"I'm Thinking About Getting Married"
The phone call came the other day. It was so good to hear your voice once again, but I soon knew something was up when you hesitated so many times about why you called. I wasn't stunned when you said, "I'm thinking about getting married." I actually was expecting it, though I didn't know when it would dawn on you that you were in love. Sometimes others see things clearer that you do yourself. All the signs were there, but I was happy that you were stepping carefully through these quagmires of emotions. I can't tell you how happy I am to see that you have developed a sound head on those shoulders.
All the considerations that go into deciding whether to marry and when to marry can be daunting. There are so many things to think about, and with much there is no experience. Will she say "yes?" Can you afford for both of you to live on your salary or will she need a job too? Will she laugh when I ask or be insulted because it wasn't romantic enough? How is she going to finish her studies? Will she turn you down outright or ask you to wait? Where should we have the wedding? Will she be happy? Is it asking too much, too soon?
Oh, I well remember the turmoil as I thought about asking my love to marry me. When she turned me down because it was too soon, I kicked myself for a month thinking I had ruined my one chance. But it made the moment when she said "yes" a month later all the more sweeter.
It was an honor to talk through your concerns with you and help you navigate a course into the future. The fact that you are looking for help in making such a life changing decision shows wisdom on your part. "A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel" (Proverbs 1:5). I'm glad you have passed the age of believing you know it all. It is hard for any one person to think of everything, let alone trying to think when your head is in the clouds. "Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established" (Proverbs 15:22).
In the making of plans for the future, I want you to consider a relevant passage: "If the clouds are full of rain, They empty themselves upon the earth; And if a tree falls to the south or the north, In the place where the tree falls, there it shall lie. He who observes the wind will not sow, And he who regards the clouds will not reap. As you do not know what is the way of the wind, Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, So you do not know the works of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, And in the evening do not withhold your hand; For you do not know which will prosper, Either this or that, Or whether both alike will be good" (Ecclesiastes 11:3-6).
The point is that some things are going to happen, no matter what you do. But if you always wait for the very best time before making a move, you will stay where you are because you can never be certain that a later time might not be better. Soon the window of opportunity passes you by. Therefore, look toward the future and make the best plans to handle the obvious, but know that you can't foresee everything. The best thing you can do is keep flexibility in your decisions. "We'll do this and just in case, we also do this."
Someone once said that if a couple stopped and figured up how much raising a child cost, no one in their right minds would do it. I think marriage is much the same way. Looking at raw figures doesn't capture the sacrifices, hard work, and lucky breaks that come along the way. The real decision is not whether you can afford it, but whether you want her at your side as you face the storms of life. The rest then has a way of working itself out.
Try to give everyone plenty of notice when you do decide on a wedding date because a lot of us will want to be there. Be as flexible as you can. I tell couples that they need at least a year together before they marry. I know you have known your sweetheart for over five, so you certainly haven't rushed things.
While most of the work involving a wedding falls on the bride, realize that it will impact you as well. It is easy to forget that you have studies to complete that are vital to your later success in your chosen career. I won't say, "Don't let these contemplations impact your studies" because they will whether you want them to or not. Instead, realize that they are making an impact and give yourself extra time and effort to compensate for their impact.
I am extremely happy for you and your future bride. I'm sure that her parents are too, though they may have "fears" in giving their daughter away -- that is to be expected. You're a good man and a good "catch." They may make you sweat a bit so you will realize the value of their daughter, but keep in mind -- you survived extreme stress before, you can survive this as well.