Her ring gleamed in the sun as she reached for her delectable brownie. Surprised to see what looked like a real diamond on her slender, young finger, I inquired. "What a beautiful ring. Are you engaged?" She shyly shifted her feet and them beamed at me, "Yes! Just recently." I smiled knowing she'd expect me to be incredulous or confused that such a young girl (nearly high school graduate) would be engaged at such an age.
But instead, she found out that I wasn't armed to judge but rather to encourage. I know this girl-well, a little. She often stops by my cookie stand on Wednesdays with a smile and a dollar to buy a brownie. So I quickly offered her congratulations and then asked her what their plans were. She responded that her fiance was waiting to hear about a Coast Guard scholarship and once they knew his status, that they'd be able to proceed forward. From the looks of her ring, I could tell this guy was serious. For it was stunning.
To her I was just a thirty-something-mom-of-many that sells baked goods on Wednesdays. But little did she know that I was once in her shoes and I know how important it is to be encouraging. I didn't get married quite as young as she will. But I was still young and I can't tell you how many people told me that I'd regret it later.
So I told her. I told her that I was 21. I told her that it was the best decision I ever made in my whole life. I told her that my husband and I learned to live life together, on very little and that we were happy. We learned to save, together. We learned to face life, together. We learned to make decisions, together. We learned that it's best not to live on impulse but to wait for God's provision. We learned to be responsible, together.
And we did all of that by making mistakes, together. But God used it to grow us up and we are so, so thankful for that time.
But most importantly, we learned to build our finances, our possessions, our relationship, our home...slowly, one brick at a time-together on the Rock that is Christ.
As I explained this to her, she grinned with that winsome young love look that is so optimistic about the future and she reminded me of myself. I wanted to tell her that they'd face hardship. That it wouldn't be easy to put each other first. That at times, in the dark after a long hard day, that they'd cling to one another as they faced an uncertain future. That they'd find themselves with little money. Or that they'd have to learn to work together and that alone would be so physically, mentally and emotionally difficult.
But I didn't. Because that's the beauty and mystery of marriage. God has us all on our own journeys. Hers won't look like mine. And she will discover what it means to married after she's committed for life, which is the best way.
What I did tell her was this though...I told her that I will be married 10 years this July. That we have four going on five beautiful children. That God has been with us every single step of the way and that whatever journey He had for them, He'd carry them through, no matter how difficult. And that I never once have wished I was older or more financially secure nor have I regretted making that choice young. Not once.
Instead I'm thankful for the lessons, for the better person God has made me by being married to Steve, for all of the children He's given us and for the time He's given us so far. One of my prayers is that I'll have the privilege to grow old with him-to be married for sixty or seventy years. To sit and do 1000 piece puzzles with him. To read together, see our grandchildren and go for walks. To just be with him.
I know that not everyone chooses to marry young. Or those that desire to, don't always get to. I understand that and I'm not saying this is the only way. But in today's culture, the young who do desire to commit and get married often receive such negative feedback that whenever I come across such situations, I try to encourage. Because I've been there. I know.
She walked off with a brownie in her hand and a full heart, thanking me over and over as she walked away. And I was so glad to have interacted with her. In fact, looking at her reminded me so much of myself and as a result, the memories just flooded back to me. And as she left, I was able to thank God for His mercies, His grace and goodness to us over the years.
For He has always been faithful and I know He will continue to be.
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