My secret preferences for a husband were very specific, but I gave up those dreams because I did not want to encourage unrealistic expectations. God alone knew what kind of man was best for me, and I trusted Him.
Unknown to me, God took my secret list and the dreams I had given up to Him, and said with a gleam in His sovereign eye, "Daughter, you are about to meet my son Paul."
What was on this secret list? There were the non-negotiables first:
Then there were the strong preferences:
And finally, there were a ton of petty preferences that I thought could never exist in one person.
I could add more, but you get the picture. Very specific, totally unrealistic.
Until you put God into the picture.
When I met Paul, I did not immediately recognize him as the man. I was at a place in my life--the only time in my life--when I had no interest in romance. My life had just been turned upside-down and I feared the dangers of looking to a romantic relationship for comfort, guidance, and healing. I wanted to be certain that the Lord alone was my safe place.
It took the Lord's sweet but insistent voice to help me realize that Paul was one of God's means of providing that safe place for me. By that time, I was realizing something else.
The guy had checked off everything on my secret list. I mean everything. The first time I saw his collection of real swords and learned that he actually knew how to use them, I felt a twinge of joyful alarm. "God? What are you doing? 'Cause this guy suddenly got awfully attractive to me." (True story.)
When Paul followed that up with quotes from my favorite movies and books, stories of his backpacking adventures in the hobbit-country of New Zealand, and long talks on theology and practical gospel living, I was pretty interested. When I met his two welcoming parents, many busy brothers, and one awesome ninja sister, I started really, really wanting to be part of his family. And when he asked me to be his girlfriend in May 2017, and his wife a few months later in October, I did not have to be convinced. I knew.
This was the man.
As we moved toward marriage, I found that there were things that had never made it onto my list that God had nevertheless provided in Paul. Paul loved me, pursued me, and won me in ways that I did not even know that I wanted to be loved, in ways that brought alive parts of my spirit that I did not know even existed.
I'm not saying Paul is perfect. The Lord has done deep works of grace in Paul's life, just as He has done in mine, and the process continues every day.
Yet the specificity of God's answer to the most detailed of my secret desires--desires I felt far too unrealistic to ever pray for--still blows me away. (I mean, how else do you get a blue-eyed man with both curly dark hair and an awesome red beard?)
As I learned to trust in the joy of Paul's love, I asked myself: Was this what it was like to be wooed and won by Christ? Was He the man of the secret list, the one who fulfills even the dreams we do not know we desire? If the Lord could answer my little wants so specifically, how much more would He provide for my real needs?
The God I serve is not limited by my disbelief. I did not even dare to pray certain prayers because I thought they were too petty, too selfish. Yet He answered those unprayed prayers and blessed me even beyond them. That verse about His ability to do beyond what we can ask or even imagine? Literally true. (Ephesians 3:20)
I know that God does not always answer in this way. I accept the times when He chooses to delay or deny my desires. But when I think of all the times as a single women when I imagined God giving a mediocre response to my desires for marriage, I want to go to my earlier self and hug her tight.
"Oh, woman, you have no idea how good God is! Believe His love!"
They are echoes of words that the faithful who have gone before me shout from their eternal Home. "Oh, woman, taste and you will see that the Lord is good!"
My secret list? He knew every part of it. Every time He said "No" or "Wait," it was because He was preparing a YES bigger than I could have possibly imagined.
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.