As I write today…it is from a state of Holy Exhaustion and Holy Bliss all at the same time. Our daughter got engaged this past weekend…to a fellow named Mike who we adopted as a son…way before the proposal. Over the five years that they have been dating I have watched him grow as a person in many ways and I have very closely watched their relationship.
I hope you don’t mind me sharing some personal information because I think it’s something we can all learn from. Our kids realized when I answered God’s call for the Back 9 that, in some ways, their lives may become a little more public. So in cases when we can “live out loud,” encouraging believers by sharing our stumbles, our good choices and our bad ones, we are all about that. My prayer is always that it benefits someone who “listens”.
First, I am very aware of what the Bible “lays out” as a biblical marriage. The type of marriage that I feel has the best chance of being a lasting one…with abundance and joy. I’ve been married for 30 years. If you are blessed enough to say that, you also know that in the very best of Christian marriages there are times of challenges. Times when marriage is real “work!”
To me marriage is that commitment I made to Bill before a Holy God that far surpasses, in my opinion, the “love” I watched on the beach this past weekend…:) When you make a commitment, you do everything humanly possible to honor that commitment.
And before I write another word…I want to say clearly…I have many divorced friends…many. I don’t think I have one friend who have suffered the agony of divorce would want that for their children or anyone for that matter. I do not stand in “judgement” of any of them for I “have NOT walked their path!” I do understand more than ever in my life at 53…that there are circumstances that unfortunately lead to divorce.
Does it break God’s heart? Absolutely.
Does He hate divorce? Absolutely.
Does He love the people of divorces? ABSOLUTELY.
He is a loving God. I strongly encourage our kids, and others that I mentor, with many things I have learned from being married. From my parents who were married for over 50 years to Bill’s parents who have been married for over 50, we have benefited from role models…who have stood the testings of many, many things that I will not list.
But back to Collins and Mike. When it first looked like they might date exclusively (in a relationship), I am so thankful that Collins and I were very close. We talked about “deep and personal things”. One being whether or not Mike was a Christian. He believed in Jesus but had never invited Jesus into his heart. Collins was 17 when they met. She asked me, “What do you think, Mom?” I knew Mike a little from his friendship with Thomas and seeing him in Junior golf. I knew a little about his insides from watching him play this sport of golf…but I told her to let me pray about it.
As I prayed I felt like God showed me specifically that it would be okay. He gave me peace especially about Collins walk with the Lord. At 17 her faith was strong. Our mother/daughter relationship was strong. I knew I would continually encourage her to “guard her heart for everything she does flows from it” (see Proverbs 4:23). I then went to some wise counsel–several very close friends and two ministers who knew Collins well, Jack Easterby and Adrian Despres. I asked them to counsel with Collins on this issue of being in “a relationship” with someone who had not invited Jesus into their heart. Out of all the counsel I sought, all but one out of the six felt the way I felt. It would be okay but only IF Collins set very strong boundaries and understood her role was to be a “light!”
I encouraged the first boundary to be an up front and very open conversation on her stance on “sex”. I told Collins that in many young men’s mind a “in a relationship” status could come with the expectation of “sex”. So if he asked about being in a relationship, she would have to say up front that sex didn’t come with the deal. I told her if that was a “deal breaker” for him then it would be God shutting the door for the relationship. When he did ask her to be in a relationship, her words to him about “NO sex” actually made him more attracted to her. He said it surprised him but it was a NICE, refreshing surprise.
As they started to date, about a year into it, I encouraged Collins to talk to him about the importance of Jesus in her life. I could see she was becoming very fond of Mike as was our whole family. I knew she needed to tell him that, going forward, if a relationship with Jesus was not something he would consider or pursue at some point, they may have to separate.
She was great in how she handled it. She basically told him how important it was to her to marry a believer. (This was huge in being pro-active in guarding her heart!) They were nowhere near the marrying talk in their relationship but she knew that if he wasn’t interested in Jesus, then they may need to rethink their relationship. She told him she wanted him to investigate a personal relationship for himself, not for her.
She never bugged nor pushed him. She invited him to go to church with her in Athens. He went and found himself enjoying listening and learning from Andy Stanley. Sometimes, when Mike was at our house for the weekend, we would invite him to church with us. Sometimes he chose not to go. Most of the time he did. But those times when he didn’t, we would not judge him nor be upset with him. We would pray for him and then just come home and pick him up to go to lunch. There were several times that God allowed me time to share a little about my testimony and what I believed over several years.
By just being with Collins he was introduced to some pretty special people who loved Jesus and were willing to share with Mike and embrace him. As I saw that she was beginning to “love” Mike in the very early stages of their relationship, I encouraged Collins to start writing in a “prayer journal” for him which she gave to him two years into their relationship after he gave his life to Christ.
In God’s goodness, He allowed me, the MOB (my new title…. mother of the bride), to actually witness the moment of Mike’s salvation. Mike and I went to hear Louie Giglio speak in Athens when he was there to promote the passion conference. I was passing through Athens on my way to see Collins play in a college tournament for UGA. Collins was in Nashville. After Louie spoke in the UGA amphitheater where Mike and I sat on a blanket with hundreds of other UGA students, we drove for a late night dinner at Waffle House in Athens. It was dark when Mike stood and gave his life to Christ so I could not see his face but when we walked into Waffle House, his red eyes and tear-stained face was the MOST BEAUTIFUL THING I HAVE EVER SEEN. Oh that God would orchestrate…the timing…that the future MOB…would be present at his salvation…To God be the Glory!!
This past weekend was a celebration on many levels. We celebrated God’s faithfulness to mine and Bill’s prayers for a godly man for Collins. One who would nurture her, take care of her and be a leader. We are getting that and much, much more from our future son-in-law. We are blessed.
I encourage you readers with this–God does want us to marry believers. Notice I said “marry”. Sometimes it is okay for a believer to date a non-believer but with a very big BUT. Several things need to be in place.
A) If the person is strong in their relationship with Jesus.
B) If the person will guard their heart by being up front about what is important.
C) Have other, more mature in the faith, adults hold them accountable as they date.
D) Set boundaries with a mental time line that guards the heart but also allows God’s timing of drawing someone to Himself.
E) Much prayer and wise counsel.
God is great. We must pray and obey with a sincere heart.
Scripture tells us in 2 Corinthians 6:14,”Do not be yoked with unbelievers.” For the Christian, being unequally yoked is NOT God’s best “yes”. He created us and He created marriage. HE knows that in order for a marriage to survive the things that life can bring it is with HIM at the CENTER. That is only possible if He resides in the hearts of the bride and the groom.
In Ecclesiastes 4:12 we find, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” I believe that third strand is God who makes the marriage, like the cord, strong.
Collins and Mike just finished reading Kay Arthur’s book, “Marriage Without Regrets”. It was upon completion of that book that brought Mike to propose. He even included in his engagement proposal a new Bible with her soon-to-be new married name, “Collins Cromie”. I love that he included God’s holy word in the proposal. I have a full heart today.
I know many people have kids who desire to get married. Pray… and continue to pray. Use this example to remind you to pray. Pray through I Corinthians 13 for them. Pray through Ephesians 5:21-33 for them. Encourage them to pray these verses and to look for the traits listed in a partner for life.
There is a book in the making here with many details that I have watched in Mike and Collins’ courtship. I am praying now that she would write the book. It would be a great one….many details never shared. It has been tough but they will be pure when they get married. My heart is full for God blessing our family and our daughter with her new fiance`.
I am going to enjoy my new title as “mother of the bride!” with JOY in my heart over the union of two young Jesus lovers:) #coocoo4cromie