Recently, a few friends and I went out to lunch with Irene, and the conversation took a nice turn to her marriage journey. Just shy of six months since the wedding, we were very glad to listen to how God guided her through this important stage in her life. Since each of us were able to take away a few insightful lessons about the period of waiting, trusting, and relying on God, perhaps you might relate to her story, too. –the Editor
How did you and your husband meet?
I didn’t realize that my one-time meeting with a brother in the summer of 1995 would turn into a marriage nine years later. When I was in the United States, I studied in Northern California.
That summer, I traveled down to Southern California to attend the National Youth Theological Seminar (NYTS), and the church had somehow arranged for this brother to take me and two other sisters to visit neighboring churches.
This was unusual because he was not frequently assigned as a driver for the church. He was also the brother of my best friend. I didn’t think too much at the time and, not too long after, I moved back home to Indonesia to be with my family before settling in New Zealand.
When did you start to consider marriage seriously?
Life was peaceful and wonderful in New Zealand until my parents started to call me long-distance from Indonesia to ask about my marriage. Brothers, sisters, and deacons of the church also started to become concerned for me—they thought I should start thinking about my marriage.
I was twenty-five years old at the time and I was enjoying my youth. So you can imagine how this alarmed me and prompted me to start thinking seriously about getting married. To me, marriage was the next most serious matter after getting baptized and accepting Christ into my life.
I began to pray earnestly for a spouse that year and resolved to set some criteria for a potential husband. I was strongly determined not to marry the wrong person, that is, to marry the person God intended for me. I started making a list of what was important to me in a spouse. After a few revisions, additions, and deletions I settled on a list with twenty-five items.
Not long after, ministers and members tried to match-make me with a few brothers, but I knew that they were not the one I was praying for.
I guess curious minds would like to know about your list…
Well, I think it’s good for everyone to have a list. One reason is that it helps you recognize what is important to you and what is secondary. A large part of that list was whether or not he was a Christian and strived to lead a Christ-like life. I didn’t want to marry a smoker, a gambler, or someone who did not maintain his purity before marriage.
I also put this list in my prayers, asking that God lead me to the right person. There were other things apart from the fact that he had to be a True Jesus Church member, but the most important was that he had to be fervent in the Lord. It was important to me that he had a burning desire to love, to fear, and to serve God.
Tell us more about the marriage process.
The marriage process was painfully difficult! During that period of time, I experienced hopelessness, depression, and confusion. A preacher from Taiwan once called and comforted me. He said that if it was God’s will for me not to get married in this life, I should concentrate on serving and dedicating myself fully to Him. To be able to remain single is the highest form of gift from God. He also told me that it is better not to get married than to get married to the wrong person—I totally agreed.
A deacon’s wife, who has always been praying for my marriage, encouraged me: “Irene, since you did your studies in the U.S., God will send a brother from the U.S. to fly over here to see you and to marry you.” I believed it was the movement of the Holy Spirit and prayed accordingly with faith. Nevertheless, there would be times when I doubted, “How can that be possible? I’m living in Christchurch, New Zealand—close to the South Pole. It only happens in fairy tales or in dreams.”
But in the Lord Jesus Christ, dreams do come true!
How did things start to come together?
Things really began to change once I resolved to prepare for the possibility of being single all my life. I surrendered the pressures of marriage in exchange for whatever God had in store for me—even if that meant staying unmarried. It was when I put Him first in my determination that things began to fall into place.
After about two years of praying, a miraculous thing happened. I had moved many times and my best friend, whom I had lost contact with for a long time, sent me a wedding invitation card. Even though she had printed the incorrect street address on the envelope, the card still reached my mail box.
So I called her in the U.S. to congratulate her on her wedding announcement. Naturally, she asked me if I was getting married or if I was attached to anyone, and I told her that maybe I would stay single because I hadn’t found the right person.
Then she asked me, “Why don’t you come back to the U.S.? Who knows, maybe your Mr. Right is over here.” I replied, “How can it be? I’ve graduated from the NYTS, and I’ve already met all the brothers in the U.S. churches! Obviously, my Adam is not there.”
She paused for a while, “Well, actually, my brother has always thought very highly of you…” She started to tell me what kind of a person he was, and I was shocked with disbelief! We had only one brief encounter in Southern California in 1995. Who could have guessed that God had put it in his heart to remember me for seven years?
I never realized that, while I had lost hope, God knew everything in my heart. Even before we speak, He has arranged everything for us. I was even more surprised when this brother matched twenty-two items on my list. He has most of the qualities that I prayed for, including spirituality and the fear of God in his heart.
By the arrangement of God, this brother, my best friend, and their parents flew to New Zealand to see me.
What a wonderful story of God’s providence!
In 1995, God had already let me meet my future husband. I just didn’t know it and had to travel around the world to wait and to pray for His time. How amazing and wonderful is our God. He gives us according to what we ask for, when we ask with His will in mind.
During the NYTS that year, each student was given a t-shirt as a souvenir. At the back of the t-shirt was the message: In His Time.
For the important things in our lives, we truly have to wait for God’s time.
On the way back, Irene shared something else that I thought was very inspiring about the process of waiting. Waiting usually applies more to sisters than brothers, and how each person waits varies from one person to another. But despite our unique situations, waiting is really about putting our faith in God and making Him our first priority. Thanks for sharing, Irene.