How We Got Married
I grew up in a pastor's home and desired to honor God with my life, including my marriage. I dated a couple of girls in high school and did engage in pre-sexual activities (kissing, some petting, etc). I was also exposed to pornography by a friend whose father had an extensive collection and I must say I was very attracted to it. I also masturbated quite a bit and carried a lot of shame about it. All of this is to give you some background for a decision I made when I was 16 years old.
I had just "broken up" with a girl from my church who I had dated for over a year. My heart was crushed as was hers. I was also ashamed that I had "stepped over the line" with her, both by petting and in my fantasies. I made a promise to God that the next girl I kissed would be my wife .... I didn't want to enter into a heavy relationship with someone that later would marry someone else and I would have been kissing someone else's wife.
I was also gripped by the story of Isaac's marriage, how he was busy in his father's fields while his father took care of finding him a wife. I asked God to give me that kind of experience, that I would be able to be busy in His fields and that when I saw her, I'd know who she was. (In fact, at one point I asked my father to help me find a wife "just like Momma".)
Life went on. I dated casually through the rest of high school and college but no serious relationship and no kissing. Until missionary language school school. I met a girl there who wanted to be a missionary and we hit it off like gang-busters. Our relationship progressed to the point that we did begin kissing. I distinctly remember the night that I was kissing her and heard in my heart, "She's not your wife." That was it for me. The next day I shared with her what had happened and we ended the romance, although the friendship remained.
Then it was off to Mexico as a missionary. Now my odds of finding a wife the conventional way seemed rather slim. But I didn't know that God was soon going to honor my teenage prayer. I had met Lori when I worked for her father while at language school. She was living in Austin, TX but went down to McAllen, TX (where the language school is located) a few times around holidays. We didn't hit it off, there was no chemistry, but we were polite to each other.
Two years later we began writing each other, an action initiated by her father who suggested it to her. He was a financial supporter of my mission work and liked me quite a bit. She had moved back to McAllen and he picked at her about writing me until she did it. She wrote a brief letter, asking about the mission work and if I had any prayer requests. I wrote a 6 page manuscript back (actually, they really were small pages! <G>*) and told her all about the work. I also shared some prayer requests with her, including my desire for a Godly wife. She committed to pray for those things.
I distinctly remember when I knew I was going to marry Lori. There were 5 of us North American missionaries working in that area of southern Mexico. We would often set aside time to fast and pray and during a 7 day period of fasting and prayer I felt that I heard in my spirit, "You're going to marry Lori Chapman." I shared that with the others and continued to pray.
Little did I know what was going on with Lori. She was faithfully praying for me every single day, asking God to meet my needs, including my desire for a Godly wife. It wasn't long before she sensed in her spirit that she was praying for herself! That she was to be my wife! She told her mom and continued to pray. Remember, we're 1,000 miles apart, there's no Internet, no email, no long distance telephone conversations .... just some simple letters and lots of prayer.
The truck I was driving developed some serious mechanical problems to the point that it needed a new motor. (I was getting about 20 miles to the quart of oil!!!) I made plans to return to the states for the mechanical work and wrote Lori that I was coming through McAllen on August 19 and would like to take her out for supper. I knew what I had felt from the Lord and she knew what she felt so both of us were excited about the possibilities, but neither knew what the other was feeling or thinking.
I finally made it to McAllen and that evening picked her up for supper in my "mosquito killer". (Yep, it smoked that badly!) We were both nervous because we both knew what each of us felt but not what the other felt. After getting a table we exchanged a few pleasantries and then she asked me how I came to be a missionary. I told her the story (took me awhile, as do most of my stories <G>*) and then I asked her if she had ever sensed a calling to be a missionary or a missionary's wife. She told me about a missions conference she had attended while living in Austin and how she felt the Lord was calling her to serve Him in some sort of service in Central America.
After hearing that I decided to go for broke. I said, "I'm going to ask you an off-the-wall question. If I were to ask you to marry me, leave everything behind and go with me to Mexico as a missionary, what would you say?" (That's just about an exact quote.) Imagine my surprise as she said, "I'd say 'Yes'!" WOW!!!!!! We compared notes, sharing with each other about how the Lord has spoken to each of us individually. It all fit, hand in glove. I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me "for real" and again she said, "Yes"!!!!!!!!
So we got married. That night! <G>* Because we felt so strongly about this we contacted a pastor friend at his home and asked if we could come over. Lori's stepsister and her husband were meeting with the pastor and his wife about a marriage ministry they were in. They weren't surprised to hear that Lori and I were going to get married because Lori had shared some things with her step-sister who had been praying for us. But they were surprised that we wanted to get married that night.
The pastor said he needed to pray about it and went back to his bedroom. What we didn't know was that while he was back there he called Lori's dad, his good friend. He said, "Chap, Nathan and Lori are here and they want me to marry them. What do you want me to do?" My lovely father-in-law said, "Go for it! I've known for six months that they're supposed to be married!" The pastor came back into the living room and said, "I have peace from God." <G>* (We didn't know about the phone call until the next day!)
One thing needs to be inserted here from Lori's point of view. She shared with me that one of the reasons she didn't have a hard time getting married this way was partly because she had known a godly couple from India whose marriage was arranged by their family many years ago. She had seen their love and knew that God had caused them to "fall in love" with each other after they were married. She knew if she was obedient to God, He would take care of the rest.
Has married life been only bliss? You know better than that! We've had ups and downs and have had our share of disagreements. But because we KNOW that God joined us, we don't dare even THINK about the "asunder" part. It's not an option. (That's something my dad always told me - never let the word "divorce" be part of your vocabulary. Good advice.)
It's like the line from the Don Francisco song "Love is not a feeling, it's an act of your will." I've chosen to love Lori. And she's chosen to love me. I've not been very lovable at times, nor has she. But my choice was not made based on her lovability, nor even on my own ability to love. Because I'm convinced that God put us together, I'm able to love her, hopefully as Christ loved the church. And since He knows better than I do, and since He has good plans for me, and since He works all things together for good to those who love Him, I can trust His choice and I can love based on that.
Should everyone do it this way? I don't think so. Am I in favor of arranged marriages? Only if arranged by God! Can they work? I don't know. Some do, some don't. However, I do believe that any two committed Christians can be successfully and happily married by following the word of God and living their lives as God commands. If both are willing to put the other first, if both are willing to minister to the other first, if both will prefer the other, then they will have an incredible marriage.
The biggest enemy of marriage, in my opinion, is selfishness. When we get our eyes on ourselves, we destroy. But when we focus on others, then we serve ... and that's always been God's way .... taking the towel and the basin and washing the feet of others first.
The principles of the Scriptures were written when arranged marriages were the norm. These same principles will work in today's society as well. But it's up to us. Sir, will you love your wife as Jesus loves His bride, being willing to give up your life, ambitions, pleasures and future for her? Ma'am, will you honor and respect your husband, allowing him to make mistakes and yet retain his dignity, reassuring him that you believe in him and respect him? If so, you will have God's best in your marriage, whether your marriage was arranged or you dated for years.
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