Anna Schaeffer is an author and blogger who writes to inspire teen girls and women to embrace God’s purpose for their lives. She’s the author of All of This, a YA novel, and is earning an M.A. in Ministry to Women at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can usually find Anna on campus or in a coffee shop, jotting story ideas in the margins of her class notes. She’s also into laughter, random adventures, and all things bread-related. Find Anna on social media (@aschaewrites) and hang out with her online at http://www.annaschaefferwrites.com.
When my sister, her boyfriend, and I moved to North Carolina for school, we knew very few people. So in those early days, we did what any other trio of young adults would do: we spent our Friday nights at Josh’s apartment watching Veggie Tales.
At this point, Josh and Abby were seriously dating, and I was a party of one. Also known as the third wheel. You know, like on a bike. You really only need two wheels to ride the thing. The third one’s extra.
We had family dinners once a week where we’d share a meal and catch up on each other’s week. When Halloween rolled around, we made last-minute costumes, ate dinner, and watched Nacho Libre together.
One evening, when I showed up at Josh’s apartment to hang out with the two of them, I was introduced to what became affectionately known as The Third Wheel Chair.
Josh and Abby sat on his couch, and I sat over in the corner in one of those mushroom chairs that squeaks awkwardly anytime you shift your weight. While they held hands and talked with each other, I sat in my chair, texting friends and eating popcorn.
It didn’t take long for us to make new friends (clearly, we’re the cool kids), so those nights of third-wheeling became less frequent. We still saw each other regularly, but we also had our own groups of people to hang out with.
Then one afternoon last August, Josh got down on one knee and asked my sister to marry him. Abby said yes. They got married in June and now they live in a cute little home where I still pop in for dinner once a week.
Truth: Sometimes I had to pray away jealousy when he took her out for Valentine’s Day dinner or when I heard about the sweet things he did for her. Sometimes I didn’t feel like walking behind them while they held hands and bent their heads together in conversation. Sometimes I wished so hard for a date to bring to family dinner. For someone to hold my hand and have those moments where all you have to do is look at each other to have a whole conversation. For someone to take me to the fair, ride the Ferris wheel with me, and walk me to my door at the end of the night.
But want to know something?
Those days were special for several reasons. I had people to turn to when a new school in a new city in a new state became overwhelming. I was able to spend quality time with my sister and the guy who’s now my brother-in-law. And I had the gift of observing.
See, watching Josh pursue Abby and win her heart set the standard even higher for the guy I’ll one day marry (sorry, man). I learned a few things, and I want to pass them on to you:
- Wait for the guy who serves
Josh holds the door open for Abby. He opens her car door. I don’t know if he’d put his coat over a puddle for her to walk on because she’d probably rather splash in it, but he does all of those other acts of chivalry. He’s gentle and kind and patient.
I’ve watched this over the past few years. I’ve watched his commitment to lead her by serving. To follow Jesus’ example and metaphorically wash her feet.
In the book of John, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet as an example for us. The perfect Son of God stoops down to wash the calloused, mud-caked feet of His followers. Then He tells us to do the same:
“When Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer clothing, he reclined again and said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are speaking rightly, since that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you.’” – John 13:12-15
Josh doesn’t lead Abby in a way that asserts his own choices, but he walks beside her. He leads her by serving her.
- Wait for the guy who sacrifices
Every day, he works to provide for her. He lets her call the shots when it comes to home décor and indulges her moments of creative inspiration. He never puts her down when he’s talking about her to others. It’s so evident he’s crazy about her.
In Ephesians 5:25, Paul tells men:
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
How did Christ show the church (believers) that He loved us? He died for us. He laid down His own life so that we could live forever with Him.
In small ways, Josh makes sacrifices for Abby, and he’d sacrifice his own life if it meant protecting hers.
- Wait for the guy who stays
I don’t just mean wait for a guy who isn’t going to walk out when things get crazy, but I mean wait for one who’s going to invest in you and genuinely care about the people already in your life.
I’m Abby’s sister. Josh never had to befriend me or hang out with me or ask how he can be praying for me. He chose to. He loves my sister and her people are important to him, too.
I value my friendship with my brother-in-law. I love hanging out with him. We text each other cat memes and have pun wars. He’s a great guy, but I also know he’s got my back and loves me like a sister.
Romans 12:10 says,
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
My brother-in-law does this. Bless his heart, when he married Abby, he gained three sisters-in-law. We were all amazed at his tenacity when he started dating her because the Schaeffer sisters can be a lot sometimes.
Is he perfect? Nah, not quite. But I’ve watched him strive to live out these qualities every day.
I also learned some things from watching my sister, who, actually, strives to live out the serving and sacrificing and staying, too.
I’ve got a pretty good view from the third wheel chair. As much as I love hanging out with the two of them, sometimes that longing does creep in. Not to have exactly what they have, but to have a love story of my own.
But it’s just like God to not let me waste my waiting. He’s used this time to teach me to pay attention. There’s so much joy, encouragement, and anticipation in watching God write love stories that glorify Him.
I’ve watched people enter into and fall out of relationships. I’ve seen hearts break and mistakes be made and I’ve stared at a Facebook relationship status update and just marveled at how some people manage to find each other.
But I’ve watched Josh honor and cherish Abby since long before they exchanged vows. And I’ve watched her do the same for him.
So if you find yourself in the third wheel chair, use it as an opportunity to learn. Notice the qualities that make a godly husband. Take note of what’s most important.
And then? Take that list to God. Pray for whoever the guy may be who might one day pursue your heart, that he will embody those qualities and be a servant leader. A guy who’s gentle and kind and will always stay.
(P.S. To read previous posts in this series, click here)