I searched the Bible for character qualities my future wife should have...and some I should have.
I made commitments to “courtship” when I was 12. I had crushes, accompanied by prayer and journaling. I read blog posts about “being the right one” rather than “finding the right one.” I looked for more character qualities I should have.
If I did what was right, I wouldn't hurt others or be hurt myself, right?
Then I tried to “court” someone.
That's when I discovered well-intentioned people treat one another shabbily, even when—maybe especially when—they're trying to do everything right.
Along the way, I heard lots of advice. There were admonitions to be “serious” about relationships. But being “serious” didn't guarantee I wasn't also selfish.
There were admonitions to “pursue” relationship, that relationships take work. This idea pointed out where I focus on myself. But my initiative and effort did not guarantee relationship success.
The shame became the hardest part.
While my friends were getting married and then having kids, I wondered why my relationships would last a while...and not work.
In the two and a half years before I met my wife, Tina, summer 2013, two 8-month relationships came and went—one mostly on Skype that couldn't survive meeting in person, one relationship I ended for reasons I still struggle to articulate.
Even my good desires were all mixed up with something else. I'd think myself in the right...and realize how self-righteous that thought meant I was. I'd decide my life direction didn't match someone else's...and then realize my real reasons had more to do with fear.
So when I met Tina, I didn't experience it as answered prayer. I hadn't thought to pray.
I didn't “love Jesus more,” or receive a “rhema,” or get myself to a place where I had “no will of my own,” though those sound like good things.
Knowing Tina has been more like a sudden rain than turning on a faucet, more like being forgiven than asking for forgiveness, more like grace than anything else.
Now that we're married we need each other's forgiveness even more. And the other's forgiveness makes God's promised forgiveness feel more real.
Maybe that's the point.
Maybe grace is the work we discover God was doing all along. Maybe what we're meant to know isn't “how to live the Christian life” but to behold our Savior.
|Photo courtesy of Anita Paulsson|