Like most men, Joel Vaughan wanted to marry, so he prayed for a mate and dated as often as he could. But more than 10 years after high school graduation, he still hadn't found his wife.
Then, while in his mid-30s, he was organizing the details of a conference. A package he needed for the event had not arrived the morning it was due. Desperate, Joel did everything he could. Still no package. Miraculously, only minutes before the seminar started, a courier walked into his office and handed him the prized box. Filled with gratitude, Joel silently thanked God for the delivery.
That's when he felt he heard God speak to his heart. In the same way I brought this box, I'll bring your wife. When you have done everything you can, then I will bring her.
Joel laughs now and says that, by the time he turned 42 and moved to Colorado Springs to work for Focus on the Family, he wondered if he'd just "eaten some bad chili" the night before and hadn't heard from God at all. Still, he continued praying and enjoyed dating, but without long-term success.
Then one day, almost two years after moving to Colorado, he unexpectedly met his future wife, Kellie, while picking up his mail. She purchased the town home next to his and had just moved in. Weeks later, when Joel discovered Kellie also worked for Focus, he thought, "God could be doing something."
Indeed, He was.
After their first meeting, Kellie and Joel became good friends, danced their way to love in a ballroom class, then tied the knot a year and a half after they met. Joel now jokes that not only did God "deliver" his wife just as He promised, He brought her right to his mailbox; a true mail-order bride.
Brian and Cindy Elliott, like Joel and Kellie, also wondered if they would ever find "the one." But unlike the Vaughans, they didn't meet at a mailbox, but on a dance floor of the Queen Mary when they both attended a Christian Singles dinner dance. Both were 38 years old when they walked the aisle.
Joel, Kellie, Brian and Cindy are like an increasing number of singles who are marrying later in life. They understand better than most about the frustration that can result from waiting and praying to find a mate. And they are also well-acquainted with the joys and challenges of marrying later than the average person.
So if you're an older single and you want to get married, here is some advice from four people who've been there:
The Vaughans and Elliotts know what it's like to face the stereotype of having something "wrong with you" if you're older and still single. Thankfully, when each of them explains why they didn't marry earlier, they agree that it was due to not meeting the right person. In retrospect, all see God's sovereignty in action.
"God brought Cindy at just the right time," Brian says.
This can be comforting for many singles who fear that they can't find a mate because of their flaws.
"He [God] can overrule our inadequacies," Brian says. "You don't have to be perfect [to meet someone]."
While it's important to improve your emotional and spiritual health while you're single, remember that everyone is a work in progress and that God ultimately controls every detail of your life.
It's commonly thought that couples who marry later in life will automatically have a more difficult time uniting as a couple because each spouse is set in his or her own ways. Not so for either couple.
"Kellie and I have found it very easy to blend," Joel says. "She and I were extremely grateful the Lord brought someone to us …after years of wondering and waiting," which he says helped them merge their lives together.
Cindy Elliott agrees: "[When I married], I was surprised at the perspective I had on what's important and what's not."
She doesn't worry about minor problems like her children's fingerprints on the refrigerator because she is just grateful to have a family. This has made blending easier than she anticipated.
Both the Vaughans and the Elliotts also say that marrying later can be challenging because it becomes more difficult to find a suitable mate. But many Christian men, Joel and Brian suggest, don't take the initiative to find a wife.
"A common complaint I hear from single Christian women is that Christian men don't do anything," Joel says.
"Some people believe that God is a magic genie," Brian says. "They say they're not going to work on their issues but expect God to magically bring someone to them. You need to learn about yourself and learn about others."
In short, both men agree that guys should get busy and initiate!
In retrospect, Cindy wishes that she would have taken better advantage of her "single season" by focusing more on God.
"The Apostle Paul was very clear. You can serve God better being single," he says. Of course, there is intense emotional pain that can come from being alone. But God is always faithful. "Realize that the key to everything else in life is to get closer to God."
So while you're waiting, praying and dating, develop a heart of gratitude and service to bless God and others.