Planning Not to Plan

This week Josh and I celebrate our 10 year anniversary. It’s made me slightly nostalgic. I appreciate you humoring me as I share a few stories from the past decade here over the next few days.

Everyone thought we should get married.

After two years of dating, our future plans were constantly in question. We had no plan. Actually, our plan was not to plan. Nineteen years old, in our freshmen year at bible college, and our friends believed matrimony should be added to the mix. That summer of 1999 three couples who began dating the same time we had all walk down the aisle. We were the hold-outs.

Sitting in the parking lot of our small bible college, we talked about the future while The Cure played in the background. I wanted a plan, a timeline, a secure answer for all those inquiring minds. Josh wanted to ignore it; his way turned out to be the wiser of the two.

Christian dating in the 1990s meant courting as opposed to casual dating, saving your first kiss for your wedding day and trying to figure out if he/she was “the One.” Josh and I never really gave in to those theories. Too many of our friends had decided their boyfriend/girlfriend was “the One” and planned out their marriage timeline, only to break up months later. It left us skeptical of the whole system and critical of anyone who subscribed to it.

With all the pressure to have it figured out at the beginning, God was telling me to slow down and trust Him.

Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires. {Song of Solomon 8:4}

It was hard for me not to be in love with the idea of being in love. Josh and I had a great relationship, but the environment we were in was rushing us forward before we were ready. The girls on campus wondered if their latest crush was “the One” before they started dating. Joyful couples announced their engagement after only a few months of dating; oh, how I coveted that diamond ring and romantic story. Bridal magazines were passed around like drugs.

My impatience for Josh to propose reached a frenzy point. Frustration with him for choosing not to work during his first year of school came from one  thought: if he’s not working he has no money, if he has no money he can’t go out and secretly get me an engagement ring.

The dirty looks we got as we held hands or gave a kiss goodnight, the inability to be alone and the desire to remain above reproach began to wear on me. I was tired of worrying about what others thought. I knew we weren’t going to have sex if no one was around, but we never wanted anyone to question our actions. For someone who has always been a people pleaser, I was getting surprisingly fed up with catering to others.

Marriage seemed the answer to all of our problems. Life would be magical and full of joy then. Everything would be easier once we were married, right?

I felt like God had told me Josh and I were going to get married, and now I just had to sit back and wait for Josh to get used to the idea. Not one for change, I recognized that it would take him some time to warm up to such a big step. To keep myself from being “that girlfriend” I never once mentioned my impatience to him. Our dating anniversary, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and my birthday all passed without a little square box making an appearance. Each of those occasions had been marred by my unrealistic expectations.

As we prepared to return home that summer, I resigned myself to the idea of waiting a few more years, I had no idea how much could change in three short months…

Josh and I felt strongly that God was telling us to trust in His timing for marriage. The people, situations and environment around us created a sense of urgency to rush ahead of plan. Due to that pressure, I ruined many special moments by looking for something that God wasn’t ready to give me.

Have you had times in your life where God was telling you to do one thing,
but common sense dictated another?

How did your friends and family respond to your decisions?

What promises did you fall back on to hold fast to the course God had shown you?

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27 Comments

  1. Lydia says:

    Beautiful story, Melissa!

    One area where I feel like we have been following God’s leading and timing as opposed to our own (often to the horror and reproach of others) is with our family size. Many people had many opinions about us having our children fast and furious while we were young, but we truly felt led to give this area up to God at this time in our lives. Its not easy being “counter culture,” but we know we can always trust His leading!

    1. Melissa says:

      With four of our own, aged six and under, I totally get this! I loved Elizabeth Esther’s post on this at A Deeper Story. Did you read that?

  2. Lynnette says:

    Got to love the Bible college atmosphere, I mean Bridal College. I met my husband at one and by the time we left tons of friends had gotten married with a surprisingly short span of time of meeting someone then to the alter. and now several are divorced, not knowing each other well at all before taking that huge step. Mine was opposite yours a bit. In that after knowing James for 1.5 years we started dating but were engaged after only 3 months of dating, but he was the one who wanted to go quicker than me. I would have been happy to wait for the engagement for a year, but not him, and we married four months later.

    1. Melissa says:

      Josh and I dated 3-1/2 years before we were married, which was a heckuva long time! :) One of the things that God has shown me over my 20+ years following Him is that my story does not have to be others story. My sister met her future-husband online, proposed TO HIM, and they were married almost a year to the date after their first face-to- face meeting. They are happily married today, almost 6 years later. I love how God works this out differently in each of our lives.

      So, looking back, do you see a purpose to your quick dating/engagement situation? Is there an “ah-ha” about why you think God worked that way? It’s always fun for me to look back at times I was confused about God’s timing, and then see so clearly why He did it that way.

      1. Janelle says:

        Yeah, but there was definitely some waiting involved in my story, too. I hadn’t dated at all for several years, because I felt God telling me to just concentrate on me, my son, and Him. I grew so much and really found out who I am, so I had a foundation to start from. During that time I was very aware of God’s protection against loneliness. And then suddenly I felt it lift, and He told me it was time. So I started looking around, and on a whim one day I signed up for a trial offer on a dating site, just to check it out because I wasn’t sure where else to look (slim pickings at work, and most “church guys” weren’t looking for a single mom lol). I didn’t think much of it until I got sent the profile of a pretty cute guy who seemed to share my values and lived in the same city. I went ahead and paid for a month, so I could send him a message. That guy never responded, but Jonathan found me. We met within 2 weeks, I promised mom we wouldn’t get engaged for 6 months, then broke that promise at 4, and have never regretted it. Oh we’ve had plenty of rough patches, but we each have a steel core, and are determined not just to “last” but to be happy with each other. That was what I saw in him, that he would never stop trying. So maybe it happened fast at the end, but it was the end of a long process building up to a great finish. I find God does that with me a lot. It makes it easier for me to be patient when I feel like I’m in limbo, when I don’t see what He’s doing on a daily basis. Maybe I’m on cruise control, but He is still at the wheel.

        1. Melissa says:

          I’m glad you shared this! I didn’t realize how much God was doing in your life leading up to it. I mean, I saw a transformation happening in you, but I didn’t know you were intentionally not seeking out relationships. And, I think every marriage has its rough patches, whether you’ve dated 3 years of 4 months. :)

  3. Jason says:

    “we talked about the future while The Cure played in the background”

    As if you didn’t have a serious amount of coolness points already…

    “Have you had times in your life where God was telling you to do one thing, but common sense dictated another?”

    Like picking up and moving to Nashville to help start a church? Yeah…family and friends weren’t big supporters of that one. And the fact we ended up not helping with that church, still haven’t sold the house in Missouri, have trouble with the renters and are in debt to our eyeballs doesn’t keep them from reminding us it wasn’t the best “common sense” decision.

    1. Melissa says:

      I know, right? My love was founded on…the Cure, Coldplay, David Gray and U2. :)

      You mentioned a great point, Jason! It’s hard enough to do what God calls us to do when it runs counter to common sense, but when things don’t turn out the way we expect it becomes even harder. As the person filling God’s leading, you have confidence where friends and family might not. When our confidence gets shaken by trials, delays and persecution…that’s when the going gets tough! How have you been able to stay the course in the midst of those setbacks?

  4. Tony Alicea says:

    First, I have to say that in the middle of this post I had to stop and put on The Cure. I’m listening to “Boys Don’t Cry” right now. I LOVE them. Thanks for that…haven’t listened in awhile.

    I know ALL about waiting. I’ve been waiting for 4 years. I think I’m going to be like those high school kids. When I know, I’m going to be popping the question within months. It’s a lot different though, when you’re 31! ;)

    1. Melissa says:

      I have a sudden urge to hear “It’s Friday, I’m in Love” right now. :)

      The problem I had with the people getting engaged after a few months had nothing to do with whether or not that was right, it had everything to do with jealousy! I didn’t understand why Josh & I had to continue waiting, after dating for 2+ years, when others were able to get engaged after a few months. It wasn’t fair! Haha! I know people who have gotten engaged and married in a short time who have a fantastic marriage. I also know people who dated for years, were engaged forever and ended up divorced. It all has to do with following God’s lead.

  5. Keri says:

    I’m really enjoying getting to know more about you and Josh, and your heart through these posts, Melissa! Also, I have to say that your level of honesty and self-awareness is really quite admirable. There’s not much I’d like to share about teenage me and my budding romance with Mike, at least not in the blogosphere. I would glady share it with YOU though. :)

    And, to be honst, I think for most of my life I’ve been more likely to follow “common sense” than God’s plan. :( It was the safe route, the easy route, the route most expected and validated by others. I’m learning to follow God’s lead, and actually, blogging has helped tremendously with that.

    1. Melissa says:

      God has broken me of my common sense. In fact, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m most comfortable in those situations where common sense is being tossed to the wind. Haha! I was talking with a friend about this last night. I’m such a planner, and it’s in those situations where I have no idea what the plan is that I’m able to let go and fully trust God. If I can’t plan it, I don’t even try. :)

      I would love to hear your story, Keri.

      You said blogging is helping you learn to follow God’s lead…how is that? What do you mean?

      1. Keri says:

        Following God’s lead on so many levels….first of all, many of my friends don’t seem to think this blogging thing is all that great. Some of my closest friends haven’t even read my blog. And, me talking about my blog is pretty much up there with me talking about snorting cocaine (I don’t do that, but I think you get the point!). So, for me, blogging doesn’t make much common sense.

        On another level, if I want my blog to be ministry driven, the posts have to be from Him. I have to allow the Holy Spirit to speak through me. I’m not able to do this 100% of the time. Sometimes I’m so tired and I think I just blog whatever’s in the forefront of my mind. But, other times, it’s a constant and intentional choice to let Him take the lead.

        Much more I could say on this, friend. I’m thinking of doing some kind of blog carnival on the topic of why/what makes you blog. I have to figure out how to do it first. LOL

        1. Melissa says:

          Blogging is a strange world. After two years I’m still hesitant to talk to non-bloggers about it. A lot of people don’t understand. I get the same reaction about Twitter too. The majority of the population “get” Facebook, because they’re on it. It’s when you start interacting with people you’ve never met that you get the crazy looks. Haha!

          Let me encourage you, Keri. Sometimes the posts that just seem to be at the forefront of your mind can be the ones that connect the most with people. What you’re living, other’s are living. Like your posts about Mommy Fails. Having a mixture of the deeply theological and the everyday life can be refreshing, both for you and your readers.

  6. Dana says:

    Those girls at your bible college sound kind of crazy! :) (hehe) Bible College really was a funny thing when it came to finding the “one”..(and I include myself in that insanity) It was really hard to see that moment happening for others and not get sucked into the “what about me vortex”! I always loved seeing you and Josh together.. there was a calm and a maturity to your relationship and it was so obvious how head over heels you were for each other! God’s plan is ALWAYS better than our own! I was convinced I would find me a husband at Bible College. :) God had other things in mind…and I actually found a husband at the grocery store! :) haha!

    I can look back on so many moments in my life when I wondered why my story was different than those around me..the biggest one being our fertility struggles.. but God has blessed us with 3 of the most beautiful and amazing kiddos through the miracle of adoption! I’m glad now that my journey to motherhood was different from other women..because I can see now that His plan is perfect (and there were times a long the way when I doubted that)..and turned out way better than the way I had it planned out for myself!

    1. Melissa says:

      They were crazy! But I loved them, particularly for being different from me. I was so nervous when we first met because I was scared of you. You embodied everything I wanted to be: stylish, girly, popular, creative. I’ll never forget that first night staying up talking late and realizing how similar we were. I love that you were a part of my college memories, my only regret is that I didn’t get to come back the next year. I’m so grateful for the internet and getting to reconnect with you.

      Your story has been such an inspiration for me. The faith and trust you show in God through each difficult step, the praise you give Him in the victories, are all testaments to your relationship with Him. Your journey to motherhood is such a valuable one, because it’s one that many women don’t want to talk about. Your willingness to share it encourages so many who are in the midst of it. :)

  7. Dana says:

    p.s. I should clarify that the grocery store wasn’t having some “husband special on isle 9”..he was there shopping! :) haha!

  8. Moe says:

    I would have waited 15 years… but my wife wasn’t having that. So we dated for 2 years and after engagement 1 year. Now, we are almost at 10 years of marriage.

    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s so awesome. BTW, real man have a goatee like his. Yah!!

    1. Dustin says:

      I’m with Moe. I only wish I could grow facial hair.

    2. Melissa says:

      Congrats to you then, also! :)

      And as for the goatee…it’s morphed into a full beard now. It’s actually pretty strange to look back at these old pics. Haha!

  9. Prudence says:

    My husband and I dated four years before we got married. In some ways it was a long four years. We faced some opposition, people who didn’t think we should be together (long story & needless to say they were wrong). But I’ll always say the four years was good for us. It was what we needed.

    As women I think we all have expectations placed on us by the world and society as far as what dating, relationships, engagements will be like. They are never like that.

    We celebrate ten years in May!

  10. Dustin says:

    We dated a few years, engaged a year, and now married almost 6 years. Thing is …. in my family I “waited” much, much longer than every one else.

    My bro got married in college (maybe 20, she was 19). My sister got married right out of high school (she was 19, he’s still in college). I was the old dude…. LOL…. and I was 23.

    1. Melissa says:

      Isn’t it funny how what’s late in one family can be early in another?! My grandma was married at nineteen, and had my mom at 20. My mom was married at nineteen, and had me at 20. So I felt behind when I married at 20 (almost 21) and had my first at 23. :)

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