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Small-Town Sweethearts

Shawn Curtis wanted to show Jackie he'd marry her all over again. So he did


10th anniversary: February 12, 1998
Hometown: Dexter, Georgia
Shawn's occupation: Pulp operator at a paper mill
Jackie's occupation: Financial aide assistant, Heart of Georgia Technical Institute
MP readers: 4 years

Shawn and Jackie Curtis fondly recall the Saturday morning in 1987 when Shawn pulled up in front of Jackie's house to take her for a drive.

"I didn't know he was coming," says Jackie. "I was cleaning. I had on shorts and a ratty sweater and blue rollers in my hair!" She went for the drive, but she couldn't believe a guy could see her looking so bad and still come back for more. "I told my mamma, 'If I ever hear from him again, he's a keeper.'" Obviously, Shawn came back.

"I loved what she looked like," says Shawn. "Her personality brought me back. She's outgoing, very extroverted. I'm kind of quiet."

The Curtises married young, amid the pessimism of friends and relatives who held out little hope of their marriage succeeding. Since neither of them had ties to a church, they were married in a civil service.

Jackie laughs at the memory while Shawn tells the story: "At one point, the judge told us to join right hands. But instead, I raised my right hand like I was swearing an oath or joining the service."

A Matter of Faith

The Curtises might have been young and financially strapped, but they were very happy to be together. Then, a few years after they married, life took an unexpected turn. While Jackie was away at work, Shawn got bored messing with his car. "I flipped through some channels on the TV," he says, "and I came up with a Christian program. That day I gave my life to Christ."

Jackie says her husband's changed life was "like a magnet. He never said, 'You need to change your ways! You're going to hell.' He never condemned me. He just loved me and treated me like I was the most precious piece of china. He lived the Christian life and shared Scriptures with me."

About a year after Shawn became a Christian, when they'd spent another evening reading and discussing the Bible, Jackie told him, "I still don't know if I'm ready to be a Christian."

"Don't you believe God can change your heart?" he asked her, then went to bed, discouraged.

Jackie finishes the story. "That night I knelt down and asked God to come into my heart."

As they grew in their faith, they regretted that they hadn't married in a church, before God. So they made plans to renew their vows on their fifth anniversary.

"We rented a tiny church up in the mountains," explains Jackie. "We renewed our vows there privately, just Shawn, myself and the Lord. Oh yeah—and the preacher!"

It was a sweet day, complete with Jackie singing to Shawn as she walked down the aisle. "I thought I was pretty giddy about that day, but it was Shawn who said, 'Man, I want to do this every year!'"

Too Young to Succeed?

There's an old song that says, "They tried to tell us we're too young—too young to really be in love." Shawn and Jackie are proud, ten years later, to say, "I told you so!" to those who doubted they would make it. They like to think they are role models to show that black couples can "be happy and fulfill marriage vows the way God intended."

"At the beginning, even I doubted we'd still be together because everybody around us kind of doomed our marriage," Jackie confesses. "It was tough, too. We were practically paupers."

"But we did it together, on our own," says Shawn. "We didn't depend on our parents."

"We work well together," says Jackie. "We fill in where the other is a little lacking."

Their faith and commitment have helped the Curtises face the devastating disappointment of infertility. "On our ninth anniversary, I told Shawn, 'I bet you never looked down the road and guessed that after ten years we still wouldn't have children,'" says Jackie.

"We've really struggled with it," Shawn says, "but not so much in the last year."

The Curtises are moving ahead, looking for God's will for their future. Shawn has pursued some Bible coursework, and Jackie is developing a music ministry. They're not sure what God has in store—a longed-for child, a shared ministry? But on this they agree: "We feel certain that whatever happens is the way God wants it. We can accept that."

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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Commitment; Marriage; Relationships
Today's Christian Woman, Spring, 1998
Posted September 12, 2008

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