“That’s your husband…” I thought he told me.
I pressed my ear in closer. “God, are you sure?!”
I swear I heard a ‘yes,’ my heart squeezing and preparing for the unknown future that lay ahead. It was an unknown future with one name attached.
“That’s him,” he told me. “You’re going to marry that man.”
We can hear from the Lord, we’re taught, if we tune in and listen closely.
And so we try. We listen in, pressing our ear close to his chest, listening for his heartbeat and for the answer to the biggest question we’ve ever asked.
God- who am I going to marry?
And then one day, we think we receive an answer. We get a ‘yes’ or maybe a name. A sign even.
People who don’t believe that God still speaks let this be their one exception. “God told me who I was going to marry,” they remember dreamily.
It’s confirmed, it seems. Your friends pray and seem to hear the same ‘yes.’ You’re sure, confident, ready.
We want our stories to be linear and laid out, God-like insurance policies guarding our biggest decision yet. We stop looking for compatibility, similarities or common interests, looking instead for that one ‘yes.’ Details aside.
Some stories work out like this – the answer clear, the circumstances reflect the same. Things unfold perfectly, unrolling like a red carpet leading to marriage. And even better – marriage foretold.
These are the Christian love stories we crave – the ones we want to hear over and over, looking for traces of our lives in their stories – hoping that ours will end that way too.
But sometimes our stories don’t end that way.
I spent a year pressing in- asking again and praying obediently.
I prepared in every way I knew how – praying and cleaning my heart deeply, trying to get out the hurt and messiness that I was sure would get in the way.
But then the end of the year came- I was wrong. It wasn’t him. It couldn’t be. It wouldn’t be good. It wouldn’t be right. But then why did God say that?
In my confusion and hurt I searched for a conclusion- any conclusion.
Either the Lord was wrong, or I don’t hear from him. Both deductions were painful and scary – neither one offering peace.
And more and more I’ve realized that this is not just my story. I’m surrounded by women who, at one point or another, have received a false positive on who they’re going to marry. A word or a sign or an answered prayer leaves them sure– and then heartbroken and confused when it just doesn’t pan out.
So where’s the disconnect?
I believe with all of my heart that God still speaks. I believe that we can hear him in a million different ways, his voice becoming familiar and comforting to us as he guides us gently.
But I’m not sure that God tells us who to marry before we get there – not specifically anyway. And if he does, I’m wondering if it may be the exception rather than the rule.
In scripture, God tells a lot of people to do specific things, but he usually makes himself pretty clear. Bushes talk and so do donkeys, a voice comes down from heaven, God isn’t shy when it comes to making his will known. But I can’t think of many instances where he told the woman who she was going to marry, or even more rare, told her friends first.
In scripture, God has laid out a million guidelines (small exaggeration) for how we’re to handle our marriages. He teaches us to honor each other, showing us what the other person needs and how to love and respect them best. Marriage is an earthly representation of his relationship with us– it’s safe to say he’s invested.
But I don’t think that he plays matchmaker beforehand like we are expecting him to, revealing things to us like a Godly game of MASH– ‘you will marry him and have 6 kids and live in a tree house.’
I think that he gives us a choice.
And when we think about it, I think that we’d prefer this option. God doesn’t force us to love him and so it wouldn’t make sense for him to force us to love each other. He lives in us, his spirit as our ever-present counselor and I think he trusts us to make our own decision.
There are bad options, certainly. Relationships that are abusive in some way are probably not within his will and there is a myriad of other reasons why he’d gently steer us away from walking down the aisle. But those scenarios aside, I think that we’re pretty equipped to make this decision without him forcing our hand.
I want someone to marry me because they chose me and because they want to. Not because God forced them. Marriage is a constant stream of choices, choosing each other again and again (or so I hear) and I’d like us to start practicing right away.
And so I think it’s time to trust our eyes to see – giving our ‘God antennae’ a rest from the marriage channel.
When it’s time to talk about marriage, we’ll be in a good relationship, a life-giving one, one that we can see ourselves in for the long haul. I think that that person will be on the same page, seeing us in the same way that we see them. I think that our big questions will have some answers and most of our big doubts will be gone. I think that we’ll have some peace and hopefully the support of the people in our lives, vouching for the fact that this thing is good.
We’ll be in love with our best friend. It wont be a code to be cracked, a set of clues to be deciphered, or a formula to complete. It’ll just be there, simple and beautifully complex all at the same time, an earthly reflection of the way God loves us.
And I hope that it takes us by surprise.
I hope that we can let go of our desire for insurance and reassurance and let ourselves get caught up in things entirely other. I pray that we can get swept away in our gifts and talents and friendships, fighting for freedom and justice and laughing really, really hard.
I pray that when we meet the person we are going to marry, that we don’t see it coming, caught in a whirlwind of the beautiful things that lay between now and then.
And without proof or concrete direction or a decisive answer to take to the bank, I pray that we can trust the Lord. I pray we let him do what he does best, swirling with us in the perfect color of today, all the while preparing us for the lovely things that come next.
And as for my story? It’s not over yet, in fact it’s just beginning. But I know that God is so good and that my preparation wasn’t wasted. I know now that I wasn’t meant to marry that man for a million different, beautiful reasons. But mostly, because God had something else in mind.
It wasn’t foretold… it’s better. And it certainly caught me by surprise.