Last week, I wrote a response blog post explaining why my fiance and I have chosen to wait until marriage. This was a decision that both of us made individually, before we had even met. As a result of our common values, there was no heated discussion about this topic in the early stages of our relationship, and we have always been able to support one another in our desire to be chaste. Of course, even with the encouragement and my own strong feelings on the matter, I can’t say that my decision to wait has never been a struggle. I’ve always known that it was right, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always been easy.
I’m not the most patient of people. When I know I want something, I want it immediately. As a kid, I would sit in front of the neatly wrapped Christmas presents, just itching to tear into them, but knowing that my parents would not approve. Inevitably, my repeated pesterings earned me a small gift and a peak into my stocking. I assume that this was not a reward for my good behavior, but was probably a desperate attempt by my parents to get just a few more minutes of sleep. As I got older, I was the type of student who couldn’t concentrate in class when I knew that we were going to get a graded test back. I would haphazardly jot down lecture notes, but my mind was a million miles away, wondering what kind of grade I had received. My flustered anticipation would not be eased until the test was safely in my hands, and my mind could finally be up at ease. I have always been impatient, especially when I know what’s coming. I’ve never been good at waiting, and our engagement was no different.
The proposal was kind of like waiting for gifts at Christmas or for a graded test at school. Even when I know exactly what I’m going to get- even when I know that I’m getting a new movie for Christmas, or a 98 on a test, I still need it in my hands before I can rest easy. I need to see it, feel it, hold it. In a real way, waiting for something that I already know about is a lot harder than waiting for something that is veiled in mystery. I’m much better at waiting for surprises. Of course, good luck to anyone trying to surprise me. As Andrew recently learned, it’s a very difficult thing to do.
If I know what’s around the corner, I want to be there already. I see no use in walking; I need to run. I can’t wait. I’m incredibly impatient, and I simply don’t know how to wait peacefully. Waiting is an agonizing experience for me, and it’s only by the grace of God that I can endure it.
I know- it’s an incredibly un-Christian disposition. But I never said that I was perfect, or that I was even overwhelmingly good. We all have our flaws, and this is one of mine: I don’t know how to wait. I just can’t. I get impatient. I can’t focus. My head is in the clouds, dreaming about the day that the waiting will be over. It’s a miracle that I’ve never been grounded for opening Christmas gifts too early, or given detention for making unreasonable demands on the teacher. Fortunately for me, I’ve always been able to stop myself.
But that doesn’t make the waiting any easier, and waiting to get engaged was probably one of the most difficult things that I’ve ever had to do. When Andrew and I reconnected last summer, it only took a moment for me to develop a major crush. Like I said, I’m not good at waiting. I like to just dive right in. It’s all or nothing for me. And I was all for Andrew. In the span of just a few hours, I went from being completely unconcerned with his existence to doing everything within my power to make sure that he noticed me.
Naturally, it helped that I already knew Andrew, even if we hadn’t exactly been friends. We had hung out together a handful of times- we had even gone dancing together once (and by that I mean, he sat for most of the night while I danced with just about every guy in the room). I knew he was kind and level-headed from our interactions at the book store, where we both worked. I also knew that he was a very good Catholic who had the same values that I had. I could think of no reason why I shouldn’t like him, and by the end of the night of the baseball game, I knew that I really liked him.
Our relationship has been defined by waiting. We spent years praying for our future spouses (except for those few months in the convent, when I thought that my future spouse was the kind of Person that you pray to, not for). When we were finally brought together, he waited nearly a month to ask me out on a date. In fact, he even waited to friend me on Facebook, because he wanted to see if I would friend him first (I was waiting for the same thing, and fortunately for the two of us, he decided to act first). After he finally asked me on a date, which he made me wait the entire day for, I made him wait an entire month while I finished out my promised dating fast. After patiently waiting through the rest of the summer, he waited three days before asking me to be his girlfriend. We were always waiting. Anticipating. Hoping. Praying. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
Secure in our relationship, I thought that the waiting was over. I was wrong. Not long into our relationship, I found myself waiting again, and I knew that this wait would be harder than any of the other times combined. This wait would be for the first step towards pursuing a future together. I was waiting for a proposal, a promise that we would one day be wed.
It only took a few weeks to know that I loved him and would marry him one day if he asked. And by then I also knew that he would ask one day. We had only been dating for a few days when we first touched on the ‘m’ word. It was tentative at first, the stuff of dreams and hopes for the future. We talked about my dream wedding, his dream family. Over the course of a few weeks our ‘I’s’ became ‘we’s.’ Our conversation seamlessly flowed from individual dreams into a real future together. Without even realizing it at first, our lives were intertwined, and my future and his future were suddenly one and the same, our future.
At first the talk was tentative and largely hypothetical. Our conversations were guided by a smattering of ‘if’s.’ If we got married…if we had kids…if we raised a family together…if. But in time, we became bold. Our ‘if’s’ were transformed into ‘when’s.’ When we get married…when we have kids…when we raise a family…when. A future together was no longer just a possibility for either of us. At about the same time, we both came to the same conclusion: this is it. We had finally found the one. Our last first date. Our last first kiss. Our last boyfriend/girlfriend. We both knew that we had reached the end and that we would find a new beginning together.
And I knew how this new chapter in my life would begin. With a proposal. With a ring. With a happily declared ‘yes.’ I knew that it was coming, and once again, I found myself waiting. It was the longest wait to date (though our engagement, which will last 300 days from beginning to end, will one day surpass it), and at times it was downright agonizing. Once again, I found myself grasping at a reality that was just out of reach. I knew it was there, floating in the as-yet intangible future, taunting me. Laughing at me. Tempting me. Our future together, and the ring that would mark its beginning, loomed just ahead of me, hanging above a hundred foot cliff. Daring me to jump. Whispering that I could fly.
But then there was that little voice of reason that reminded me that I would fall. That I did not have wings. I could not fly. Being with Andrew might feel like flying, but a cliff is still a cliff, and I was still human.
But that little voice told me more. He told me that it would be worth the wait. That now was too soon. That our family and friends wouldn’t approve of our “rushing.” We were still living in different worlds, separated by more than two hundred miles. Our relationship was one of spurts, weeks of not seeing each other followed by glorious weekends where we would spend all of our time together. Such an arrangement was not conducive to planning a wedding and preparing for marriage. And finally, we already had a lot to be grateful for, and we needed to just enjoy this time that we had together. There was no stress, no pressure. No timelines, no deadlines. Our lives were punctuated by heavenly weekends together, where the only thing that we had to worry about was what time we needed to wake up in the morning. It was sheer bliss, but it was also temporary. Once engaged, everything would revolve around the wedding, I was warned. Our conversations would all be about the wedding. We wouldn’t have as much time to just talk about ourselves and our lives, to learn more about one another. Once we were engaged, that era of getting to know each other would come to an end. Or at least it wouldn’t be the focus of our relationship. Our wedding, and our marriage, would be. We wouldn’t be able to just sit for hours and talk, or lie around and enjoy one another’s company until one (or both) of us began to fall asleep. We would have to finalize guest lists, book reception halls, choose dresses, colors, and flowers. We would spend our time discussing money and budgets, and the more practical aspects of married life. Yes, our dreams would be coming true, but that also meant that reality would have to set in. After months of dreaming of our life together, we would finally be able to watch it become a reality. It would be beautiful, but it wouldn’t be without its difficulties and stresses. Our dreams would become real-life, but as we all know, real-life is hard at times. But it’s also incredibly beautiful.
While I ultimately agreed with the voice of reason, my impatient side reeled at the thought of waiting. I knew that a proposal would come, but I wasn’t sure when. Would I have to wait another month? Two months? Six months? Would it be Christmas? Valentine’s Day? A meaningful feast day? The possibilities were endless, and the wait seemed equally so. As the months passed, I was able to cross off possibility after possibility. We continued our relationship just as we always had- nightly phone conversations while we were apart, and a whirlwind of activities when we were together. Despite my anticipation, I came to enjoy those months of peace and constancy. My life had become very predictable, and I settled into the day-to-day life of a girl in a long-distance relationship. Every day, I looked forward to bedtime when Andrew would call me up and we would talk until there were more yawns than words in our conversations. Every two weeks or so, I was able to look forward to either a visit from Andrew or a trip down to DC. I tried not to let the anticipation of the future get to me, but it was never far from my mind. It was a comfort to know that I had finally found the person that I was meant to spend the rest of my life with, but it was agonizing not to know when that part of my life would actually begin.
Obviously, now I know exactly how much longer we’ll need to wait. Now I have a ring on my finger, a promise of a future life shared. I have the assurance that comes with a proposal, the protection that comes with the word ‘fiance.’ What I once dreamed about is on the verge of coming true, and my engagement ring is proof of that. So is all the planning, the visits to reception halls, and the discussions with florists, photographers, and caterers. When I said ‘yes’ to Andrew, I was saying ‘yes’ to the good and the bad. I was saying ‘yes’ to the joys of the engagement period, and ‘yes’ to all its stresses. I was saying ‘yes’ to the comforts of married life, and ‘yes’ to all its struggles. I have yet to appreciate the reality of marriage, but it only took a few minutes before the reality of engagement set in. We barely had time to rejoice in the fact that we were engaged before we really began to understand what that entailed. There were phone calls to make, people to see, dates to set. Less than twenty-fours hours after we got engaged, people were already asking if we had a date. Was the church booked? A reception location chosen? Do you know where you’re going on your honeymoon? The questions were overwhelming, and the only thing that was more disarming than the questions was my lack of answers. Was I really supposed to have answers to all of those questions just hours after getting engaged?
Three weeks later, I finally have some answers for people. Yes, we have a date. The church is booked, and the reception hall has been chosen. But no, we don’t know where we’re going on our honeymoon, but that’s okay. We still have time. I’ve realized that I don’t need an answer to every question that I’m asked. I’m not even expected to have all the answers. And that is such a relief.
Now that I’m engaged, do I agree with what that voice of reason whispered all those months ago? Whole-heartedly. I’m glad that we waited to get engaged. I’m glad that Andrew didn’t give into my anxious, impatient nature. I’m glad that he held his ground and did things in God’s time, rather than our own. Sure, some people might get engaged just a few months into their relationship, but that wasn’t what God had in mind for us. He had better things planned. Instead, He blessed us with ten months of stress-free, heavenly time together. He gave us the opportunity to just enjoy each other’s company as we got to know each other better. He was teaching me a valuable lesson, even as He was rewarding me for my patience, as weak as it might have been at times. I might believe in a just God, but I also believe that He has given me more than I could possibly deserve. Fortunately for me, He’s incredibly merciful and generous as well.
So yes, I’m glad that we waited to get engaged. It seems appropriate that we should have waited ten months to get engaged, only to wait another ten months to get married. It seems like a long time, but I know that the time will fly. Already our lives have been overwhelmed by discussions of marriage prep, guest lists, reception halls and menus, our wedding party. We still have our moments together, moments that bring us back to before, when we could spend hours just talking about ourselves and learning more about each other. But those moments aren’t as common now, and they’re scattered between discussions about our wedding. But that is the nature of human relationships. They change, transform, grow. We don’t spend as much time talking about ourselves because we’re moving past that point in our lives. Now we spend more of our time talking about our life together, our marriage, our future family. We still have our dreams, and we still have our moments of sheer bliss where everything else is momentarily forgotten. Those things will never go away, but they will change with time. Just like we will change.
I still dream about my wedding day, but now I’m working to make my dreams a reality, and as one dream comes true, another is quickly born to take its place. We are never short on dreams. There is always the promise of the future. But there is also the beauty of the present moment. Now. If there is one thing I’d want to tell girls and women in relationships, particularly those who are so anxious to take the next step and get engaged, it is this: enjoy the present. Enjoy the life that you have right now. Be patient, and wait. If you constantly have your mind in the future, you will miss your life. You will miss opportunities to grow, love, laugh, and live. The future will come, but don’t rush it along. It will arrive in its own time. In God’s time. And not a moment too soon. As the Song of Songs says, “Do not awaken love before its time” (2:7). Love must grow; it must bide its time until it has been perfected. Love will come. If it’s God’s Will, your engagement will come. The future will come. Don’t lose the present because you’re so concerned with the future. Just be patient, and wait. As it’s been said, good things come to those who wait. Trust me, I know. =)
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!