Our Dating and Engagement Story
Dave and Ann Wilson are very transparent about the early challenges in their marriage. Today, they tell the remarkable God-orchestrated story of how they started dating and how they got engaged.
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Dave and Ann Wilson are very transparent about the early challenges in their marriage. Today, they tell the remarkable God-orchestrated story of how they started dating and how they got engaged.
Our Dating and Engagement Story
Bob: As a teenager and a new Christian, Ann Baron realized her relationship with her boyfriend—there was something that was off there.
Ann: I’m always pushing him like, “Oh, you should read this,” or “We should pray about this”; but I always felt like I’m pulling him along.
We, over the years, have seen so many couples do that/so many dating couples: “Well, I think/I think that he’ll start growing,” or “I think he’ll become this guy”; instead of already getting someone that is on fire.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, January 4th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. We’ll hear today about how God was guiding and directing Ann Baron and Dave Wilson’s lives, while they were still teenagers/how He brought them together. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Welcome to 2021!
Dave: Here we are!
Ann: This is going to be a good year.
Bob: It’s going to be a good year.
Dave: Please put 2020 behind us. [Laughter]
Bob: We’ve had people—who have been regularly coming up to me/coming up to you guys and saying—“So the Weekend to Remember®—are we doing those again?”
Ann: The answer is “Yes!”
Dave: “We are!”
Bob: The answer is: “Does anybody really know what anybody is doing this year?” [Laughter] But yes, we have plans this spring for about a dozen Weekend to Remember getaways. They’re going to be in cities across the country in socially-distanced settings in ballrooms, which means that you’ll be in a ballroom that can hold 1,000 people, and there may be a couple hundred of you in the ballroom—
Bob: —which, also, means that these dozen events are probably going to sell out—
Bob: Yes, like right away. If this is something that you go, “This is a priority for us in the spring of 2021.”
Dave: Don’t wait until tonight or tomorrow; do it right now.
Ann: I would say, too, we’ve been locked down; and I think some of us are itching to get out. Our marriages need this help.
Dave: Oh, yes.
Bob: The Weekend to Remember, you’ve shared with us before—part of your story from before you were married—three weeks before you were married, you wound up at a Weekend to Remember.
Dave: Yes; two weeks to the day.
Bob: This is something that somebody, was discipling you, had said, “You should do this”?
Dave: Yes, I was a senior in college; Ann was a freshman—I’m not recommending, by the way, that seniors marry freshmen—[Laughter]—but that’s where we were. I was involved in Cru® ministry on our campus.
Ann: We both were.
Dave: Athletes in Action: she at Kentucky; me at the illustrious Harvard of the Midwest, Ball State University. [Laughter] We didn’t even know what we were going to; they just said, “If you’re going to get married, you have to go to the Weekend to Remember.”
Ann: —which was great advice!
Dave: I remember them saying, “They teach God’s game plan for marriage.” We had no idea! We’re like, “What is it?”
Ann: Yes; if someone would have asked us, “Hey, why do you think God created marriage?” we would’ve looked at each other, dumbfounded, and thought, “Uhhhh, to make us happy?”
Dave: We had no idea.
Bob: “So we can have legitimate sex?”
Bob: I think a lot of us have this shallow, superficial understanding of marriage.
You get in the car; you drive to Chicago?—for the Weekend to Remember?
Dave: Boy, you know a lot about us, Bob.
Ann: He’s heard it all.
Bob: I’ve heard the story.
Dave: It’s 41 years ago. We didn’t even stay in a hotel; we stayed at my sister’s house. She even looked at us, like, “What are you guys doing up here? You’re going to a pre-married thing?” It’s like, “No; there’s married couples there.” There were 1,000 people in that ballroom; it was a big one. Probably 30, 40, 50 of us were engaged or pre-married.
Ann: But here’s what we thought, Bob: “We don’t really need this. This is nice to hear, but we’re going to be amazing. We’re going to have a great marriage!”
Dave: Yes; we thought, “We love each other; we love Jesus; we’re going into ministry. Marriage, really—for us?—won’t be very hard.”
Ann: I think part of that was because of the way we started dating and the way we met. We thought, “This will be a supernatural marriage, and no one else will have as good of a marriage as we will.”
Bob: When Mary Ann and I got engaged, I think we had the thought that, “We are two people, who love Jesus; therefore, the marriage is going to work. Marriage is hard for people who don’t love Jesus; marriage is easy for people who do love Jesus.”
Well, it takes about five minutes of marriage before you go, “Okay; that wasn’t exactly right.” Yet, we do have that kind of naiveté; and then we get the wake-up call: “Oh, this is harder than we realized.”
Dave: We never saw/I never saw a single blemish in the long dating relationship we had—six months—
Bob: Yes; right!
Dave: —I mean, nine months total.
Ann: We had never spent more than five days together, total.
Bob: —in the same town.
Ann: Yes; because we were in different colleges. We started dating in the summer. Dave went off to college, pretty early, because of football; so we didn’t know each other very well.
We both were coming from this point of being fairly new in our walks with God. I can remember, when I first saw Dave, and someone told me he became a Christian.
Dave: Yes; there were these flowing locks of hair, slow motion, music. [Laughter]
Ann: I was walking through our high school gym at Christmas, getting ready to have Christmas break. I was going to my car, and all the girls were fluttering about. They said, “Dave Wilson’s in the gym, playing basketball.” Everybody knew Dave Wilson; he was a junior in college. They were all scattered, and not knowing what to do, because they were so excited to see Dave Wilson.
Dave: I’ve never heard this part before!
Ann: I didn’t tell you this—
Ann: —because it would make your head big.
Dave: Whatever. [Laughter]
Ann: I walked through the gym. Someone came up to me; and they said, “Did you hear that he became a Christian?” I was very new in my faith, but I was really excited about my faith. I walked straight over to Dave. I went up to him and said, “You/so you became a Christian and gave your life to Jesus?”
Dave: She’s being nice.
Bob: Do you remember this conversation?
Dave: She didn’t say “you.” She goes, “Yes; like you’re a Christian.” [Laughter] That’s what she said.
Ann: I wasn’t that bad.
Dave: She just looked right—she doesn’t say, “Hi,” or anything—she’s just like, “You’re a Christian? Yeah; right.” That’s what she said! [Laughter] I go, “Yeah; I actually just became a Christian.” “That can’t be true!”
Ann: Now, you’re exaggerating.
Dave: Well, it is—
Ann: I wasn’t that bad.
Dave: —maybe I’m exaggerating a little.
Ann: He had a really bad reputation with alcohol/with girls, so I had a hard time believing that. But that night, I was sitting in our high school gym, watching a basketball game.
Dave: Her boyfriend was playing.
Ann: I happened to be sitting beside a guy, who Dave knew, who was [my] classmate. I was sharing the gospel—like, “Oh, I thought I was a Christian; but I’d never given my life to Jesus. This is how He’s changed my life.” Dave was sitting right in front of me. I patted him on the shoulder; and I said, “Dave, tell him what’s happened to you!”
Dave: All night, during this ball game, she was sharing the gospel right behind me, and inviting me into this conversation. This was one of my best friends’ younger brother; she was sharing with Scott. I would turn around and, basically, share my testimony and add some things.
All I know is—I remember getting in the car that night, driving home, and thinking, “I’ve never met a young woman on fire for Jesus like that.” I was like, “Wow.” And I was in a long-term relationship with a girl that I figured, in about a year/year-and-a-half, we would get married. It struck me that night: “Wow; Ann Baron—she’s going for it—she’s on fire.”
Ann: And I thought the same thing about Dave. I thought, “Oh, this is for real; this guy is serious about his faith.” I also thought, “I wish my boyfriend was like that.” Then I thought, “What would it be like to be married to or date someone, who was really passionate about their walk with God?”
Bob: That was what was attractive about him to you.
Ann: Yes; exactly.
Bob: And that was beginning to be attractive for you about Ann—or someone like Ann—you just were attracted to someone who had that kind of passion.
Dave: Yes; I mean: “That woman, on fire; I don’t think I’d ever seen like that.” Because of that—it was Christmas break for me [when I saw Ann]—I go back to college, and my girlfriend was at a different university. The next weekend, I’m driving to go see her, which I did almost every weekend; it hit me, when we’re together, “Jesus is not even in the equation.” I’m trying to walk with God at my campus—when I get with her, I go right back into where I know Jesus doesn’t want me to live—I spend the night at her place; we’re sexually active. I’m trying to grow in my walk and not living—and she’s/I’m not blaming her—but she’s pulling me a different way.
I’d seen what it could be like—again, just one evening, watching Ann share Christ—that marked me. I remember/I’ve never forgotten that.
Ann: Me, too; because I realized, when I was with this boyfriend, I thought, “I’m always pushing him,”—I’m like, “Oh, you should read this,” or “We should pray about this.” I always felt like I’m pulling him along.
We, over the years, have seen so many couples do that/so many dating couples: “Well, I think/I think he’ll start growing,” or “I think he’ll become this guy”; instead of already getting somebody that is on fire for Jesus.
Dave: I had even/I, actually, started that in my mind—after seeing Ann, knowing I’m never going to date her—thinking, “Well, after I get married, I’ll get my girlfriend where I am spiritually.” Now, after 40 years of marriage, how many times have we heard married couples say, “That’s what I thought too”?—and it doesn’t always go that way.
Bob: I’ve quoted this for years—I heard Tommy Nelson on FamilyLife Today—pastor from Denton, Texas—he said, “I always say to single people, ‘If you are single, your job is to run as hard and as fast toward Jesus as you can. If while you’re running, in the corner of your eye, you see somebody running in the same direction at the same speed, take a second look—that’s your dating philosophy—that’s how you do this.’”
That struck me; because a lot of people will say, “Look for another Christian.” There’s a difference between looking for a Christian and somebody, who’s running at your speed in your direction. If you’re on fire for Jesus, and somebody else is lukewarm for Jesus, now, we have—
Ann: You mean the guy laying on the track? [Laughter]
Dave: —sitting on the bench?
Bob: Now, we’ve got the unequally-yoked situation, where you’re pulling hard; and they’re just dragging their heels; and you’re spinning in circles.
Ann: —and they’re saying, “Why are you running so fast?”
Bob: That relationship is going to be frustrating and draining. You can’t think, “Okay; we’ll try this, and it will get better.”
Dave: Here’s the other thing that I realized—and I’ve now spoken and tried to encourage singles to listen to this is—usually, the lukewarm believer or the non-believer pulls the believer back where they are rather than the other way. I remember hearing Chuck Swindoll, decades ago, talk about a white glove and mud. He says, “Mud gets on the glove, but the glove doesn’t get on the mud. [Laughter] It isn’t a glove-y mud; it’s a muddy glove.” [Laughter] It’s like, “Wow! That’s what I was trying to do.”
After that Christmas break, I remember trying to pull my girlfriend where I was; and she kept pulling me back. Again, I’m not blaming her; I chose to go lukewarm. I’ll never forget, going to see her three or four months later, sort of surprising her at her university. She knew I was coming, but I was supposed to come a couple hours later. I had her key to her room—
Bob: “I’m here!”
Dave: —I peek in, and she’s with another guy; it broke my heart. I remember looking at her—“I’m going to marry this girl!”—even though, now, I’m thinking—“I should have never been thinking I was going to marry her.” When I saw that, it was like all those things I thought I might have been seeing—there it is—
Ann: It was evidence.
Dave: —“That’s who she is.” People had even told me, “You don’t really know who she is.” “That’s who she is.”
I remember sort of yelling at her; they looked at me, and I slammed the door. I ran to my car; I started driving 30 miles from her university to my hometown, and cried the whole way. I was devastated—it was like: “What did I just see? What is my life? What is happening?”
I remember I got to the back door of our house, walked in. I have the greatest single mom—she loved me to death; she’s a sweetheart—she’s with the Lord now—but I remember she looked at me, and I’m sobbing—she’s like, “Are you okay?” I’m like, “I can’t talk to you right now; I need to go to my room.”
I remember I went straight to the back room, shut the door—this is my childhood bedroom—got right on my knees. Bob, I’m telling you—right there and then—I said, “Jesus, I’m all in; I’ve been trying to control my life.” I was sort of holding onto football; and I’d just blown out my knee, and I didn’t know if I’d play again—well, that went real well for me. And I’d held onto this relationship with a girl; I wasn’t willing to turn it over and do it God’s way. Right then and there, I got on my knees and said, “Okay, God; obviously, my plan is not a great one. Yours is better; I choose You. I put You on the throne of my life. I’m going to do and go and be anything you want me to be. I don’t know what that is, but I’m completely all in.”
Here’s the crazy thing—I get done with that prayer—and I know, at this moment, I have to grow spiritually. I’ve been living in this town; I don’t even have a church! All I know is that there’s a woman, named Ann Baron, who’s on fire. I say, “God, bump me into her because”—I don’t want to date her—“she’s got a church, and she’s got a fire. That’s the kind of fire I want; I think she can help me.”
Bob: You had never, in the back of your mind, thought, “She’s kind of cute.”
Dave: I mean, I thought she was extremely cute; I was not attracted to date her.
Bob: Let me ask you [Ann]—from that bleacher conversation—this is Dave Wilson, who had been the star of the football team at the high school. He’s back, and he’s two years older. All the girls are like, “Dave Wilson’s in the gym.” Were you looking at him?
Ann: Yes; I thought, “He may be super arrogant, but he is so hot. [Laughter] This guy is cute!” [Laughter]
But here’s the thing, Bob—the same night that Dave is on his knees, praying, I’m working a night shift at Whirlpool/the factory, shooting screws into dishwasher doors on an assembly line.
Dave: Her dad was a Whirlpool employee.
Ann: Yes; it was a great job for the summer, making lots of money. But it’s this monotonous job, where you’re shooting these screws in. I remember praying this whole time, like: “God, what am I doing? I’m going to be in college next year. I feel like I’m dating this guy, and it’s going nowhere. I shouldn’t be doing things I’m doing with him. I feel like that’s pulling me back; I want to grow!”
I said this prayer, like, “God, Jesus, I’m done playing this game. I’m going to be all in with you. I give you my life/everything—my future/my boyfriend—I will go anywhere You call me. I will do anything You want me to do. I will say anything You want me to say, God, because I am all Yours. I am all Yours from this day forward.”
Then, I was done praying that; and at the end of my prayer—because I was new in my faith—my sister led me to Jesus; I didn’t really have anyone discipling me—I was growing on my own, going to a church. At the end of the prayer, I thought, “I wonder if Dave Wilson’s home this summer?” At the end of my prayer, I’m like, “Lord, I don’t know what’s going on with Dave Wilson,”—maybe, he’s married at this point—“but if you want me to bump into him, and he could help me grow, help me to just somehow bump into him. Amen!”
Dave: This sounds like a dating prayer.
Bob: Sounds like a Hallmark® movie.
Ann: It is a Hallmark movie! [Laughter]
Dave: When I hear her saying this, it sounds like neither one of us had the right motivation.
Ann: I wanted to grow!
Dave: I’m telling you—my motivation was pure. The next morning, I get up; of course, I don’t know she prayed that across the other side of town. I pick up my buddy, Greg, who was my high school kicker. We have a painting business, so we’re going to paint my grandma’s house; and you’re not late to your grandma’s house.
Dave: We’re driving over there; and I tell Greg, “Dude, I surrendered my life to Jesus yesterday.” He goes, “What?!” I told him this, and I told him my prayer. I literally walked through the whole thing. I said, at the end, “I even prayed to bump into Ann Baron.” He says, “You’re not supposed to pray for yourself.” I go, “I don’t know what you’re supposed to pray, Greg; but that’s what I prayed.” He goes, “That’s weird.”
We’re driving to my grandma’s, and we’re going by the high school; it’s just on the way. He goes, “Hey, let’s stop in real quick and see Coach Jones,” our high school football coach. I go, “No, dude; we’ve got to get to my grandma’s. We can’t be late.” “No; come on, man. Let’s go.” “No; we can’t”; I just say, “No; we’re not.”
He reaches over and flips the steering wheel, as I’m driving; he just pushes it. I said, “Dude! Okay; we’ll run in there for five minutes.” We run in and say, “Hi,” to Coach Jones. We’re walking out; I’m talking to Coach Jones. Greg’s walking out in front of me, past the tennis courts. Greg—“Mr. You’re-not-supposed-to-pray-for-yourself” goes—“Oh, my gosh! God just answered your prayer, Dude!” I go, “What?” He goes, “Look!” I turned; and there’s Ann, playing tennis with her mom on this tennis court, as we’re walking out.
Ann: —which, I was in a tennis tournament that morning, and I had played horribly. We were driving home; and I said, “Oh, Mom. I need to get my stroke back. Let’s stop at the high school court, and I can get my confidence back.” We’re hitting; and all of a sudden, Dave Wilson comes up to the fence; and he says [sounding like Dave], “Hey; when are we going to play?”
Dave: The truth is—I stood there; she was with her back to me—I was so afraid to say anything. Greg hits me and goes, “Dude! God answered your prayer!” I’m like, “Hey, when are we going to play tennis?” Long story short—next morning, we played tennis.
Ann: We never played tennis.
Dave: We never did; we sat and talked about Jesus. I remember asking her, “What do you want to do with your life?” She said, “I’m going to follow Jesus; I’m going to serve Jesus. I believe He’s got a call on my life.” I remember getting in the car, and going, “I’ve never talked to an 18-year-old girl, who knew what she wanted to do with her life.” It didn’t matter whether I was a part of it or not.
We started on a dating relationship, unlike any dating relationship either one of us had ever been a part of, because Christ was never the center. It was the first time—as you said, Bob, earlier—she’s sprinting on the track; I’m sprinting on the track; and Jesus was the center. I’m not saying it was this perfect dating relationship, but it was the way God has designed dating and engagement to be—it’s like He’s the beginning—we prayed at the beginning; we prayed at the end. We kept ourself sexually pure. It was just a totally different perspective.
Then when we went to the FamilyLife®Weekend to Remember, we heard—of all the things we heard—“Here’s God’s plan for your marriage; it’s bigger than you. He wants to reveal to the world Who He is through marriage.” We knew we were entering a partnership.
Bob: When your dad—who knew Dave Wilson, because he’d coached him as a baseball player—knew his reputation, knew his past—when he heard you’re spending time with Dave Wilson, what did he say to you?
Ann: He said, “You are no longer going to see Dave Wilson; I forbid you.”
Dave: I was not allowed.
Ann: I said, “No, Dad; Dave’s different now.” He goes, “Oh, yeah? I don’t really care if you think he’s different. I know his reputation, and you are not going to date him.”
Bob: What did you do?
Ann: We were praying about it—really praying—like, “Lord, I pray that You’d show my dad.” The high school football coach happened to be with my dad. The high school football coach said, “Hey, I hear that Ann and Dave are hanging out.” My dad said, “Yes; I’m not going to let that happen.” The coach said, “Why wouldn’t you? He’s one of the nicest guys I know”; so my dad said, Okay”!
Bob: He softened up.
Ann: Yes; I feel like that was God. By that point, he really saw something different in us; and he really trusted Dave.
Dave: It really was—
Ann: —miraculous. Bob, do you see why we thought we wouldn’t struggle?
Bob: Sure; it’s this amazing story, and God’s hand is all over it; “Therefore, we won’t have challenges in marriage.”
Bob: And how long did it take before—do you remember the first time you thought, “I wonder if I made a mistake”?
Ann: Yes; six months/six months, I yelled at Dave, “Marrying you was the biggest mistake of my life”; [thinking] “He’s the wrong person; the right person is out there, and I should go find him.”
Bob: You shared that story in Vertical Marriage®, both the video series and the book. That was the beginning of what I would call the second chapter of your journey, because God took you through a refining process to get you ready for where He has you today—speaking to hundreds of thousands of people, every day on radio/on this podcast, as you speak at events. God had to take you through the purifying chapters. Those were not easy years, but it was part of His work to prepare you for how He wants to use you; right?
Dave: I think back—we started dating with the right perspective—that Jesus is the answer; Jesus is our source of life—not the person I’m dating. Then, you forget. We started our marriage; within months, we’re like, “You need to do this, and you need to be this, so that I can be happy.” Where are our eyes?
Ann: —on the other person.
Dave: Our eyes are on our spouse rather than, “No, no, no; it’s back to: ‘Jesus is the source.’” In the Book of Revelation, He speaks a revelation to John; and He says, “You’ve lost your first love,” to a church. It’s interesting what He says to do: “Repent and do the things you did at first.”
When you think about that in our marriage, or in anyone’s marriage, it’s like “repent” means go back and put Him back on the throne—or “vertical” is what we call it—“Remember what you were doing when you were dating?—when you really were passionate in love and you pursued with a reckless abandon?—do that again.” Again, I’m not going to say we did it perfectly; but there is a way that He says to do in His Word, and it’s the right way.
Bob: And if you need a refresher, and you can get to one of the Weekend to Remember getaways this spring, do that. Like I said, we’re going to have about a dozen of those this spring. You can find out more when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. They’re going to be socially-distanced events, so we expect they will sell out. A ballroom that has 1,000 people capacity; we may have 200 people at that event.
Ann: It’s life-changing—it can be.
Bob: Go find out more at FamilyLifeToday.com. And find out more about Dave and Ann’s story. Get a copy of their book, Vertical Marriage; or get the small group study and go through the messages from Vertical Marriage with other couples. Go, online, to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about these resources; or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Seriously, if you haven’t read Vertical Marriage, get a copy and start the new year with a great book on marriage from Dave and Ann Wilson. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the book, or call us at 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
As we start the new year, we want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who, in the month of December, responded to the matching-gift challenge that had been laid out in front of us, here at FamilyLife. We’re still getting mail from some of you, and it’ll be a few days before we know the final outcome. We are so grateful for those of you who responded—and who voted for us, really—that’s what you were doing when you made a donation, here at yearend; you were saying, “FamilyLife Today matters for me, for my community, for our country.”
This is a critical time in our nation for biblical truth about marriage and family to be available to more and more people. You’re helping to make that happen through your donations to this ministry. “Thank you,” to those of you who donated in December; and thanks to those of you, who will continue to support us in 2021. We’re going to need your help this year. We just want to say, “Thanks,” in advance, for your financial support of this ministry.
We hope you can join us tomorrow when we’re going to talk about the habits that help to create a joy-filled marriage. Marcus Warner and Chris Coursey join us. We hope you can be back with us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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