Beware: The story you are about to read is true. It is not a fairy tale, and has no resemblance to one. Some parts of it may offend your sensibilities, but it is nevertheless a story of grace and goodness, and ultimately, of happy ever after–although not necessarily the way you might imagine it.
I grew up with a movie-inspired idea of love and romance: boy meets girl, boy falls madly in love with girl, boy and girl kiss, boy and girl encounter some problem, love conquers all, and they live happily ever after.
The problem with that kind of an ideal is that it rarely happens in real life. After a number of dating relationships, I was discouraged. I wanted to be a wife and mother, but the relationships I had been involved in did not measure up to the hope I’d had for a spouse. I began to wonder if I should just stay single, and give up hope of being a mother.
I finally realized that I was trying to make the young men I’d met fit into the life I felt called to. I was going at things backward. I finally decided to lay down my own ideas of what made someone a suitable husband, and asked God to bring the right person into my life at the right time. I was more specific: since my judgement in the matter had been clouded in the past by physical attraction or even my own feelings, I wanted God to indicate the right match for me before I felt those things. I was being idealistic. I didn’t realize what that would look like when it finally happened.
In 1998, I was working as the director of an English as a second language school in downtown Toronto that I had started with my parents. We had a contract with a school in the Hamilton area to run their ESL program. Their program had been running successfully for a year when the husband of one of our teachers found a job in northern Ontario. She quit her job with the program to move there with him.
After a search for a new teacher came up empty, the college insisted that I replace their teacher permanently. The most practical thing to do was for me to move from Toronto to Hamilton–a move I was not excited about.
But on the Monday after my move was complete, I met my husband. I felt no physical attraction or emotion toward him immediately. He was a friend. And I didn’t know that he had prayed a similar prayer to mine, and believed that when he met me, he had met his life’s partner. What is interesting to us is that we had many friends in common–he even knew my sister–but we had never met before.
Three weeks later, he sat me down and told me that he no longer believed in dating, but courtship. He said he would like me to pray about whether God might be speaking to me as He was speaking to him, that we could be right for each other.
Talk about terrifying! Without physical attraction or emotion, what moves a person toward another of the opposite sex? What on earth had I been thinking when I prayed that prayer? I did what any rational person would do at that point. I stopped praying.
But this man and I continued to be friends, and I was able to observe his integrity and wisdom and the compassion he had for others, to listen to his dreams and plans. And I finally listened to God. I knew he was telling me this was His choice.
When we finally began talking seriously about our future, the one thing we both settled on was that unlike the idea Hollywood has sold us about love, true love is a choice. As such, in the moments of a marriage that don’t measure up to the pretty fairy tale–those things the old-fashioned wedding vows aim to portray–the moments we see the “worse,” instead of the “better,” love is still a choice.
We’ve been choosing love for twelve years now. We will choose it until death do us part.