

Read Amanda’s story…>