The title of Sierra’s Post “When Dreams Become Promises” stirred thoughts in me of another Dream, of other Promises that have brought their own dose of pain and disappointment and reality into my life: Dreams of an enduring, godly marriage and the Promises I made to God and myself in order to lay hold of that dream.
I made my first promise at the age of 14. “I promise to never date a non-christian”. It was the call to action given by a speaker at the summer church camp I attended that year. I knew it was right, I knew it was what God expected of me. How can “light fellowship with darkness”? Why would I build a life with someone I couldn’t hope to spend eternity in heaven with? What a heartache that would be! What a burden to bear, to be “unequally yoked”! I knew that God wanted what was best for me. I knew I could trust him. I knew I would never “compromise” my walk with God by dating a non-Christian.
The second promise came only a few, short years later, at the age of 16. “True Love Waits” was the name of the campaign. It was pretty popular that year in various area youth groups and on a national level. I still have the card that I taped to the inside cover of my Bible that year: ““Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate, and my future children to a lifetime of purity including sexual abstinence from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship.” Signed and dated. For my 16th birthday I even asked my dad to buy me a “purity ring”, a ring I would someday give to my husband to show him how I had saved myself for him, and him alone.
Then as I went through high school and built friendships with other “like-minded” and “strong” Christians, we started talking about “casual dating”, why it wasn’t good, the emotional repercussions and so on. We really believed it was important to only consider dating someone who we believed we could actually marry. By this time I knew I had a call to foreign missions so this drastically reduced any dating “options” for me. Not too many guys I knew were interested in heading off to live in the jungles of Africa!
I believe it was also around this time that Josh Haris’ book “I Kissed Dating Good-bye” started to appear in Christian circles. I had pretty much already concluded that casual dating was not for the “mature” Christian. My father had no interest in “choosing” my spouse for me. (Not that he was unconcerned, he just always said “you’re the one that has to live with him, not me! ) So while I never committed to courtship, in the purest sense, I was, nonetheless, convinced God would lead me to the “right man” at the “right time”. This was something I was leaving in his hands. I didn’t “trust” myself with a decision this weighty, I definitely knew I needed God’s guidance, direction, and seal of approval.
Now during the course of time I had had a few boyfriends so I became aware of how easily my feelings/preferences could be swayed once “love” (or hormones) were at work! I decided, while in Bible School, and during a period when I was involved with no particular individual, to make a “list” for my future spouse. In my journal I wrote down, objectively, every quality or interest that was “non-negotiable” in someone I would consider marrying. This idea came to me after reading/hearing so many people emphasize the fact that you cannot change the person you’re married to. I was also aware that it was “unwise” to think “I hope I marry someone who is musical”, for example. No, if that was really an essential quality to you, you should make sure that you chose someone who was musical. I believed that by prayerfully considering this list and working through it with God at a time that I was “free”, it would be of great use to me in determining who the “one” for me would be if/when I happened to meet him. If a man met all of these (I believe I came up with 27?) qualities/interests AND I liked him AND he liked me…surely that could not be me “deceiving myself”. Surely that would be a “sign” from God that this was indeed a “good” choice!
Then the rubber met the road, as they say. I met my now-husband 2yrs after finishing Bible School. Finally “The One”! He met ALL the qualities on my list, and then some. He wanted to serve God full-time, though we were a little fuzzy on the details of exactly “how”, we knew God would reveal that to us together…plus I knew that if he was to be my husband, I could “relax” a little and trust God to lead me through him. I no longer needed to have every single detail mapped out. Not only did he match my list, but our current vision of family matched up exactly too (ideas I had added since the original writing of my list) Those ideas included inspiration from Quiverful thinking, homeschooling publications, and family church ideology. This was especially surprising given that his background was SO different than mine, culturally and spiritually. Surely this was a sign that we were “meant to be”! We continued to pray and seek God’s direction throughout our dating/engagement time. And yes, we went into the relationship with the intention of marriage…there was nothing “casual” about our attitude toward the importance of what we were undertaking.
So, where has all of this taken us since? What fruit have I experienced from all of my obeidience and faith in God?
From day one of our marriage my husband “silenced” me concerning our call to missions. He no longer wanted to talk about it. At all.
We agreed not to use birth control, but with each new pregnancy, his resentment toward me and my “weakened” state (I was not sick, just huge!) grew. He refused to make any concrete decision in this domain, but resented the consequences of his indecision. Meanwhile, I was convinced he would “grow up” soon and see the beauty of what we were building. I trusted God was growing both of us. Four pregnancies later his attitude still never changed.
The “beautiful sex life” we were promised, if we waited, never came either. (And we really did wait, I don’t know any other of my Christian friends who took that pledge who actually ended up entering marriage as virgins!) Once again I was silenced as to my preferences, desires, or opinions…and I shut up, after all, he was the man, I would let him lead. He was just a little “insecure” I reasoned, and was sure it would get better if I could reassure him “everything is okay, we just need to be patient with each other”. But how can you make progress in an area that you never talk about, that you’re not “allowed” to talk about? This definitely hadn’t been a issue while dating…we talked quite openly about things once we knew we would soon be married.
The biggest “dream-breaker” though is not so much about interests or changing convictions…I was prepared for that… the biggest part is his attitude towards me: Critical, cutting, blaming, silencing, intimidating… After spending a couple of years in tears and confusion I realized I was living in an abusive relationship. Mostly verbal abuse, sometimes light physical abuse (twisting arms, elbowing, cornering, etc.) and this realization has shattered my world.
HOW could this happen to me? IT’S NOT POSSIBLE!!! I want to scream.
ALL that TIME! All the CARE! All the PRAYING! All the CAUTION! All the COMMITMENT! All the FAITH! And where has it left me??
What was the point of only dating Christians, saving sex till marriage, only considering someone who shared my “calling”, rejecting casual dating, turning down more than one potential suitor and seeking God’s will for my future mate? Was it not to escape the heartache and brokenness the “world” knows? Was it not to experience a heavenly marriage, a godly marriage? Was it not to ensure that my children would never know the trouble and heartache that is now theirs as a result of this turmoil? Wasn’t this the most important decision of my life? (as I was told so many times) Did I miss part of the equation somewhere? Or is it simply, that there are no guarantees?
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