As many of you know, one month ago on July 19 I (David) asked an incredibly kind, intelligent, talented, and lovely woman, Andrea Byrne, to spend the rest of her life with me in marriage and service to our Lord. We had spent the morning together with her family worshiping the Lord at Friendswood Friends, her home church near Houston, Texas and before hitting the road to head back up to Fort Worth, I suggested revisiting a park near her house - the first park we had explored together when we saw each other for the first time in the spring. The weather that day contrasted sharply with the warm, languid air that hung around us, but the trees and grass still shimmered in vibrant shades of green. We found a pair of trees in a clearing near the creek, and as I strung up our hammock I nervously thought of how I ought to present the ring to Andrea and how I could possibly communicate to her all the thoughts and convictions that filled my mind and had led me to this moment.
After all, for most of my life marriage was not something I had even considered. I knew that it represented a solemn, serious commitment that was not to be taken lightly, but honestly it seemed the effort was not worth the reward. I was happy by myself. Since the intent of dating and courtship was to understand someone for the purpose of marriage, I did not engage in those activities either. God had blessed me with a great career, a loving family and good friends and I simply did not feel an urge or desire to enter the turbulent world of romantic relationships, fearing the emotional landmines that littered the fields of miscommunication and the hurt feelings that would inevitably result. It seemed like I had good, biblical reasons to stay single as well. In 1st Corinthians 7 Paul encourages his readers to remain single and be free from the anxious desire to please their spouse. However, Paul did not say this so that his readers could achieve some zen-like hermetic inner peace, but "for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord." (1 Cor. 7:35).
So then, was my attention indeed undivided to the Lord? Was I using the energy and flexibility of my single years to His glory, or taking my free time and spending them in pursuit of self-gratification? By God’s grace I had avoided many of the pitfalls of youth and maintained a pleasant, inoffensive life, but was that God’s purpose and design for me? Was there anything I could do differently to draw closer to God, understand Him, and become more like Christ?
As these thoughts weighed on me, so did the queries of friends, mentors, and relatives about my interest in dating, relationships, and marriage. “Nope, not interested!” was my standard reply when asked if I had any new thoughts in that domain or if I would like to meet someone special. Their persistence, however, led to an awareness of my apparent eligibility, that I could bring joy and happiness to someone through marriage. The testimony of many older Christian couples as well as recently married friends and the joy that their marriage facilitated also served as a great encouragement. Concurrent with this new realization I discovered that responsibility and leadership were not necessarily dark, burdensome, thankless chores, but powerful motors for maturing as a believer in Christ.
One instance of this was the process of buying and maintaining the first house the Moses family ever had, with all the responsibility and commitment that entailed. It was daunting and stressful, but the satisfaction of providing a place for my siblings to settle and rest more than made up for it. Around the same time I started teaching a very small Sunday School class at our church, a service that I initially approached with much apprehension but which also transformed my prayer life and spurred me to know the material and God’s word with greater breadth and depth. Both my siblings and my Sunday School students were incredibly gracious, kind, and patient and after a year living in our house and teaching the class, I no longer saw responsibility and leadership - some of the things I feared I would lack as a husband in marriage - as enemies, but friends.
The final means that God in His sovereignty encouraged my pursuit of marriage was a series of sermons by Matt Chandler, called A Beautiful Design. It was inspired in response to questions from the congregation about why the Village Church held that men and women should relate to each other in a complementary fashion, each filling distinct, biblically based roles in family and ministry and how to live that truth out in today’s culture. I had never before heard with such clarity and passion how incredible it is that God made men and women distinctly and how marriage can serve as a beautiful picture of God’s love for His church. At the end of the series, I wrote my Dad the following letter:
One principle that's become increasingly clear is how God uses marriage to sanctify people. It's one thing to read the Bible, know God's principles, and reflect on his goodness, but marriage provides unique opportunities to apply the Word, exercise those principles, and witness his goodness. As the author of an article I read said: "I can learn about Jesus when I read the Bible and feel close to Jesus when I pray. But I BECOME like Jesus (spiritually formed) when I give my life to a spouse, a child, a grandchild, and others whom God places in my home." As Christians we are indeed called to become more like Christ, transformed day by day into his image.
I've often wondered how am I supposed to live this, practically speaking, beyond simply being a well behaved, polite person and a good employee. In short, what is my calling in this regard? Ephesians 5 shows us how husbands can model Christ's love for the church via self-sacrificial love for their wives. Absent a call to an area of ministry best served via singleness, being the husband in a marriage relationship is an opportunity that God has offered all Christian men. It seems like it would be cowardly at best, disobedient at worst, for me as a man to ignore this domain of spiritual development.
Modeling Christ's love as a husband is certainly a daunting task and incredible challenge. However, you've told us many times that one's faith is best developed in the midst of challenges. One of my most consistent prayers over the years has been for God to draw me closer to Him by providing opportunities to exercise my faith and trust in Him, and I believe that marriage and family is indeed an answer to that prayer. I'm under no illusion that it will be an easy, serene, carefree experience. After all, if it were, where would the opportunities be for self-sacrifice and spiritual growth?
And thus, with a bit of a martyr’s spirit, I began to earnestly pray and ask God to show me how to seek and whom I should pursue.
It did not take long to realize that I had been quite successful at limiting my contact with other Christian women my age. As I asked friends and family if they knew of anyone and began to become more involved in ministry I also subscribed to a small, somewhat obscure website called marrywell.org, created to foster conversations about singleness, courtship, and marriage within a community of marriage-minded Christian singles. The articles and discussion provided much food for thought and on Thanksgiving of 2014, I received a cheerful inquiry from “TrumpetGirl” asking about my life growing up overseas, as she had a similar background as a missionary kid and then missionary woman in Mexico. I learned that her name was Andrea and that she currently taught private music lessons, mentored a younger lady, and facilitated a sunday school class at her church. We constantly surprised ourselves and our friends by how much we had in common and how similar we were in our habits and thoughts.
As our exchanges grew in length and depth, I was increasingly impressed by her intelligence, clarity, compassion, but most of all her passionate love of Christ and desire to become more like Him. In February I asked her father’s permission to speak with her and we began making weekend visits to each other in the spring. Throughout the period of our friendship we discussed each other’s past, our personalities, our motivations, and our goals in an attempt to determine if we should enter into courtship and seek God’s will for us in marriage. After much prayer, encouragement from my godparents the Helms, affirmation from my family, and more prayer, Andrea and I began courting in May and talking seriously about what marriage might look like for us and how God could use such a union. As rich as it was to be with Andrea, it was the joy of seeing her again returning from a three-week trip to Europe when I realized that Andrea was indeed the one God was calling me to marry. My thoughts were not that of a brave martyr, but of a man filled with joy, peace, and purpose in anticipation of a life spent with one of the wisest, godliest, most compassionate women I had ever met.
And so it was on July 19 I summoned the courage to ask Andrea if she would indeed join me. To my pleasure and delight, she said yes! For Andrea, the most central passage of her life is Ephesians 5:1-2. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” What better way to imitate Christ than to become close to someone who models Him and causes you to desire to become more like Him? That motivation is what has drawn us toward each other and toward the path of marriage, mutual service, and love.
The Tribe of Moses is excited to welcome a new member into the family! Andrea and I will be married on November the 7th of this year. Sara will move in with a good friend from Inglewood and Jonathan will get an apartment closer to his work in North Dallas. While the family dynamics will certainly change, I am confident that God will use our marriage to enrich our family, especially if he blesses Andrea and me with children!
I suppose that’s a bit further down the road...