She came to his front door. Literally.
It was a beautiful, sunny Wednesday morning in August 2011. Sarah was enjoying her summer vacation and getting ready to head to downtown Chicago to pick up a friend who had come into town for a worship conference. Babatunde had just woken up, eager to eat pancakes after completing a three week period of fasting and prayer in preparation for the same conference.
Tunde and Sarah had met a few times before at the homes of mutual friends, but sparks had never flown. But that summer morning, Sarah heard Tunde had opened up his apartment to out of town guests, so she came to his door, dropped off her friend, chatted for a bit with Tunde and his roommates, and they went their separate ways. Sarah felt surprisingly refreshed by great conversation with a few godly young men, but Tunde was left struggling to put out of his mind the beautiful “distraction” who’d just walked through his door! After weeks of praying and fasting, he thought he was being tested! Little did they both realize, their lives were about to change forever!
Over the next few days, Sarah and Tunde hung out various times with mutual friends from his church. Tunde took every opportunity he could get to find out who this woman was and discern any red flags in her character, speech and lifestyle. He had dated a few women before, but God showed Tunde how those relationships weren’t approved by Him and how Tunde’s heart wasn’t completely submitted to God in them. By the grace of God, Tunde knew that, going forward, all his relationships had to change. So he prayed constantly for wisdom, asked Sarah probing questions, and even took a seat in every room she entered just to overhear her conversations! Meanwhile, Sarah was completely oblivious of his attraction!
It wasn’t until a couple of days later, after Tunde had been texting Sarah a lot, that her roommate, Alisha, remarked, “Sarah, does Tunde like you?” Sarah was shocked! “What?! No!” The thought had never even crossed her mind! But Alisha just replied, “Well, he’s not texting ME like that!”
The following morning, Sarah woke up wanting to talk to God about Tunde, but not wanting to let her thoughts get ahead of her. So she wrote down a few characteristics in her prayer journal that she had noticed about him over the past weekend. He was a people-person, generous, a deep thinker, hospitable, and seemed to be a really good friend. She simply prayed, “Lord, if Tunde is interested in me, please give him wisdom on how to proceed.” Two hours later he texted her, asking to go to lunch later that week! She agreed, but called her brother, Esteban, who was familiar with Tunde, to inquire about Tunde’s reputation. For the first time, Esteban had no reservations about a "potential" so she had the green light!
Before meeting Tunde for that first lunch date, she prayed again, “Lord, if Tunde has intentions for me, please make them very clear. I’m 30 years old, and I don’t have the desire to just ‘hang out’.” Tunde and Sarah talked over lunch, sharing about their families, faith and life stories. Tunde topped it all off with, “Well, we’ve been hanging out the past few days...I asked you to lunch because I want to get to know you intentionally...I want to get to know you intentionally...I mean, like, really, I really want to be intentional.” She smiled ear to ear, knowing exactly what he meant, and shook her head yes. Her prayer had been answered.:)
It would be romantic to say that their dating relationship was all roses, and it was for the first couple of months! Within that first month of dating, Tunde knew Sarah was the woman for him, and even secretly started saving for her engagement ring! Sarah loved being wholeheartedly pursued by Tunde! They talked and texted all the time, but Sarah had gotten caught up in infatuations before and needed to know if this relationship was really from the Lord. Tunde was Sarah’s first boyfriend; she needed time to pray through many fears, questions, and misconceptions about love and relationships that had taken root in her heart and mind while single.
Everything came to a screeching halt one cool October evening when Sarah told Tunde, “I need to take a break for 2 weeks. No talking or texting. After which, I’m not sure if we’ll be together.” Not smooth. Tunde was floored. He had tried to do everything right, going out of his way to help Sarah feel comfortable and safe in their blossoming friendship, yet the pace of their relationship had been comparable to sprinting through a marathon! It could not be maintained if it was to grow in God’s timing. Those two weeks were invaluable! They each prayed and sought godly counsel from wiser men and women who helped them set guidelines for maintaining an appropriate pace for their relationship as it was purposed toward marriage. It was a much needed break and a timely blessing!
Psalm 127:1 soon became their theme verse, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” As they desired to intentionally keep God at the forefront of their relationship, they talked through the deeper aspects of life, family backgrounds, and their walks with God. The depth and frequency of these conversations were made possible because they had decided very early on to save their first kiss for the wedding day! As their love deepened for one another, Sarah observed the depth of maturity in Tunde and was sobered by how much he would teach her about life, God, love and people. He was more than she could have ever imagined! God consistently confirmed their relationship through their conversations together, along with specific answers to prayer along the way, and the blessing of godly mentors, family and friends.
FLASHBACK TO SINGLENESS
Prayer, fasting and the cultivation of their individual relationships with Jesus was vitally important to Tunde and Sarah as single young adults and had positioned them to receive God’s gift of a spouse. During her 20s, Sarah was involved in ministry at her church, traveling, and furthering her education, while also waiting eagerly (and sometimes desperately!) for that special man to find her! At times, she pined away in prayer, asking the Lord when that man was going to come! In 2009, she obeyed the Lord’s voice and dedicated 16 months to seek God in a more concentrated way, maturing as a young woman and praying specifically for her future husband. Little did she know that Tunde was playing professional football in various cities around the country, and was also being shaped and refined into a godly young man in a very challenging atmosphere! While Sarah was on her vow, God ended Tunde’s football career and brought him back to Chicago, where he joined a strong group of Christians who taught him even more about prayer, fasting, community, growing in purity and serving others.
Two weeks after Sarah’s vow finished, she and Tunde were in the same room together for the first time, but God still had work to do in each of their hearts before bringing them together that sunny August morning, nearly a year and a half later.
Eight months after Sarah came to Tunde’s door, he bought the ring and plans were immediately set in motion to pop the question! Tunde planned to propose on the lakefront at Montrose Harbor (one of their favorite spots), where a little table would be set up with flowers, sparkling cider, fancy cheese and crackers, and a live cello playing one of “their” songs. But on the big day it was a true April afternoon in Chicago, raining cats and dogs! The surprise moved indoors to the location of their first date: Goose Island Brewery.
Tunde invited Sarah to the restaurant for a “work party”. She slightly suspected a proposal was on the horizon because Tunde had recently asked her father for her hand in marriage, and they had briefly discussed the possibility of a fall wedding. She had anxiously wondered, “Doesn’t Tunde know that it can take a long time to find a wedding dress?!?! Let’s get planning!” But as they headed out to the restaurant, Sarah again gave the relationship to God, praying, “Lord, if Tunde doesn’t propose until June, I have to be ok with that. You’re in control.”
Upon arrival, they walked past the table they sat at for their first date. Tunde opened the door as Sarah entered a room where flowers decorated the floor, live cello music filled her ears, and Tunde’s friend blinded her with a “paparazzi” photoshoot, catching every second of this beautiful moment! The ring came out, and the question was asked. “Yes!…Finally!” was the reply. They hugged, took pictures, ate dessert and drove to tell her family!
Six months later, on a cold October weekend in 2012, Sarah and Tunde celebrated their love in traditional Nigerian style one day, and in multicultural fashion the next, giving glory to God for bringing them together. Joy and relief flooded Sarah’s heart as she stood at the sanctuary doors, eager to walk down the aisle to meet the man for whom she had waited so long and who was now waiting for her at the front of the church. She smiled broadly and walked confidently to meet him. The ceremony was beautiful: prayers, worship, words of gratitude for their parents, vows, and finally their first kiss! A strong awareness of God’s smile on their union filled their hearts.
During courtship and engagement, a friend advised Tunde and Sarah to pray and prepare more for the marriage than for the wedding. What wise counsel! The depth of conversation during their courtship laid a solid and necessary foundation for their early months of marriage as God began to build their home. They enjoyed fun date nights, setting up house, traveling, and simply doing daily life together. However, struggles showed up very early on, as well. Sarah became pregnant right after the honeymoon, and then miscarried a few weeks later. They were crushed, but in their grief were comforted by their loving Heavenly Father. He was taking care of them. He was writing their story. He was building their home. By God’s grace, Sarah got pregnant again a couple months later, and now she and Tunde are enjoying their precious little girl, Naomi. They are eager to continue to allow God to build their home and their dreams, and to use them for His glory.