Nelson and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago. I thought it would be a good opportunity to share our love story and God’s goodness in our lives. Our marriage is not perfect, but we are 100% certain that it was God-arranged. Remembering how the Lord put us together helps us push through the difficult times. Whatever your relationship status, I hope our story will encourage you to trust God as the Author and Finisher of your story, too.
LIKE AT FIRST SIGHT 🙂
Nelson and I met in 2007. I had just returned home to Jersey City after graduating from college and he was a new guy at church. Without even talking to him, I already knew I liked him – he was quiet, smart and definitely not American. (Nothing against my fellow countrymen – I just have a thing for international people!)
For a few months, I tried to involve myself in conversations when Nelson was around, but we just weren’t connecting.
Lucky for me, in 2008, he joined the writing ministry I led at church. I got to spend time with the guy on a weekly basis. And I discovered that he was super nerdy and witty, like me. (He would contest the fact that I’m witty – guaranteed!) We began exchanging ministry-related emails that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I took a keen interest in feeding Nelson when I discovered he was a bachelor with no family in the country and no cooking skills, either. But despite my best efforts, he never complimented my cooking. I would ask him how it was, and he would say something like “could’ve used some more salt…” Ugh. I hated/ loved this guy!
At some point I realized I was falling in love with Nelson, but beyond some great repartee and unimpressive meal offerings, I didn’t want to initiate anything, especially since he had expressed ZERO interest in me.
It also hit me around this time that if I needed sound life advice, Nelson was the guy I would go to. I respected him, the way I thought a wife should respect her husband.
That realization freaked me out a bit.
THE MARRIAGE COMMITTEE COMES FOR A VISIT
Then I found out that Nelson’s parents were coming from Kuwait for a visit. Nelson told me that their main objective would be marrying him off, as he was already past suitable marrying age by Indian standards. (He was 29 at the time!)
This precipitated a really dark time for me. I felt like I was going to fall off a cliff. I was convinced they were going to find him a demure Indian wife – someone who would get the spices just right. And someone who didn’t talk back. (These were literally the thoughts in my mind. Terrible and super stereotypical, I know! Indian women are anything but demure.)
I felt like I was going to die. I could not see a future without Nelson in it.
I began to seek God. In the months leading up to this dark time, the Lord had told my senior pastor that my husband would be coming soon. The Holy Spirit also said the same thing to me one day in bed. “Your husband is coming soon.” Ok, I thought. Looking back, God was preparing me.
So Nelson’s parents came. I offered to take his mom shopping for bedsheets and perfumes. She asked me almost immediately if I knew whether Nelson had a girlfriend or not. His mom expressed concern because Nelson only has one arm. Could it be that no one was interested in him because of this perceived handicap? No! I told her that Nelson doesn’t act like he has a handicap, and people quickly forget that he is missing an arm, like I did.
Anyway, a few weeks later, I got an unusually formal text message from Nelson inviting me to lunch with his parents at his place. Nelson’s mom wanted to teach me how to make fried rice. I accepted without hesitation.
I was nervous on the day. We began cooking after some pleasantries, and Nelson and his father left to go “sightseeing” in New York City.
Now I was VERY nervous. My soon-to-be mother-in-law and I got to talking as we sautéed onions and cashews. She asked me again if I knew of anyone interested in Nelson. I said no.
“And you, what are you looking for in a husband?” There were two big things on my list, I told her — that we would be friends beforehand, and that we would work together in ministry.
Then she pinned me with her stare and asked, “What about Nelson, isn’t he your friend?” Ideally I would have preferred to express my feelings to Nelson first, but I knew there was no turning back from this point.
So I looked at my future mother-in-law in the eyes and said, “I love him. I would marry him tomorrow, but I’m not sure he’s interested in me.”
The rest of that conversation is a bit of a blur to me. All I know is that she gave me an Indian head shake in the affirmative and told me God had revealed through a dream the night before that I was the one.
Nelson and his dad returned and we lumbered through lunch, avoiding any mention of marriage. Then my future in-laws asked to speak to my mother so we could discuss forming an “alliance”.
My mom rushed over and we spoke in veiled terms about getting married. Nelson walked us to my mom’s car, cracking jokes as if nothing had happened. Later that night, he emailed me a question about the Christmas play we were working on — I just wanted to smack him!
I couldn’t reconcile his demeanor with what was going on. I spoke to a mentor and she suggested reaching out to Nelson to meet and talk about the recent developments. “If he’s serious, he’ll agree to meet right away,” she said. And she was right.
We settled on the following evening – Tuesday, September 15, 2009.
I was a wreck leading up to the meeting. That afternoon I sat on a bench on the Hoboken waterfront looking out at New York City. I didn’t know what to think. I was looking for some direction from God, but I felt as if He was silent. Nothing happened when I prayed. And nothing spoke to me when I opened my Bible, either. Until I stumbled upon John 18:5-4, the passage where soldiers come to arrest Jesus:
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said.
What struck me was how Jesus went in the direction of his destiny, fully knowing what was to come, yet unflinching.
“God, let me be like Jesus. Let me approach my destiny with the same boldness.”
As I breathed out this prayer, I felt steady for the first time all day. I had a sense that what was coming would be cataclysmic — there would be life before and life after this encounter.
The minutes creaked by and then finally, it was time. We met at a bench on Washington Blvd., behind Newport Centre.
After an awkward greeting, Nelson went on to tell me that he knew I had feelings for him, but they weren’t mutual.
“Love is made up of two components – commitment and emotion. The commitment part, I have 100% for you,” he said. “And the second part, which is the butterflies, the feelings, the romance…that… I have none for you.”
My heart sunk.
“But I’m sure the Lord will give me the love…so, are you willing to be my wife?”
This was not the marriage proposal I envisioned, clearly. But I knew my future was with Nelson, so I shed a couple of tears, and said yes.
Perhaps I am destined to be the unloved wife, I thought. But I trusted too much in God’s goodness!
“It worked out for Isaac and Rebekah in the Bible, so I think it will work out for us too,” Nelson semi-joked. “The twelve tribes of Israel came from them.” It was a small comfort.
God had told him months before that I was to be his wife, but he didn’t tell anyone. His prayer was that the Lord would reveal it independently to his parents so they could have a hand in choosing his bride. In this way he could honor both his parents and his culture.
We decided that our mutual agreement to get married according to God’s will on this day, was our engagement. No ring, no swell of romantic emotions, nada. We refer to that day as Brutal Tuesday.
I went home and told my mom what happened. “¿Qué que?! What do you mean he doesn’t love you? You can’t marry someone that doesn’t love you!” She could not accept it. We called an emergency meeting with our pastors.
Once we told them everything, my pastors assured my mom that there was nothing to worry about. “This is Biblical! Commitment before emotions is the way it should be.”
Nelson’s parents left a few days later and we began having nightly phone conversations that were unnatural at first.
About two weeks into our “engagement,” Nelson declared he loved me over the phone. I almost didn’t believe him, except that his “I love you” whirled through my body. I felt the witness of the Holy Spirit as he said it. Neither of us expected the feelings to come so quickly!
Ever since that day, Nelson has been the mushier, more affectionate partner, hands down. All of my fears of being an unloved wife were swiftly erased.
We started dating once Nelson asked my father for my hand in marriage.
And just in case you were wondering, I did get a ring, a couple of months later. Since our engagement was not typical, I picked it out myself. A sapphire, because it’s the birthstone for September (also, that’s what British royalty wear). It’s a reminder that Brutal Tuesday came with a promise — a lifetime of love.
To God be the glory! He writes the best love stories.