On April 14, Derek Wilhite asked my eldest daughter, Julia, to marry him. She said yes. Here's the story.
Back in the day, when I became a Freshman in college the Fall of 1980, I joined a college society, Euangelistes, because it was Jerry Wilhite's. He was a Senior. I attended high school at the same institution, so I knew who Jerry was and I chose it because he was in it. Later Jerry and I were in graduate school together for a year or two. We took many of our classes from Thomas Strouse, who had an influence on both of us. I remember going to Jerry and Debbie Wilhite's apartment for a meal during that time. There are many, many other ties I could tell -- many. If we fast forward a few years, our church in California took the Wilhites for support to South Africa. They were one of our missionaries. We have kept track of them for decades. My assessment had been we believe and practice the same.
About four or five years ago, a beloved young man in our church, who had been saved and discipled here, David Warner, initiated a courtship, agreed upon by Jerry, with his third daughter, Julianna. My family went out for their wedding three years ago at Lehigh Valley Baptist Church. There my wife and I met all of the Wilhite children, including Derek. We spent one day with him and others down in Philadelphia at that time.
I don't believe the woman initiates marriage, but the man as seen in Genesis 2. Women sometimes do, but it's just not the scriptural model. I do think that the Dad can make others aware he's got daughters and inquire if anyone knows of any interest. I remember asking Jerry if he knew of any young men in his circles, who he might think would be interested in Julia. Some of that day in Philadelphia, I spent walking around with Derek, and I liked him. I had noticed his hard work around the church property. Later Derek told me that Julia made a good impression to him, but Derek also did to us.
Even though I had preached on the obtaining of a life's partner several times and written a series about it over at the old Jackhammer blog, this was my first personal episode as a father, to see what how it might turn out on the ground. It wasn't as though my efforts were just starting. My wife and I raised children. That's part of the process -- their character, their beliefs, and their honed abilities. I'll get back to that later, because getting ready for marriage is the most important part for two people. These two really, really did that.
By my record, March 24, 2015, Derek wrote me for the first time, and we began a correspondence then that continued over two years. Two years. This didn't happen fast. His Dad and I had talked a few times before that in an exploratory way. We support the Wilhites as missionaries. Even though he wasn't stating his purpose, I understood what was going on when Derek wrote. Awhile after that, he made his first phone call, and we very often called, increasingly so, as we moved along.
I appreciated Derek's tack on this process. He didn't start at all, one bit, with my daughter. He started with me. Observe that, young men. I've got two other daughters, and if you want to disqualify yourself, try starting this with one of them and not with me. It had already been attempted with Julia by others. A good test of manhood is the ability to talk to a man. Boys like beginning with the daughter, but men are fine starting with the Father. Men.
With the announcement of their engagement, many, several, said to us that they thought we were moving along, it seemed, too quickly. I laughed. For our family, it was slow. I see the point as, people want to watch the process in the open, and if they don't get to see all of it, then it isn't happening. What they see seems fast, but it wasn't fast. It doesn't count as happening if people don't see, like a dating situation would. I wouldn't want the process to look like that. Nothing is really happening until someone makes a commitment. Derek's commitment was to talking to me first and I really, really admire that. He showed confidence, something I'd want to see in a man who would marry my daughter. It wasn't always easy, but he was being patient and concentrated on what was important. I also appreciate his parents and their support and leadership in all this. They also raised a good son by the grace of God.
When there is no commitment yet, and there shouldn't be, the two not ready for the commitment, they are committed to the process, which occurs in private. However, it is occurring, and it wasn't fast. Both could relax to do what they needed to do at the time. They could focus on their priorities. There was not pressure to keep a relationship going. It was about what it needed to be about, and that is making sure that two would want to make a commitment, would be ready to do so, really ready. The most important things to know can be learned without being around each other, and those can be learned in the courtship phase of this. They are not emotionally involved. If the two aren't committed, then they haven't given themselves to each other. They need to know first.
Julia was positive and fine about Derek during the process. She knew what was happening and was happy about it. I did not convey that information to Derek. What he knew was that we were happy about it. I'm sure every guy wants to know how happy the lady is. I was being honest with him. If it wasn't going to work, I would tell him. He knew that too. Of course, he wanted to know whether she liked him. Courtship started on February 2. He asked if he could court. Julia said, yes. Her mom and I said, yes. He knew she said, yes. He had a "yes."
Both Julia and Derek gave testimony of salvation and showed the fruit of that in their lives. That is foundational. You can't know that without some long term testimony in a true church. During the writing and phone conversation, Derek went to school at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, studying mechanical engineering. He did an excellent as a student and graduated in December 2016 toward the top of his class and with a very high gpa. He has no college debt. He worked and saved. He didn't make impulsive purchases. He was a very active member of his church -- evangelism, attendance, physical labor, and music. His friends are in the church. He likes to talk about spiritual things. He is a student of the Word. He is a bold Christian. He kept his pastor updated on the plans and checked in with all of it.
Julia will graduate from Cal State East Bay in kinesiology in June. She will have no debt. She too worked and saved. She has a great job and in a leadership position at Skyhawks out here. She too is an active and helpful member of our church here.
When courtship began, I told them they could text and talk. When they were together in person, they needed a chaperone. That was already Derek's standard. They have been chaperoned and have enjoyed that. They haven't touched. They have honored the Lord, each other, and their parents. They both waited and saved themselves for each other. They have been a great testimony in this whole process.
When Derek asked if he could marry, Julia, I had a few questions still, that he answered well. That was by phone. He told me some of the details about how he would ask. He was coming out in the middle of April for a job interview and the company would pay for the flight.
Derek included us in his proposal part of it. Julia and he went on a bike ride with my youngest daughter, Gabi, from Pier 39 in San Francisco to Sausalito across the Golden Gate bridge. He asked for her hand under the bridge on the city side. We met them in Sausalito for lunch. They took the bikes via ferry back to the city. They did a great job of informing certain key people first, so they would not find out through social media. No one knew until they were told. People were surprised, because we and they kept it quiet and safe. Derek did a great job, paying great attention to detail.
The wedding, Lord-willing, will likely be sometime January to March next year. Derek is moving out to California later this month to live here. The two will work with us in our church. We are very thankful for it all. We are thankful for his church and pastor, and again for his parents. Because they did this right, they have made this a very wonderful situation. You should remember that. It's much better when you do things right. I am glad to say that they are an example worth emulating by others.