For my friends who haven’t read part one and/or part two of the story of how we met and fell in love, click on the links to get caught up on the story. The rest of this post won’t make as much sense without the context, and for me, what’s coming up next in this post is the most important part of the story.
I was originally going to leave it with just part one and part two (got what I did there? Yup, go and read it if you haven’t 😉 ), because in essence, that’s where the narrative part of the story “ends” (I mean, our stories never end, but you get what I’m saying).
But it didn’t feel fair to end it there. Because see, there was a lot of heart messiness and thought processing that went on behind the warm, fluttery feeling within my stomach whenever I saw “cute guy.” There was a lot that happened in my walk with the Lord before “cute guy” even showed up on my radar. And if I thought I was “done” in this process of growing and wrestling with the hard stuff of my heart because my status had changed from “single” to “married,” boy was I wrong about that, too.
I want to share with you some of the honest, not so social media picture perfect parts of this journey and what I’ve learned from it. At the same time, I’m also acknowledging that by no means is everyone’s story the same. I remember watching my friends fall in love, reading other people’s love stories on their blogs, and flipping through article after article about “how to wait for the one” when I was single. But in a lot of ways, my story unfolded unlike anyone else’s that I could compare it to. So I say this to tell you that I don’t have all the answers. I don’t always know what I’m doing. But this is what I’ve learned and if anything, I pray that it will somehow encourage you and shed light on your own journey, wherever you may be.
The story of my young adulthood thus far can be summed up in these three words – “Hindsight is beautiful.” Most things in life make sense later in life. And this is where trusting in the Lord has become my reoccurring lesson. There were many small lessons of learning that God’s timing is everything before I learned that same lesson again in the weightier context of waiting for and pursuing a relationship with my now husband.
I had to learn that it wasn’t about me. There was no way for me to figure life out on my own. It took me a long time to learn that. And I’m still on the journey of dying to myself and taking my cross on a daily basis.
But particularly during my single years, what the Lord was doing was building a history with me…a history of trust, a history of faithfulness, a history of mercy. And with that, He taught me the power of gratitude, of thanking Him regardless of my circumstances. Could I trust that He had my heart in His hands when I got disappointed yet again, when things did not work out as I had hoped? Could I trust that He really was good and cared for the secret desires of my heart when nobody seemed to even look at me or notice that I was of any worth?
It should have come as no surprise, then (although it did), when in the months I spent specifically praying about “cute guy,” that God did not really talk about him at all. Instead, He slowly, carefully, patiently, and lovingly showed me all of my fears. All of my doubts. All of the wrong ideals I had built up for myself and for my future husband. Sounds fun, right? 😉 But this part of the journey was necessary. I needed to know the junk within so that I could ask for His power to break in and make the wrong things right. It took time. It hurt. Some days, I even pretended like it wasn’t there. But He led me through it, and I am ever so grateful that He did. Because at the end of that season, I was ready. It was time because it was in His timeline.
Okay, here’s another big lesson I learned. My husband became “the one” when I said “I do” at the altar. I never really prayed about my future spouse (maybe a couple times in passing when others would talk about it). But I had a clear season of time (the end of 2013) when I was praying about “cute guy.” And I kept asking the same question, “God, how am I supposed to know if this guy is ‘the one’?!”
I knew that choosing a husband would be the most important decision of my life. It was second only to choosing Jesus, and even that is somewhat easier because when the gospel is truly presented to you, saying “yes” to Jesus is the absolute best choice. But this getting married to one man for the rest of my life, thing?! Yeah, not so clear cut. So it forced me to do what I knew I should do.
Through the course of prayer, reading the Word, and talking to those who had walked the road ahead of me, etc. this is where I landed – (1) The Lord is sovereign, He knows all things, and He knows what is the best for us. He created us and He is the good, good Father. Thus, He would not leave me stranded in this process. However, (2) the Lord had also given me the gift of choice, and coupled with the Holy Spirit and just plain, old common sense, He had given me enough road signs to make my choice.
Which leads me to the next point – my husband was not “the guy on my list.” Now, I’m not saying to not have any ideals or not hold a biblical standard for your future spouse. But if we’re honest, our “Christian worldview” is all mixed up with many other worldviews. And some of the characteristics, traits, or physical attractiveness qualifiers that we have on our list? We think its “the best,” but it’s not always what’s “best” for us. I’m glad the Lord knocked some sense into me regarding “my ideal guy” before my husband disappeared off of my radar.
On our wedding day, my cousins sang us the song, “Bless the Broken Road” (originally written by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and made popular by the Rascal Flatts; they sang the Selah version found here). Everyone loves a little bit of cheesy country, right? 🙂 But in all seriousness, it was a reflection of our story. I know I’ve written it in two parts on this blog, but there were several hardships we individually faced before we met one another that did not make it onto the blog version of the story. And this leads me to the next major lesson I’ve learned – love is not fully love until it is tested.
It may be a broken road filled with trials that leads into the start of your relationship with your future spouse. Or, it may be trials that come in the midst of your relationship that shifts you from that puppy love stage (you know what I’m talking about) into the gritty, sometimes ugly truth of who you both are – broken people trying to find wholeness. Regardless of how love gets tested, that process is a gift from the Lord. Without it, you will never be able to know if your love will legitimately make it through the fires of life. Can you be refined together or are you going to crash and burn? That question is an important one to answer before you make that final decision of who you will marry.
Sometimes when we are in that swirl of love being awakened in our hearts, it’s easy to get caught up and only see things from our points of view. Although it took a couple years for us to start dating, it actually gave both of us the needed time to process it with those closest to us – our respective parents and spiritual leaders/mentors. When we started dating and moved towards engagement and marriage, it was critical that we received all of their blessings. We wanted to do this right. We wanted to honor those who had raised us in the fear of the Lord and who had walked this road ahead of us. We trusted them, and we wanted their honest opinions. Sometimes it was hard to hear. But in the end, not only was our relationship with one another strengthened, our relationships with our parents and leaders were strengthened. And now that we are navigating the ever changing tides of marriage, we are reaping the benefits of having maintained those strong relationships with our parents and leaders.
I want to end with this final lesson I learned after I started dating – I am extremely grateful for my single years. When I went to college, my mom said something to me that has never left me – “Stacey, when you get married, you are going to be with that person until death do you part. This season of being single, it’s not forever. You’ll never have this same season again (Lord willing). Take your time being single. Enjoy it for as long as the Lord sees fit.”
And I can honestly say, I thoroughly enjoyed my single years. I got to focus in on my calling for that season, which shifted from being a student to a professional, from a friend to a mentor for other young women, etc. I got to travel to some awesome places (sometimes for work and sometimes to see friends) and take lots of solo adventures. I made some of my very best friends in the years before I started dating. These are the friends who are now what I call “history friends”…sisters who know where I’ve come from and how I’ve become the woman I am today. These friends are precious to me, and the older I get, the more I appreciate the counsel and companionship of these women in my life.
I also grew in my walk with the Lord, through definite ups and downs, in many wilderness months, and in lots of iron-sharpening-iron circumstances. They were hard. But those were the years where I started to shape my identity and my calling in the Lord. Now that I’m married, I’m navigating what that looks like both individually and as a couple, and eventually, as a family. But without those foundational years of wrestling through a lot of my questions before the Lord, I could not be who I am today.
For all of this, I am eternally grateful to the One who sits on His throne, yet speaks so tenderly to me in my weakness. He already knows the woman I am going to be in Him, even though I am far from it and cannot see the way He sees. To all of our friends and family who walked on this road with us, thank you. We promised before the Lord and before each of you that we would honor Him, one another, and our vows. We are blessed to fulfill these promises on a day-to-day basis with your love and support.
So…with much prayer, humility, and gratitude, we will remember this story of how we met and fell in love as a testimony of His goodness, that we would be strengthened by His might to continue on our journey. It’s only the beginning.