On a Wednesday evening during the summer of 1985, I decided on a whim to do something I had never before done. After a long day of sales calls, I found my way to a church service in the beautiful mountains of the San Bernardino National Forest. In the midst of the service, the pastor — whom I did not know — walked directly toward me.
“I have a word from the Lord for you,” he said, looking down at me. “The Lord has picked out a wife for you. She will have a heart for the things of God.” He paused and then continued. “And in the years to come you will spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people all around the world.”
To say that I was stunned by such a declaration would be an understatement. But my heart was tender and receptive to what this man said to me.
Just three days later, I had the privilege of serving as the best man at the wedding of my friends Dan and Tina. And that’s where I met Tina’s good friend Jean Stephens. Despite the fact that it was Dan and Tina’s big day, they had worked like crazy to get us to meet — and succeeded. Jean and I made some pleasant small talk, but quickly parted ways. When I returned to my table, I couldn’t believe what I heard myself say to my friend Victor: “I think I met the woman I’m going to marry.”
But life got busy; Jean and I didn’t talk to or see each other for the next nine months. Once again our friends orchestrated a meeting. For our first get-together (not our official first date), I escorted Jean to an Amy Grant concert. I packed a picnic dinner, and in the fading twilight of that warm evening, we both realized something good was happening.
Jean was still in college and due back to classes in September. I hated to see her go and wasn’t crazy about having a long-distance relationship. So what does a lovestruck young man in this situation do? I quit my job and moved in with my brother Mike, who happened to live about 40 miles from Jean’s school. For two semesters I burned through savings and worked a few odd jobs while Jean worked on her degree.
Our dating life was lots of fun. We talked and talked and talked. While Jean was still in school, and with her father’s permission, I bought a ring and proposed. Thankfully, she said yes!
More than 30 years have come and gone, but I’ve never grown tired of pondering the miracle and mystery of how Jean and I met. It reminds me that while men make plans, God will always have His way.
God is the Master of Ceremonies
It has always fascinated me to examine the mysterious twists and complicated steps that lead to a particular outcome — especially a marriage. How do two people, often from diverse backgrounds and geography, happen to meet at the exact time when both are ready to enter into a dating relationship?
When it comes to the sovereignty of God, I don’t believe in coincidence. After all, the psalmist makes clear that God’s “kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19) and that “he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). If I were to chart the many events that led to my meeting Jean, I would need a notebook. For example, for me to have met Jean at that wedding, I first had to have become friends with the bride and groom. Before I became friends with Tina and Dan, I had to become friends with Dan. And how did I meet Dan? We were exchange students together — in Japan! But wait … how did I wind up being able to study abroad? You get the picture.
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If you are married, I suspect you have a similar story. These days, few people meet their spouse in elementary school or just around the corner. Even high school sweethearts are rare. Instead, we often meet our future spouse in a college classroom, at the office or perhaps in a Bible study. Others meet with an even greater degree of serendipity. I heard of an American couple that met in Bangladesh, only to discover they were originally from the same hometown and had the same teachers in school — but they were five years apart. As C.S. Lewis famously observed, “For a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work.”
God is the original Creator
God is the original maker of marriage. The institution itself was the final piece to God’s Creation puzzle. We read in Genesis 2, “But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.” In other words, things just weren’t right until Eve arrived on the scene. So, “the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ ”
It’s interesting to note that while God created a separate person in Eve, He took a rib from Adam to get the job done. Afterward, Adam commented, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23). Scholars see both the symbolism and the symmetry in this statement. Adam would be a part of Eve, and Eve would be a part of Adam. This is just one of the many reasons why we’re to take our marital vows seriously. We’re not just to see it as a contract but as a covenant. When we pledge ourselves to our spouse, we’re entering into the most intimate of all relationships. This is why we read in Genesis that when a couple is united in marriage, “they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
It’s my prayer that you be reminded of the profound nature of marriage as an institution at the same time you recognize the sacredness of the union you have between you and your spouse. If you’ve lost that sense of mystery and wonder, it’s not too late to rekindle the romance and recapture what may have become faded over the years. After all, it is the original maker of marriage who once said, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5).