This bothers me. A lot.
Because I didn’t.
Maybe it was my age – because I wasn’t young and naive.
Maybe it was my life experience, and I had my fair share of false starts in the relationship department.
Maybe it was because I’m a perfectionist, and I tend to be neurotic about making any decision.
Maybe because there were lots of times when I thought I ‘knew’ – and didn’t – and now I didn’t trust my judgment so much.
Chalk up any explanation you like, but the bottom line is the same: With my husband, I didn’t just ‘know’ he was the one.
We definitely had a serendipitous meeting that had God’s fingerprints all over it, from what we could tell. God definitely spoke in an undeniable way about staying in NY and going on a missions trip with J instead of moving overseas.
Call me Gideon, but there were several more times I put out the ‘fleece’ about our relationship.
For example, the next spring, even though God had been pretty clear about what He wanted me to do regarding missions, I really had trouble absorbing it. Around April (2008), it came time for me to sign my ‘letter-of-intent’ to return for the next school year. I was enormously burdened by this. What if I was making a mistake?
I was actually scheduled to leave on a school missions trip to Nicaragua, and I needed to turn in my letter before I left. I was agonizing over this.
Well, this was all going on during the missions conference at my church (which is where my school is), and I told God that I was going to be open to anything He wanted to say to me that week. Just in case I missed it.
All week – nothing. Finally, the day before our trip, our missions team went to a prayer meeting for the missionaries. Before the end, the missionaries wanted to pray for us.
After they finished, a missionary who had been a guest speaker in my class approached me.
‘Oh, you are going on this trip?’
‘You know, I was watching you teach. You are very natural at what you do….You are in the right place. I don’t know if you have been wondering about that, but,’ he said, with very knowing look, ‘… you are in the right place.’
As he was telling me this, I had my letter in my hand, just awaiting my final signature. Unbelievable. Another confirmation that I was where I should be.
Later that night, he said to me, “You know, I saw you teaching and thought, “Wow, she’d be great on the mission field,’ and I was about to talk to you about it. But then God stopped me and said, ‘No, she is right where she needs to be.”
For me, that was a huge burden lifted; I would have been absolutely tortured in Nicaragua if this hadn’t been settled before I left.
Another ‘fleece’ for me was how J. did on the trip I was leading to Nigeria. J. said he had an interest in and heart for missions; this would be his first trip. Missions was (and is) a huge part of my life. If it turned out that missions just wasn’t for him, it could have been a deal-breaker for me.
Turns out – he was a natural. He had no problem with me being the team leader. He was comfortable with the team, he was outgoing with the locals, and he even took opportunity to preach at one of the services (and with a translator!). We had a few scary moments during our trip – and watching how James handled and took charge of those intense moments? I was smitten.
But it still was a journey to get there. Our backgrounds were very, VERY different as was our life experiences. I admit, as much as I was falling for him, I was cautious. That’s just typical me.
I think we both knew in our hearts this was it, but neither of us was really quick to say that. As I got to know J., I saw that he is methodical, first, and probably even more prominent, he does things in his own time. There is no forcing this man to do what he does not want to do. Rushing marriage-talk would have definitely been counter-productive.
I knew him well enough to know that he wouldn’t be with me to play games, so I really just had to trust him and trust God that this relationship would go where it needed to.
After dating for about a year, I was definitely wanting to know where this was headed. I finally did (casually) ask him about his intentions for us. He told me, ‘If all goes well, I’ll have a ring on your finger within a year.’
If J. was anything through this process, he was calculated. He had a plan for us to progress though the necessary stages of a relationship, and he was not to be rushed.
After that conversation, we signed up for the pre-covenant classes at our church. These classes run about 10 weeks and are requirements for anyone getting married in our church. Most couples sign up after they are engaged, but J. wanted to sign up before – to really know that we were right for each other, to know what we were getting into. He did not want to get engaged until we had made it through the classes.
While I would have wanted the whirlwind romance, engagement and marriage, this was wise. We were both old enough to know that marriage was serious. Marriage was for a lifetime. Marriage would not be easy. As best as we could, we wanted to be prepared.
We made it through the classes, but we honestly didn’t really talk plans after that. However, things must have checked out in his mind because he proposed about 3 months later.
So, when did I ‘know’? I’m not sure. I just know that I was praying. I was asking God for direction. And God would give me trail-markers every time I needed one.
And yes, even in the form of my ‘fleeces’ – double rainbows, random devotional emails in my inbox, prayers people prayed over me and us, prophetic words just at a time when I was praying about something, providential meetings and aligning of circumstances… I have journals full of these ‘signs.’
Another thing that helped me ‘know’ was godly counsel. Our relationship was affirmed by so many people in our lives – family, friends, people who knew me really well, mentors, our pastors. That was a huge deal.
Our relationship looked a lot different than what I always thought it would. I always thought I would marry someone who grew up like I did, -someone like me (Ever see the Seinfeld episode where Jerry was dating a female-Jerry?). Maybe a nice pastor’s son, a youth pastor or someone in full-time ministry, perhaps?
I had 33 years to build up that fantasy; it wasn’t easy to let go of. J. had a pretty ‘colorful’ life before we met, but his testimony is an amazing demonstration of how God saved him – in every way.
But over and over again, God just kept saying, ‘Yes, this is Me. This is the one.’
Part of me couldn’t believe this was really it; I sort of kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.
But it didn’t.
Sure, there were times when either of us had our doubts and wondered, when either of us could have decided to bail. But we also knew we loved each other and believed God brought us together; when things came up, we worked them out.
So was it this whirlwind relationship that swept me off my feet? We definitely had that ‘first-love’ excitement as we were getting to know each other. But soon, it settled into a grown-up relationship – one that takes work – and working things out.
So, no, there wasn’t just one thing or one moment when I ‘knew.’ It was a lot of little – and big- things along the way that all added up to me knowing.
And saying yes.
[Photo Credit: Pete Woodhead]