Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Big Questions, Maybe Ordinary Answers...

Some of you have asked about "what it's like being engaged and not long-distance," and others want to hear what it's like being so close to marriage. I haven't said much about my thought life or emotional journeys since moving to Louisville. That doesn't mean they've been boring or non-existent. Ryan & I have enjoyed & benefitted from the pre-marital counseling we've gotten to do with our pastor, Ryan Fullerton, and his wife, Christy. It was good for me to get to know them more personally, especially since they already knew Ryan so well.

The second counseling session, where we talked about "visions," which Ryan & I had asked for help in working out, was probably our hardest one. Ryan & Christy urged us to have ONE vision as a family, and the pattern in Scripture is for the husband to set that vision (with his wife's happiness very much in mind!) and the wife to follow it whole-heartedly with him. After the session, Ryan & I had a pretty intense talk... sitting on Glen & Bethany's backsteps, ocassionally awed by the grossness of the beetles & roaches teeming out there. That, and similar conversations were themselves rooted in internal questions. For me, it meant a lot of searching, wanting to make sure this really is what God wants, that I really am willing to surrender any dreams to be handled by this man, to let God make me useful in perhaps a way I didn't anticipate. My desire for marriage has been to be more effective in Kingdom-building than I could/can be alone. The last independent choice I’ll make is to whom I’ll choose to surrender my choice-making… I'll let you "listen in" on my prayers, thoughts, and final resolution.

It was that question—“Can I submit cheerfully, God-glorifyingly, to this man?”—that kept me saying “No” to several wonderful men who asked to date me, for 4 years. When Ryan came along again that question was the filter. To my delight, there was no reason to say ‘no’ to him! When we talked about them, we had similar life-goals— to advance the Kingdom, to be useful to serve His Church. We had similar desires, even: ministry, especially towards children, quite likely ministry amidst poverty. In our friendship, we served together often, I loved the heart I saw (and still see) ministering particularly to children. So why the agonizing questions now? Am I just doubting everything the last month before marriage because, well, it’s the last month before marriage? I think partly yes. Marriage isn’t reversible. It’s like the Anglican wedding service states: “marriage is not to be entered unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purpose for which it was instituted by God.” But partly, I was afraid—did Ryan still have those same desires that I thought he did? Will marrying him bind me to follow a path that leads me to abandon all my dreams? Is that most pleasing to God?

A passage Christy Fullerton read in our session has stuck with me as a good sort of goal verse. It's describing the widow that the church wants to support, so I guess it's a good model for the young non-widow to have: "Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. [ ...] So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander." (1 Tim 5: 6, 9-10, 14) It's a very home-centered, everyday sort of obedience He seems to want from me. (see below entry on Margaret Paton) Ryan F. interprets 1 Tim 2:15 ("Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.") to mean that the context of sanctification for most women is meant to be their home! Where you need more faith, love and self-control than in dealing with kids & household demands 24-7, I have no idea! I see that in experience, certainly, and reading over it I don’t think it’s a distortion of the text. It makes a lot of sense, actually.

I wonder if God hasn’t been preparing me to come to this conclusion for the past two months, leading me to read Margaret Paton, and sticking lines from John Piper’s sermon on Ruth in my head: “Knowing how to connect everyday ‘ordinary’ obedience to Glory has radical implications for your Monday morning.” Unglamorous, normal solving of marital conflict, caring for small children and cooking of extra food for guests seems to be quite pleasing to my Father; quite Kingdom-advancing and Church-useful.

So that was sort of a long way of saying that I know my nursing and foreign-mission and adoption and foster-parenting dreams are all just that: dreams. They are God-given desires to express deeper God-given desires to nurture and share Hope with the hurting and lost, and He is pleased with those I know! BUT...they may not bear fruit the ways I sort of foresaw them doing. The putting away of the fulfillments I’d planned/envisioned feels a lot like putting a knife to Isaac’s throat. They’re all dreams I’ve nurtured for years. BUT after those good searching talks with Ryan, and after hearing him read the "Short and Long-Term Vision" Ryan had to write as a counseling assignment, I can step forward in faith by marrying Ryan, knowing that we are on the same page as far as dreams and desires go, and trusting that as he leads us as a family, he'll be trying to honor God, and love me as well as he can. That may well (likely, even) mean no nursing school for me-- not for quite a while at least, maybe never. It may mean staying in Louisville to learn and serve here for quite a good bit of our lives. It may mean home-schooling my children in Indonesia for years. Neither of us really knows, and I guess we never can, for all our planning.

When it comes down to it, I want to marry Ryan. He has won my heart time after time in the past year. I admire his character, and his leadership as he grows in it. I love him. I know he wants me to be happy, and he knows that’s found in me being holy. He struggles to be more holy himself. He serves me, bears with me, is kind to me—in three words, he loves me. My family approves of him, my closest friends advise me towards him, our pastors recommend him. How can I not want to entrust myself to a man like that? If it is no disobedience for me to marry Ryan Szrama, and I find nothing in Scripture that would indicate it would be, then I will choose to work out my salvation by his side, trusting Him to lead him to lead me.

...and let me just say that I can't WAIT!! ...10 more days...


GloryandGrace said...

As someone 150 days out from my own wedding celebration, I have been particularly encouraged by such insights as these from you. I'm encouraged not only by the considerations you bring to the forefront, but more because you candidly address them. I wonder some of the same things you raised in this particular entry, and I read something over on the Girl Talk blog that reminded me of what you wrote and compelled me to come back and leave a comment for you:

"In matters of the heart, it is right that men should lead and women welcome and guide that leadership. She is his helpmate (Gen. 2:18). Her goal is to give her man all the help he needs to lead well….The guidance that she provides him comes mainly in two forms: in helping him think clearly and in encouraging him to act confidently." Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart, p. 97

Thanks, sister. Grace and peace to you~

Matt Foreman said...

Christina, I came across this quote awhile back - I can't even remember where, but found it profound. We're praying for your wedding...

"Small, repetitive, daily living that, at best, will breathe life-giving love into toxic places, that is the work that the Creator designed. The location is inconsequential really. The blaze of glory is reserved for the Creator alone and, to the world around us, is often seen best when our living and doing is no more.

Am I content with the Master's design?"

--Charlene Dash

contemplations said...

I appreciate your thoughts concerning marriage. I have been married 12 years and am the mother of 4 girls age 4, 6, 8 and 10. It is so easy to forget the importance of the mundane, everyday and to feel so useless and unspiritual... But God works in the ordinary, everyday.... changing diapers, making meals, wiping runny noses.
I am also love the works of Tolkien and L'Engle.