A few days ago I snuck in a guilty pleasure, a 90-minute phone conversation with one of my good friends from our single days in Nashville. We often discuss the meaning of life when we talk, trying to figure out our own crazy lives and what to make of it all. We have wildly different ideas about theology, but it never seems to bother either one of us. I thoroughly enjoy our conversations, both of us realizing we never answer the questions but enjoying our conversation anyway.
She began this talk with the provocative questions, “Why do you think God had you wait so long to marry Rick? Couldn’t you two have married fifteen years earlier? You knew one another. You were both single adults, who wanted marriage and family life, so why did you have to wait so long? And how does Rick feel about it? Does he wish you’d found one another sooner?” Rick couldn’t care less about these questions. He just enjoys life where he is and doesn’t try to analyze it too much. I’ve gone over and over those questions in my mind, trying to get to the bottom of the puzzle.
I gave her the practical answer: Fifteen years ago, Rick worked too many hours to have time for a family. I wanted to get my education, have a career, and enjoy city life. I wouldn’t have even considered becoming a farmer’s wife in the rural Midwest. It wasn’t until he “retired” from the business he and his father had together that he was ready to marry. As badly as I wanted a husband, it wasn’t until I had worn myself out with trying to make my way in the world that I was willing to allow someone else to help me. I didn’t add this part in our conversation, but the truth is that it wasn’t until I discovered how much I could trust my loving God that I could trust my life to a man.
My friend wanted to know if it was it God’s plan for me not to marry until I was 36 years old, not to have the longed-for child until I was 37. And am I ticked about being placed at the end of a very long line, being forced to wait until the last few years of fertility? (At least I was in the line…) Was it God’s plan for me to wrestle with purity, to wrestle with my sexuality, for twenty years? Ugh! Why would God make me reach puberty in my early teens, command me to reserve sex for marriage, and then make me wait until my late 30s to marry? Is He really that mean?
I have to believe that God is not mean, and He did not intend to deprive me. Humans have convoluted His system, made life into something different than the ideal, and as a result we suffer needlessly at times. As I look back on my life, I cannot help but remember a guy who adored me while I was in my teen years. He was an active member of our church and committed to Christ, handsome, kind, and had a good job. He and I came from a similar background and our families understood one another well. He was too old for me, so we never had more than one ‘accidental’ date. I knew of his feelings through things others said and the fact that he hung around a lot, not because he ever acted on them. But I believe he might’ve waited for me if I’d responded differently than I did. I was over-the-moon that he’d pay attention to me (he was so cute!). But that’s where it stopped. I thought I needed to go to college, work, live on my own for a while, and if I could get him interested in me I wondered who else I might be able to attract. So I made a choice and he married someone else.
Years later when I finally did marry, I married a man a lot like him. I have to shake my head in wonder at the whole thing. I suppose I might have had a similar life to the one I’m living now, but without the years of struggle as I waited and tried to keep my desires in check. (Who knows, there may have been a bunch of different problems though…) So is it right to blame God for “making me wait”? We can never really know how our lives might have been different if we had made different choices. I can’t say that I wish I’d chosen differently back then. I’m not even sure I was capable of making another choice. I made an immature decision because I was immature. I needed time to figure out my way in the world. God knew the entire time what I needed and He sheltered me as I bumbled around, trying to figure it all out.
So the battle between free-will and predestination rages on for me. God gives us free will, but He knows everything, so He knows what choices we will make. Nothing surprises Him. Knowing what choices we’ll make, He’s able to lay out a plan for us. So He has a plan, but it’s based on what He knows of us, yet He created us as we are. To me, it’s the unanswerable question.
I’m thankful I finally married Rick and that we have such a sweet little girl. I’m thankful that at this time in our lives, he’s at home a lot and we are raising her as a team. I’m incredibly thankful that Rick is the kind of dad who is available and involved in his daughter’s daily life. He’ll be that awesome dad who can chaperone field trips and help with homework. Both of our dads were young when they had us, faithful and responsible, and they worked around the clock to provide for us. Both of our mothers sometimes felt like they were raising their children alone, but appreciated the husbands who made it possible for them to have homes and children. Given the time he had to prepare, Rick is a good provider and a present parent. I’m thankful to know who I am, not trying to raise a child while I strive and strain to become whole. I’m grateful that within a few years of discovering that I want to be a writer, I was able to stay at home and focus more on it.
Whether it was free-will or God’s perfect plan for my life, it has worked out. God has taken my mess and made something beautiful out of it. God has allowed me my mistakes, seen my heart, and worked it all out for my good – giving me joy unspeakable. He’s healed me from my struggle with anxiety and depression and set me free to enjoy the other parts of life that I wanted so badly. He’s given me a loving and kind husband who is absolutely committed to Christ, a true man of peace. In spite of all the options I passed by and questionable choices I made, hopefully the person I am becoming is one who brings honor and glory to Christ’s name.
Our phone conversation wasn’t all about me. My friend has her own questions, wondering how life might’ve been different if she and her husband had known one another earlier, had different experiences. Could they have avoided some of the problems they’ve encountered? Might new problems have taken their place? Interrupted in the middle of our conversation by the needs of our children, my friend and I laughed as we hung up, undisturbed by our inability to conclude our discussion. We didn’t need to wrap it all up. We just enjoyed trying to figure it out together. We’re both in love with our children, in love with our husbands, thankful for the ability to devote ourselves to them full-time, and to sneak in ridiculously long phone calls every once in a while.
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