When Romance Meets Reality
It was a breezy summer afternoon in Fort Collins, Colorado. My fiance Moses and I were sitting under a tree in a public park in what should have been an idyllic setting. But we were two months away from marriage and an awkward silence filled the space between us as unanswered questions flooded our minds. I had no doubt that God was calling us to be married, but knowing that only added to my confusion.
“God, if You truly wanted us to be together, why would our careers clash like this?”
As a recent college grad, I was taught by romance novels and “chick-flicks” that finding my soulmate would be a seamless process. Even in Christian circles, I was taught that finding “God’s will” for my life in a future spouse was supposed to be easy. Our lives and career goals would fit seamlessly together like a puzzle, right?
For two years prior to our engagement, Moses had worked for the high school ministry of Cru (a global non-profit) in New York City. His days were filled with developing teenagers spiritually via afterschool discussion groups, Bible studies, and one-on-one mentoring. Cru strongly encouraged married couples to become full-time staff members together, because the “job” was not simply a nine-to-five. It required a flexibility to mentor high school students after school, during evenings and weekends. It required raising financial support through individual donors. Moses felt an undeniable call to take the plunge. Me? I wasn’t so sure.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that I didn’t have a heart for ministry. Moses and I actually met volunteering at one of Cru’s after school bible clubs. But I think in my compartmentalized brain, ministry was something you did outside of your “real” career.
Both of my parents were born in the Philippines, each being the first and only ones in each of their families to come to America. I was consistently urged to follow my career and take advantage of all the opportunities available to us. The few times I was able to visit the Philippines—in which I witnessed housewives and domestic workers as some of the most commonly available career options for women—only strengthened my resolve to focus on building my career.
“Women can do anything a man can do!” was one my favorite mantras. To paint a picture of my childhood: I had more interest in playing with legos and reading books, and stayed far, far away from princess dresses and Barbies.
My interest in and ease with math and science led me to a specialized engineering high school, and even landed me an internship as a high school student with a civil engineering firm in Manhattan. I absolutely loved the idea of being an engineer, not because I genuinely enjoyed it, but because there were so few women in that field and I was excited to prove my worth. I excelled at the tasks they gave me at the internship, but soon realized I would rather have a people-oriented job than sit behind a desk all day. Since I was one of the founding members of our high school newspaper, enjoyed interviewing and talking to people and had a knack for writing, I shifted my career goals at that time to be a journalist.
Throughout college, I landed internships with various marketing and production companies in Manhattan. I had a growing network of media professionals. God seemed to be opening doors for me to reach all of my goals.
When I started dating Moses, one of the things that attracted me to him was his lack of intimidation by my strong personality and career aspirations. I remember one specific conversation we had in which I asked him how he would feel if I ever made more money than him. He said he didn’t mind at all. I didn’t know many men who were secure enough in themselves to admit that. Score.
So the summer of our engagement, as I wrestled with whether or not I should join Cru, my pride took a big jab. Remember: it was Cru’s policy (which has since been changed) that married couples become full-time staff members together. Therefore, I knew that joining Moses on staff with Cru would be the end of my writing career as I knew it. It was an alien concept to me that a woman would willingly give up her career aspirations for a man. In fact, my mom was the one who enabled our family to come to America by landing a high-demand nursing job. After months of my mom couch-surfing and settling into her job, only then did my dad follow with my two older sisters, who were then toddlers.
Imagine my shock when after months of a bittersweet engagement, it seemed that the Lord finally had a clear answer for me: "Follow your husband."
My life verse has always been Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” But at that point in my life, I truly doubted whether or not God was out to harm me. Why couldn’t He have told me earlier that I wasn’t going to be a writer and save me the heartbreak? Why would He tease me by allowing me to progress in my media career just to pull the rug from under me? Was God really the trustworthy and loving person I had known Him to be? If I was honest with myself, the whole situation had me considering God a capricious, sadistic dictator.
Despite how I felt, out of sheer obedience, I begrudgingly took the job at Cru. I must have asked God a million times to take away my desire to write. He didn’t. I had no idea what He was going to do with those desires, but I just had to willingly choose to trust His character and that He had my best in mind. As a fiance, I also got a Marriage 101 lesson in self-sacrifice.
As Christians, we’re called to a Philippians 2 kind of humility modeled after Christ’s self-emptying:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
For some reason, this seems easier to do with just about anyone than with our spouse. We’re conditioned by our culture to believe that marriage is about finding someone who completes us, and by extension, we are justified to demand things from our spouse. But after eleven years of marriage, I find it is quite the opposite. Marriage is more about finding new ways to give of yourself for the sake of your spouse.
Marriage is a repetitive exercise in dying to yourself. Whether it’s choosing the action movie over the chick flick for date night, or sacrificing your last scoop of ice cream (when you were looking forward to it all day!). Or when young kids wear you down so much that you will not feel the yearning desire to make love at the end of the day. But when your husband’s love language is physical touch, it’s one of those things you choose to gift to him as a way to show your love.
In retrospect, I can see God’s sovereignty and foresight. He knew that only two months into our marriage, I would become pregnant with our first child. In the next decade, four more children would follow suit. The flexible schedule that Cru allows, especially to moms of young children, would no doubt be absent for a full-time journalist. With my blog and freelance writing, I have the platform to freely write about my passions of God, marriage, and pop culture. Not to mention, if I had worked at a mainstream publication like I once imagined, I would not have the freedom to be as vocal about my faith.
Hebrews 12:2 admonishes us Christians to look to Jesus Christ as “the author and finisher of our faith.” I know God is far from finished with developing my faith. But after my experience of a shaky engagement and a faith-exercise to trust God’s plans over my own plans for myself, I’ve gained a deeper trust in God’s character and learned one of the main purposes of marriage.
Marilette Sanchez is a wife and mother of five young kids first, but put some coffee and a pen in her hand and she is unstoppable. New York City natives and college sweethearts, she and her husband Moses serve as marriage and family advocates for the Christian non-profit organization FamilyLife, mentoring married couples throughout New York City and speaking at marriage conferences across the country. Marilette is known for her transparency and her ability to inject her love of pop culture into her discussions of faith, marriage and mental health. Follow Marilette’s parenting and homeschooling journey on Instagram at @bigcitybigfamily and her musings on womanhood, mental health and pop culture at www.MariletteSanchez.com.