When Bill and I started dating, long before we made a serious commitment, I informed him that I'd really love an old-fashioned proposal if I ever got married again. I didn't want to pick out a ring together, go house shopping together, or even talk about a wedding. Instead, I envisioned a proposal that was a dramatic surprise.
The idea seemed wildly romantic at the time, but I'd forgotten one thing: I really, really hate to wait. And I despise uncertainty. You can imagine what happened. Bill moved down, and we enjoyed a normal dating relationship for a change. But six months passed, and then a year, and still we were just dating. I began to wonder just what was the holdup. How long did it take to figure out whether you wanted to spend your life with a person?
It took all my resolve, but I fought the urge to bring up marriage; I wanted to follow my own rules, after all. Just when my impatience was really mounting, I thought I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
It was December of 2001, and Bill and I were flying up to Vancouver together before Christmas. We were about halfway through the four-hour flight, and I'd dozed off, nestled under Bill's sheltering arm. I woke with a start when the beverage cart came through, and then I stared through bleary eyes at my pretzels and Diet Coke.
Just as I lifted the cup to my lips, Bill said, "So when do you think we might get married?"
I choked on my drink. (I mean, I literally choked. I used to see that in movies and think it was just for dramatic effect, but now I knew that shock could do that to you.) As soon as I regained my power of speech, I sputtered, "Why? Is this a proposal?" I fought to keep my tone casual, but my heart was hammering against my ribs.
"No," he answered. "I just wondered what you thought."
"I don't know, maybe in the summer? What do you think?"
He wouldn't say what he thought, just said he wanted to "feel me out."
I was all nerves for the rest of the flight, but Bill was maddeningly calm.
I half expected a diamond for Christmas, but there was no proposal. I was torn between relief and disappointment--relieved because I feared another failed marriage, but disappointed nonetheless.
Just knowing that Bill was thinking of marriage helped ease the wait, but it also intensified the anticipation. With each holiday or special occasion, I geared up for the big moment. Valentines Day came and went, and my birthday was looming.
My birthday would really be the perfect setting. Both of us were traveling to Birmingham, Alabama, for training on a new software application. For a week, we'd be eating fancy dinners on the company dime, doing a bit of sightseeing in a beautiful locale, and of course doing a little work, too. For good luck, I packed the blue sundress I'd worn on our first date in Chicago.
We had a lovely steak dinner on my birthday, with some conversation that was mostly enjoyable, though my palms were clammy and my hands were shaky. When we headed back to the hotel, however, my ring finger was still bare.
That Saturday, we went canoeing on a deep blue lake, and then we went on a nature walk through the thick, lush woods that surrounded it. We enjoyed a picnic in the sun--and went back to the hotel with sunburns. Still, there was no ring.
On our last day there, we visited an art museum. While we sat outside waiting for the museum to open, Bill pointed out a bird building a nest. I took a deep breath and said, rather plaintively, "I wonder when we'll make our nest."
He replied, "I thought we were already building a nest."
"Yes, but when will we be moving into the nest? Summer? Fall? Winter?"
"If I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise," Bill answered. Then he said he'd have to wait six more months now so that the proposal could be unexpected. Argh!!!
Several more months passed, and I continued to wonder about our future. I poured out my frustrations in my journal:
I've been feeling a little insecure again. I'm wondering when he'll propose and when we'll get married. The summer is HERE, and we're not even engaged yet. I feel a little rejected. I don't know why he's waiting so long.
If he doesn't feel ready, then I don't want him to rush. I just don't like this not knowing. Help me be patient, Lord.... I want your will for my life. I surrender my future into your hands. Help me leave it there. I'm tired of trying to figure it out....
I want to be that sort of wife, Lord [the virtuous woman, from Psalm 31]. Please prepare me for the future. I put my hopes and doubts in your hands. Let your will be done concerning my prospective marriage, and let it be done in your perfect time. Help me to learn and grow and just enjoy this process....
I feel frustrated because I hate not knowing. I guess I can wait another year to get married; I just wish I could KNOW how long the wait is. I think the Lord is teaching me something in this. It feels like the same lesson I was learning from waiting for the work Visa. I need to dig out my old journal and reread the verses God gave me then.
Here they are...
- Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
- Isaiah 26:3-4: "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord is the Rock eternal."
- Romans 15:13: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Thank you, Lord, for these verses! Help me learn the lesson. I put my trust and my hope in you. You are my hope, my peace, my joy. Let your will be done in my life. Thank you for your love and mercy!
I could have been frustrated that God was having to teach me the same lesson all over again, but instead I chose to be thankful. Just as had happened with the Visa the year before, once I'd learned the lesson, God gave me the desire of my heart. But that's another story.