Monday, January 23, 2012

Once Upon a Courtship (part 1)

As I sit here at my computer to compose for you the story of what God has been writing for years, I close my eyes and pray. Where to start? What to say? How to convey into words the beauty of the Author of Romance? Is it even possible?

I so desperately long to do justice to His amazing grace, His undeserved favor, His mercy outpoured, His protection, His leading and guidance every step of the way. Yet...I flounder in knowing what to say. Perhaps it is because I remain so overwhelmed by the goodness and love of God right now. Truly, it is underneath me and all around me. How does a tiny little fish describe the majestic ocean in which she swims?

Perhaps it is best to begin with words from the Author's mouth Himself:
"It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him." Lamentations 3:22-25

As I sit here in awe of the Lord's faithfulness, my one desire is to share this unfolding story in such a way that it will be a testimony to His goodness and an encouragement to all who read it to keep seeking HIM!

And now, to the very beginning...

It was my 16th birthday. My parents and sister made every effort to prepare a special dinner complete with scrumptious food, a white tablecloth, and background music. We laughed. We talked. They shared special words as is our custom around a birthday meal table. And then, it was time for gifts. That night, my parents presented me with a beautiful, dainty silver ring. In the center was a heart and in the center of the heart was a cross. "This ring is to represent two things," my dad said. "Your love relationship with the Lord Jesus and your commitment to purity. As your father, I have covenanted with you to guard you and watch over you, to help evaluate any young man who might come along who is interested in you in a special way, and to give you my blessing when it is time to enter into marriage with the right fellow. Now I am asking you to give me your heart, to trust my wisdom, and to walk in purity as you wait on God's best in a life partner."

This isn't the exact ring, but it's close!

With tears in my eyes, I could only nod and smile. How many girls were so blessed as I to have such a father? Someone who loved their daughter so much they would desire to be involved in this way? He slipped the ring onto my finger and we finished the evening with prayer. I went to bed that night a very happy 16-year-old.

Time passed. I continued to grow in my relationship with Jesus Christ and to serve in a variety of ministries as He opened doors. Young men were not even on my radar screen for a number of years. Every now and then, I would notice a kind fellow or a Godly guy, but the Lord taught me to yield such passing attractions to Him and continue forward undistracted. I loved the verse in Proverbs 31 that says, "The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her...She doeth her husband good all the days of her life." That was my desire, even as an unmarried woman!

When I reached my early twenties, the desire to be married and have a family was stirred in a new way. I was older now, and many of my close friends had already gotten married. I had joyfully watched God write beautiful love stories for them, and I wondered with eagerness when it would be my turn, but I rarely fretted over the matter. There just wasn't time to pine, as Kingdom business filled my life with purpose and took me on a global adventure serving the Lord!

Let me pause a moment here and say that while contentment as a single girl came rather easily for me (by God's grace!) I was by no means perfect. I had my share of struggles with discontentment and impatience, and even wrestled with the willingness to surrender to God's will if marriage was never in His plan for me. But I am grateful to say that these struggles were not constant and the Lord was always faithful to encourage my heart when they did come, such that they did not weigh me down nor rob me of the joy I experienced serving Christ as an unmarried woman! I personally believe that while it is important for girls to value and desire the noble calling of wife and mother, that should not be the all-consuming focus of their lives. Jesus Christ should be. But now, back to the story.

I prayed often for my future husband-to-be, assuming it was God's will for me to one day get married. I prayed for his protection, for the strength to walk in moral uprightness, for his relationship with Christ. I also prayed for the Lord to build in him many qualities that I desired in a future life partner. Eventually, this list was summed up as:
- A man of God
- A man of character
- A man whom I could respect and follow

Throughout this time, I also prayed that the Lord would form and fashion me to be the helpmeet I would need to be one day for this man.

Despite the fact that I traveled the world doing ministry, including various ministries right in my own hometown, and met many wonderful people along the way, there were no potential husbands on the horizon in any direction! I knew Godly young men who loved the Lord and walked with Him had to exist somewhere - after all, a number of my friends had married some! And granted, I had met a few guys here and there whose upright character impressed me, but for one reason or another, they were not marriage partner possibilities.

So there I was, 25 years old, never having had a "significant other" (or even a significant interest!), waiting on the Lord, and wondering about the future. Was marriage part of God's plan for me? If so, with whom? When? Where were the Godly guys? Would I meet someone at language school? On the mission field? When I was 30? or 40? Or was it God's plan for me to stay single and start an orphanage like Amy Carmichael, Gladys Aylward, and Lillian Trasher?

So many questions. So few answers. Yet, I knew God's plan was best...whatever it was...and I remain surrendered to His leading one step at a time.

Little did I know that this surrender was about to be tested in a big way...

To be continued...


Susannah! said...

Oh I can't wait to read the rest!!!

Sarah said...

Oh dear, I hope you post the rest soon!