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5. Miles Apart

“Could this be God's way of telling me
Richard was not the one for me?"

The fall of 1950 found us two young lovers/fighters beginning four years of intermittent separation. I enrolled in Wheaton College, Illinois, and moved more than 800 miles from home, while Mary commuted daily from her home to Philadelphia College of the Bible, just 35 miles away. Letters were frequent for the first two years, and were filled with expressions of love and plans for the future. And we were together constantly during vacations.

But absence during the school years did not necessarily make the heart grow fonder. I began to have second thoughts about my feelings for Mary, and I finally decided that I wanted to pursue some other relationships at college. Meanwhile, Mary had decided that I was the one whom God had for her. She was approaching her third and final year in Bible school, and my decision to break up came as an unpleasant surprise to her.

"I remember feeling hurt and angry," she acknowledges. "I thought to myself, 'That dirty rat! How dare he do this to me. Why didn't he break off sooner?' By the third year in Bible school, couples had pretty well paired off and most of the neat guys had already been taken. Now what was I supposed to do? It didn't take long for the anger to subside and for me to realize that this could be God's way of telling me Richard was not the one for me. Maybe God wanted me on the foreign mission field, and maybe Richard would not be a missionary. But even though I had it resolved in my mind, the hurt lingered. It usually does. I decided to talk to one of my professors.

"Mr. Gordon Ceperley had known about my relationship with Richard for some time. Not only was he my teacher, but I considered him to be a counselor and friend. I told him my thoughts about the mission field. His advice was extremely helpful: 'Mary, don't go into the mission field on the rebound. If God wants you there, He will remove that love for Richard from your heart.' I accepted his advice and started to pray for God to remove the love if He wanted me to be a single missionary. My heart was sincere, and I really did not want to marry outside God's will. The pain continued, but there was a quiet confidence that a sovereign God would do what was best."

Meanwhile, I must admit that I was not being very successful in my other relationships. My dating plans at Wheaton were much more ambitious than my actual practice turned out to be. And by summer between my junior and senior years I was still very much unattached. My roommate, a childhood buddy, and I returned home to Bristol to work for the summer months. It seemed to me that he was beginning to put a move on Mary, and even though I had no claim on her, it bothered me to see him operate.

One summer evening the youth department at church had scheduled a party and nearly everyone in the group was there. Mary was being loud and boisterous that night, and acting most unlady-like. She now says, “I wanted Richard to know that I didn't need him. If he didn't want me, then I sure didn't want him. Recently I looked back in my diary and read my account of the evening. It said, 'We had a big fight. He wants me to be a lady. Boy, that's hard.’”

I didn't like anything about Mary that night. I didn't like the way she was acting. I didn't like the way she was flirting with my roommate. I didn't like the dress she was wearing. As far as I was concerned, the whole evening was a confirmation of the decision I had made several months earlier. She was not the girl for me. And yet I had to admit that there was something in her that attracted me. I went home that night totally confused, and I asked God to give me clear direction for my life.

By morning my feelings had changed dramatically. I found that I wanted to be with her. It was a Saturday and I was planning to drive to Philadelphia to visit my mother who was in the hospital for surgery. Humanly speaking, I still cannot fully understand why I did it, but I called Mary on the telephone that morning and asked her if she would like to accompany me. She broke a date with my roommate (which I did not even know she had) in order to accept my invitation.

We had one of the most delightful days we had ever spent together in the six years we had dated. After the visit to the hospital, we had dinner together, then came to my parents' home where we listened to Christian records and talked about the Lord and our mutual desire to serve Him. By the time the evening was over, I had the guidance for which I had prayed. This was the girl God wanted me to have for my wife. Before the summer was over and I had returned to Wheaton, we were engaged to be married.

The biblical strategy for choosing a life partner is to seek God's will in prayer and then trust Him to lead. It never occurs to some Christian young people that God may want to guide them in this decision, so they pursue various relationships without ever consulting Him, and they let “chemistry” guide them rather than Christ. His Word says, ". . . in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6).

"Everything" would certainly include the person with whom you will spend the rest of your life. We made more than our share of mistakes through these years of courtship, but we did ask God to guide us in the matter of marriage. The confidence that He did guide us was one of the things that would sustain us when the going got rough.

Walking Together

Acknowledge that God has made you one, and make a commitment to the Lord and to your mate that you will remain in this marriage and do everything you can with God's help to make it succeed.

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