I am studying at Bible College, in the last six years I have been to South America three times for over a year in time. The people there are amazing and really feel that God would have me work there in the future.
Then along came a great female friend. We got on like a house on fire, and when we started college our friendship went from strength to strength. My love for her grew over time and never seemed to extinguish.
One morning, I really felt an urge to mention my interest in working in South America, and my thoughts about her possibly joining me there. Then the bombshell struck: She did not have a love for South American people. I asked her, "Is South America a stumbling block to you saying yes to being in a relationship with me?" She said, "yes." At this point I really did not know what to do or think.
Throughout that day I prayed about it and spoke with a good friend for some advice. Later that day I asked her, "Is it wrong to love the woman of your dreams more than your future country of ministry?" I was pretty much in tears at this point because I knew the gravity of my decision. She took a minute to think about it and said, "No, it's not wrong because married couples are able to serve the Lord together." I said to her after that I would choose her over South America. This is one of the biggest decisions I have made and I still feel a bit dazed.
I respect this woman so much; she is such a godly woman, not jumping into decisions lightly. Now the ball is now in her court to decide whether she wants to further our relationship.
Have I done the right thing?
You've presented this as an "either/or" scenario, and I'm not sure that it is just yet. It's wise for the two of you to be having this conversation, but I want to caution you about trying to answer too many questions too soon about "what if."
At this stage in the game it might be too much to ask a girl whether she would follow you to the ends of the earth when she's still trying to get used to the idea of going with you across town to the movies as your girlfriend. If I went home today and told my wife of 14 years that I think God might be calling us to Bolivia, she would have a much different reaction now than if I had said that on our second date 16 or so years ago, when she was just trying to decide whether to order the fish or the chicken.
You see, right now it isn't Bolivia about which she needs to decide; it's you. And deciding about another person takes time, because getting to know them takes time.
I tested this theory on one of my single co-workers who now finds herself in a pretty serious relationship. I asked her (theoretically) what would have caused her to be less interested in her current boyfriend when they started dating two months ago. She said she probably would have hesitated if he were headed into the military because the idea of bouncing around all over the country sounds pretty miserable to her. "And would that be a problem now?" I asked. "Now I'd follow him anywhere," she said. That only took two months. (Disclaimer: She's not one to make rash decisions. I wouldn't give this advice to a 16-year-old, mind you, but a mature adult in her mid 20s who is careful about her decisions is a different thing.)
You feel like you might be drawn to Bolivia, which makes it a vague possibility of some sort at some point in the future, but so are thousands of things. The truth is, if we knew all there is to know about post-wedding life, we'd all be a little hesitant to sign up. We don't plan on losing jobs; we don't plan on getting sick; we don't plan on changing careers; we don't plan on being called into the mission field; we don't plan on getting transferred out of state (or country); we don't plan on having a strong-willed child; we don't plan on a lot of things, but they happen.
We have no idea what tomorrow holds for us. Knowing where we are going to live or how God will use us is not essential—that could change in an afternoon. What is essential is that we trust a sovereign God who has His glory and our eternal good in mind, and that we have as much assurance as we can that the person He provides to us as a spouse shares that same view of God.
At the altar, we come as close as two fallen humans can to writing each other blank checks—for better, worse, sickness, health, richer, poorer, Bolivia, Suburbia, etc.—that's the idea behind it being a covenant. We say "yes" to one person, and "yes" to tens of thousands of other things as a result. It is a giant leap of faith. And while this sounds daunting to pre-wedding ears, for those of us on this side of the wedding vows, especially several years this side, it just sounds like life as a couple trying to follow Christ.
My advice is to put Bolivia on the shelf for the moment, and just keep getting to know one another. Give her a chance to get to know you better and to understand your heart and vice-versa. You don't have to answer every "what if" in the first three months of dating; you simply need to become convinced that this is the person with whom you want to handle all of the "what ifs" in life.
If Bolivia (or anywhere else on the planet) is still a problem even after several months of an exclusive dating relationship poised toward courtship, then you need to reconsider. Neither of you wants to marry someone who says to you, "I'm interested in you, with the following geographical/career/calling exceptions...." That's a business contract; not a marriage covenant, and it certainly doesn't take into consideration a wildly adventurous God who is, remember, the Potter, not the clay.
Copyright 2007 John Thomas. All rights reserved.