Sometimes things go wrong. Undeniably, catastrophically, tragically wrong. Plans fall through, friends fall out, families fall apart. But sometimes things go right. Beautifully, peacefully, delightfully right. Spouses come home, neighbors come through, the sun comes out. But I am ready to stop classifying occurrences as right and wrong, because my plans have never been the proper measuring stick. God has opened my eyes to all the ways He makes the wrong things right and the right things good. Inconceivably, inexplicably, mind-bendingly good, because He is good. This I call Divine Orchestration.
This is the love story that the Divine orchestrated for us. When we became followers of Jesus, we should have made the decision to submit to God’s law and live apart from each other. But frankly, we didn’t. We were afraid of the effect it would have on our relationship. We were afraid of being apart. Mostly, we were afraid of the commitment, both to each other and to the Lord. So we kept on walking, heading in the right direction but still entangled in the chains of sin.
When Jimmy and I got engaged, I was excited. I had never even really thought about my wedding day before our engagement, but I was eager for it to happen. I couldn’t wait to declare my love for this man before all of my family and friends and ride off into the sunset to forever with him. But as I started to picture the day in more detail, my stomach turned in knots. I was an imperfect bride, tainted by my past and present decisions. Wearing a white dress felt like spraying perfume on a casket. Standing before my family and friends and being married right out of our sin felt like dropping an unavoidable stumbling block to all in attendance. Asking a pastor to marry us felt like a prison inmate asking the guard to free him. In planning the “perfect day,” we were being the ultimate phonies.
I wanted desperately to please God with our wedding ceremony, as if somehow that would cause Him to look past our blemish. I wanted just the right passages read, the right amount of people in attendance, and even the decorations to scream Jesus! The wedding industry tells us to go all out because it’s all about us. But in my effort to please God I was coming up empty. He does not care about our wedding colors, the length of the dress, or even the church it is held in. He is only concerned with the part we had been missing: the state of the two hearts, souls, spirits, and bodies He is binding together into one flesh. While tradition is comfortable, it is empty.
In my turmoil, I fell to solid ground: the Word of God. I found pages filled with forgiveness and hope, but each word I read screamed off the page “Repent!” I turned to all the chapters I had always tried to avoid, warning of the detriment of refusing to repent. So I tried. I almost lost my fiancé when I told him I want to live apart. A few nights separate was the worst pain we had ever felt. I found no peace. I found no hope. I felt closer to God, but still not reconciled. Still my heart remained tumultuous.
During this week of agony, I received an idea. Why not be married now? But as soon as it crossed between my ears, the enemy was there to attack it.
Like a snake, he slithers into my heart and hisses in my ear
“what about the exsssspectationsssssss…you already wrote the sssssave the datessss…being married is not true repentenssssssse…who will ssssstand besssside you…”
and on and on until I had decided it was a terrible idea.
The weeks passed, the conviction did not. Every day I prayed to the Lord to show me the way, to put light to my feet and open a door to peace. The only solid ground we could find was the absolute certainty that we should be married to each other. Through all of the turmoil, that was never once doubted in either of our minds or hearts. Jimmy tried to help. Sitting in bed one night, he asked me to pray with him. We promised each other and God that we would be faithful to each other and love each other as Christ loves the church, as long as we both shall live. We asked God to recognize our marriage, and I found peace then. But still something gnawed at me. There is a reason God ordained marriages in a wedding ceremony. There is a reason governments still recognize marriages today. While I would argue that today marriage is nothing like God intends it to be, it is not my calling to be a part of the problem. Accepting the pressures of culture is exactly what James warns about with “keep yourself unspotted from the world.”
After this night, we knew we needed to legitimize our bond before both God and man. We were willing to do whatever was necessary to be reconciled to our Father, including relinquishing our perfect day.So we started wedding preparations. True wedding preparations; not party-throwing, or event-planning, or black-tie-affairing. We prayed, a lot, and the answer came that I would receive my peace. We feared nothing would work out, that our plan would fall through and we would be back where we started. So we let it go. And in our release, the Divine Orchestrated. It turns out you only need a few things to be legally married.
I have a thing for numbers. And completeness. And perfection. As a math major, all of these things are effectively unavoidable. But lucky for me, my Creator also has a thing for numbers, completeness and perfection. Had we been married a year from our engagement date, the date would have been 61816. A palindrome! 3 evens separated by 2 odds! The beauty! But this type of obvious perfection was not God’s plan this time.
The date September 25 had been rolling around in my head for months. I had no idea why, but each time it was mentioned, I felt as if I had something to do on that day. The number itself is understated. 9.25.15. I tried to find every pattern possible in this number. 25-9-15 is…1. 9+2+5-15 is…1. Off by one each time, but why? Because the magic is not in the 9, the 25, or the 15. It’s in the fact that God is One and He is making Jimmy and I One. Nothing else has to be perfect because God is perfect. God asked me to accept and embrace this lack of perfection inherent to any marriage before the marriage even started.
Only later did I discover that September 25 was exactly 100 days after we got engaged.
2. The Officiant
Once we chose the date, step two was to find someone to marry us. We had no desire to be married by a pastor at this point, for a variety of reasons. So I began searching the courthouse website and found a list of officiants. Among the list of 10 or so judges who perform wedding services in Waukesha County, I only took down the phone number of one, Judge William Domina. I texted the information to Jimmy and then proceeded to badger him for the next week about making the call. Finally, on a Thursday night around 10pm, he decided he was going to call. I immediately protested “They aren’t open at this hour! What a silly time to call!” But he had already dialed the number. It went immediately to voicemail, and he proceeded to leave a message detailing our plans. He hung up and we waited.
The next day at work, I received a call from Jimmy. “You’re never going to believe this.” My heart raced. “Judge Domina’s office just called me back. He ONLY performs wedding services on Fridays at 11:30am. Apparently it’s something you need to book a few months out because their next available opening isn’t until December.” My stomach lurched. “BUT…this is crazy, someone just cancelled their wedding for September 25 and the spot is open. Do you want to take it?” “Yes!” I shouted, and he hung up to call the judge’s office back and confirm. During this call, he asked the woman how often this happens. She said she had been there forever and it had literally never happened. Later Jimmy sent me the voicemail he had received:
The week of September 25 was the longest of my life. Each day seemed more beautiful than the last, with Colorado-blue skies, leaves just starting to change, and warm sun bringing the temperature into the 70’s. The forecast predicted the same for Friday, but when I awoke Friday morning, I couldn’t even see 100 feet out the window. Thick, dense, heavy fog had set in and covered my piece of the earth with dreary, drizzly, murkiness, and the sun was nowhere in sight. At first I shook my fist. “Really God? Today You bring this?” But as I gazed longer and prayed that morning, my attitude began to shift. This weather was how I was feeling leading up to our wedding. Dim, bleak, and austere. He was washing me with the water. Making me clean. And He sent in a low-pressure system to do it.As I did my hair and makeup, I was awestruck as a ray of light shone through the skylight, hit the chandelier, and portrayed a rainbow of color across the white stone of the bathroom.
I have kept a journal since the week that Jimmy and I met for the first time four years ago. The very first entry describes my new feelings for him. Over that time I have written in it sporadically; sometimes daily, sometimes barely once a month. But in the months leading up to our wedding day, I found myself writing more and more. Every morning I would go downstairs before the sun came up and meet with the Lord. I would journal my feelings, my prayers, and His answers when they came. I knew I was getting close to the end of my journal, but kept writing, knowing I could just buy another one when I ran out of paper. The morning of September 25, I reached my last sheet of paper. My very last entry in the same journal from four years prior was a two-page prayer over our marriage. The unity is astounding.
“Another parable He put forth to them, saying ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’”
“Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”