Have you ever been asked this question, “Did you have a love marriage or an arranged marriage?” When I was asked this the first time, it stumped me for a bit because I couldn't classify my marriage under either!
When I was twenty-four my parents and I moved to Chennai. This was the first time I had lived in the land of my origins. Having spoken only English and Hindi all my life, hearing Tamil all around me was a bit of a shocker. To add to all the confusion, since I was at the “ideal marriageable age” my parents started getting questioned by relatives and friends, “So when are you getting your daughter married?” or “Twenty-four? That's old. You should do something soon otherwise she won't find anyone,” or “What criteria are you looking for? Nadar?” That was when I realised that being from a particular community and caste meant a lot, even to Christians. The most provoking question, though, had to be, “How much gold are you planning on giving?”
For my parents and I, the thought of caste and dowry had never even crossed our minds while thinking of marriage. So when these questions were posed to them, my parents would just politely, but firmly say, “We are not giving any dowry and the guy can belong to any community.” My only criteria was that he should have a real faith in Jesus Christ and that I should know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he was God's will for me.
Slowly word got around regarding our views on marriage and the proposals began to slow down. Not that I had ever been inundated with them to begin with, but it was demoralising. A year went by and I found myself growing colder and harder inside. I wondered if I had missed hearing God's voice. I worried that I was being too picky. I grew cynical of others who were finding their mates. And I grew angry with God. I couldn't understand why He was taking so long to bring along the right guy. Each time I would pray, the only word I received was – wait. Not at all what I wanted to hear!
The few proposals that did come felt weird. I remember one where the guy read my blog and said I was too spiritual. Another family asked my parents if they were willing to help “set up” my house after marriage. That wasn’t as crude as asking how many kilos of gold, but effectively the same. Some commented on my choice to wear jeans and said I would have to dress more traditionally after marriage.
I was shocked, horrified and humiliated in turns.
My dad finally stepped in and said to me one day, “There is this nice boy in Coimbatore.” I snorted derisively, “What good ever came out of Coimbatore?” (God has a sense of humour, believe me!) I was tired and angry and had no patience left. Yet my dad persisted. This was the first time he had recommended a guy to me. Until then, all the proposals had been brought by relatives or friends. So the next time he brought up the subject of the guy in Coimbatore, I listened.
My dad reminded me that we had met in Coonoor a few years back. I'd completely forgotten and all I could remember of Abhishek was a tall guy with long hair doing coolie duty! (He was putting our suitcases in the taxi.) His parents and mine were good friends, but I'd never met him apart from that one occasion. It all seemed a bit far-fetched so I just ignored my dad.
However, a few weeks later I met various people who were completely unrelated to each other and who had no idea of all this back-story. They urged me to attend a youth camp and talk to a person called Abhishek who was helping organise it. The first time I heard it, I thought it was just coincidence and brushed it aside. I was too old to be attending youth camps anyway, right?
But by the fourth time I was told the same thing by a different person, I couldn't ignore a message that was being blasted a little too loudly and clearly. Reluctantly I knelt and laid it before God, “Lord, my motives here are clear. If I go to this camp, it’s only to meet this guy.” So I went to the camp and met Abhishek, who seemed very nice and down-to-earth. But that was it. Nothing happened. I kicked myself mentally. After all, what had I expected – that he'd drop everything and propose to me on one knee?!
While I was mentally berating myself, I attended a session done by Arun Andrews, a pastor from Bangalore, where he shared about his own marriage and how God had asked him to pray for the lady he would later marry. Not court her, but pray for her. That thought stayed with me and when I went home after the camp, I felt led to pray for Abhishek. Not talk to him and get to know him, but just pray for him. I did not know whether he was God's will for me, but I should still pray. Not pray that I should marry him, but pray for him – his life and his choices and finding God's will for his life.
I have the feeling I'm coming across as this far-out, overly spiritual person who's slightly ga-ga! But believe me, as skeptical as you might be right now reading this, I was even more so. This was completely foreign territory for me in my faith. I had never put myself in such a vulnerable position before. I was open to ridicule on all fronts and all for a guy who only knew my name! I was assailed by so many doubts I almost gave up before I even began.
I decided to ask a few of my closest friends and family to look at the situation objectively and tell me the truth even if it hurt my feelings. At the back of my mind I was sure at least one of them, if not all, would shoot down the idea of putting my life on hold and praying for some random guy. To my everlasting surprise, all of them said I ought to go ahead and pray, though we didn't know what the answer would be.
So I prayed for three months, during which time I never made an attempt to contact Abhishek. For all intents and purposes we were still strangers. I felt foolish, but I still prayed. Every time I came close to giving up, God would give me a clear command to stick to my job. Those months of waiting in prayer taught me more about trust, faith and hope than I had ever learnt before. They were no longer just words, but my only lifeline in a dark, uncharted sea.
And then one day, out of the blue, Abhishek called. I was so shocked when he introduced himself that I nearly dropped the phone! Once I stopped stammering, we started talking and didn't stop for two hours. When I finally put the phone down, I couldn't wipe the silly grin off my face.
Later, when I went to God, He gave me a blessing and a seal of approval. He showed me beyond a shadow of a doubt that Abhishek was His will for me. We were married a few months later in Coonoor, because that was where it all began, in a manner of speaking.
Waiting wasn’t easy. Letting go of all control and trusting God, while the future was unclear, tested my faith and all that I said I believed. Yet it taught me that God has a plan and His ways are always the best. I also have a sneaky feeling that He loves playing matchmaker! Now when someone asks me if I had a love marriage or an arranged marriage, I say, “It was a love marriage arranged by my Heavenly Father.”
How did you meet your spouse? Or if you haven't yet, do you favour an arranged marriage or love marriage?