Monday, December 14, 2009

How do I know she was THE ONE? Reflecting on 20 years of knowing Luz

As Luz and I approach our twentieth anniversary, I find myself reflecting on just how we came to be a couple. Though I obviously know our story through and through, I still have to think about just how it all happened! It's an important process to consider, as in my duties as a pastor, I am frequently approached by individuals who feel they may have met, "The ONE", and want to know just HOW I knew when I met Luz? What was it that distinguished her from any other woman I had met and what made me so sure that SHE was the woman for whom I had been destined?

First of all, I prayed about it. When I was a little boy, it was clear to me that my mom was a very special woman and that my dad was very fortunate man. I asked my mom, "How did daddy find you and how can I find a great wife for myself?" Not that I understood all the dynamics, but I had observed enough from my parents and others to know that not all marriages were the same and that something that important couldn't just "happen". Mom's answer was instant and easy to understand. She said, "Pray Son, that the Lord will first develop the character within you to appreciate and know how to love a good woman, and then that He will give you the wisdom to recognize her when He brings you across her path. Also ask Him to give you the patience to wait as you will encounter many women that you could marry but shouldn't, because some of them will be great women, but not the right one for you or you the right man for them to consider for marriage." That was a lot for a youngster to digest, but I understood the praying part and just asked the Lord to help me with all the stuff I didn't understand.

Time passed, I got older and experienced some of what felt like the most jarring crushes in the history of mankind. Hormones surged, emotions ran high, and on a few occasions I was smitten to an extent that seemed to be beyond human endurance. Nevertheless, I was fortunate to have been surrounded by my parents and mature friends who gave me perspective and encouraged me time had not yet come and I needed to wait. I asked again, in frustration, "How do you know when the time is right?" "Keep praying" I was told "...and keep waiting!"

What was I praying for? To a great extent, I was praying for an understanding of my own heart. My mentors made it clear that I needed to understand who I was and what I was about before I took the step to join my life to someone else. I needed to grow, develop and mature into the kind of man who could walk through life side by side with an amazing woman and be the kind of man to face not only the good times, but the hardest times life would have to offer and not abandon my spouse in the process. I also needed to be patient enough to allow the Lord to develop and mold me into such a person and wait for His decision on when I was ready for such a journey, without leaping out of my own passions or desperation.

Of course, I was also praying for the type of woman I felt I wanted, along with a list of characteristics and traits that I felt were "essential". That list went through endless changes until I reached a point of saying, "Lord, you know me inside and out. Rather than me telling you what I want, give me the wisdom to know spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally when you have answered my prayer." The Bible describes our human hearts as having an amazing capacity for deception and wickedness even when our overall intentions are good. I know Sam and know that left to myself, my ability to make stupid choices for stupid reasons knows no bounds. For this most important of choices, I needed to have my mind clear, my heart cleansed and my will surrendered to what God had planned for me. That meant spending more time considering a woman's character than her curves and being a student of a woman's way in her walk with Jesus rather than studying her way of wiggling when she walked. By God's power and with the encouragement of many friends who held me accountable, I endured.

By the time I arrived in the Philippines 20 years ago, I knew that I wanted someone, but also knew that I was clueless in understanding just the someone I needed. I also knew that Scripture promised that if a person seeks God's Kingdom and His righteousness before all else, everything else that is needed will be added . With that in mind, I traveled to a place I didn't know much about, to serve in a ministry I didn't exactly understand, to be introduced to a woman I didn't know I had been praying for my entire life. How did I know that? Well, my prayer had been for God to let me know spiritually, intellectually and emotionally. I'm not sure it was exactly in that order, because in the words of the Beatles's tune "I Saw Her Standing There" "My heart went BOOM when I crossed that room!" Nevertheless, once my pulse returned to normal and I was able to get to know her and what God had done for her and what she was doing for Him, her character was undeniable. Furthermore, her love for people and her desire to minister in the most difficult places so that would know God's love were clear indicators of her devotion to the Lord and her unwavering commitment to serve Him with her life and not just her lips. After I was convinced that by some miracle she was also interested in me, and that the Lord was performing something special between us, we began to act on the informed opinion that we had each met "The One" and that the Lord had a plan for us to be joined in marriage.

Has our journey been nothing but roses and candy? Hardly. I am convinced that when we are seeking out a life partner, we are often seeking a companion for a pleasure cruise, when we ought to be praying for a shipmate for a war at sea. Fortunately, when the Lord guides the decision, He ensures that you have the right crew, ready, willing and able to fight alongside you through all the battles of life. Luz and I have walked together through the death of a parent, the death of a child, adventures in parenting, misunderstandings, firings, miracle babies, triumphs of justice and miracles all around. I know that we face many, many more challenges in the years ahead. Nevertheless, I have great confidence that the same God who brought us together will see our union through to its proper end when one of us or both of us, goes Home in death to be with Him. How do I know? I've seen what He has done in us and for us through so many of life's ups and downs and in the lives of others who have trusted Him, I have no doubt of what He will do in the future. His Word says it. By faith we're living it. I've also seen it in the lives of so many others and that's how I know! Until next time...


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