(It's been a bit of a hiatus since I last posted... but writing has continued along the way, and I'm excited to share a bit of it with you! This post was written July 7, 2015)
Some people say the first year of marriage is the biggest challenge.
I wouldn’t know. We haven’t started yet ;).
But for us, the challenge has been ongoing from the beginning. Not because we don’t fit well together – God is making it very clear that this is the direction of our relationship we should be taking! But because, well, He’s bringing us through some serious training before the actual marriage begins.
Yes, we come from two different cultures. We’ve lived in very different places. But somehow, God has used these experiences to bring us closer together. Our views on family, marriage, money, so many things are so similar it’s crazy.
At the same time, we’ve both been single for thirty-something years. We’ve both lived by ourselves, he longer than myself, and have developed ways of doing things that are particular to us as individuals and that haven’t necessarily been challenged by my multiple housemates along the way.
It’s easy to get selfish and self-focused as a single. Without even knowing it.
And so, when presented with how to do things in a home, how to make a meal together, how to do little and big things…
And it’s been amazing. Can I just brag on my soon-to-be husband a bit? I’ve never met anyone so willing to work through hard stuff, get to the root of whatever issue we’re having, talk through it and figure out how we can do better next time. And then CHANGE. Make the changes himself, and support me in doing the same, changes that we need for a strong foundation for our future.
He’s willing to do the hard work of talking, praying, examining, letting the junk fall away as we seek to become more like Christ and more unified as we prepare for a life of marriage together.
So after all this hard work, it seems like we’d be doing pretty well. And we are! But then the last couple of months, God had some more training in store for us.
We got news that the campus where Sang Mark has worked for the past 8 years is closing down in September. He was given the offer of a transfer to Detroit, and GM started pursuing him as well. We were amazed at the opportunities before us and excited for what God might be doing – he would love to work at either of these places with the amazing people and projects and opportunities there! At the same time, we are entering our first year of marriage, I’ve not even been back in the States for a full year yet after years overseas, neither of us are big-city people per se, and he (we) have an incredible church and friend community that I’ve been adopted into here in Holland.
So the question, with 34 days till we get married, was is… do we add a move and new community to a new marriage and new job situation? Three of the biggest stresses in life all at once? And if so, where to go?
We checked out Detroit and found a couple of places we liked, but still struggled. We needed to make a decision by Monday, and then God granted an extension of a week. But pressure was still on. A potential job was in the works in Holland but not guaranteed (and still isn’t). Do we take what we know, the obvious amazing offer we have? Or do we do what we feel better about at this time of our lives?
In the weeks leading up to this, and as things changed with every passing hour of every day, God started making changes in us that showed the reason behind this difficult process. As we sorted through priorities and what is most important to us in our lives, our relationship, our marriage... we moved from being individuals to being united under one head - Christ. We pondered whether community and stability this first year were most important, especially since I’ve been through so much the past few years? Or was money and career opportunities what we valued most? And even more importantly, what exactly was God saying? Because that’s what we really wanted.
We learned to pray together – not just the happy-go-lucky prayers we’d started our relationship with, but the heart-cry for help and guidance and wisdom and surrender giving everything over to the Lord, no matter what He says, and telling Him we’ll follow Him prayers.
We learned to share what we thought God was saying. To pray for one another, to listen to what God might be telling the other person, and what they were processing themselves. We learned to be convicted by what God was saying through the other person and to change our habits, our minds, our attitudes.
Sang Mark learned that girls' tears are ok – and to comfort me when they came. We learned what it meant to be cheered on by a church of people who were rooting for us to stay, even when they hadn’t known me for very long yet – and the blessing of having them throw me a Bridal Shower just a few months after we’d all met. And give me a place to live the month before we got married when I needed a place to stay.
We learned that asking God to show us His path as soon as possible wouldn't come in our time - but definitely would happen in His sovereignty. We were some of the first people to know what the path ahead looked like job wise, which was a blessing leading up to our wedding for sure! And this difficult but precious Boot Camp time allowed us to face some of the issues and decisions that most couples go through over the first few years of marriage. Because, seriously? Why not just get it all out of the way before you even tie the knot? ;)
And in the end, 4 long, “we’re trusting in You to come through God!” days after turning down job offers with companies in Detroit, Sang Mark was offered a job on the other side of the same building where he’s worked the past 8 years. We get to stay in Holland! And we are so thankful, not only for this time of staying in one place and fewer transitions (and not trying to house hunt the month before the wedding!), but also for the ways God used this time to prepare us for whatever He has to come.
(Graphic from Marriage Boot Camp: Defeat the Top 10 Marriage Killers and Build a Rock-Solid Relationship, by Jim and Elizabeth Carroll)