From singleness to courtship to engagement; what a tremendously amazing and interesting journey. God's love, faithfulness and providence is what has led me and my fiancé to this point, planning our future together as man and wife, and this is truly a glorious thing. Yet, the most awesome lesson learnt through all of this experience is this: engagement is not utopia!
Most of you who have read this introduction are probably thinking "Well of course it isn't" but there are some of you, who like me, have currently or previously placed a high expectation on this particular aspect of life which, if you maintain up until you get engaged, will probably disappoint you.
Myself and my now fiancé (still getting used to saying that) had been courting for approximately two and a half years prior to getting engaged. I met him in my final year of university and he was in his first year. Our relationship was purely platonic for quite some time as we really gravitated to one another based on our theological understanding of the word of God and our desire to grow in our knowledge of Christ. As things moved forward, we were able to really get to know one another, and were astonished by how God had caused us to fit, as cliché as it sounds, even despite resistance.
There were dates, there were times of prayer and study, there were times of trial and hardship and there were mistakes. Yet, all in all, we do not doubt that God's sovereign hand has been in place before the foundations of the earth and during this journey and therefore trust, that we are right where we are meant to be.
I would say that after approximately a year of courting, I felt confident that my fiancé was the man I wanted to marry; based on his character coupled with what God has stated concerning all that should be evident in the believing husband.
However, from the moment my fiancé finished university, the conversations which arose concerning marriage and our 'desperate need' to embark on that journey as soon as possible were more prevalent than any other point in our relationship and gave rise to not a few headaches!
Following intentional conversations with countless older Christians who are married, what started as an edifying discourse concerning the biblical picture of relationships and marriage started to become a massive burden on both myself and my fiancé, causing a lot of strain on our relationship.
Then there was the wealth of articles concerning courtship, engagement and marriage that became an unhealthy place for me. I dwelt there, fighting to fit into the ideals of men and make things happen based on people's opinions rather than biblical truth.
Why a burden? Well, we so often felt suffocated and that became evident in our opinions of courtship and marriage, our interactions with one another and this produced an overriding feeling of not being able to embrace where we are at and ultimately glorify God in the journey.
As a result of this cocktail of emotions and lack of perspective rooted in the word of God, I began to idolise marriage and engagement thinking the following lies were true: 'if I could only get engaged, then everything would be alright,' 'it's not fair when will it be my turn?'
Moving from this place to understand and take comfort in God's perfect timing was a monumental element which caused my heart to be prepared for making the lifelong commitment of marriage through betrothal.
Upon getting engaged, I don't think my phone has rung so much. I and my fiancé got countless calls from people crying and screaming and really rejoicing in the massive step that we have taken by God's grace.
One of the remarks I got quite often when having conversations concerning the engagement was "for someone who has just got engaged, you sound really normal". This was always followed by the question "How does it feel to be engaged?" And honestly, the only word I could use to describe it was sobering, a really sobering experience.
I am not downplaying this event in any way shape or form; it is an amazing gift from God and one which both myself and my fiancé have desired so much. However, upon getting engaged and it falling drastically short of my once unrealistic expectations, I was reminded of this truth: only God completes and satisfies.
Engagement is not utopia, the Garden of Eden, the heaven on earth I once deemed it to be, and getting engaged has been a refreshing reminder of this fact. It is another season which will come with its own trials and difficulties which God by His grace will use to conform us into the image of His Son.
This is why this experience is a joyful yet sobering one, because God in His mercy continually brings me to a place where I see my desperate need to die to myself, repent concerning the idols I have put in place of God to satisfy and complete me, and have my eyes fixed on the author of life Jesus Christ.
In order to provide clarity, I would like to say that I do not think there is anything wrong with discussing these important issues and endeavouring to present sound biblical advice married with experience to guide young couples.
I think we (I am most certainly included) would declare that marriage and relationships are not the be all and end all of life. Yet our actions do not correlate with our statements. We are often more concerned with these hot topics (courtship, engagement and marriage being one of them) that we fail to ask the simplest yet most important of questions; how are you? How is your walk with the Lord?
In light of this, my prayer is that as a result of this article and the effective working of God in your heart, you would be compelled to tear down any idols you have built or expected to fulfil you as only God can. You would repent of this sin (it is sin!) and turn again to your first love; the only One who can truly satisfy. And lastly, but by no means least, we would all remember what marriage is a picture of, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the lamb who was slain for the sins of the world.
May we accurately esteem that which is more important as priority. Everything we need for this life is built on the foundation of the gospel! Let us never forget this.