Updated: Sep 10, 2020
My *almost* husband, that is.
You know the stigma about online dating? That it's for hookups, flings, or that by engaging in the system, you're desperate or lonely?
While that often is the case for many, I would like to offer the thought that—just like anything else—God can and does use the oddest of things for His glory. Even online dating.
Senior in college, student leader of my campus ministry, self-taught wedding photographer and campus employee, I entered year three of singleness wondering if something was wrong with me. Leading came naturally to me so I frequented the thought that my self-driven ambition and "go getter" attitude deterred men. In groups I typically took the role of comedic relief or conversationist, but was that really it? Was I undatable because I...like making people laugh? Or because I talked to people? Did my work or headstrong opinions make men feel emasculated? To this day I don't know, but those guys probably weren't worth my time anyway.
Pushing those thoughts away, I came to a place of peace with singleness.
Now, let me preach for a hot second: my worth as a woman is not contingent on being in a relationship. It isn't in my academics, career or success either. My worth was and is and will always be that I am made in the image of God, accepted and loved and called "child" by none other than Christ the King. (And the same dang truth goes to you, too.)
With that understanding, I breathed freely. And allowed myself to be available for whatever God had for me—solo or otherwise.
Sure enough, He had a mighty gift in store.
One day I decided to make a dating profile. I figured:
A | What the heck! I'm a confident, decently attractive, twenty-something who knows little of the dating scene. At least I'll learn more about myself and the kind of man I may be interested in down the road.
B | Free food.
Just a few days into this new world of "swipe right" I came across a face I couldn't get out of my head. Piercing eyes, prominent freckles and the curliest head of hair, this headshot peered back through my screen. A purple notification read: you've got a match!. With a bashful smile sneakily stretching my lips, I read on about the man I'm now engaged to. We struck up a conversation and set up the first date.
The cool January day came quickly and I could not. stop. SWEATING. I frantically cleaned my apartment (stress cleaning is a real thing let me tell you!) and realized my trashcan was overflowing. Figuring I had a few more minutes until my handsome internet date arrived, I shoveled all of the garbage into a bag, grabbed my coat, and slipped down the sidewalk to the dumping bins. My trek was soon interrupted by said handsome internet man.
Ian, clad in a thick winter coat and sporting shoulder-length locks, popped out of a cherry red two-door car. "India?" he asked.
Trash-in-hand, I attempted a curt response as my scatterbrained self instantly forgot all flirtatious etiquette. I stumbled through the first thing that came to mind, "Uh, I have to take out the trash!" before pivoting on the ice, and jogging towards the trash bin.
Stupid, India! That's the dumbest thing you could've said. I thought as I walked away. He's gonna think you're nuts. My thoughts wasted no time criticizing me. However, a different voice called out behind me.
"Can I go with you?"
I didn't respond. Instead I tossed the trash in the bin, spun around, and walked towards my (now) future.
You know when you're hanging out with your best friend and you just can't get enough of them? The conversation is simple, the silence is natural, you can breathe and talk about real stuff and just be 100% your whole self? That was our (twelve-hour-long) first date. And it started everything we have now.
But out of all of the hours spent together that frigid first date, one thing sticks with me the most: Can I go with you? —
Can you think of a time when you felt overwhelmed? Like you were carrying wayyyy too much? We all know what it's like; stress about jobs and money, career and family, political chaos and civil unrest, natural disasters and pressure to preform—it often feels like the literal weight of the world rests on our shoulders. Scripture says some awfully specific things about where to put that weight (see Matthew 6) but it still sneaks its way into our everyday. Often, by our own doing.
But what if we frequented practice of emptying ourselves before the Throne of Grace?
What if we took up Christ's offer of casting our cares upon Him? And what if we Christians—the hands and feet of Christ—served as the mini-Christs we were called to be? Acting in love towards each other. Taking up one another's burdens. Distributing the weight and lightening the load for all around no matter how filthy it was.
When I think of Ian, standing in the cold meeting me, a stranger at the time, I think he had every right to stay put in his warm car, focus on himself, prioritize his own needs. But he did none of those things. Instead, he presented the "can I go with you" attitude: the offer to go and be with someone dealing with an unglamorously large pile of smelly garbage. Sounds sweetly familiar, doesn't it? Like Someone Else who deals frequently with those bearing a repulsive load.
While I won't EVER suggest my very imperfect, very human fiancé is synonymous with the perfect, omniscient, triune God of creation (nor should we ever lift up any human to that level of divinity!), I will gladly connect the analogy further. Because to receive that offer of going/helping/shouldering, something else was required.
I had to bring my trash out.
You see, we can't expect to receive help if we deny there is any thing to help with.
When Christ offers His light, easy yoke (see Matthew 11) in place of ours, we have to admit that ours is heavy to begin with. We cannot expect this lightness to just happen. We have to do the work of repentance, of naming our sins, of seeking forgiveness, admitting we kept trash cluttering our spaces for far too long, and lay it all down at the foot of the cross. Then will we be able to trade our heavy burdens for the yoke of Peace. Without first laying down what's heavy, how do we expect to pick up what's light?
What a sweet moment of surrender it is, to recognize the weight we carry, and to trade it for the lightness of Love.
Needless to say, Ian and I soon found our admiration for one another. Our appreciation growing deeper and deeper. We fell in love and traveled coast to coast in one summer (it was a wild summer!) all before I moved out of state for work. This left us to long distance dating for a season cut short by a global pandemic. For our one-year anniversary, my sweet man surprised me with a proposal and the offer to spend the rest of our lives together.
As we move closer to the day we become husband and wife, many thoughts occupy my mind. Why me? What is the purpose of marriage after all? How is this my reality?
And then the memory comes back of that frozen first date. Where our future relationship was summed up in one moment:
Can I go with you.
In marriage we won't go alone. We go together. Always. We take the crap in our hearts and lives and shoulder it for each other; all the way to the foot of the cross.
Trading it for pure light.
Do you hear Jesus calling out to you today?
Who has he brought to go with you?
Who can you go with?
Next time we're shoveling out our trash on our own, may we pause to hear His faithful whisper: Can I go with you?