I waited, and I prayed, and I waited some more. In the end, I waited for about three years.
Then it happened: We met, dated, I proposed, she said yes, and then we prepared to get married.
Before our big day, my wife and I attended a weekend marriage prep workshop held at a retreat center. One of the most memorable exercises had each of us draw our ideal picture of what our life together would look like in 10 years. The pictures we drew included children, a house with a yard, an airplane reflecting our desire to do lots of travel and a Cross symbolizing the importance of our faith.
But a neatly drawn picture doesn’t always tell the whole story. Sandwiched in between were some unanticipated bumps in the road of marriage.
For instance, at our wedding reception, there was a small fire and power outage during the father-daughter dance. Our wedding day was one of the hottest in May history. The fire started when a transformer blew on the power line leading to the outdoor courtyard where my wife and father-in-law were dancing. No one was hurt, and a few firemen showed up. Someone found a generator, and the DJ played music from their iPod. It certainly wasn’t in the ideal picture of our wedding day, but the party continued even without power. My wife and I remained calm, though bewildered, and the event became a running joke in our family. The firemen are even in our wedding video.
Once we were married, we were open to having children right away.
We waited, and we prayed.
During the waiting, we thought it would never happen. The clock was ticking. Would we ever get pregnant? Was there something wrong with us? We both wondered if infertility was going to be a major bump in the road. As we prayed, we started asking God if we should consider adoption. And then, a little more than three years after getting married, my wife gave birth to a wonderful baby boy. Two years and four months later, she gave birth to a second boy.
Our ideal picture of what we hoped for was coming true.
But an ideal picture is just that: a glossy snapshot of your happiest moments. Marriage doesn’t solve any problems you might have had before marriage. It changes your relationship with your spouse, but ultimately it doesn’t change who you are and how you deal with life’s challenges.
The point is – rarely do things work out how we envision and rarely do they happen on our timeline. That’s one of the great lessons of life and one of the great challenges of marriage. But God gives us the power to love and the strength to overcome. Often, we realize these gifts from God through prayer.
Ten years into our marriage, my wife and I pray together every night. Now that we have two sons, we pray in the bedroom they share.
One form of prayer that has helped lift up my family when we hit a rough patch or someone is having a tantrum involves group affirmation. Affirmations force people out of the natural rhythm of life. It’s a time when the phones are turned off and the distractions of modern life are silent. This simple form of prayer can help build stronger relationships, diffuse tension, and even boost someone’s confidence.
During our family affirmations, my sons might say, “I like that Mommy takes me to lots of cool places, and I like my brother because he plays Legos with me.”
Recently, my wife and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary. The time flew by and has been filled with joy, lots of learning, challenges, frustration, laughter, and amazing memories.
One of my key insights relates to perseverance. If you don’t persevere with your prayers and with your relationship, then in effect, you’re giving up. In any relationship, even with your spouse, there are going to be disagreements, misunderstandings, and bad days. To overcome them, my wife and I often go back to a magnet we received during marriage prep that offers reminders of how to argue fairly.
No matter what your age or relationship status, God does have a plan for you. In time, God’s will reveals itself. Sometimes the results will involve all of your hopes and dreams coming true. And sometimes, you’ll have to persevere since God’s will is revealed on his timeline, not yours.
There are really just three answers to a prayer: “yes,” “no,” and “wait.” And sometimes, it’s that last answer that is the hardest, yet most rewarding. I had to wait a long time to meet my wife. We had to wait longer than expected to have children. Now, though, the waiting doesn’t feel at all like a long time. It feels like time spent growing and living and loving.