Today, in anticipation of its June release, I’m posting another excerpt from “Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship.” Today’s excerpt is from the courtship story of Damon and Melanie Owens and it’s entitled “The Longing to be Loved and Cherished.”
Damon: Our journey back to Christ began with what we now simply call “The Question,” “Melanie, what if we stopped having sex?”
It’s funny how different a question can be asked (or heard) with just a slight change of inflection. I intended to start an interesting conversation. Chastity had not been an issue of debate or even conversation between us, so I offered the question not as a proposal to stop but as a hypothetical-California graduate student-latte sipping-cosmic-what if. Neither of us had any idea what Our Lord had in store for us.
Though being from opposite coasts, we both grew up in similar Catholic families. We attended Mass regularly, went on retreats and participated in youth groups. At thirteen, I had a profound experience of God on an Antioch retreat that played a significant part in helping me remain chaste and drug-free through high school. Melanie’s childhood memories are filled with songs from Catholic family summer camp and piling in the station wagon with seven brothers and sisters.
When we met as new graduate students at the University of California, though, we were both recovering from spiritually dark college years distant from God. During my undergraduate years at Brown, I partied, rarely attended Mass and, drawn by gospel choirs and organs, dabbled in other faiths.
Melanie: I had suffered in relationships during my college days at U.C. Santa Barbara, but continued to attend Mass regularly, though more out of habit than desire.
Damon: So, when we began dating, there was not much virtue, or even desire, left for us to draw on to be chaste.
Melanie “wowed” me the first moment I met her. What a smile! What a sweet soul! We could talk effortlessly for hours—and we did. I wanted to share everything with her. I wanted to know everything about her. I wanted to protect her. I wanted to love her, and I thought I did. Then, I asked . . . The Question.
Melanie, my new beloved, cried. I didn’t know what was going on. Is she hurt? Is she pregnant? Or, is she just emotionally unstable? (I had not known her for that long!)
After ten inconsolable minutes, she simply said, “Yes.”
Yes? Yes, what? Did she think that I was proposing we stop? Well, while my dulled conscience had been thinking our sexual “intimacy” was deepening our love, Melanie had been tortured with the reality that something was very wrong. When she tried to explain, it was as hard for me to hear as it was for her to speak.
Damon Owens and his wife, Melanie, are the co-founders of the New Jersey Natural Family Planning Association (njnfp.org). Their story in its entirety can be found in Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship which will be released on June 15, 2011.
Photo and text copyright 2011 Damon and Melanie Owens and Full Quiver Publishing