April 1979, I unwrapped my ten fingers from around a five year dream, letting it drift away from my heart and mind.
Alone, on my knees, beside my bed I prayed, “God, if I am never to marry that is okay with me. I am weary of the strain, of wondering each time I meet a new man, ‘Is this the one?’ I’m sick of it. If you don’t have marriage in my future, I accept it. If you do, whenever it may be, that’s great. I’m not going to look anymore. You’ll have to just plop this man directly in front of me. Thanks, God. It sure feels good to let go. Amen.”
And it did. It felt like freedom.
Unbeknownst to me, a young man in Medford prayed a similar prayer, around the same time.
Living alone in a brand new house built just for me was bliss, as solitude is something I crave. A new Fiat had been paid off in triple payments from the income earned working an enjoyable job. I had friends. I taught children’s groups at church and hosted an adult Bible study in my living room.
Five A.M. each weekday morning found me in shorts, breathing through fifty sit-ups and various stretches. A twenty minute run, a shower, and a bowl of hot cereal preceded a fifteen minute drive to work. Each night I breezed through two hundred more sit-ups, yoga, tennis, swimming, walking, or entertaining friends. Weekends held ski trips in the mountains, beach combing at the coast, or otherwise relaxing by myself or with others. It was a good life.
However, for the first time I understood loneliness. Surrounded by work associates, family, and friends, still, there was an ache, a void. But the way things were going, it looked as if aloneness was another method God would use to teach me. Resolved to learn the lesson, I quit fighting.
Yes, I prayed, and two weeks to the day of that releasing prayer, Tom walked right into my living room. He was the out-of-town son of a middle-aged couple who had recently joined our small Baptist church. The fact that they had a son was news to me. He was in town, transitioning for two weeks from a job in Medford, to a job in Portland. Someone who knew he was in town invited him to the study in my home.
Long story short, he listened to me, really listened. He was intelligent and genuine. Our long, lively conversations were easy and enjoyable. He says I was smart, pretty, spunky, and interesting. We hit it off immediately. A long distance romance, weekends together, a summer trip to Alaska for him, a promotion at work for me, and soon it was summer's end, 1980.
We decided we couldn’t stand being apart. It was making us crazy. So we announced our engagement, planned a wedding in a month, and were to be married in September, 1980.
Our pastor was happy to marry us after the six mandatory marriage counseling sessions were completed. Okay. Not a problem. Stupid, we thought, but we’ll do it.
Session #1: We each filled out a lengthy questionnaire meant to pigeonhole personality.
Session #2: “I’ve tallied your tests, Tom and Cherie,” said Pastor Wilson. “I’m sorry, but according to the results, you two are completely incompatible. A marriage between you would never last. I’m so sorry, but I can’t perform your marriage ceremony.”
Huh? You’ve got to be kidding!
Now, Tom is a fairly passive person. I am the decisive one. But this day, he stood up, the knuckles of his closed left fist gently tapping Pastor Wilson’s desk, which was between his leather chair and ours.
“Pastor Wilson,” Tom said without blinking, “we’re getting married, one way or another. We’d like you to officiate because we know you, and this is our church. But if you won’t, well, we’ll find someone who will.” Tom reached for my hand as though to leave.
Pastor Wilson married us, as planned.
But he was right about one thing. We are completely incompatible, on the surface. We thought we were going crazy being apart. Ha! We have been driven to CrazyTown so many times since being together that we can meander our way there and back, eyes closed, whistling a happy tune.
The pastor was also WRONG about one thing. We HAVE lasted.
See, tests can lie. This test measured only what we thought we knew of ourselves, not what was untapped within.
We are both tenacious, willing to be corrected, opinionated. We are nonconformists, share a bizarre sense of humor, and are charmed by simple living. The test confirmed these things, sure. But the thing we share deepest, the thing the test couldn’t measure because we were unaware of it ourselves, is that our intrinsic, core perspective of life is identical. Our vision, our faith, our very hearts were made the same. We long to know God, in truth. And we long to be good.
Because of that deep spiritual understanding between us, there is solid, centered love, love that melds us together despite our nasty temperaments and habits.
It took awhile to discover this deep love, this sameness of perspective. Perhaps it has grown while we weren’t looking. Perhaps it was uncovered bit by bit as we have struggled and fought and forgiven. Superficial, romantic love is easy to see, and easy to doubt when the going gets rough. But when the going gets impossible, the deep love holds fast. It has saved our marriage more than once.
Tom, with sincerity and gentleness, said to me a few months ago, when once again we had come face to face with our deep frustration and deep love all at once, “You may not be what I want, but you are what I need.” I nodded with complete understanding.
He wanted a church lady, a submissive, yet spunky, doormat, who would adore him, never cross him, fulfill her duties. I wanted a poet, a romantic, a man who would worship me, say all the right things. Neither person ever appeared. Their opposites did. But the people we wanted would have stunted our growth, spoiled us, left us asleep in the trance of mediocre superficiality.
What we needed was to be brutally challenged, to be forced to think, to question, to evaluate, to tolerate, to struggle, to be defeated and built-up again in order to inwardly transform. These needs are currently being met in the safety of a like-souled marriage.
Sometimes what looks from a human standpoint to be a certain failure in the making is, in actuality, meant to reveal the higher ways of God, the often hard ways we humans don’t normally stick around to witness.
Grace of God.