Not the first hour, mind you. Heaven’s no, those first few hours we were both a jumble of nerves. Like a couple of middle school kids at a dance, standing across the school gym, just staring at each other. Heads down, feet shuffling.
We’d never met before and with only a handful of emails between us, we were on one very awkward blind date. You gotta’ give the boy some cred, in a day and age when men don’t ask women out much anymore, Justin took the brave step to ask me on a real date. One, which would require him to drive three hours, spend the night at my friends’ house (whom he had never met) and plan a day of activities with a girl he’d also never met. The first hour was painful to say the least. Visibly nervous, we both fumbled through conversation and determined that this was a disaster – for sure not a love connection. He was shy, and I had a wall up the size of Texas. Somehow, we managed to get past those first painful hours, drop our defenses and just have fun.
Bless his heart, he had the full day planned: lunch, followed by coffee, then off to a museum, then a little treasure hunting at an antique shop and then finally dinner. Woah, that is a lot of stuff for two strangers. By the time we finished coffee, I had texted all my best friends to say, “I guess I’m just going to enjoy a free dinner, because, I’m definetly not marrying this guy.” (They still tease me about that part.)
Looking back, what’s funny is that once I told myself I didn’t have to marry him, I was then able to relax and just have a good time. It was like that one thought took the pressure off the date. I just looked at him as a new friend and didn’t think of all the “what ifs” that normally surround a romantic encounter.
Plus, putting Justin squarely in the friend zone freed me just to be myself. (Ironically)
So I was just me; loud, awkward, tall, eating off his plate, snorting when I laugh … just me. I didn’t worry about trying to impress him or attempting to be some version of myself that was more datable (as if I could shrink from 5’11 to 5’4). I just thought, “I’m never going to see this guy again, so I might as well have a good time.” So I did. And, the more comfortable I became, he followed suit. Eventually, we were laughing. His wicked smart sense of humor and huge heart began to emerge. Have I mentioned I love smart funny? And, as we strolled through the museum, he leaned in to explain a painting to me, and I felt a jolt of electricity.
What was that? (Definitely not the friend zone!)
I had to stop myself from saying the words out loud. To say I was shocked by the chemistry is an understatement. Honestly, I’d already written this guy off. I wasn’t supposed to feel any sparks. So I scolded myself, “No more sparks!”
Once the initial jolt hit me, I found myself scared/excited. Imagine bungee jumping, that crazy moment when fun and fear collide. I was crazy scared, but having a ball.
I guess I should back up and explain the fear. I was jaded. I’d been hurt before. (Been there, done that, wrote the book. Literally.) I wasn’t looking for another heartbreak. I’d grown comfortable in my singleness and not ready to put my now healed heart back in a place of vulnerability. So, meeting someone who had potential to be the one, opened the door for possibly being hurt again.
In addition to my fear, there was my self-doubt. You see, I’d been waiting and asking God to bring my husband for so long that I was determined to not settle for less than His best. I didn’t trust myself one bit when it came to picking out God’s best for me. So add to my fear of being hurt, a definite dread of settling. Everything in me wanted God’s highest and best when it came to my future husband.
Little did I know, but at that moment, “God’s best” was opening my car door.
As the afternoon rolled into the evening, we sat down to dinner at a lovely bistro. I was still battling this inner tug-o-war. One side of me was definitely interested, but the other side of me was digging her heels in and mentally rehearsing all the reasons I should just say goodnight.
Dinner was a game changer. It was at this point that the veil lifted. The veil that until that point had kept me from truly seeing him: his huge heart, incredible intellect and have I mentioned that he’s a real hottie? My defenses crumbled as he described his relationship with Jesus and how the Lord had carried him through the darkest days of his life. I was mesmerized. I’d met a lot of guys in my life, but here was a man—a man strong enough to shed a tear when he said, “Jesus.”
The one thing I had asked God for, repeatedly, for so many years, was for a man who loved Jesus more than anything else in the world. (And for someone taller than me, but I digress, that’s a whole other blog.) And, to my surprise, here’s this guy, splitting a bread basket with me, whose love for Jesus oozed out of his whole being.
I couldn’t eat. He couldn’t eat. We just kept staring at each other; then back at our plates. I was dumbfounded. Did I just really spend a whole day with a guy whose love for Jesus is the most obvious thing about him? In a span of eight hours, we moved from awkward to just a little smitten. I kept looking at him and asking, “Who are you and how did you get here?”
While sitting at dinner that night, I knew he was “the one.” (Or at least I wanted him to be.) I know that sounds cheesy, and a little bit Hallmark Channel of me, but let me explain. For about seven years prior to that evening, I prayed consistently for my future husband. The things I prayed were very much just between Jesus and me. Some of the requests were general like “I pray my husband loves Jesus more than anything else in the world.” Some of the requests were more nuanced, very specific things that I had whispered to God in prayer. As I began to see those specific qualities in Justin (and heard him utter words that were only written in my prayer journal), I felt like time stood still. Sitting in that bistro that night, I sensed God smile and say to my heart, “I heard you.”
I’m not sure what you think of when you hear the phrase, “the one.” What that meant to me was that I felt there was just one perfect match for me. I firmly believed that God had a plan for my life, and He knew who would be the best match for me and I for him. I wanted “the one” who was God’s highest and best, and together we would serve Jesus.
Now, let me be clear. I did not declare to Justin what I felt in my heart that night. (Talk about awkward!!)
I must point out that as we dated, I held those desires loosely. From the very first day, I saw in Justin the character and heart of a man that I had hoped that God would say was “the one.” But, I knew that I had to hold that open-handed to Jesus and allow time to confirm what I sensed God was revealing to me. Meaning, as we walked through dating and engagement, I did so with a heart surrendered to the will of God. I kept my heart pressed close to Jesus, desiring to be led by Him every step of the way. I still didn’t trust myself, so I gathered trusted friends and family to get to know him. I wanted them to see us together, and to give their feedback as to whether they sensed we were God’s best for each other. I needed and wanted trusted accountability to confirm what my heart was telling me.
I also waited on the Lord’s timing. I didn’t let my heart run ahead and declare something to be true before Jesus declared it so. I knew that Justin would not be “the one” until the day we stood at an altar and entered into the covenant of marriage. I needed to guard my heart and not run ahead of the Lord.
Sometimes we can latch onto something before God has officially given us that gift, and it becomes exceedingly more painful when God says “no.” I’d been through that confusion before, and I knew that waiting upon the Lord’s timing was the best protection for my heart and his. As we dated, Justin and I both sought wise counsel, we paced ourselves slowly, and kept bringing the relationship back to Jesus as we asked him to show us His will.
I speak these words of caution to any woman reading this who is hoping the guy she’s crushing on is “the one.” My advice to you is simply what worked for me: don’t run ahead of Jesus. Stay in constant prayer. Ask for wise counsel and wait. If this guy is “the one,” God will make it clear and the guy will lead the courtship. Neither he nor Jesus will need your help. ☺
I still feel giddy as I think back to our first date. Meeting the man with whom I would spend the rest of my life with makes me grin from ear to ear at the faithfulness of God. Pardon the cliché, but God does write the best love stories! Ours is sweeter every day, and I have a deeper appreciation of why Justin is “the one” the Lord picked and why I needed to wait to meet him. I’m thankful for all the years of singleness and that I didn’t settle when it seemed like all the good guys were gone. Friends, trust the Lord. Seek first the Kingdom. Keep praying.
God’s best is worth waiting for!
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” James 1:17
Marian Jordan Ellis
RGM Founder + President
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