Meeting in a dark parking lot
Dino: I saw her across the room at our church’s 20’s group in San Francisco and thought to myself, “Who is that?” It was like that for weeks.
I finally had the chance to find out when we both got invited to a mutual friend’s Italian night, which included dinner and a movie. Of course, being Italian, I was all over that. When I got to the apartment complex, I couldn’t find the correct apartment. So I began wandering around the place and I found myself in the darkest part of the most deserted parking lot with this girl walking towards me — the one I wasn’t able to meet yet. I began to walk towards her, and then I thought, “This doesn’t look good…I wonder what she’s thinking?” So before I got maced or pepper sprayed I said to her, “My name is Dino and I am looking for…so and so.” I knew who she was, but she didn’t know who I was.
Debra: I was lost too. Little did he know that I’d splayed my keys out between my fingers, all ready to pop this creeper in the face! After Dino introduced himself and helped me find our friend’s place, I ignored him because he was cute and he made me nervous – this mysterious, stoic man fresh off the mission field. That made him prime game in that particular social circle, and I didn’t want to be one of those girls!
Dino: As she was about to leave, I heard in my head, “Walk her to her car.” I looked around to see if someone else had said that, considering the movie Italian Job was still playing, but nobody had said anything. I heard it again, and I looked around. This time my heart started to beat quickly. She was almost at the door, saying her goodbyes and I heard for a third time, “Walk her to her car.” I got up, a little weirded out, and the awkward moment came when she said, “Hey Dino, are you leaving too?”
“Um….no,” I said with that little embarrassing crack in the voice that just shouts confidence.
Debra looked at me suspiciously and started to walk really fast to her car. We exchanged pleasantries from a distance because I actually didn’t walk her all the way to her car. I’m still not sure why I did that. As we said goodbye with me on one side of the street and her on the other, I watched her drive away. I remember thinking, “What was that about?” I was sure that it was the Lord that had prompted me to walk Debra to her car, but why? I got home later that night and told my roommate what had happened and he said, “It sounds like it’s to be continued…”
Friday the 13th… And the Residual Effects
Dino: Our first date. It took a few months of awkward, stilted conversations before the opportunity arose and I asked her out. We walked around downtown, chatted, and finally had dinner at an Irish Pub (along with being Italian, I’m also Irish). As the evening came to a close, after walking her all the way back to her car, I asked her out again for the next night.
Debra: We started a tradition that night of sitting in a square under a big old tree strung with lights and listening to live music while we asked probing personal questions and philosophized about life and heaven and Jesus. I miss that tree.
Dino: During this whole time, I was praying for wisdom on what to say next and for grace to not say anything lame and to know what to do. So, I prayed a lot! Our second date went really well. We went to The Cheesecake Factory for dessert (we skipped dinner to get to the good stuff). When we got back to the cars, this time I was much more clear about my intentions. I asked her, “Is it okay if I pursue you?” She said yes, but I wasn’t quite sure if she got what I meant. The whole idea of pursuing Debra has been foundational to our relationship, and it’s even in my wedding vows. The idea comes from the never-ending pursuit of the love of God in the life of a believer. This was the best way that I could express what I saw in her and what I wanted to create with her.
Debra: What I remember about The Cheesecake Factory is that when it came time to pay, he squinted into his wallet and said, “Well, guess we’re washing dishes tonight.” Later, when he said he wanted to pursue me, I figured he meant going out some more. That sounded good to me – free food and sparkling conversation with a tall guy who smelled great and had a steamy five-o-clock shadow. Why not? He then started calling me every day.
The Four Letter Word
Debra: I was a novice at being a girlfriend so I felt way out of my depth. As we continued to date, I spent lots of time on the phone with my parents, talking over all the warm fuzzies and cold feet. What I remember as most impacting was Dad telling me that even if his exteriors didn’t all match up to what made sense, I’d “know if he was it” when I knew I trusted Dino’s heart – trusted his intentions in life and how tender his heart was toward the Lord. Even though we didn’t match up in every practical way (sometimes I got scared that he was a heretic in the midst of heated discussions on secondary doctrines), I quickly grew convinced that this guy wanted to listen and wait for the Lord. Dad’s advice freed me to decide I could team up with him, submit to him, and follow him as a husband with the confidence that it would be really good because I trusted the Spirit’s continued work in him.
Dino: I knew within the first couple of weeks that this relationship was different. I had this reoccurring thought that I was getting to know my wife. It took many months to tell her I loved her. I didn’t want to scare her or flippantly say it without processing the depth, weight, and implications of that word. When I finally did say it, Debra said it right back, with a sigh of relief, and we held each other a long time.
Ring by Spring
Dino: No, we weren’t in Bible college at the time. Throughout our relationship, we have always tried to have a blend between the ancient and the modern. We wanted our relationship to model honor, respect, and some of the “old school” ways and still be intentional about how we did the relationship. And we both wanted to create a relationship that reflected us and what the Lord had done.
Debra: What was one practical outworking of this abstract concept? An old-fashioned ring with a brand-new sparkle, presented and accepted after an amazing dinner and night out on the San Francisco Bay. This all happened after I innocently moved his coat, (which contained the ring) over next to me where he couldn’t reach it and subsequently got very fidgety and flustered.
Dino: I almost wet myself in anxiety when I went to propose because I couldn’t find the ring!
Debra: And I’m glad he didn’t!
Summer of Love
Dino: With the idea of blending the old and the new, we wanted to blend two core themes in our relationship: weightiness and fun. These were the themes of our wedding, a quick three months after the engagement, and of our relationship since then. Both of the ideas stem from our walks with the Lord.
Debra: Weightiness and fun in the wedding meant goofy music and a super-relaxed reception. It was outside and 95 degrees so everybody besides me and Dino couldn’t help feeling sluggish anyway. Yet, it also meant some intense vows. Part of mine included respecting Dino to his face, behind his back, and in my private thoughts with myself. That last part, especially, hasn’t been a cakewalk, but remembering my dad’s advice and reminding myself of Dino’s caring and godly intents really helps.
Dino: Part of my vows included pursuing, loving, protecting, and honoring Debra. This has been hard, but it’s the kind of hard that leads to a really good relationship.
Now and Laters
Dino: Since then, both of us continue to proactively walk out our vows by the active grace of God. I am constantly praying for wisdom and strength to be faithful to the covenant that we made and, so far, He has sustained us. My hope is that as we continue to walk out the ways of Christ through the ways of our relationship, that He would reflect Himself through us. So, in the words of my friend, sounds like it’s to be continued…
–Dino Biaggi is a Psychology Major at Multnomah University.