“I feel like I’m in a pinball machine,” Trevor told me. I felt like I was in a pressure cooker.
A few weeks before, Trevor’s sister had told him about an amazing opportunity with her company. Trevor has lived in Syracuse his whole life; I remember him telling me when we were dating that he had no plans of ever moving.
Still, I encouraged him to interview for the position. A former elder from Missio is co-leading a church in that city, so we would have a place to plug into. Plus, the job would provide a substantial pay increase and growth opportunity for Trevor’s career. “What do you have to lose?” I asked. And so he dusted off his suit and traveled to the interview.
Weeks passed, and we thought that was that . . . until he received the job offer. We had just one week to decide.
Should We Stay or Should We Go?
We were torn down the middle, as we both believed we could say yes or no in good conscience. God could be glorified and we could be devoted to good works in either place. Neither decision was sinful. “It’s not even that one decision would be wiser than another,” one of our elders remarked.
We prayed, searched Zillow.com, talked, and both completed an exercise of best and worst-case scenarios if we did or didn’t go. We also sought counsel. A couple helpful pieces of advice/questions we received:
The burden of proof lies with the new place. It’s up to them to convince you that it’s worth all you’d be giving up. If you are divided right down the middle, it doesn’t sound like there’s enough there for you to say yes.
Who do you want to do life and ministry with?
“I want you to weigh in,” Trevor told me more than once. It was a good opportunity for me to learn not just to dutifully say, “I will go wherever you go,” but to really engage my mind and heart in deciding along with him what would be best for our family.
As Trevor processed the potential move, he said more than once, “I feel like I’m missing an opportunity if I don’t take it, but leaving family and friends . . . I just don’t know that I can put a number to that.”
The night before he had to give his answer, we sat across the table from each other. “On the count of three,” he said, “show by thumbs up or thumbs down if you want to move. One, two, three.” And both our thumbs pointed down.
Syracuse, We Choose You . . . Again
We felt relief, but also a mixture of sadness the next day. It would have been an adventure, for sure. But there’s something about suddenly being given an opportunity to start over somewhere that shows you just how much you have right where you are.
God has blessed us big time, and unknowingly, we had begun to take this place and these people for granted. But thanks to this difficult decision process, we are recommitting to this place. Syracuse—among the top ten most poverty-stricken cities in the U.S.—is where we want to be a part of giving every man, woman, and child repeated opportunities to see, hear, and respond to the gospel. And the people at Missio church are the ones we want to do this alongside of.
In a world full of pressure to climb up, up, up, I am so grateful for a man who is committed to this cold, needy place. Syracuse, we happily choose you. Again.
How about you? Are you fully engaged where you live, or have you grown lax? Are you taking your influence on the people around you for granted?
In the words of Jim Elliot, “Wherever you are, be all there.”
PS: Through this process, we prayed that God would keep or move us to the place He knew would be most strategic for His kingdom advancement. That appears to be Syracuse. When you think of us, please pray for increased boldness and gospel-success in our neighborhood and city. Thanks so much!
“Should I move to the same city where my long-distance boyfriend lives?” That is the question on the table for today. The topic came across my radar when I received this email:
I am currently in a looong-distance relationship (me in Norway, him in the States). Long story short: We are both serious about this relationship heading toward marriage, and what we are looking at is me moving to the States after I finish school. From what I understand you also moved to where your husband lives.
Moving across the world and into a new culture is a huge step of faith for me, considering being away from family, church, and deep friendships on a permanent basis. I’d love to hear your story. Bet it’s a great opportunity to lean hard on the Lord.
(I’m going to assume that this girl is talking about finishing college, not high school.) That said, let’s dive in.
Four Questions to Consider Before You Move Near Your Boyfriend
Dear “I’m considering marriage . . . and moving across the world,”
It sounds wise that you plan on finishing your schooling before you move. Here are just a few questions for you to think through before you take this big step:
Have you visited each other in person?
I would definitely recommend several in-person visits before you make such a big move. Use these times to make sure he’s the same guy you’ve been getting to know online. (Trevor and I took turns visiting each other about once a month.)
Is your boyfriend a fellow believer in Christ alone for salvation? Is he actively pursuing God? Do you trust that he wouldn’t put you in a bad situation?
Have you thought about who you would move in with? Or would you live on your own?
I’d recommend living with someone else rather than on your own for several reasons: You’re going to need help adjusting to a new culture, and it’ll also be helpful to have a place to hang out with your boyfriend with other people around for accountability.
Is your boyfriend involved in a solid church where you’d be able to find friends and community?
Should One of Us Move? (Our Story)
You asked about my story. Before Trevor and I were engaged—but knowing that was coming—we talked and prayed about when it would be appropriate for one of us to move to live near the other. (Near, not with!)
We were older, we knew we were intentionally moving toward marriage, and we wanted some time to observe each other doing life on a daily basis. It just seemed like a good idea to be close enough to see how the other navigated dynamics like family, flat tires, and stress when considering something as serious as marriage.
We talked lots about whether he should move to Michigan or whether I should move to New York. While some would say that the guy should always take the risk and move to the girl, for me and Trevor, it seemed to make the most sense for me to move.
Trevor was committed to his city and church. If we were to marry, I knew we would be living in his city. I understood I would face a ton of change all at once if I married him, so I wanted to get a jumpstart on things like building new friendships, getting involved in his church, and learning my way around a new city. I figured it would be change enough to dive into my brand-new role as a wife a few months later.
Also, Trevor had a good job in New York, and my work place was flexible, allowing me to work off-site. Besides, I’d been living in a small Michigan town for a decade and had been itching for a new adventure for a while.
My Move to New York
In April 2015, Trevor asked me to marry him, and a few days later I trailed the yellow moving truck he was driving to New York in my Toyota Avalon. (I just may have locked my keys in my car at a rest stop somewhere along the way . . . Pennsylvania, maybe? But that’s another story for another day.)
When we finally arrived in New York, we were met with a group of people from his church who unloaded the moving truck and welcomed me to my new home for the next five-and-a-half-months. My roommates consisted of a kind married couple from his church who invited me to stay with them rent-free!, another girl who was engaged to be married three weeks before me, as well as two dog and three cats.
Looking back, I have no regrets. It was the right decision for us.
May the Lord lead you to make the wisest decision for you, your boyfriend, your relationship, and ultimately God’s glory.
Was it risky? Sure. I knew full well going into the move that it was possible something could come up and our engagement could be broken off. It was a risk, though, that I was willing to take, because the benefits outweighed the risks for me.
Hopefully my story will help you as you think through a potential move. Your story will probably look different than mine, and that’s okay. Be sure to be seeking God about such a huge decision and listening well to advice from older, wiser Christians in your life. May the Lord lead you to make the wisest decision for you, your boyfriend (or fiancé), your relationship, and ultimately God’s glory.
Hey, girls! Since it’s the day after Valentine’s Day and love is still in the air (or at least on our minds), I thought I’d share this interview with you from GospelMag.com. I hope my responses will help you as you think about someday possibly moving from singleness to marriage. Enjoy!
Q. Since you wrote Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl, you got married. Congratulations!
A. Thank you. God gives great gifts. I was starting to think I’d be single for the rest of my life; I’m still amazed I’m married . . . and to a wonderful man!
Q. What changed in your life when you met the man who would become your husband?
A. At first not a whole lot, other than that I spent a lot more time on Skype. As I look back over the past two-and-a-half-years since I’ve known him, though, I can see that I’ve changed a lot. Trevor has challenged and changed the way I think about a host of issues. He has pushed me (in good ways) in areas where I felt fearful and inept. He has been a tangible picture of God’s steadfast love for me, even when all that is ugly is stripped bare and out in the open.
Q. How did you meet him?
A. Seven months after publishing Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom, I inadvertently started following a guy named Trevor Marsteller on Twitter. At the time, I was reaching out to bloggers asking for honest reviews of my book in exchange for a free copy. When I followed him on Twitter, I saw he had over 1,000 followers and had also done book reviews on his blog. I asked if he’d like to review Confessions, he said yes, and we kept talking from there. (You can read all the juicy details here.)
Q. Did things change right away, or has your relationship gradually become special?
A. I’m not the only one who has changed. Trevor has become more and more kind and affectionate since we first met. In fact, he puts me to shame with the way he loves me! I’d say our relationship has become more special over time, through tears, hard conversations, forgiveness, kindness, and love.
Q. Did God show you in one way or another that Trevor was the man you should marry?
A. I believe God communicates to us through His Word. In the Bible, He has made it clear that believers are not to marry unbelievers. But other than that one stipulation, He has given us freedom to make our choice based on wisdom.
God didn’t “speak” to me and tell me to marry Trevor. But as I got to know Trevor, as I asked others who knew him well questions, as I saw how he loved me and how I could just be myself around him without needing to impress him, it became obvious. This man loved God, loved me, and was pursuing me. It was a no-brainer.
Q. What would you say to girls who want to marry and don’t know on which basis to make their decision?
Stop looking for handwriting in the sky telling you that this guy is “the one.”
A. Stop looking for handwriting in the sky telling you that this guy is “the one.” Is he a believer? One who is serious in his pursuit of God? Is he pursuing you? Are you comfy with him? Do you communicate well? Do your family and friends think he’s great?
Make a wise decision based on the Word of God, wise counsel, and common sense. God has given you a ton of freedom. Choose wisely, and as you do, be blessed!
Q. We often tell people who aren’t yet married that they need to date, meet more people, and subscribe to dating websites. In this, we lead them to understand that they have to do more to make it happen. What do you think?
He is the One who gives us every good gift. Pursue Him. Serve Him. Trust Him.
A. I was given the same advice over the years, but I think it falls short. Ultimately, most of us underestimate God’s sovereignty. He is the One who gives us every good gift. Pursue Him. Serve Him. Trust Him. This area of life is not ultimately something you control; it is all under His wise, good, sovereign control.
Q. We often say to girls that they will find someone when they least expect it. What do you think?
A. I think it’s very unhelpful advice. People probably mean to be encouraging when they say it, but as a single I always felt this enormous pressure to somehow trick my emotions out of longing for marriage. It sounded like if I could succeed in that, then marriage would somehow just fall in my lap. But there’s no such prerequisite in God’s Word. He gives us undeserved gifts freely; we do not earn them.
Q. How did you find your smile (joy) back when you went through moments of discouragement regarding romance?
A. It took a long time, but as I got to know God’s character through His Word and by sitting under solid sermons Sunday after Sunday, I grew in my knowledge of God. And as my knowledge of God grew, so did my trust in Him and my enjoyment of Him.
Whenever I sign my books, I include Psalm 16:11: “In your presence is fullness of joy.” True joy is not found in our circumstances but in spending time enjoying God, which we can do anytime, anywhere.
I’d love to hear from you. Did you learn anything new through this interview? Anything you disagree with? As you think about marriage, are there any questions you want to add?
This morning a girl wrote me that she’s struggling with “how to know God’s will for my career.” I figure she’s not alone, so I’m sharing my response here in hopes that it will help you, too, as you face this daunting decision.
First, a little history.
We’re living in a super unique time. Choices abound. Schooling, military service, full-time ministry, an apprenticeship, an internship, a job directly out of high school . . . these are just a few of your options.
But it wasn’t always like this.
“During Bible times,” Gary Friesen writes in Decision Making and the Will of God, “sons usually took up the occupations of their fathers . . . daughters became wives. Asking a young Israelite if he had discovered God’s will for his life’s work would probably elicit a blank stare.”
Yet somehow we’ve come to believe that we have to discover God’s specific will for exactly where we work.
I just don’t think it works that way.
Scripture shows that God is not concerned with what career you choose (unless, of course, it’s in direct disobedience to His revealed will in Scripture, such as prostitution) as He is about how you work at your career.
As Gary Friesen shares in his book, your work is to be characterized by:
Must be diligent in your work, with the idea that your ultimate superior is the Lord (Eph. 6:6–8; Col. 3:23).
Must work as hard when no one is watching as you do under direct supervision (Eph. 6:6).
Must regard your employer as worthy of all honor (1 Tim. 6:1) and show respect even to those supervisors
who are unreasonable (1 Peter 2:18).
Must not take advantage of an employer who is also a believer, but rather serve him all the more out of love (1 Tim. 6:2).
So can we tweak the question? Rather than asking “What is God’s will for my career?” can we ask “How can I best serve God through my work?”
Don’t fret when you don’t hear a voice from heaven telling you that you should move to Alaska to work in the fishing industry or that you should enroll in Bible college in Chicago. You have great freedom in choosing your work.
Instead, listen to His clear voice through Scripture and learn how to please Him in the way that you work. How can you best serve God with the gifts He has given you?
I’d love to hear from you. Have you been more focused on finding exactly where God wants you to work, or have you been obeying His moral will regarding how you work? What specific step will you commit to take after reading this post to glorify God in the way that you work?
1. Determine if you have the “gift” of marriage or singleness.
Dr. Friesen explains it like this:
The decision to marry or remain single lies within the area of freedom. The apostle [Paul] had a definite preference for [singleness] that he “wished” all others could choose. But he knew he could not give his desire the force of a command. For not everyone “has the gift.” God graces each believer differently. It is likely that Paul’s meaning is that some are “gifted” to enjoy singleness while others are “gifted” to enjoy marriage with its extra responsibilities (1 Cor. 7:7).
The first issue for you to work out is whether it’s best for you to be married or single. Surprisingly, “there is no command from Scripture one way or the other.” That means you don’t need to spend hours trying to discern God’s “still, small voice.” You don’t need to determine whether God is calling you to marriage or singleness.
Since both marriage and singleness are gifts from God, and since you are free to serve God as a single girl and once you’re married, both are good options. (You can read 1 Corinthians 7 for the pros and cons of both marriage and singleness.)
Now is a good time to think through this, even if there’s no guy knocking at your door yet. It will be less for you to figure out when a guy does come knocking.
2. Determine if your prospect is a believer.
Now—assuming you desire to be married, and there’s a guy pursuing you—you first need to ask if Scripture says anything about choosing a spouse. (And it does!) Scripture is clear: A believer in Christ may only marry another believer in Christ. This is vitally important. As Dr. Friesen explains:
The point is that not only are the believers’ values, goals, standards, motivations, and means of enablement for living incompatible with those of an unbeliever; they are diametrically opposed! They are serving two different lords that are archenemies of one another.
God has given you a whole lot of freedom beyond this one command. Don’t disobey Him here. Look first and foremost for a godly, Jesus-loving guy.
3. Seek wise counsel.
What do your parents think of this guy?
What does your pastor say?
Once you’re engaged, get some premarital counseling, and listen well to what your counselor thinks of you two.
Those around you will be a lot more clearheaded than you will with romance clouding your brain. Heed their counsel.
4. Use common sense.
Do you two share the same values? Here are just a few things Friesen encourages you to note: age, finances, employment, education, personal goals, personality traits, birth control, principles of child rearing, hobbies, family background, socioeconomic background, and possessions.
I didn’t always understand the freedom God has given in wisely choosing a spouse. I used to try to figure out if it was God’s will for me to marry a guy by praying and then watching for “signs” from God. And it was confusing! Here’s an example from an old journal entry:
I was talking on the phone with Dad tonight when Jim texted. Actually, at that particular moment, Dad was praying that my future husband would find me, when I heard the text come in. Coincidence, or God at work? I don’t know . . .
Jim was also confused, because after months of sending me confusing signals, he told me that as he’d prayed about pursuing me, he “sensed a yellow light.” He didn’t have a “red light” from God, but he also didn’t have a “green light.” He also told me that as he asked God whether now was the time to pursue marriage or not, God had been “annoyingly silent.” I think that’s because God had already given him the freedom to decide himself.
Needless to say, I ended up telling Jim goodbye (you can read how that went down in chapter 15 of my book). And oh, I’m so glad I did.
Because a few years later, God plopped Trevor Marsteller in my lap. Well, in my Twitter feed, to be exact. As I began to date Trevor (he was a believer, so he was fair game), I kept my eyes wide open and used the wisdom God has given me through His Word and community.
Make a wise decision based on the Word of God, wise counsel, and common sense.
It’s not that there were zero concerns. But as I brought those to God, to Trevor, and to wise counselors, in the end they weren’t game changers. Although Trevor wasn’t perfect (no guy but Jesus is!), I could see that he was “perfect” for me in so many ways. These three main things gave me the confidence to continue moving forward to marriage. And if you’re wondering, six months into marriage I am so grateful I chose him!
Back to you now, though.
Bottom line: Stop looking for handwriting in the sky telling you that this guy is “the one.” Make a wise decision based on the Word of God, wise counsel, and common sense. God has given you a ton of freedom. Choose wisely, and as you do, be blessed!
I’d love to hear from you. Does this sound surprisingly . . . simple? What questions do you have after reading this post?
When should you start to date (or court)? Here are three tell-tale signs (among others) that you’re ready:
1. Your authority figures give you the green light.
I heard from a girl recently who wrote:
I like this dude, and he happens to like me back. One day after school, we talked, and he told me that he likes me, and so I told him I like him, too. I have heard from many people that he is going to ask me to be his girlfriend . . . and that’s where things get crazy.
My parent will NOT let me date. And if they find out that I am dating . . . let’s just say that I will die. LITERALLY.
I am not dating him right now, but I just have a feeling that he will ask me . . . and I don’t know what to do. I really like him, and he likes me. This is very rare!!! When ur crush likes u back . . . Rare. My friends are like, “Just say yes, and just don’t tell your parents,” but I am like, “They will find out!!!”
I can relate. I told her:
We have a lot in common. My parents had the same rules . . . plus some. Growing up I thought they were totally unreasonable, and I dated behind their backs (and was always discovered).
Now, looking back, I can see that God was protecting me from myself through my parents. It sure wasn’t fun in junior high and high school, but now I am SO grateful I wasn’t allowed to get my way. I actually ended up dedicating my book to my parents. Here’s a little taste:
“[Thank you] for keeping such close tabs on me during those tumultuous teen years! At the time I thought you were just plain ol’ mean, but now I can’t thank you enough for sparing me a harvest of regret.”
You’ll end up being grateful, too, for those strict parents. Even though you feel anything but gratitude now, know this:
God promises to bless those who honor and obey their parents (Eph. 6:1–3). And He always keeps His promises! It’s not just
a suggestion; He commands it. If you disobey your parents, you’re ultimately disobeying God.
If this guy really, really likes you, he will wait for as long as it takes. And if he is the kind of guy you want to end up with long-term, he will
NOT encourage you to disobey your parents.
God promises to bless those who honor and obey their parents. And He always keeps His promises!
Please, please trust me. Going behind your parents’ backs will only end in regret. And if you already have, it’s not too late to get out.
(Psst . . . If you’re struggling with your parents’ rules, here are some posts I’ve written in the past that may help.)
Let me add that just because an authority figure says you can date whenever you want doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Maybe this authority figure isn’t currently making the wisest decisions. In this case, ask yourself if you’re ready for marriage. That’s right. Marriage.
2. You’re ready for marriage.
That’s the point of dating, after all. Ben Stuart explains it like this: “Dating is not a status. It’s a process (of evaluating a person for marriage).”
That doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily feel completely ready for marriage, as in, “Oh, yeah, I got this covered, no sweat.” But you’re actually at a point in life where you’re old—and mature—enough to get married. You don’t have something else you have to complete first, like a big chunk of schooling.
The practical advice I give the singles at our church is, if you cannot happily see yourself as a married woman in less than one year, then you are not ready to date.
But what if I met someone super special, you ask? And they actually like me? Shouldn’t I do something about that?!
Why would you, if marriage isn’t even a possibility?
I’ve gotta side with Scott and with the writer of the Song of Solomon on this one. Over and over throughout the book the warning is given, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires,” or until the appropriate time (2:7; 3:5; 8:4).
Song of Solomon 8:7 explains why: “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.” And as the verse before says, “It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.”
God knows that if we don’t wait to experience true love in the safe context of a God-blessed marriage, we will get severely burned.
Can you imagine a blazing forest fire that several rivers worth of water cannot extinguish? That would be one intense firestorm. God knows that if we don’t wait to experience true love in the safe context of a God-blessed marriage, we will get severely burned.
Better to build healthy ways of relating with all guys and to pursue your relationship with Christ at this stage in life. You will not regret it. Promise.
Another way to know if you’re ready to date is . . .
3. You have pursued and served God wholeheartedly as a single, and now a godly guy is pursuing you that you think you could be even more effective in serving Christ with as a team.
In the biggest section of Scripture on singleness and marriage, Paul writes,
In whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God (1 Cor. 7:24).
Make it the goal of your life not to change your status, but to serve God as effectively and energetically as possible in whatever state you are. The contemporary poster says it well: “Bloom where you are planted now!”
In declaring this principle Paul was not forbidding marriage for single people or freedom for slaves. If the opportunity comes along and it is expedient to take it, do so (7:21). His point was that people tend to concentrate on the wrong things. They pour their energies into changing their condition for their own sake rather than into changing the world for Christ’s sake (p. 293).
I’d love to hear from you. Do you think you’re ready to date (or court)? Why or why not?