• • •
I knew I loved Hayden when we sat in my room one night, legs criss-crossed, flipping through my high school yearbooks. We laughed at old pictures. He walked backwards through my life. I read him journal entries from years past, from my stacks and stacks of leather-bound memories. And we smiled and remembered and learned and spoke words of comfort and permanence. We praised the Lord for bringing us through fire to lead us beside still waters. We praised Him for restoring our souls.
And I was sure.
• • •
• • •
And we have fun. Our souls are cut from the same cloth. We love The Office and Stranger Things and Coldplay and Oscar-nominated films and sneaking fast food into movie theaters. We hate beans and tomato chunks and when people pretend to be something they’re not.
Since the beginning, we’ve said we’re on the same page. And most of the time we really are. We read each other’s minds and have the same idea at the same time. We communicate openly and laugh at everything and try to forgive freely.
• • •
• • •
We’ve forgiven a lot. I’ll never forget the night I gave an apology, and Hayden forgave me and said he didn’t want me to be perfect. My heart grew a few sizes that day.
He said that sometimes he gets frustrated with me, and that made me love him more. I’ve often felt placed on a pedestal of perfection that I could never live up to. The pressure was crushing. But Hayden saw my flaws and still said I want to be with you. I choose you.
That’s grace. That’s love.
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good” (Steinbeck, East of Eden).
Hayden’s not perfect, but he’s perfect for me. Sinners go best with other sinners.
• • •
• • •
These are the things no one talks about:
There were times when my heart felt anxious—tight in my chest, radiating into my body, widening my eyes. I wanted certainty. I wanted to know that my heart would never change. I wanted to know that we’d never yell at each other or get bored of each other or storm out of the room in anger. I wanted to know that we’d never bury a child or watch in-laws get sick or lose our jobs or have cancer return. I wanted a big sign telling me what to do. Telling me what my heart will be like in two months, five years, two decades.
I wanted to see the end of the story. But that’s not how God works. He gives us gifts and says Trust Me. “He gives us enough light for today, enough strength for one day at a time, enough manna, our ‘daily’ bread” (Elisabeth Elliot). And in that tough, anxious season, He gave me this gift: that each day I knew Hayden was worth it, that no matter what, I didn’t want to give him up.
God doesn’t ask us to base entire life decisions on the emotions of one moment. Maybe He strips us of those emotions sometimes to force us to look more closely—to ask ourselves the questions, Will I stay even when my heart is quiet? Will I cling to Certainty in uncertainty? Will my love be transient or stable?
I want my answer to always be a resounding “yes.” I want to commit on the basis of a Figure, not a feeling. I want to remember the past, as God calls His children to do, and cling to His goodness.
So I’m glad I went through the nerves, the doubt, the insatiable craving for certainty. Because it taught me that life is never certain, but God always is. When you don’t know what’s down the road, you hold fast to the One who does.
• • •
“Because God is at work in space and time, because He is sovereign over all things…We trust in God and realize that ‘the one’ is the one you’re in covenant with.”
-Matt Chandler, The Mingling of Souls
• • •
Though feelings are unreliable and changing, they are important. And I’ve had feelings for Hayden from day one.
Hayden made me ready for marriage. It wasn’t something I’d been “ready” for before. I’m not sure you can be ready until a person makes you ready. Until you meet someone who’s worth giving up everything for.
Because to be honest, I loved being single. I loved the freedom of time, freedom of emotion, freedom of ministry. I also loved the freedom to not work on my sin, freedom to live each day selfishly, freedom to choose whatever I wanted and not think of others. It was pretty great.
But I love Hayden more. I respect him more than I want to live in my own “wisdom.” I want his friendship more than my own dispensable time. I want to partner with him in ministry more than going it alone. I want to forgive his sins more than sit in gracelessness. I want to work on my own sin more than grow set in my ways.
I want to be with him every day. Even on days I don’t want to see him, I want to see him. So I don’t know if I’m “ready for marriage,” but I know that I’m ready for marriage with Hayden. And in a few months, I’ll say, I do, and in that moment, he’ll become The One.
• • •
“Before I had finished speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came out with her water jar on her shoulder…Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way.”
• • •
Years ago, a college friend and mentor said she thought my story would be like Rebekah’s. That I’d be going about my business, living life as usual, and a man would walk into it…
He did. I wasn’t looking.
I was at a birthday party with my shoes off, hair down, and a cup of water in hand (and probably something chocolate in the other). I was watching people play pool.
But I’d been praying. Not that night, but I’d been praying for years and years that the Lord would go before and behind me. I asked that He would disrupt my life in ways He saw beautiful and, by His grace, allow marriage to be a part of my story.
And I was not done praying. I don’t think we’re ever done praying. We pray and pray, asking Him for our wants, crying out our needs and pains, praising Him for our joys—and sometimes He interrupts our prayers with a yes, just like He provided a wife for Isaac before his servant had even finished talking to the Lord.
God disrupted my prayer for a husband and brought me one.
You never know what tomorrow holds.
• • •
“The Church is the Lord’s bride whom He so loves that in her no spot or wrinkle is endurable…Love, in its own nature, demands the perfecting of the beloved…The mere ‘kindness’ which tolerates anything except suffering in its object is, in that respect, at the opposite pole from Love.”
-C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
• • •
God has done immeasurably more than I could ask for or imagine. He’s answered prayers, both specific and general. But He’s also worked in ways I didn’t pray for—in ways I didn’t even know to pray for.
He gave me things I didn’t know I needed. I knew what I wanted, but God knew what I really wanted. And what I really, deep-down, heart-of-hearts want is Him—so He gave me more of Himself through Hayden.
Like Lewis says, “real love demands the perfecting of the beloved.” God is the only Real Love, so He is the only one who can demand our perfection. But I think our human real love looks like pushing one another towards growth, sanctification, and righteousness… “Spurring one another on to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24).
And I think that’s what we do for each other. With Hayden, I’ve had deep cries and long laughs. I’ve gently been shown my weaknesses and extravagantly encouraged in my strengths. He’s seen the best in me when all I’m offering is the worst. It’s refining and challenging, love is. But it’s also unbelievably exciting and precious.
• • •
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
-C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
• • •
I love Hayden with my whole life, but He is not where my hope is rooted. I want my heart to be so rooted in the Lord that I am not shaken by anything that could come our way.
For, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jer. 17:7-8). Hayden cannot quench my fear or anxiety or grow the fruit of the Spirit in me…only the Spirit can do that.
He will let me down. I will let him down. So my hope is in a God who “will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
That kind of “you-can’t-fully-satisfy-me love” is a vulnerable thing. You’re giving your heart to an imperfect someone who can and surely will mess up. But it’s worth it. Don’t wrap your heart in hobbies and luxuries. Give it. Give it to everyone you can love and everyone who loves you.
Instead of wrapping your heart, give it to friends and family and pets and spouses. With roots in the Kingdom, your heart can be wrung, but it cannot be crushed. It can be struck down, but not destroyed.
That kind of love has opened my eyes to Christ’s love for me. His grand, unrequited, humble, serving, broken-hearted love for me. His love that doesn’t waver when I sin. That doesn’t relent when I’m downhearted. That rejoices when I rejoice.
And in seeing His great love for me, I’m stirred up to praise Him, to cry when we sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” at church, to fall on my knees in thankful prayer at night.
So I can’t wait to marry the man who has turned my life upside down in the best way. I love him. I can’t wait to adventure together through each day.
This is the bottom line, and I pray it’s the bottom line as long as I live:
Loving Hayden makes me love God more.
I think that’s how it should be.