A Former Skeptic’s Journey Toward Marriage
If you’ve spent any amount of time on our website, you would have seen at least one of our featured wedding pictures and would clearly know that I’m a married lady. What you might not know is that up until about five years ago, I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to get married. Needless to say, God has done a lot of work on my heart for me to be where I am today – and that heart journey is what I’d like to share with you in this article : )
There have been two conversations that were particularly instrumental in what I’d like to call my “warming up to marriage” process. But before I get to those, let’s step into young Karla’s mind back in the day…
A Step into the Past
“You don’t know what’s about to come” That was the prevailing silent thought in the back of my mind. I remember attending weddings as a pre-teen, teenager, and even young adult, and having this cynical thought. Typically it was during the exchange of vows, when all the beautiful words, emotions, and promises were exchanged – a time where everything was right, everything was ideal and everything was romantic; the best it would ever be. My young, realistic mind couldn’t separate the reality I knew marriage could be, from the sweep-you-off-your-feet emotions I saw at weddings that seemed to so quickly fade away. Marriage is hard and not always rainbows and butterflies. Needless to say, I wasn’t quite a romantic; I didn’t hold wedding ceremonies for my dolls and barbies, or doodle hearts around my name and my crush’s on the cover of my Five Star 1-Subject College Lined notebooks. I was, and still am to a degree, more of a realist. However, what I’ve realized is that I had a skewed view of what reality was – or could be – and I’m so grateful that’s been, and continues to be, corrected.
While I don’t remember my exact age, I know it was pre-highschool when I came to the loose conclusion that I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to get married. I say “loose conclusion” because I hadn’t decided I didn’t want to, but I also hadn’t decided that I one day wanted to. I casually mentioned this to my mom one evening as we sat in the kitchen, and it seemed to alarm her more than I thought it would. This led to those conversations that stuck with me for many years, and I’d say had a catalytic impact on my relationships, or lack thereof over the following years.
Two Pivotal Conversations
The first one was with my grandmother during one of her visits from Brazil. I’m not sure how this topic came up with her but she told me about what the early days of losing my grandfather were like for her. They had been married for 43 years. She recalled to me that of course, she went through much sadness and grief over his passing – spending that long of your life with someone else leaves a huge void when they are no longer there. But after that season of mourning and adjustment, there was a newfound sense of freedom. She could come and go as she pleased with no need to consider someone else’s schedule. She could do what she wanted to do, the way she wanted to do it and when she wanted to do it – she only had herself to worry about and that had a nice side to it. However, what she also came to realize, she explained teary-eyed to me, was that though the independence had its positives, it also brought a loneliness that eventually crept and settled in. She would have traded in that “freedom” for life with my grandfather again, though of course it wasn’t an option. She had to adjust to the fact there was no one to go home to, no one to recount her day to, no one sitting on the yellow chair of the living room reading a newspaper as he used to do. That stuck with me; the loneliness of not sharing your life with someone.
This conversation would occasionally come back to me – particularly during times I wish I had someone to share a moment or emotion with. Graduations, sunsets, travels, etc. I started to wonder if maybe the joys of sharing my life with someone and being a part of someone else’s might be worth the challenges that would come with it.
The second conversation was with my father. Understanding the seriousness with which I took the topic of marriage – as I did with most things in life – he told me that I didn’t need to decide if I wanted to get married one day or not, but that I shouldn’t close myself off to people. If I closed myself off, people would notice and would distance themselves from me. Just be open, was the takeaway. This was difficult for me. I had a hard time separating a coffee date from needing to decide if I could spend the rest of my life with that person. This led to what today Jon likes to call “a Karla solution” – a neither here nor there answer that kind of addresses both sides or options but neither both fully. I kept the coffee dates and subsequent hang outs as “allowed” and casual, but taking that next step into a committed relationship would take me coming to terms with stepping onto the road to marriage. Though extreme, this was the progression in my mind and it took a while to break away from. My sister was instrumental in those times, as she would so wisely remind me either that “its a coffee date, not a proposal”, or that I “should be careful and decide how I feel so as to not lead the guy on” – she always seemed to know which of the two I needed to hear! .
I would have said at the time that I took those two conversations to heart – and I truly believe I did to the extent I knew how – but in retrospect, by not actively applying them to how I lived my life, I passively allowed those things to happen in my deepest of hearts. Though I wouldn’t have said I closed myself off to people around me, I wasn’t truly open in the deepest sense, and I still wasn’t sold on wanting to spend the rest of my life with someone.
As I think back, I allowed myself to focus on the difficult and challenging aspects of marriage and those became reasons why all the good things weren’t worth it. And slowly, the walls went up.
A Hammer to the Walls
Fast forward to the summer of 2010 – I went to Brazil after graduating high school to visit family and take some time before starting college in the fall. I would only later realize it, but this trip was a catalyst for the change in my heart the Lord was working on. I was staying with extended family and on one particular evening, one of my younger cousins didn’t quite feel like obeying my aunt and it led to a bit of a tense exchange. I was in the room at the time so I excused myself and went to the living room. I grabbed my Bible and journal on the way and lounged peacefully in the dim silence of their couch. What followed was an epiphany that can only be credited to the Lord and the work of the Holy Spirit. My initial pessimistic thought was “goodness, if that’s what parenting and marriage life is like, I’ll take a pass!”. But almost as quickly as that thought came, it followed by what became the mantra I would go back to time and time again in the years to come. It was this:
“If my goal is to be more like Christ, and Christ loved all people, despite all their many shortcomings, who am I to do what I can in order to stay away from and avoid dealing with the shortcomings of others?!?!!?”
[direct quote from my journal… yes, I still have it.]
Essentially, my heart’s aversion to the difficulties of marriage and all the challenges that inherently come with it, was a prideful symptom of me not remembering that Christ willingly chose to pursue me even when I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8). This revelation was the first hammer’s strike at the walls that inadvertently had grown around my heart. It was a long process, one filled with recurring doubts, fears and insecurities; but God slowly and lovingly brought down those walls and convicted me of the undoubted truth that it IS, indeed, worth it.
A New Place
For the first time in my life, in August of 2015, I was able to say that I wanted to one day get married. Realist that I am, I was very well aware that decision didn’t mean Mr. Husband would show up the next day and our journey to the altar would be blissful. But I remember the day and mark it as an important one in my journey because it was a victory – a victory over the negativity I had allowed to twist my view of something so sacredly created the Lord, a victory over the lies that I fundamentally knew to be false but couldn’t shake, and a victory in my surrendering this area of my life to God. I shared it with my mom – I was home for a month after leaving NYC and before moving to Tampa for the first time to start grad school (that’s a story for another time). Knowing my past hesitations and aversions, she was proud to hear it and of the growth that had brought me to that place.
If you don’t already know Jon and I’s story, it’s safe to say that it was a bumpy ride. And now we’re in a new season of newly-marriedness that’s full of learning, opportunities for grace, and fun. Yes, it is challenging, but seeing God’s grace and love up close through marriage is quite a unique window into how His love for us is displayed.
To those who might be working through their own doubts and questions, or perhaps even frustrations with a desire not yet realized – to you I say, the goal is the same: to become more and more like Christ. There are many ways to do this, one of which could be through marriage, but by no means is it the only way. I challenge you to “abide in Him [and] walk in the same way in which He walked” (1 John 2:6). Though wonderful, marriage is not the capstone of life – it is merely, yet amazingly, another facet through which we have the opportunity to reflect and be shown Christ. Don’t limit yourself to only experiencing that once you get married. Live and reflect Christ now.