"In Your way, in Your time, if it's Your will."
This was always my prayer when I talked to God about my desire for marriage. This is the story of how He chose to answer that prayer.
"In Your way"
You never quite know how (or if) your love story is going to go. As it turns out, mine shocked me.
I returned to the states for two months in the middle of my fifth year of serving in China. I was about to finish my second year of full-time language school. While home in Florida with my parents, I traveled to Chicago for two weeks to visit friends, which included a weekend trip at the beginning with about 10 friends in Michigan. We had done those kind of get-togethers over the years and though there was a core group, there were usually a few different people each time.
I ended up riding to Michigan with a friend, her fiancé, and another guy, Adam Verner, a voice talent and audio book narrator. We had actually met many years before when he visited our small group, but for various reasons he hadn't been able to get involved at church until after I had already gone to China. We talked the entire three hours to Michigan and hung out all weekend. Since I had always planned on marrying a missionary, my guard was completely down and I just kept telling myself to relax and enjoy him. It wasn't until the drive back that I thought to myself Oh crap. I really like this guy. And I live in CHINA. (As he tells it, it was on the way there that he thought the same thing).
Being self-employed, he had time to spend time with me during the next two weeks in Chicago. We talked a ton, but for once I didn't let myself go too deep too quickly. One of my best friends knew Adam well and could vouch for him and assured me that he was a quality guy. "Don't analyze and don't fantasize" was my motto for those two weeks and I would blast the radio with dance music each time I got in the car to try and prevent myself from doing just that.
But I was falling in love.
After the fact, we both described the feelings as being caught up by a current where it would have been impossible to swim backward. All we could do was allow ourselves to be swept along in the flow. I finally understood why people called it "falling" in love, because it was a terrifying and wonderful free fall into the unknown.
After hanging out several times, he invited me over for dinner at his condo. Walking in, I remember thinking There's no way all my stuff will fit in here. After dinner, I threw him off by sitting across the room from him instead of next to him on the couch. He thought for sure I wasn't interested, but I later told him that it was because I didn't want to be distracted by how attracted I was to him.
We spent more time together the next week and he asked me out for Valentine's Day. It was then that he told me that he wanted to "intentionally pursue me"--even if that meant him coming to China--and had started researching ways to do a long distance relationship well. I was leaving the next day to fly back to Florida for a few weeks before heading to China.
"You know you ARE going to be in the states a little longer," he said.
"And you want to come visit me in Florida?" I said. When he smiled and nodded, my entire body flooded with heat and I began sweating. I told him that I hadn't even told my family yet (my mom had a history of getting too excited too quickly anytime I talked about a guy, so I thought it would be best to keep this a secret for a little while).
So I flew home the next day and told my mom that not only was I dating someone, but that he was coming next week. I had dated so little that she actually thought I was lying. No one would believe me! But after convincing the family I was telling the truth, Adam showed up in Florida to meet my entire family--and even jumped in the family picture.
I flew back to China a few days later and we began our long distance relationship which consisted of 5 hour Skype conversations every other day and scanning hand-written letters to email for the next few months (the mail was too slow!). That was in early March. Mid-March he told me he loved me and during his week-long visit to China in May, we discussed marriage. I flew back to America July 15 and we were engaged 3 days after that. We got married January 15, just a few weeks shy of the Michigan weekend a year before.
"In Your Time"
I've always thought it was strange when people said they "got married late," as if God does anything "late." But that said, it certainly started feeling like I had missed my opportunity for marriage when my friends not only passed me, but began lapping me as they had one child after another.
I always loved the verses throughout the Song of Solomon that talked about not awakening love until it so desired and tried to trust that God knew what He was doing when I still found myself single on my 30th birthday (why is that always our "deadline" for marriage?). Being 29 was a much harder year for me than 30 for that reason--because I was still single, with no prospects of marriage (and, did I mention I was living in the middle of nowhere China?).
But God brought Adam and I together when His time was right. We often speculate on whether we would have ended up together earlier if I had been in the states, but ironically it was the fact that I was living in China that was intriguing to him. That, and I had finally accepted God's will for my life--even if that meant being single. (I had decided to move forward with Plan B, which was becoming the most educated single person I could and getting my PhD!).
"If It's Your Will"
How did I know that it was God's will for me to leave China and marry Adam?
I am certainly not an expert in discerning God's will, but I will say that He had to do a work in my heart before I even met Adam to get me to a place of being willing to marry someone who didn't fit a very specific profile. Over the years of singleness, my long list of qualifications eventually boiled down to just three:
1. Loves God
2. Loves me
3. Loves others
Of course I had ideas of how I hoped these three would play out, but ultimately I had to lay my hopes and expectations down at His altar and trust that He would choose someone for me.
I have had many friends over the years who have really wrestled with whether or not someone was right for them. That was not the case with me. I think God knew that in order for me to leave China and my plans, the way would have to be undeniably clear.
Though I have had no doubt that marriage was God's will for me, I will say that I have struggled with what other people think about my choice, which I hashed out in a separate post called "When Marriage Is Viewed as Selling Out."
But I remember discussing my feelings with my married teammate and she assured me that leaving China to get married was completely valid and right. This was also the friend who had had a dream that I told her I was dating a guy named Adam the week before I actually flew back to China!
I am blessed to be married to a kind, generous, hard-working, talented, intelligent, gentle and thoughtful man who:
1. Loves God
2. Loves me
3. Loves others
He has supported me so well through all of the transitions of the past five years. And while he may not feel "called to missions," he is submitted to God and wants to live in obedience to Christ no matter where we live--even if that means going back to China.
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This post is day 18 of the series "Re-entry: Reflections on Reverse Culture Shock," a challenge I have taken to write for 31 days. Check out my other posts in the series:
Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: Grieving
Day 3: No One Is Special
Day 4: Wasted Gifts
Day 5: I Never Expected...
Day 6: Identity: Through the Looking Glass
Day 7: Did I mishear God?
Day 8: When You Feel Like Shutting Down
Day 9: Caring for your Dorothy
Day 10: You're Not the Only One Who's Changed
Day 11: 12 Race Day Lessons for Serving Overseas
Day 12: Confessions of an Experience Junkie
Day 13: Longing for Home
Day 14: Readjusting: Same Tools, Different Work Space
Day 15: Book Review: The Art of Coming Home
Day 16: The Story of My "Call"
Day 17: Is Missions a "Higher Calling"?
Day 18: And Then I Fell in Love
Day 19: Is God Calling You Overseas?
Day 20: Life Is Not Seasonal
Day 21: What I Took and What I Left Behind
Day 22: Groundless, Weightless, Homeless
Day 23: When the Nations Come to You
Day 24: The Call to Displacement
Day 25: Scripture Anchors for Re-Entry
Day 26: In the Place of Your Exile
Day 27: Resources for Re-entry
Day 28: A Time for Everything: A Prayer of Leaving
Day 29: Journal: 8 Months After Re-Entry
Day 30: 12 Survival Tips for Re-Entry
Day 31: A Blessing
(Day 32: Writing is Narcissistic (And Four Other Reasons Not to Write)--a reflection on this Write 31 Days experience)
Labels: 31 days (2015), China, marriage, my story, re-entry, singleness