The first time I ever had a date on Valentine’s Day, I was 31 years old. It ended up being the hinge upon which my entire life turned.
Wildly independent, when other girls in college were hoping to snag a man and get their ring by spring, I turned my nose up at them, determined to do something “more” with my life. I wasn’t going to tie myself to a man who would hold me back from all God had planned for me (and I was sure I was destined for Christian Rockstar status).
And so I successfully avoided serious relationships, teaching in the inner city of Chicago and then moving to China to teach English and study Chinese. Although I was lonely at times, I was sure God could bring me a man who was also called to the same area of China I was if that was what He wanted. Until then, I could make singleness work.
But in the middle of my fifth year in China, I was blindsided.
I returned to the states for a wedding and “happened” to carpool with a guy on the way to a lake cottage with a group of friends for the weekend. Convinced God wanted me to marry a man also called overseas, I ignored my growing attraction to this guy with the piercing blue eyes and baritone voice—an actor in Chicago—at least until the ride home.
Oh no, I thought as we talked, laughed, and connected like old friends at the end of the weekend. As we dropped him off, he asked for my phone number and wasted little time in making sure we spent hours “hanging out” over the next two weeks before I flew back to China.
He asked me out for Valentine’s Day the night before I was supposed to leave. Cradling cappuccinos, we finally talked about “us.” What were we doing and what were we going to do?
He had plans—had researched—how to do long distance relationships well. Over Skype we could read books, watch movies, have “dates,” and even play computer games simultaneously. He would come visit me in China, of course.
And he did.
We got engaged after four months of a long-distance relationship where we talked for five hours every other day, read books together and wrote letters, then scanned them in because letters seemed more authentic than emails which could be overly polished. We were married by the following Valentine’s Day.
As I feared, marriage and missions have been mutually exclusive for me. This year is the seventh Valentine’s we are spending together and we’ll most likely get a babysitter for our three littles so we can have an hour or two of peace together involving pasta, candlelight, and coffee.
Our life is not radical, exotic or original, but our love is real and I have no doubt it was God’s intention to derail my pretty plans for myself in favor of blowing me away with His plans for me.
You may think you know exactly where your life is going. But walking with Jesus through the years, days, hours, and minutes of life, He often leads us in ways we never could have imagined. Though it seems cliché, God does know the plans He has for us—plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). This verse was written during a time when the Israelites were in exile in a place that would have been easy to try and escape. Instead, God urged them to build houses and live in them, marry, have children, plant gardens, and eat of the produce.
Whatever stage of life we are in, God wants us to have roots and bear fruit—whether that is as a single woman navigating the Christian world of family-centric churches and grossly exaggerated romantic comedies, or as a married woman weighted with a million mundane tasks with very little to show for her effort at the end of the day.
Don’t underestimate the ability of God to completely transform your circumstances. But know God sometimes pries dreams out of stubborn hands because He wants to fill them with something even better—namely, a wild dependence on Him.
How is your life different from how you imagined? Was your love story (or lack thereof) unexpected?