(This post talks about marriage. But I promise it applies to you non-married people. Hang in there with me.)
On Sunday, I will have been married for twelve years. Twelve!
That’s a long time, but it doesn’t feel like a long time at all. In my mind, I’m still only a hop, skip, and a jump away from the college years where I first met a handsome, compelling atheist with piercing green eyes and a dry sense of humor.
As much as I liked him even then, I didn’t imagine that I’d be sitting in our living room almost twelve years later writing a blog post about our marriage. I didn’t imagine that he’d be the loving and godly man to whom I would commit my heart and life. I didn’t expect we’d marry or ever even date at all – we were too different, spiritually, for me to allow my burgeoning feelings to lead me into a romance. God, I remember thinking, I really like him. This is the kind of person I could fall in love with. But I can’t. I’d already dated a non-believer and it had gone badly enough to teach me a hard lesson about why it made sense to have my faith in common with the person I loved. And he’d made it clear he was not interested in faith. Period.
And then one day in the fall after a long summer break, I stumbled into him outside the student union. We made small talk. And as I got ready to head off to my class, he looked up and said, apropos of nothing, “This summer, I’ve been reading the Bible.”
It came out of nowhere. It shocked me. After his explicit statement that he was not interested in faith and my explicit acceptance of that statement, after the acknowledgement that the two of us would never be able to come to an agreement about why or how belief mattered, it hadn’t occurred to me that God would continue working on his heart, or that God might have plans for the two of us together. But God could and God did.
That semester, he started attending Bible studies with me on and off to get a feel for what Christian fellowship was like. And then, one night, he told me he wanted to attend a campus Christian meeting with me. I was surprised, and took him along. I was even more surprised when the guest speaker for that evening stood to talk and then glanced around and said, “Okay, so this is really weird and I never do this, but I feel compelled to open with an invitation. I just feel like there’s someone here who is ready.”
The “someone” sitting next to me certainly was.
Our marriage came from a miracle. And here I sit, twelve years later, having married a man who loves me, whom I love, and more importantly who loves the Lord, who has encouraged me in my efforts to know and love the Lord better. Together we have built a godly marriage and a happy life together.
But this post isn’t just about marriage.
It’s about plans, and dreams, and hopes. And what I want you to know is that God is working when you don’t think He is working. When you think He’s stopped working. Long after you have resigned yourself to a “no,” God is quietly, patiently, lovingly working. Long after you have put in all the work it is possible to put in, and you think it was for nothing, God is working.
I know believers who have prayed for a man for over a decade before that man came to salvation. I have seen prayers answered in my own life years after I forgot that I prayed them (which is a good reason to keep a prayer journal, by the way.) I have seen Christians pray tiny prayers – “God, grant me something to do with my free time” – that blew up into massive ministries and expressions of God’s love. I have seen seeds planted early in life spring up into bloom in late seasons.
And I see the waiting, too. Believers who keep on loving without ever knowing if their love or service will make a difference. People who pray the same prayer every night not knowing if it will come to fruition. Those who try to walk forward in ministry or service only to encounter stumbling block after stumbling block. Those who think it must not be meant to be. Those who have resigned themselves to the way things are.
John 1:5 reminds us that “the light shines in the darkness.” Just because you can’t see a way forward, don’t assume that God is not working. Just because you assume done is done, don’t assume that God is not working. Just because you can’t imagine it, don’t assume that God is not working. In the quietness, in the darkness, in the places that you can’t see and in the spaces where you’ve given up, God still moves. He is the only one who can make something from nothing, the great Giver, and the Lord of Glory who delights in leaving His mark on our lives in ways unexpected – ways we didn’t even dare dream to hope for.
My marriage is proof of that.