When I was in 8th grade, I met this really cool guy. We’ll call him J. J was a surfer dude from California who was a recent transplant to our (extremely) small town in southwestern Oklahoma. He had long hair with an undercut and played the quads in band like nobody’s business, which made him even cooler. On top of all that, he appealed to me specifically because he had recently converted to Christianity and liked to have deep conversations about things that mattered. The only flaw I could see in him at the time was that he was shorter than me, however, I could graciously look past that, hoping that one day he’d sprout.
When J asked me out (not out on a date but “out” as in boyfriend-girlfriend status), I was ecstatic. As if I needed another reason to say yes, I could see that my best friend K was jealous and, since I trusted her judgment, I figured I ought to snatch this guy up before someone (she) did.
For the next year, J and I were that clingy, attached at the hip, can’t live without each other couple. Our friends were sick of us. But that didn’t matter to either of us because we were in love and were going to get married someday. There were times when I sensed that J would need to do some “changing” to really be the man I wanted to marry, but I thought I could change those things about him, so I pressed on, determined to do so.
The following summer, J went back to Cali to live with his dad. It was a long, boring summer for me without him. As often as possible, we talked on the phone. That was back in the day when phones were attached to a cord which was attached to a wall in your house (usually the kitchen) and everyone in the house could hear everything you were saying. So we used code words which would express all our love and affection without alarming the parentals too much.
The day he arrived back in Oklahoma was also the day of my Freshman registration. I went to the school first and registered for my classes, making sure to get as many of them with J as possible. Then, I went over to his house to say hello. In a strange turn of events, we ended up breaking up about an hour later. Honestly, I can’t remember who broke up with who and that’s really not important anyway. What is important is that you understand that I had, as an 8th grader, committed myself to spending the rest of my life with this boy.
But, after our breakup, I spent some time in introspective reflection and I learned some things. 1) J was not actually the type of man I wanted to marry. I could see he was on a road leading to many self-destructive behaviors. 2) I wanted to marry a man who was dedicated to loving God and who would lead me down a path of righteousness, too. 3) There were many other qualities in my future husband that I felt were important, albeit less so than his spirituality, like how many kids he wanted to have and that he would be smart and be a hard worker.
I can’t remember how or where or why I decided to write down the qualities I wanted in a future husband, but one day I did. There had to have been at least a couple dozen qualities I was looking for, beginning with his Christianity. I wrote them all down and taped that handwritten list to my dresser mirror. Every morning when I put my makeup on, I prayed to find that kind of man. And every night when I took my contacts out, I prayed for it again. I even made my friend K promise to hold me to that list if she ever saw I was dating a man less worthy. In all, I dated one guy between J and my future husband, Kent.
In 11th grade, I was at a school assembly. Out of the blue, this random guy came up and asked if I was sitting alone (which I was because I was a new student and didn’t know anyone.) I actually thought about lying and saying that I had a friend coming, because, who knows, this guy could be a total creeper or loser or just annoying. But, thankfully, I told the truth and he sat down by me. Awkwardly, he began the conversation and I engaged as much as possible, still trying to gauge if this guy was a total dork or not. But, a few minutes in, he asked me where I went to church. The good church-girl that I was, my ears perked up because no one my age- especially not a guy- had ever asked me that before. I told him I went to the Church of Christ (a little timidly because where I had just come from, the CoC had a bad rep.) I was expecting him to say, “Oh, yeah, y’all don’t believe in music,” or, “Y’all think you’re the only ones going to heaven,” but, to my surprise, he said, “Oh, cool. Me too.”
At that moment, I knew- without a doubt- that I was going to marry him. As I stared in amazement, it was like I could see God standing behind this boy’s back, pointing at him and whispering, “He’s the one.” Of course, I didn’t tell Kent right then- that would’ve totally freaked him out. He was definitely not ready to date me and we were “just friends” for a while, which helped me even more to see who he really was.
As time progressed, I discovered that all the things I had written on that list and prayed for were found in this boy. The best part was that they weren’t things I had to try to change about him- they were things that God had already put in his heart and on his heart. It was like God had heard all my prayers and he had been working on this guy to make him exactly what I was looking for (and God had been changing me, too, to be the girl Kent wanted) and, when the moment was right, he introduced us. But, without that list and all those prayers, I doubt I would’ve recognized that gift right away. Kent might have passed me by altogether- I might’ve dismissed him after our initial meeting- had I not known what I was looking for. That little list I made in 9th grade changed my life. Forever.
If you’re not married, make yourself a list. Pray about it everyday. Wait patiently until God introduces you to your future someone.
If you’re married, keep praying for your spouse. Ask them what they want prayers for- their goals and dreams, struggles and challenges. And, whatever changes (if any) you want to see in your spouse, give it to God. He’s better at changing people than any of us are.
If you’ve got kids, make a list for the kind of person you want them to be, and for any hopes you have for their futures, and pray about that. All the time. Everyday. Even after they’re grown. And trust that God is working on them because He is.