Next month I’m marrying a girl I met one year ago.
I had a sense pretty early on in our relationship that this was where things were headed. I mean, I didn’t know within the first 15 minutes. It’s not like it was that dramatic. Still, it didn’t take me long to figure out that this time I was playing for keeps.
I had the privilege of officiating a couple of weddings last year. The first wedding I did, Callie and I had been dating for about two weeks or so. Throughout that whole night, during the dinner, the toasts, and all the dancing, I remember thinking to myself, “I need to see Callie.” It honestly wasn’t any deeper than that. I really wasn’t trying to be overly romantic or even prophetic. I simply remember thinking, “I need to see Callie.” And later that night, about one in the morning, I did.
The second wedding I officiated, I brought Callie with me. We had been dating for three months. As we celebrated that night on the dance floor, I kept thinking to myself, “I think we’re going to be doing this again here real soon.”
Callie is without question the girl I want to spend the rest of my life with. She is beautiful and thoughtful; confident and kind. She is the girl I want to share life’s adventures with and all of its mundane moments as well.
Lucky for me, I knew Callie felt the same way. Now I just had to figure out when. That is, when to propose. This was the more difficult part for me. I knew I wanted to marry Callie…but when?
I mean, how exactly do you know when to take that next step? How do you know that it’s the right time to take that leap of faith? To buy a ring and get down on one knee?
“When you meet the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
Now, I think it’s important to mention up front that I don’t think there’s a definitive answer to this question. I think you could reasonably get married after three months or three years. There are so many factors at play. How old are you? Are you dating long distance? Are you in school? Have you been divorced recently? The truth is there are so many factors to this question that it’s impossible to land on a specific amount of time.
Yet even though I can’t give you an answer, I’ll share with you why I decided to propose after only dating for seven months.
One of the rising trends in our culture today is that more and more people are choosing to live together before they get married. (Should they even choose to get married at all.)
I think part of this trend comes from increasing skepticism towards whether or not marriage is good, right, or necessary. Couple that with the long-held belief in our post-Christian culture that marriage is not a necessary foundation for sexual intimacy. If you believe that it’s wise and healthy to live together and have sex before you get married, what’s the hurry in getting married? Tax benefits? C’mon, as lucrative as those are, they just aren’t that compelling.
Now this may sound like I’m condemning culture, but hear me out. The truth is, cohabitation makes a lot of sense to me. I see the appeal in living together before getting married. I totally get it.
It’s not because of cheaper rent or the luxury of not having to say goodbye at the end of the night. The real driving factor is that our culture recognizes that cohabitation is the best opportunity you have to see the other person for who they really are. It gives you the clearest picture of who that person really is. You get to see what they are like early in the morning and late at night. You get to see if they are clean or messy. When there’s no make up on. When the lights are turned off. It’s a chance to make an informed decision on a life-long commitment.
But, as you might guess, Callie and I did not believe that living together would be a wise and healthy decision for us. Instead we found other ways to get to know each other as well as we could. We’ve been intentional in asking each other deep, thoughtful questions, seeing each other in a variety of settings, letting the other in on our struggles and insecurities, the things that drive our emotions and behaviors, spending time with our respective families. We’ve done what we can in order to move in confidence that not only do we want to get married, but also that now is a good time to do so.
Now this is where some folks, both Christians and non-Christians, might say, “Okay, so you’re not moving in together. Fair enough. At least date for a whole year before you get engaged. See what they’re like in all four seasons, throughout all the holidays, the ups and downs, the highs and lows.” But seriously? Is that really going to get me the information I need? Callie and I met last July. Is there something about the month of May that’s really going to tip the scales? Did I really need to see how she celebrates May Day or Cinco de Mayo? Why should that matter?
I guess what I’m really challenging is this prevailing notion in our culture that you essentially have to know someone inside and out before you get married. That you have to test out your relationship for a few years. That you need to let this thing breathe a little bit and see if your relationship can stand the test of time.
On some level, getting married is an act of faith, very similar to our decision to follow Jesus… you have that moment where you think, “I’ve done my homework, I’ve weighed the evidence.” (I know, this is all sounding incredibly unromantic.) But at some point, you just have to jump. You’ve got to take that leap of faith because it’s impossible to know everything there is to know about someone. And besides, the person you marry is bound to become a different person over the years. The person you marry won’t be the same person 20, 30, 40 years down the road. Life happens. You have kids, you change jobs, you move, you continue to change as a person. Even your body is going to change. And so at the end of the day, just like in our relationship with Jesus, at some point, you just have to jump.
At the end of the day, do I really need to know what her favorite Chinese food is? Do I really need to know the highlight of her seventh grade year? (The answers are sweet and sour chicken and time at Lake Chelan.) But you see where I’m going here: those aren’t deal-breakers. You have a whole lifetime of marriage ahead of you, where you get to date your spouse and learn more about them.
At the end of the day I know Callie and I both believe in Jesus. We answer the question, “What is life really all about and how should we spend our time on earth?” in a similar way. She is someone who isn’t afraid to tease me, but is also my biggest fan. And even more, she wants to adventure with me. She’s even agreed to finish the Appalachian Trail with me someday! Only 671 miles to go.
Next month, Callie and I will stand before our friends and family and make a covenant where we’ll essentially say to each other. “I promise to be the person I promise to be whether you are the person you promise to be or not.” At the end of the day, how much more needs to be said than that?
As Callie has occasionally quoted from When Harry Met Sally, “When you meet the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” I had never heard that quote before, but I couldn’t agree more.