As I lay in my Washington, D.C. apartment bedroom pitifully staring at the ceiling, tears flowed into my ears (a sensation I hate). Then I heard a voice.
I couldn’t let you marry him. You would be too far from Me.
Maybe I was in emotional overdrive and beyond reason, but I believed I was hearing from God. My pleading question for weeks regarding the looming break-up with my fiancé had been the traditional, “Why, God? Why is this happening to me?”
In a strange, but peaceful way, His answer made sense. I slept better than night than in the previous months since realizing my college boyfriend was dumping me. The chest pain I had been experiencing for several weeks was gone the next morning.
My Only Chance at Love and Marriage?
The plan had been for me to take the 13-month D.C. internship after my sophomore year of college. Campus was only a couple hours away and my fiancé’s parents lived in Northern Virginia. I thought we would see each other on weekends and continue our close connection that led to engagement eight months earlier.
Out of sight out of mind proved to be the storyline as my boyfriend chose fraternity social life and campus activities on the weekends in lieu of driving home. Calls were seldom and rarely initiated by him. In frustration and desperation I acted in disrespectful ways to myself as I begged for his attention in letters and phone conversations.
When my engagement ended, every professional, adult woman I seemed to meet was either single or divorced. Yikes! Did I just manage to lose my one shot at happily ever after?
Many nights during the trauma I was in bed by 8:00 pm, not sleepy but not good company for my roommate and not wanting to sit hopelessly by the phone. With little experience in utter failure, I began my interrogation with God on what caused the relationship dissolution. Surprised but somehow grateful, I accepted His answer.
He wasn’t the one for you.
Unequally Yoked is Not His Plan
My fiancé’s family was wonderful and welcoming to me from the start. His father had moved the Texas family to the Nation’s Capitol a few years earlier and their life changed dramatically. They had been a part of a church community in Amarillo, but never found a worship home in their new surroundings. Weekends focused on explorations of D.C. and relaxation from the hectic pace of government work and daily commute. When I stayed at their home, I enjoyed the leisurely Sunday family breakfasts and fun outings.
My experience growing up included church every Sunday with my family as well as other youth activities during the week. When my boyfriend visited Richmond with me, he was comfortable attending services so I did not register our lacking faith connection.
Hearing God that night, I reflected on the reality of the situation. My fiancé was not trying to be any kind of spiritual partner with me. We had not even discussed the topic. Truthfully, in college, I had not made church attendance or Christian growth a priority myself.
That did not mean I wanted to be far from God. From an early age, I desired to be in favor with God, prayed as best I knew how, and believed in Jesus and the Bible. I was a rule-follower and had no interest in rebellion or trouble in any aspect of my life (except expressing my strong opinions, sigh).
God’s Man Showed Up
One month after finally calling it quits with my fiancé, I went to speak on youth employment in Orlando, FL. As the intern, I frequently received assignments the adult staff members did not want like this 24 hour-in-and-out conference appearance.
“Have you met Michael Goolsby?” an administrative assistant asked me upon registering and gathering my nametag.
“No, my contact person is Josh Summers,” I responded and repeated a second time when I was asked the Michael Goolsby question by a different conference worker. Now my curiosity was peaked.
Who was this Michael Goolsby guy?
Soon I noticed a young man my age moving quickly throughout the conference rooms. The nametag revealed he was the mystery man. We eventually met that night, to the delight of the matchmaking secretaries. We discovered many similar experiences as youth organization leaders and before I left Orlando the next day, he asked for my number. Uncharacteristically for a young woman living in a big city, I gave him not just my office number but home contact too.
Why did you do that? I asked myself on the way to the airport. You don’t know anything about this guy!
Our first date happened a month later as he braved the Friday night interstate commuter madness between Delaware and Virginia. Traffic delayed our plan by two hours, but we salvaged the evening with dinner and dancing in trendy Georgetown, a D.C. favorite for the young adult crowd. Wearing a suit jacket, driving a Cadillac, and bearing flowers to apologize for the late arrival, Michael captured my attention. I could sense my wounded heart beginning to spring back to life.
With overnight guests in my apartment, we decided to sit in the downstairs lobby of my building when we returned after midnight. Our conversation moved from family to faith as I asked about the fish pin on his lapel. I knew it was a Christian symbol, but why did he wear it publicly?
Hours later and with thoughts and emotions whirling, I could not sleep when I fell into bed at 4 am. I sensed strongly the involvement of God in this new relationship.
I was correct. After 16 months of intentional courtship, we married.
God is the Master Matchmaker
The pain of loving and losing is intense. While I don’t look back with appreciation for the heartache I endured, I frequently thank my Heavenly Father for selecting the right covenant partner for me. I know my marriage with Michael has fulfilled me in hundreds of ways, including three amazing children, two wonderful sons-in-law, and now three spunky granddaughters who all love Jesus and His church.
Without Michael in my life, I would have missed opportunities to know God intimately through my Christian education career, ministry leadership positions, and even living in Kabul, Afghanistan for seven years. My husband brought these challenges into my world through his commitment to love and serve God fully. As his wife, I chose to join the journey with amazing personal benefits and spiritual growth.
This summer we will celebrate our 40th anniversary with our adult children and their spouses in beautiful Seattle. I will tell them the story (again) of how God said, “Not this man,” and then brought His man into my life. I picture there will be smiles and tears of gratitude that I trusted God’s matchmaking plan.
♡ Gail Goolsby is a life coach and serves as a Titus Woman for Proverbs 31 Woman.
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