I call myself the Reluctant Bride because I was afraid of marriage.
More correctly, I was afraid of getting married.
How do you decide what kind of person you want to marry, and then, how do you determine if this person is that kind of person? How do you face a choice that no one can make for you and a promise that must be entirely your own?
How do you face a choice that no one can make for you?
I dragged out the decision-making process with my boyfriend much longer than anyone (including me) could handle. He wanted to marry me, and I wanted to marry him, too . . . mostly. How can anyone be sure? Of course I loved the heck out of him. Of course I admired his values and enjoyed his company and couldn’t imagine a life without him – or could I? After all, I had a very active imagination.
As you can see, the questions that normally work for people didn’t work for me. “You’ll just know,” some of my friends said. “Don’t marry him unless you absolutely can’t bear to part with him,” older Christian mentors advised. “What is it about him that makes you unsure?” my father queried – but the problem lay with me. I was terribly afraid of making the wrong decision.
I was terribly afraid of making the wrong decision.
One Sunday, my pastor gave a sermon on Christian decision-making. He said that you can tell when God speaks by asking the following questions:
- Does this square with God’s word in the Bible?
- Does this require faith & courage; must I depend on His strength to accomplish it?
- Does this run counter to my natural self (i.e. the flesh)?
- Do mature believers back it up?
- Finally, do I feel peace about this, even amidst the uncertainty?
In my case, I could answer “yes” to every bullet but the last. The Bible commended marriage as a holy sacrament and symbol of His relationship with us, the Bride. Saying “I do” certainly qualified as a leap of faith, and as a married woman, I would require God’s continual support. Every family member, friend, and random acquaintance agreed that this man was perfect for me. But I didn’t feel peace. So I waited.
For a year and half I prayed, read the Bible, talked for hours with every Christian I knew, held long and painful conversations with my boyfriend, and endured emotional duress that at times left me physically ill. Still, I did not feel peace.
In mid September, I had a panic attack at work. I stood in the back room with the door shut, scared that I would lose my job if someone came in and saw me sobbing and gasping. A few days later, my boyfriend and I had a real fight complete with raised voices, raw pain, and honest anger. I realized we had both reached the end of our fuses. At last I accepted the truth: God wasn’t going to give me peace.
At last I faced the truth: God wasn’t going to give me peace.
Our pre-preposal talk was the least romantic conversation you can imagine. I had spent most of the day crying on my parent’s bed. When he arrived, I told him in a flat, serious tone that I thought we should get married because I didn’t like either of the other options (breaking up or dating eternally). Maybe this was the type of decision I had to make on my own, and God wouldn’t confirm His will until afterward.
In case you were wondering, God did confirm His will – the next night, in fact. He confirmed it so hard and huge that it blew us both away. (See “The Ring” and “The Song.”) First, however, I had to brave my way through conversations with both our parents, a heart-to-heart with our counselor, and a trip to the jeweler’s, proving that I was committed to the scary, scary step I was taking.
Three months later, I lived out every happy bridal cliché you can conjure. I danced, I kissed, I smeared frosting on my new husband’s face, and I basked in the love of my favorite people while wearing the most beautiful lace dress.
The trouble with happy endings like mine is that you can’t see them coming. No matter how hard you may want them, there’s no guarantee. Reading a story, you may know (or at least guess) that it will end in Happily Ever After. For the characters, however, the experience is a little more uncertain and a lot more terrifying. As my dear mentor said after hearing our engagement story, “That’s what makes a story worth telling. In the best stories, there’s a real possibility that the characters will fail.”
In the best stories, there’s a real possibility that the characters will fail.
When I think about my marriage story – or rather my getting married story – I remember the suffering. The wedding day doesn’t block out the past, nor does it stop fear from seeping into the future. That’s partially what this blog is about: making sense of what happened and tracing its continued effects. It’s also about the emotions and experiences associated with any big transition. This blog marks the end of one uncomfortable story and my uncertain entrance into a new one. We’ll see what happens.
The Reluctant Bride
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.
– Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)