Marriage – Love or Arranged – For Better, For Worse

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Choosing whom or what we worship is THE most important decision any human being makes. Jesus demands that choice of us. The second most important decision is choosing a life partner. Over the past few years, Peter and I have had a chance to talk to several young people about marriage and finding a life partner. The world we live in is messed up and broken and divorce appears rampant. Young people often seem afraid and confused and appear to assume that finding a spouse is a 50-50 hit or miss. How can anyone be sure? “Unless the Lord builds a home, those who build it labor in vain.” Psalm 127:1 We don’t need to worry if we need to get to know a person by dating them for long periods or if we meet them just once before we marry if Jesus is in the midst of the equation. Ultimately, life is not a sprint but a marathon. No one controls life anyway. Those who struggle much in the first 10 – 15 years may still have the most wonderful overall marriage while those who appear totally compatible and in love at the start might struggle in the long run. What Peter and I have found is that when we have Jesus looking out for us, though life may not be easy, it is ultimately a 100% hit because He gives the needed grace and Romans 8:28 is true!

Here’s our story! “I rather reluctantly packed my bags in June 1991 to make our first trip back to India since our emigration to the US a couple of years prior. I was still in the midst of doing my Masters in Computer Engineering at the University of Missouri – Rolla. I was not really interested in meeting anyone in India as I had my “list” of desires for my future spouse and returning to India was definitely not one of them! At that time, I only had a “Green Card” which God had miraculously gifted me allowing me to arrive in the US with my family just the day before my 21st birthday. Our family had waited for over 7 years for the immigration papers and I would not be allowed to travel with them after 21 – yet, I squeaked through! But now, if my spouse was in India, I would not be able to sponsor him as I was far from being a US citizen which meant either I give up my chance of living here in the US where almost all my family lived or I would have to return and wait a 3 year separation while I get my US citizenship. I was definitely not interested in going down that path!

But God had other ideas. The day before we were to leave, a friend from church at the university prayed with me and advised me to surrender all my desires to the Lord Jesus, to yield completely to His will and to see Him work! As I prayed that day, I realized that God was the loving Father who desired only the very best for my eternal future and if I profess to be a Christian, I must trust Him and live out my faith. I had to trust in promises like Romans 8:28 “God causes all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.” So, I surrendered and told God that I would trust in His best even if it meant change. I then threw out my list of desires for a future spouse and life and my main desire now was for a man who loved Jesus more than I did – who would lead me towards a closer relationship with God. I also asked God if possible, that my husband should be equally or more educated than me. I also did ask God if possible that the first proposal be the one as I disliked meeting unknown people! Of course, I strongly felt dowry ( a rampant evil in India) was wrong and totally out of the question. So, Mom and I, accompanied by my little cousins Neetha and Priya, went to spend two months in Bangalore – Dad would follow for 3 weeks.

At the end of May 1991, our Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was suddenly assassinated. When we arrived in the beginning of June, India was still in mourning. Unknown to me, God was using even political events to change my life! Peter had just completed 3 years of his Ph.D in Physics at TIFR in Bombay. He had eagerly looked forward to a vacation with his uncles’ families in Malaysia that summer. His passport however had been sent for renewal but had not come back as the Indian Government had shut down due to the assassination. So, now he was forced to change course and came to visit his parents in Bangalore instead.

My cousin’s Grandma on their dad’s side Mrs. Ida Mony also came to spend time with them. She was a gentle, sweet lady with a beautiful smile. She wanted to visit a known family in Bangalore as they had been family friends of hers in Malaysia. She also suggested that their son Peter was visiting Bangalore and asked if she could take a letter with my information to them to prayerfully see how God would lead. My Mom and Grandparents thought it was a good idea. Ida Aunty came back with the news that though the son was not seriously considering marriage he was willing to consider and see if it was God’s will, so they would like to meet the next day.

Peter’s parents came on June 28, 1991 to meet my family and to talk to me. I still remember his Mom praying at the start of the meeting that if it was NOT God’s will, that He would block our human efforts which was exactly how we felt. They had also lived in Bangalore most of their lives with similar family, faith and community background to ours. They asked me about my life in the US and about my faith walk. They liked me a lot, we liked them too. They wanted their son, Peter to meet me the very next day! Peter was the first guy I was being introduced to in Bangalore, he was brought up with a strong faith and relationship with Jesus, he had a similar upbringing to mine, he was working on his Ph.D and his family was against dowry! We looked forward to meeting him.

Peter, his parents and sister’s family came over the next evening to a down pour of Bangalore monsoon rains. Thatha’s home was a very old, high ceiling, tiled roof building which would leak when it rained heavily. It was amusing the way drops started falling inside as we all sat and talked! Showers of blessings? The atmosphere was comfortable despite the rain.

Peter and I went to Thatha’s front office room to have a private talk. We asked each other the most important questions about our faith walk. Peter being the academician, of course had his list of points in his head that he asked me, while I just talked! But in just ONE hour, we both were convinced that as we and our families had prayerfully approached this, God had clearly led us to commit ourselves to marriage. His family left soon after. That night, his Mom called my Mom and said that they were very happy that we had agreed on getting married! Dad was on the flight from the US that night and we surprised him he next morning with the good news of his future son-in-law! He met them that week as plans were made for our formal betrothal ceremony and to discuss the details.

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Interestingly, God had led me to commit my life to a man who strongly felt that he was called at that time to live his faith in India. Because I had already worked this out with the Lord, I was able to accept it more easily. Peter’s family were not wealthy, he was still studying and on a student’s stipend and he had warned me that the beginning of our life would be really hard – again, God had already worked on my heart and it did not matter to me. He was also a more thoughtful, often absent minded academician. We had a lot of details to work out but as we both were still studying, we would get engaged and wait a year to be married the following June. It was a huge step to commit to an unknown man who I had just met for an hour to whom I would be leaving family, friends, life as I knew it and move 10,000 miles to a new city in India to live in hardship. My confidence only came in the grace of God who we trusted completely, who knew everything and who had led us thus far.

We had a beautiful engagement ceremony where before God with our pastor, parents, family and friends (about 200 people), where we committed to wait for each other. It was a time of much rejoicing and fun. Peter shared his testimony which I heard for the first time. We both also sang the meaningful song below together.

Jesus stand among us, At the beginning of our lives
Be the sweet agreement, At the meeting of our eyes
O Jesus! We love you, So we gather here
Join our hearts in unity, And take away our fears
So to you we gather, Out of many different lands
Christ the love between us, At the joining of our hands

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With that we committed to a life of faithfulness to each other. Peter left for Bombay soon after and I returned to the US at the end of July. We worked hard and waited patiently a whole year. As both of us were poor students on scholarships, we had very little money to even call each other with each minute to call across the world costing over $2.00! But God graciously provided for us. As both of us were in universities, this being the pre-Internet days, we were one of the few who had free chat access across the world. This may seem trivial in today’s digital age, but it was very rare and fancy in the early 1990’s. I had friends who had run up $1000 phone bills calling fiancés back in India. We chatted everyday for hours totally free!

Satan of course was definitely not happy with all the goings on – a sure thing in a believer’s life. He began stirring up trouble in the form of Peter’s closest uncle who did not even live in India but began questioning whether the way the whole process had happened was in line with God’s will. He even wanted Peter to break off the engagement and start over. Sadly, this suddenly created a lot of confusion and attitude change in some in his family. Where there had been such joy, now there was doubt and confusion. But Peter stood strong. The decision had been made prayerfully, with full approval and blessing from his parents who had met me the day before we agreed, so, irrespective of external opposition, he was sure we were in the midst of God’s will.

Though outwardly there was a lot of fun and happiness at our wedding in June 1992 as we were surrounded by over a 1000 family and friends, deep down I was very sad at the shadows that had been cast and the lack of approval I was receiving from his family. We realized that real life had begun! Marriage we have learned is definitely the Divine Refiner’s fire where He takes two sinful, broken people who rub each other the wrong way and place them in a “Covenant” relationship with each other and Him. He uses marriage to sand down the rough edges and impress Jesus’ image on our lives.

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Peter and I have had innumerable issues to work through and we probably will until the day we die. But, we are 100% committed to each other until death do us part. Our wedding vows had included the words “As led by God, I, ………. take you …….., to be my lawfully wedded spouse…………….till death us do part, according to God’s Holy law and in the confidence of the enabling grace of God alone, I give you my pledge.” Looking back we realize the enormity of the truth of those words and how much we have needed “the enabling grace of God alone”. There have been many, many times when we have walked through very deep difficulties or have found each other lacking or failing and unable to fulfill human desires and needs – when it would have been easier to give up on our marriage emotionally, spiritually or physically. At times, we have failed and even done some of that temporarily. But we thank God that He has held us and continues to hold us and remind us of the covenant of our marriage.”

We look back over the 20 years of marriage and think we could not have chosen better what we needed and we thank God, He did! Life together with all it’s painful difficulties has drawn us as individuals into a deeper and more intimate knowledge of the Lord Jesus. We are trying to choose to give thanks to the Lord in everything. We also realize how important it is to pray as we navigate life’s choppy waters. Happily ever afters do exist only if we are willing to fall on the mercy of the future grace of God!

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Thursday June 27, 2013: Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Psalm 127:1

We hear over and over again of marriages of precious friends breaking down with saddened hearts. We know that it is ONLY the grace of God that we both stand firm in this marriage covenant! Trials for 21 years has made our marriage extremely hard. God used His Word to remind us that it is in the brokenness of our lives, His grace is poured out and His love perfected. We stand today deeply loving each other in a marriage filled with God’s love, romance and commitment unlike what it was 21 years ago! We humbly fall before Jesus knowing it is ONLY His grace that has held us and our hearts are filled with eternal gratitude. So marriage is beautiful when we are in a covenant relationship with the God of this Universe! We were advised just 2 weeks ago to commit to read God’s Word and pray multiple times each day together and see how God works – so far that has been the best marriage advice we have ever received!

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