When Love Didn’t Come at First Sight

“What about Dakotah? Are you sure you two aren’t a thing?”

For months I had been fielding this same question from my family and other friends from campus ministry. They had noticed how much time I spent with Dakotah, and naturally wanted to know if it was a budding romantic relationship.

To this day, I can’t remember the first time I met Dakotah. We attended the same Bible study our first year of university, and we ended up running in the same social circle. He was a really friendly person, flexible, and always available to hang out. From the beginning, he was a solid friend.

But he was just a friend. So, when my best friend asked me the question I was so used to hearing, I shut the idea down pretty hard. I explained to her that I couldn’t picture Dakotah in a romantic way.

“He’s too short . . . ” I remember confessing with honesty and an equal amount of shame for being so superficial.

I always pictured myself marrying a tall guy—or at least someone who was taller than me. And, even with the silly height issue aside, at the time, I was not interested in having more than a friendship with Dakotah. He was solid “friend material”, but he wasn’t as outgoing, athletic, or charismatic as I imagined my future spouse might be.

Fast forward seven years, and I am so thankful that first-year-of-college me was mistaken. As it turns out, Dakotah is very much my type. And we are deeply in love, praising God daily for the blessing of being married and sharing this life with one another.

I think as our friendship grew deeper, my misguided expectations for my future husband faded. Even though I had a lot of good, healthy expectations for my future spouse—being a dedicated Christian, a strong leader, a loving partner, etc.—I got caught up in my own specific ideas of exactly how these characteristics were supposed to look like.

Ending up with the husband I did once again proves that God’s plans are always better than mine.

The truth is, I am rarely correct when I think I know what’s best for me. While I had a picture of the person I wanted to marry, I forgot that my heavenly Father knows me intimately, and would bless me with someone who balances me and counters my weaknesses in a way I couldn’t have planned for.

God has a way of giving us exactly what we don’t realize we need. Many of us experience this in a variety of ways. Whether it is related to finding a spouse, or thinking we know which house, job or church is best for us at any given point in our lives, God has a way of proving us completely wrong—while pouring out unexpected blessings at the same time.

As a first year university student, I was concerned with finding someone who shared hobbies and interests with me. I neglected to consider how irrelevant this would become when my own interests and hobbies shifted as I got older. Instead, I needed someone who was patient and calm, someone who would help balance my own stress and anxiety as I encountered different people and circumstances.

Often times, we do not expect or understand God’s provision. But when we look back, we get occasional glimpses that help us understand why what we wanted wasn’t actually best, or maybe even good, at all.

These little glimpses of understanding God’s unexpected provision are rare for me, but I hold to them closely. When God allows certain circumstances, or when He leads me in a direction that doesn’t seem to make sense, I reflect on these little glimpses in the past, and they give me confidence in God’s provision.

So after a few years of dismissing any suggestion that Dakotah and I could be more than just friends, my perspective started to shift. During our third year of friendship, it dawned on me that Dakotah had gradually become my best friend. As I considered why, I recognized that he cared for me deeply and gently. He encouraged me with kindness. Even while we were “just friends,” the patient love he had for me was evidenced in simple and daily interactions.

It took me several years, but I came to the realization that I wanted Dakotah to continue being my best friend for the rest of my life. Thankfully, the feeling was mutual, and, to no surprise of our family and friends, Dakotah and I did start dating the fall after I graduated.

The story of my husband and I is a sweet reminder to me that God’s plan is the only plan I want for my life. Two years into marriage, it’s laughable that I once used height as an excuse for not being interested in Dakotah. But the sheer ridiculousness of that helps remind me to trust God’s perfect provision in all areas of my life, even when it doesn’t match what I have envisioned for my own life.

Why I’m Choosing to Stay Single This Season

Written By Shelley Pearl, New Zealand

The standard answer I have on hand whenever people inquire about my single status is that I have not met Mr Right.

Which is partly true, because at the moment, I have no idea where Mr Right might be. But the truth is, I promised myself I did not want to be involved with someone who would draw me further away from God. So, the season of singleness I am in right now is by choice.

When my ex-boyfriend broke up with me several years ago, I decided it was best to consciously spend the next few years of my life being single so I could mentally and emotionally heal before embarking on another relationship.

He was not a Christian, and while he respected my religion enough for me to attend and volunteer in church, he always showed a bit of resistance whenever I asked if he would go to church with me.

In a way, I was leading a double life when I went out with my ex. On one hand, I was worshipping God and reading the Bible, but on the other hand, I was unequally yoked with a non-believer (2 Corinthians 6:14).

At that time, I justified it by telling friends and acquaintances that I was not a religious fanatic, and besides, I have met Christians whose behaviour were a lot more deplorable than non-Christians. I concluded with much gusto that there was nothing wrong with dating a non-Christian.

When the inevitable happened between me and my ex-boyfriend, I was angry, but I also figured it was God’s way of saying He had enough with my double life.

Now, I am going to admit that staying single in this season has not been easy, and there are times when I have a little grizzle with God about why He would put suitable men before me, only for me to find out that they’re not Christians or even if they were, they were only Christian in name.

“It does seem a bit mean of you,” I told God, but I would soldier on as I did not want to go back to my old double life.

However, there was a period of time when I faltered and signed up on various online dating sites, thinking Mr Right was just one click away.

Because deep down, I do want to get married one day. I do want to have someone I can spend the rest of my life with—and the idea of still being single when I turn 50, surrounded by cats, is rather terrifying.

Eventually, I did find someone online, and things went rather well in the beginning. I thought he was smart and funny, and for a minute I thought, “Right, this is it! I have found someone!” He was not a Christian, and had told me he did not think the church should have any say in our personal lives.

But in my weak, flesh-centred moment, I thought, “Oh well, no one’s perfect.” Luckily for me, my dad saw signs that the guy was more than met the eye, and advised me against continuing with the relationship. So, to my dismay, I ended it.

By now you might be wondering, “Gee, why is she so fixated on not straying away from God? Surely God is able to call her back if she’s gone too far.”

But it is more than just having God call me back once I have strayed. For me, my relationship with God is a sacred one. I want to have an intimate relationship with God, which I felt was really hard to do when I was going out with someone who did not share the same faith.

For me, a person who says they “respect my religion” is nothing more than a spectator. They are happy for me to do my churchly activities, but their stance changes when it comes to my stand on pre-marital sex or co-habitation before marriage.

And can I honestly say I love God and seek His word if I am doing the direct opposite? I do not want to walk away from a God who loves with an everlasting love (Isaiah 54:8) and who has promised to meet my every need (Phillipians 4:19) for a man whose love for me might be superficial and fleeting.

Yes, God loves us even though we fall away, but I personally feel the damage done and the work needed to mend ourselves can be long and painful. It is a pain I would rather avoid on the outset.

I also believe God has my best interest at heart, and if His will for me is to get married, I trust He will provide me with the right person in due time.

And I imagine the spouse that He has for me will be a guy who truly loves God, someone who shows the fruit of the Spirit, such as love, kindness, forgiveness (Galatians 5:22-23).

He will also be someone who knows love is not the warm, fuzzy feelings we all feel at the beginning of a new, exciting relationship. Rather, he will be someone who perseveres in love, is not self-seeking or keeps no records of wrong (1 Corinthians 13:4-8), and he will love me as Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 5:25)

Having said that, I have also learned to accept that if God’s better plan for my life is to remain single, and to carry out His works like Paul did, preaching the Gospel to every part of the world, then I am also happy to be that vessel. Even if it means sacrificing the dream of walking down the aisle and spending my life with the person I love.

If you’re still single like me, maybe society and family pressures have you wanting to get hitched as soon as possible so you can start filling your social media feed with your engagement news, followed by wedding photos and snaps of your first child’s sonogram. But can I just encourage you in your season of singleness to really press in on God, to draw in closer to Him, and not trade this season for just any guy to fill an empty void. I want you to know that God’s best plan for you will be just that—simply the best, not a cheap substitute.

I Have Albinism But I’m No Different

Written By Anatasya Patricia, Indonesia, Originally in Bahasa Indonesia

My name is Anatasya, and I have a skin condition called albinism.

When I was younger, I didn’t feel any different from everyone else. I only realized that I was different when I looked at other people’s skin and observed that the color of their skin is different from mine. I had never met people with the same skin color as me, so I could not understand what was wrong with me.

When I was child, I didn’t care if people mocked or commented about my skin, simply because I didn’t understand what they meant. As I grew up, though, I began to see that I was physically different from everyone else.

At first, I didn’t know what was happening to my body. It wasn’t until middle school that I began searching for answers. I then discovered that I have albinism.

Albinism is a physical disorder in the production of melanin that results in the partial or total lack of skin pigments. Because of that, my hair, my skin, and my eyelashes appear pale or even white. People who have albinism are called albinos. I don’t really know what caused me to have albinism, but as far as I know, this disorder may also be genetic. My great grandmother was also an albino.

My physical state greatly affects my daily life. Too much sunlight would damage my ultrasensitive skin. I also attract a lot of curious stares when I’m outside, probably because most people have never seen an albino before. I often feel as if I am at the center of attention—but not in a positive way. I’m also frequently asked odd questions, such as what my mother ate while she was pregnant with me so that I was born as an albino. There were even some who wanted to take pictures with me.

At school, some of my school mates felt uneasy about my physical appearance. They gave me hurtful nicknames, such as the “tourist who lost her way into the village”, or “walking corpse”. When I heard these insults, I would cry and could not accept my condition. Although I knew that the difference was a physical one, I could not understand why people would react to me in this way.

However, I’m grateful that I still found genuine friends—especially in church—who didn’t see or treat me any differently than anyone else. I’m also part of a support group called the Albino Community of Indonesia, which has 56 members. Through this group, I’ve gotten to know others just like myself, and we often share our stories, trade advice, and encourage each other in our journey.

I’m also thankful for my parents who would patiently listen to my struggles and continually remind me that I’m not any different from my friends—I can still do all the same things they’re able to. They also assured me that I don’t need to get mad when people insult me. They said that those insults were their means of showing me attention, even if it’s done in a wrong way.

They also taught me to keep asking God for strength. This ignited a determination in me not to wallow in disappointment, grief, and anger over my situation, but to channel my energy into discovering God’s purpose for me.

Even though my parents showed me through God’s Word that in His eyes, we are all the same, I still could not understand why God created me this way. But once, during a family devotion, I was convicted by the verse that we were reading.

The verse was 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “. . . give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” After the devotion ended, I kept the verse I read close to my heart. I prayed, asking for God’s guidance that I may understand His will for my life.

In the end, I understood that God has the best plan for my life through my albinism. He didn’t create me by mistake. He also didn’t leave me alone in my struggles—He has surrounded me with a group of supportive friends and parents who are always there for me.

Another verse that spoke to me is from Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” This verse reminds me not to view my circumstances through my own understanding about the situation, but to place my hope in Him.

Now, I don’t see my albinism as a drawback anymore. Instead, it’s a God-given, unique trait that not many other people have, and I am grateful for it. Although that sense of inferiority hits me from time to time, I would pray for God to grant me strength so that I wouldn’t wallow in grief.

My journey in understanding my condition has also helped me empathize with and reach out to those who feel lonely, insecure, or rejected. I understand how it feels like to be in that situation, so I try to approach them, talk to them, and befriend them.

I want to keep on glorifying God through my life. My dream is to be an English teacher so that I can educate the next generation with the light of God’s Word.

Letting Go of All the Things I’ve Hoped For

I finally got a late acceptance to present at one of the top conferences in my field this November. Ever since I’ve heard about this conference, attending it has been on my “life goals” list, a milestone in my PhD career. I was euphoric and exuberantly prepared for the trip. Yet, barely a month later, as I sat on my plane ride home, I felt only exhaustion from the week-long event.

Sure, it was a milestone and definitely a wonderful learning opportunity, but gone was the enthusiasm on my flight there. All I could think of now was the catch-up work from my absence and the grant proposal that was due in a week. If I can get this grant, I told myself, that would be amazing, a true milestone.

Every time I thought I’ve learned my lesson, the cycle resumes. Hope, anxiety, stress, relief, satisfaction, new hope, anxiety, and so on. I’m not sure this qualifies as a vicious cycle; it’s just a cycle, a cycle of life that I desperately wish to break.

In a way, all the things we hope for points to an idol we worship in our hearts. As David Foster Wallace said, “[T]here is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”

The problem is, everything else we worship, other than God, will crush under the weight of our expectations. It is precisely in the moment we’ve finally achieved our dream that we realize that the dream was not enough.

It is not that the dreams are bad. It is that we have put our hopes in the wrong things. Instead of fixing our eyes on the unseen, we have fixated on what is seen. We have disordered our loves, and though the things we yearn for may be good things, they will never truly satisfy us.

This December, I want to challenge myself and everyone reading this article to try another way of thinking. I want to reorder my loves, so that “we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Instead of worshipping my idols by listing goals and resolutions, I want to worship God and thank Him for the gifts He has given me.

 

From Hoping to Receiving

Once upon a December, God gave us the greatest gift of all; He gave His one and only Son so that He can die for us and bring us salvation. Instead of constantly striving for satisfaction through our own power, we should receive the marvelous gifts God has given us.

In those moments, when the lists of January grip my heart, I must remember that I don’t deserve and am not entitled to the success I have or I wish I can have. Instead, as Apostle Paul said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).

Relax and rejoice. The lists of January have constrained our minds and imagination. We hold onto it like a lifeline, as something we can see, but through our grip on reality, we lose sight of the unseen.

Although the lists seem so real to us, they are but a “mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14), a chasing after the wind. And as with mists and winds, the second we think we grasped it, it has slipped from our hands. Therefore, let them go. Instead, we should “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (Psalm 100:4).

For me, I want to thank God for the little things in life that we forget to delight in. For the spurts of progress I’ve achieved in my research. For the amazing friendships that I’ve built over the year. For a family who encourages and helps me even when I’m thoroughly aggravating. For the beautiful community of God that He has invited me into. For guiding me to understand His Word and wisdom. For the lessons He has taught me through my failures and mistakes. For the love and faithfulness He has shown me despite my doubts and anxieties.

This December, instead of sullying our year with our never-ending lists, let us enumerate God’s infinite blessings. Let us remember what God has done for us through Jesus Christ and in the everyday trenches of adult life. Through thanksgiving, let us let go of the hopes and fears that drive us to take control of our lives, putting idols instead of God at our center. Let us receive His gifts with a grateful and open heart. For “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

This December, to the idols of our heart, begone.