I had only been dating my girlfriend for three months when I decided to ask for her father’s permission to marry her. It didn’t go well — not at first.
On a sunny Saturday morning, I sat across from her dad trying to make small talk as my omelet grew cold, but I couldn’t focus. My heart was racing and I just wanted to get it over with, so I went for it.
“Charlie,” I said with bated breath, “I need to ask you something.”
He looked up.
I burst into a grin and then blurted it out: “I’d like to have permission to marry your daughter.”
Thus began an exhausting ninety-minute conversation in which we went round and round discussing whether this was the right time for Raquel and me to get married.
Charlie raised legitimate concerns — for example, Raquel was starting an MBA program and working full time. I tried to respond to his questions the best I could, but we kept retreading the same ground, which always led him to the same conclusion: “I’m not a total green right now, but it’s not a red light either. It’s yellowish.”
Finally, Charlie asked a question that turned the conversation upside down: “When were you planning on doing this?”
“I’d like to ask her to marry me on her birthday so she won’t see it coming,” I said.
Charlie looked down and paused as I waited for him to respond. When he looked up, his eyes were filled with tears.
“You have my permission,” he said. “It’s a green light — 100 percent. God showed Raquel’s mother and me that this was going to happen.”
After composing himself, he said, “A year ago, Raquel’s mother was awake and had a vision. She saw a small birthday cake with one candle on it, and there was an engagement ring around the base of the candle. We wondered what the birthday cake vision meant. Well, now we know. That engagement ring on the birthday cake belongs to Raquel.”
I was dumbfounded as Charlie and I drove away from the café. God wanted Raquel and me to be together, and if there was any doubt, He had just cleared it up.
It’s been 12 years since the night I got engaged to Raquel. We haven’t had a supernatural experience quite like that since, but I think we’re actually more aware of His presence now.
Any married couple will tell you that if you stick it out long enough, you’ll walk through plenty of valleys that you never anticipated prior to marriage — valleys in which it feels like God is nowhere to be found. But I never anticipated just how good the valleys would be for us.
The gift of the valleys is that they often move us to a place of desperation as we face the unique challenges that come with marriage.
We’re too weak to climb the cliffs of sickness, grief, job issues, raising kids, and/or financial challenges. We need a third person climbing with us — one who’s much stronger and can lift us up. For Raquel and me, that person has been Jesus, the one who brought us together in the first place.
The spiritual intimacy in our marriage hasn’t been forged in the moments of unmistakable divine intervention. It has been forged on the precipices, the moments when we’re standing on the mountainside, shivering and afraid we won’t make it.
In those moments, we wrap our arms around each other and cry out to our heavenly Father. And when we raise our heads and open our eyes, we realize that His arms are tightly wrapped around us. He’s the one who brought us together in the beginning, and He’s the one who holds us together now.
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