It seems like a long time since I have written on this blog. Much has changed since my thoughts on Hope and Valentines were published here. For one thing, my beloved asked me to marry him on March 17, 2020, and I said yes, that it would be my honor and joy to be his wife. At least that’s what I think I said. That moment feels like slow-motion and a blur all at once. I remember hugging him tightly afterwards, rather unaware of my family surrounding us, as he had proposed in front of them.
Being engaged to be married is a season I have long dreamed of and prayed for. Part of me wants to share just the story above, and let everyone think that this is a picture-perfect blissful dream coming true. Love, roses, lace, diamonds, wreaths of smiles, all that.
To be sure, getting to marry Erik is a far better fulfillment of my dreams than anything I could have asked for or imagined. I am very much in love with this man who I so deeply respect, and he cherishes me in a way that I never dreamed possible. He has given me flowers and I’m wearing his ring (pearl! – because he picked it out himself and got a 100/100 in showing me how well he knows and loves me by getting the truly perfect ring) and I do get to be a bride wreathed in smiles and walking down the aisle to the man I love and have prayed for over so many years. I am so very excited to be Mrs. Erik Leask.
But all has not been picture-perfect. Our story is one of God’s perfect faithfulness, not our own goodness. Somehow, in a twist of events that I should have expected, when you put two sinners together in a relationship who think they know what they’re doing but haven’t actually ever done it before, and you have equally imperfect people trying to give you advice and guide you through it . . . things get messy.
Messy though it has been, I know this much: God answers prayers, He is faithful, and His mercies are new every morning. He forgives and redeems and restores. He is gracious with us beyond measure. His mercy and grace are lavish and undeserved. He knows our frame and remembers that we are but dust. He is strong when we are weak and His steadfast love endures forever.
All through this relationship, I have been continually in awe of Him. And as Erik and I learn and more to be in awe of Him and adore Him together, our hearts are drawn ever closer to each other, too.
The less-than-perfect details of our story are unimportant to share here. While I have learned to be vulnerable, I must also respect what is private, and hold closely what is sacred and not meant to be shared publicly.
Suffice it to say, this relationship is the hardest and best thing I have ever done. I have come face to face with my own wicked, sinful nature like never before. I have learned that the more you love someone and they love you, the greater the capacity to hurt and be hurt. I have found that the process of leaving and cleaving isn’t just a one-time thing, and that it can be more difficult for everyone than they were prepared for. I have seen how private choices have very public implications. I have experienced the exhaustion of trying to please people rather than the Lord and trying to control what is not within my control. I have hit squarely the reality that rules and theories and expectations are shaky ground at best, that what I really need is utter dependance upon Christ and nothing else.
There is nothing hidden before the eyes of God. I am ill-deserving of anything other than God’s wrath and judgment. The consequences of sin are real and yet God’s grace is greater.
Yes, our story is a messy one, not the neat and tidy one I’d envisioned. But what else should I have expected from the merging of two messy, broken sinners? God’s grace alone has brought us together, and God’s grace alone will keep us together. Marriage is not a gift that is given to us because of our own merit, but rather a gift given that we might be sanctified and molded more into His image.
God did not withhold marriage from me before to punish me. He simply knew what would sanctify me most. Singleness has been that. And when the time came that marriage would be the better way for me to be sanctified, He brought Erik and I together.
I remember reading “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas years ago, which is written from the premise “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” So I expected that lots of sanctification and the resulting “hard” of holiness over happiness would come within marriage. But, as it turns out, this sanctification doesn’t just begin when we say “I do”.
Sanctification was happening during our single years. All those days of waiting and wondering and learning to trust God – those weren’t wasted. All those hours spent on our knees in prayer – those weren’t wasted. All those opportunities to choose joy and be thankful when others were given what we wanted – those weren’t wasted. All those relationships invested in with friends and family, learning how to do life alongside people who are hard to love – those weren’t wasted. All those pages of Scripture read and studied and applied – those weren’t wasted.
From our very first message (because yes, we met on ChristianMingle), when I asked for his testimony and he asked me how he could pray for me, our relationship has led to further sanctification. During our weeks of messaging, as we wrote 3 hour long essays to each other, we challenged each other and prayed for each other and encouraged each other. We both saw clearly the ways God was using us to sharpen each other.
And that has continued. Our first date, we prayed with each other and discussed Scripture together and went to one of my abstinence education presentations together and talked about it, and met my family and managed somehow to make our first date last 14 hours.
One thing led to another and as our “real-life” relationship bloomed, the sanctification only became magnified. The theories we used to discuss became very real and personal. The expectations we had were confronted with the reality of who the other person actually was and what it was actually like to be in a relationship. The things we’d hidden behind, even good things like schedules, became impossible to maintain, especially when the world changed and we both went through job losses/transitions/changes and we found ourselves living 30 minutes apart instead of 3+ hours apart.
Yes, we fell in love and chose to love each other through it all. And today Erik and I are very much in love, this is true. We are counting down the days till our wedding and yet it feels like an eternity away. The joys of being newly in love have been ours to share and delight in, and every moment together is treasured and held dear. Loving and being loved by Erik is the greatest gift of my life, after loving and being loved by God.
But true love isn’t just about happiness and all the feelings of being in love. Love is about sacrifice and motives and choice. Love is about laying down our lives, not just in the dying but in the everyday living, too.
The pastor who is doing our pre-marital counseling challenged us to read and discuss the familiar passage of 1 Corinthians 13. I’ve memorized it, but I certainly haven’t mastered it. Love, defined by God, is so different from what the world calls love, so unnatural to us selfish creatures, so easy to talk about and so hard to actually do.
Love is about being patient, when the world is falling apart and the pressure builds and the last thing we want to do is be patient. Love is about being kind, when someone does not deserve it. Love is about not envying what someone else has, not boasting in our own abilities to navigate this well, not being arrogant about what we think is best, not being rude no matter how we are treated. Love is about yielding our way rather than insisting in our own way, from the smallest decisions with each other to the biggest ones. Love is about never allowing even the smallest bit of irritation or resentment to fester or excusing it away. Love is about pursuing holiness and fleeing sin rather than delighting in forbidden pleasures – or even trying to come close to the “line” of what God calls wrongdoing. Love is about rejoicing with the truth, being honest no matter the cost, and loving each other even vulnerability costs much.
Love bears all things, even when the burden is heavy. Love believes all things, trusting someone not because they are trustworthy in and of themselves, but because we trust Christ and we trust Christ’s work in their lives. Love hopes all things, even when hoping feels risky and unsafe. Love endures all things, choosing to love even when it is purely a choice and not a feeling. Love never ends.
Without love, anything we do, anything we say, anything we know or believe or sacrifice, it’s just obnoxious noise, worthless, and gains us nothing. Everything else will pass away, but love will remain. Faith, hope, love, they’re all good, but the greatest of these is still love.
It is a joy to love. But not because it feels good to love or because it makes us happy. It is a joy to love, because love is at the core of God’s salvation plan and our love points to His love. We love because He first loved us. Love makes us more like Him – so of course love is sanctifying. It’s hard to be sanctified, to have our rough edges rubbed away, to be refined by fire, to be purified by His work in us instead of our own “trying harder”.
But love is worth it. I am grateful for the gift of love, and all that comes with it. I am grateful for this journey of hardest and best. I am grateful for the joy of loving and being loved by Erik, and the accompanying sanctification that comes with that. I am grateful for the very best love of all, the love that laid down His life for me when I was yet a sinner, the love of God that nothing can ever separate me from. And so, because He loved me first, I love Him, and I will love those He gives me to love. There is no fear in love, even though love is a risk and the cost is high.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Let us press into more of Christ and be transformed by His love. He has lavished His love upon us and made us His children.
May you walk in His love today.