So, I can only speak from my experiences, and I’ve lived enough years to see how God writes love stories in a variety of ways within a variety of circumstances and contexts. I definitely don’t pretend to have this figured out. But I did actually get to a point where I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Rachel was the one for me. And I think it’s worth remembering and cataloguing how all of this happened, to lead me to the decision to pledge my love and fidelity to her, for as long as we both shall live. Maybe this can encourage others who want God to be at the center of their love story, and can perhaps provide certain examples of what to look for as their romance and relationship continue to unfold.
~ One of the biggest things that clarified that Rachel, and not another girl (in general; I don’t mean anyone specifically) was the one for me was that she knew – and demonstrated that she knew – that I couldn’t and wouldn’t be the one she looked towards to make her happy. To bring her joy. To heal her hurts. To solve her problems. To take away her loneliness. She said it, but she also lived it out in so many ways so that I was convinced she wouldn’t burden me with a load that no man’s shoulders are broad enough to bear. She kept going to the Lord, and seeking out spiritual counsel and mentorship from others, and purposed to become whole on her own – instead of needing me in her life to complete her.
I cannot emphasize how huge this was. We both still struggle and flounder sometimes, and are continually striving towards emotional health and well-being. In fact, I’m sure we will keep growing and maturing the rest of our lives in this area. But we are working towards that separately, and not saddling the other with the responsibility to take us there. When you meet a girl (or a guy) who unequivocally conveys this through both words and actions, know they are rare and know they are a keeper. This helps you to get to a point where when you know, you know.
~ Over the course of 1.5 years before proposing, and the six months before our wedding, I can honestly say that zero red flags, warning signs, or major issues arose. And I kept praying that they would, if they were there. Sure, we had to talk out a handful of heavy things, and I personally needed to learn to communicate better. But in terms of her character, integrity, teachability, humility, sincerity, dependence on God, and personal walk with Him, I didn’t have the slightest concern. She was a dime in all of those heart-level areas. It’s weird, as you get older, you truly learn that physical attractiveness and personality (e.g., sense of humor, energy level, intellectual curiosity) are important for a dating relationship, but not as important as everything else – especially in marriage and parenthood. Hopefully, you can have all of the above, but just make sure your significant other has the heart-level stuff in spades. Beyond a shadow of the doubt. This also helps you to get to a point where when you know, you know.
~ We gave the people we trust in our lives full and complete freedom to be brutally honest about us and the relationship we were in. For example, I made sure that I arranged for Rachel to meet people who have known me for years, and who know my flaws and dysfunctions, romantic inclinations, and what would be good for me (and what would be rough for me). This included not just my parents and my sister, but also my spiritual mentors, my close friends, and people I do life with. We know that plans fail for a lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed (Proverbs 15:22). I just wanted them to see her around me, and hear her heart about life and faith and her hopes and dreams. I didn’t need their approval, but I did want I felt like if the relationship were a God-thing, the vast majority would be totally on board, because God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).
These individuals had carte blanche to ask the hard questions, and pose the worst-case scenarios, and I was definitely open to them saying that they didn’t have a peace about it. They were not to tickle my ears and tell me what I wanted to hear, but to just lay it out there because I knew they wanted the best for me. A few told us to work through certain issues individually because doing so would strengthen our relationship in the future, and so we did. If a handful of people I trusted would have told me that they didn’t feel the relationship was right, I give you my word that I would have broken it off. I would have. Because I’ve lived long enough to know that I’m not going to miss out on God’s plan for my life. I don’t even worry about that anymore. Thankfully, everyone was on board. And that gave me so much confidence about Rachel as we moved forward.
~ I’m a guy, and guys tend to be visual (as you know). I am drawn to physical attractiveness. I’m not going to apologize for that. And I do see and meet beautiful girls – single and married – wherever I go. But my heart does not stray. Even a bit. I don’t want to get to know them on a deeper level, on a romantic level. Even when I think about the celebrities that my guy friends and I would playfully pine for back in the day – Avril Lavigne, Jennifer Connelly, Alex Morgan, Hannah Davis, Kate Upton, Jennifer Lawrence – I realized that I didn’t even want to have a chance with any of them. They just couldn’t compare to what I did have in my life. I hope it doesn’t sound too ridiculous that guys talk about this sort of stuff, and act like we might meet them any random day and have a chance with them, but we do. Anyway, I totally would pass on all of them, because I knew that I just couldn’t find a better heart than the one inside the girl I was with. I believed that fully and completely. I knew that to be true, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Talk about clarity, and being convinced about something. I was convinced about that.
There was a super catchy song a handful of years ago by a band called “Wheat” and the chorus went “I met a girl I’d like to know better, but I’m already with someone.…” I think about that song sometimes. But I have never felt that way while with Rachel. Because I really feel that I can’t find better, and that there is no better. And I think as we grow deeper in our marital relationship, it will become even truer, because our hearts will become more and more vulnerable, open, and surrendered to each other. This is how when you know, you know.
~ In our relationship, it also felt like God was propelling each of us towards marrying the other. I know that sounds bizarre, but it’s really true. Periodically, I would go through these private mini freak-outs where I would be like, ahhhh:
…how am I going to handle being around someone all the time (since I was used to being by myself all the time)?
…what if she gets sick of me considering how often I get sick of me?
…what if I just cannot handle being responsible for someone else?