We were blessed to find each other at a relatively young age at the point at which we started to transition into adulthood. From the beginning of our friendship, I knew that I wanted to marry her. She was everything that I had imagined in a wife. She was intelligent, faithful, caring, and beautiful, both inside and out. I could already hear the wedding bells ringing, but there were some obstacles that I had to first overcome. The main impediment was that I was 18 years of age, and not at a level of maturity or independence to get married.
Ellen White wrote to a young man named John: “I am sorry that you have entangled yourself in any courtship with Elizabeth. In the first place, your anxiety upon this question is premature. . . . Wait till you have some just knowledge of yourself and of the world . . . before you let the subject of marriage possess your thoughts.”—.
The reality was, that like John, I didn’t even know myself well enough to know the difference between infatuation and love. It was a difficult lesson to learn at that time but waiting for sufficient age and experience was important for both of us and for our relationship. One of the problems with premature courtships is that there’s an increased risk of an unhappy marriage. This is why inspiration gives us the following advice:
“The young affections should be restrained until the period arrives when sufficient age and experience will make it honorable and safe to unfetter them.”—A Solemn Appeal, p. 52.
So, what is the reason for restraining our youthful affections? “Those who will not be restrained will be in danger of dragging out not just an unhappy marriage, but an unhappy existence.”—So, to be happily married, we need to take into account that we need to have both age and experience.
When we were younger, neither of us thought that we would marry someone from a different continent. We were established in the areas where we had grown and were completing post-secondary education in our fields of interest. We had families, friends, and churches that we loved. During our courtship, the distance between us ended up being both a blessing and a challenge. There is a saying that distance makes the heart grow fonder. It is hard to be apart from someone you love, but as young adults, we needed more life experience and maturity, so the distance ended up being a blessing to both of us. The time apart allowed us to focus on our faith, our personal development, education, and other important things that would be beneficial for our future together.
We were also blessed with the support of our families, and we turned to them for guidance as God counsels us to do:
“Take God and your God-fearing parents into your counsel, young friends. Pray over the matter. Weigh every sentiment, and watch every development of character in the one with whom you think to link your life destiny. The step you are about to take is one of the most important in your life, and should not be taken hastily. While you may love, do not love blindly.”—.
Being parents of two wonderful little boys now, we can better understand that at the time there was no one on this earth that loved us more than did our parents. They raised us, invested time in us, cared for us, and developed us into the young adults that we were. They wanted only the best for us. Their blessing and support were essential in our courtship and even more so in our marriage today.
After reading the counsel below, it was clear to me that if I wanted to be a husband, I needed to look at myself through her eyes. What was she looking for in a husband and how did I compare?
“Before giving her hand in marriage, every woman should inquire whether he with whom she is about to unite her destiny is worthy. What has been his past record? Is his life pure? Is the love which he expresses of a noble, elevated character, or is it a mere emotional fondness? Has he the traits of character that will make her happy? Can she find true peace and joy in his affection? Will she be allowed to preserve her individuality?”—.
When I looked in the mirror, it was clear that I was not ready for marriage. I needed to finish school, find employment, and have a strong relationship with the Lord. At 18 years of age, I could not provide this amazing woman with an atmosphere where we could find joy, happiness, and faith.
I was blessed enough to get into a good university, close to my home, and to have the support of my parents to choose any career that I wished. I was just starting university at the time that we began our courtship and she happened to be here during my first month of classes. Unfortunately, I didn’t spend as much time on my studies as I should have, during that first month, and I could see why counsel is given that we need to be careful about mixing our education and courtship.
“Under (i) the debasing power of sensual indulgence, or (ii) the untimely excitement of courtship and marriage, many students fail to reach that height of mental development which they might otherwise have attained.”—. [Roman numerals supplied.]
I hate to admit it, but if she was here while I was in university, I am not sure that I would have done as well as I did in my studies. This distance between us was difficult, but it gave us both the opportunity to focus on our studies, when we were apart and to successfully complete our degrees. Interestingly enough, it was at this time when we got to know each other the best. Being physically separated by the Atlantic Ocean, we spent a lot of time communicating through telephone and e-mails. It was during this period that I knew that I would enjoy her company as much then, as I would when we were both old and grey. I could picture the two of us sitting on a porch somewhere, still making each other laugh and cherishing our time together.
As part of my studies, I was required to complete two 8-month work terms. During one of these terms, I had to move away from home and see what it was like to live on my own. As it says in, “The borrower is servant to the lender.” Up to that point, my parents were the ones supporting me and I was under their care.
During my work term I had the opportunity to see if I could financially support a family. It was here that I realized what it takes to pay the bills and put food on the table, even for just one person. How would I finance my marriage? How would I provide her with the kind of life that I would like us to have together? Love is an integral part of a marriage, but the reality is that many marriages are strained and even broken due to financial strains. The Lord blessed me, and after that work term, the company that I worked for offered me a well-paid position, starting right after graduation. I was finally in a position where I could financially provide for a family.
We are all at different points on our Christian journey, but it was wonderful to find a young woman who would travel on that journey with me. We could pray together and support each other’s spiritual health. This is the key ingredient to a successful marriage.
“Religion is needed in the home. Only this can prevent the grievous wrongs which so often embitter married life. Only where Christ reigns, can there be deep, true, unselfish love.”—.
We both recognize that neither of us is perfect. We have our defects and make mistakes, and sometimes even hurt the one that we love so much. But, because we are united in our love for Jesus and in our faith, we can overcome, we can forgive, and we can support each other. In our experience, this has been the key in helping us through any difficulties that have arisen, both in our courtship and in our marriage.
For those that are still looking for a significant other, remember the words of David: “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” ().
I don’t believe that there is a formula for the right time to get married, but I do believe that God has a plan for each one of us. We need to ensure that we are not rushing into a relationship because we think that it is our time to get married. Inspiration tells us that a person in his/her teens doesn’t have the maturity to evaluate who should be his/her life companion. “A youth not out of his teens is a poor judge of the fitness of a person, as young as himself, to be his companion for life.”—A Solemn Appeal, p. 53.
We both had prayed that God would help us open our eyes to find the right person to share our lives with and bring us closer to Him. Our counsel to those that are still looking for a life partner is: 1) turn to the Lord for guidance, 2) ask input of your parents and those of experience around you, and 3) ensure that you are independent and mature enough to be the husband or wife that can be part of a family that will be blessing on this earth and the New Earth to come.
Solomon said, “To every thing, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. . . . A time to love, and a time to hate” (, ). We will be successful and experience a special satisfaction and beauty when we follow God’s timing in our courtship for “He hath made every thing beautiful in his time” (v. 11). Are you willing to wait for His time as the words of this song remind us?
In his time, in his time
He makes all things beautiful
In his time
Lord, please show me every day
As you’re teaching me your way
That you do just what you say
In your time