Eight years ago this month, I was at a hat-themed party in Washington, D.C., feeling an acute level of insecurity. In a variety of areas of my life, I was dealing with a lack of integrity, self-control, and spiritual maturity. And although I’m sure my personal life could’ve been worse, it was bad enough that I knew I wouldn’t be getting married for at least another couple of years.
Yet that night in Washington, D.C., history changed right before my eyes when a lovely Puerto Rican woman named Raquel walked into the house wearing a red velvet cowboy hat with white fuzzy trim. I did not think she was going to be my wife; in fact, that was the last thing on my mind. Rather, I simply thought she was pretty and poised and probably dating someone else. But I had nothing to lose, so I went over and spoke to her. Smart move.
Everything Turns Around
Although English is Raquel’s first language, she agreed to go to the back porch and practice Spanish with me. And before the night was over, she also gave me salsa lessons that ended with me getting her phone number.
Four months later, we were engaged.
Five months after that, we were married.
And it all started one night when I did not expect it.
There was a lot of euphoria in those early days, but it wasn’t long into engagement before God began using my relationship with Raquel to form my character in ways that I didn’t really want. Many of her strengths and weaknesses revealed my pettiness, pride, and arrogance that I didn’t even know existed. As Mike Mason says in The Mystery of Marriage, I felt like I was always under surveillance after I got married. I couldn’t tuck away my character flaws anymore. I had to love her (and God) in new ways that demanded more than I had to give.
Life in the Valley
Maybe you’re in a tough spot right now. Maybe you’ve been unemployed much longer than you ever thought you’d be. Maybe you’ve been waiting on your house to sell for months. Maybe you think you’re hopelessly single. Whatever it is, that kind of waiting can wear you down.
Whether you’re in an emotional peak or a valley, however, the important thing is to invite God into it – not to idolize your current state and believe that it defines you. It doesn’t.
If you’re in a valley, He can turn it around in a moment, but when He does, keep in mind that the turnaround isn’t the answer to your prayer. He is the answer to your prayer, and you’ll certainly be needing Him in the valleys that will inevitably come after your time on the mountaintop of blessing. As Oswald Chambers says,
We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength. Yet our spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mountain. We feel that we could talk and live like perfect angels, if we could only stay on the mountaintop. Those times of exaltation are exceptional and they have their meaning in our life with God, but we must beware to prevent our spiritual selfishness from wanting to make them the only time.
We are inclined to think that everything that happens is to be turned into useful teaching. In actual fact, it is to be turned into something even better than teaching, namely, character.