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Becoming A Couple Of Destiny
Living, Loving, and Creating A Life That Matters
By Joseph W. Walker III, Stephaine Hale Walker
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2011 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
Our story: Beginning in God's Garden of Destiny
This book is about becoming a couple of destiny and understanding how to successfully negotiate your life as a couple. God brought you together for a purpose. That purpose is greater than your own individual purpose, and God wants to put you both on a path that will lead to fulfillment, peace, and abundant joy—in short, your destiny. While you may be great as separate individuals—leading full, meaningful lives—you have committed to live together as a couple. You have promised to love, cherish, and keep each other; and, most likely, you made these promises in front of your family and friends. But no matter where or when you became a couple, you also made these promises before our ever-present God. The message of this book is that you can be better together than you ever were separately and that by walking together in God's will for your life, you will find your destiny and establish your home in peace.
Although people often approach relationships with selfish motives, we soon discover that God's will for our lives is far greater than we imagined. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:1, "Therefore, seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not." Paul's word to this Corinthian church charges them to see beyond themselves. Once you truly see and understand God's will, you can see beyond yourself and recognize that God strategically connects you to people who will help you grow into the person God wants you to be.
In this book Stephaine and I share our story. Sometimes you'll see that we have different perspectives on the same story. But we begin each chapter together, and we conclude each chapter together with some talking points for you. We hope that you and your spouse read this book, do the exercises, and answer the questions at the end of the chapters, so that you can discover the exquisite gift you can be to each other. While we are attempting to "walk the walk" and not just talk, we also realize that we are not perfect people nor do we make the perfect couple. In fact, we still consider ourselves newlyweds in some respects, but we believe that even through some of our mistakes, you will see two people striving to be a couple of destiny. We also hope that you will allow us to walk beside you as you walk in God's purpose toward the destiny He has for you.
Before we met, Stephaine and I were individually successful in our own lives, but God brought us together to do, like you, something awesome for His glory. Paul says we faint not. We never get tired or worn out by the process, because God grants us mercy when we fail and when we succeed. Relationships and marriages of destiny are truly a ministry of God's unending mercy, because two imperfect people come together to walk in the way that leads to life. And this can only happen when individuals and couples come to a place of total reliance upon God. This means that we make a commitment to put God first in our marriage. Because, when we do, God is in a better position to give us the good gifts He intends for us.
Considering the events in our pasts, Stephaine and I had to rely totally upon God. I had lost a wife and, admittedly, I had become cynical about the possibility of loving again. Stephaine had become cynical about whether true love even existed. Though our connection was truly a divine orchestration, our spirits were tired. But it's often in those moments of hopelessness and fatigue that we can witness the power of God the most. Total reliance upon God eradicated all our fears and doubts, and allowed us to grow together through our courtship and in our marriage. Solomon says in Proverbs 3:5 that we should "trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding."
There are two foundational principles that enable us to trust. The first is reliable reference. We would never hire a person without getting references from a reliable source, and we usually take that source's advice and place our trust in the people we hire based on what others have said. When you read the Bible, you see hundreds of reliable references that speak to the benefit of trusting God. The writer in Hebrews calls them "so great a cloud of witnesses" (12:1). These are those whose testimonies and stories encourage us to trust God beyond what has been and believe God for what is to come in our Now and in our Not Yet.
The second thing that enforces our trust is personal experience. When we look back over our own lives, we can begin to see a pattern. God allows us to go through a series of experiences in order that we may come to trust Him. Without those challenging experiences, we would never know the power of reliance. Every bad relationship in your past has been instrumental in helping you trust God now. Rather than become bitter, you should thank God that it has made you better and that you have profited from your experience. Both reliable references and personal experience were important to how our own relationship as a couple unfolded. We trust God with our Now, and we trust God with our Not Yet.
THE BEGINNING OF OUR RELATIONSHIP was really something that began before Stephaine and I even met. That's how God works. I am convinced that before the foundations of the world, God was at work bringing us together at the right time and in the right place in order to impact the world in a positive way. As Adam had been prepared for Eve and she for him, God prepares us for each other, and God has prepared you for each other. Look over the pattern of your life and see how it has brought you to your mate.
If we had connected before our appointed time, things would not have happened as they did. Stephaine was a member of Mount Zion Church when she was an undergraduate student. While she was at Vanderbilt she attended services regularly, but we never met. Our church was growing so fast that students would come get the Word and then leave right after church. By the time I was shaking hands after the service, many of them were already back on campus. And during that time I was married and clearly in another place in my life. If Stephaine and I had met, even casually, it would have probably been weird, to say the least, for us to connect years later.
Right Time, Right Season for Every Good Thing
The blessing is that God's hand was in it the whole time. Even though I knew many of her friends, I never met her until the day we were introduced by her pastor in Boston years later. Truly there is a time and a season for everything, and we have to be willing to wait for God to navigate circumstances rather than get in His way.
If you find yourself discouraged, wondering if you are ever going to connect with the right person, be of good cheer. God is at work in your life. And as my mother in-law so eloquently says, "What you are looking for is looking for you." Destiny really exists for those who are willing to trust God's creative power.
I believe that the events of my life were preordained by God to bring me to a place where I would be open to meeting someone of Stephaine's caliber and moving toward destiny with her. I had just come through years of emotional unrest. When you've experienced the loss of a spouse, your spirit is closed and you can't imagine life beyond the acute crisis you are facing. For me it took three long years to even reconnect with myself. The expectations of the ministry were so overwhelming that I knew I needed to take a step back and breathe.
God Is Always Working and Creating Destiny
When I think of the creative work of God in Genesis, I understand that before the beginning there was God. The beginning is literally the culmination of God's activity in the creative act. The moment I met Stephaine, I recognized God's hand. God had been working on me-shifting me, molding me, and preparing me for what lay ahead.
In 2007, I remember sitting in a chair in my great room contemplating whether I would remain single or pursue another relationship. I must admit that I thought long and hard about this decision; however, deep inside I knew I was wired for relationship. There were numerous introductions and encounters that had led me to this place. But it was when I stopped looking that God delivered on the promise that "it is not good that the man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18). I was speaking at a pastor's conference in Orlando, Florida, when Dr. John Borders, a pastor of a great church in Boston, approached me between sessions. I never will forget his words. He was certain that the Lord had laid it upon his heart to introduce me to someone. I had heard that statement so many times before, but this was different. His sincerity was genuine and unique. I felt myself yield, and when I did, I was certain that my life had changed forever.
Destiny Chooses You to Be a Couple
The thing I've learned about destiny is that you don't choose it. It chooses you. When you've been prepared, then God moves. This is what God did in the garden in the beginning. Everything was in proper order; I had been sufficiently molded by His hands, and then God moved in my life in the area of relationship. When Dr. Borders told me about Stephaine, I was impressed. Although my flesh stepped in briefly to Google her to see what she looked like. Though we both laugh at that even today, I realize that her outward beauty is matched by her inner beauty and spirit beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
I remember the first time we talked. We spoke for hours. I had not known that she had attended my church years ago when she was an undergraduate. Though we had not really met, it was comforting knowing that I had contributed to her spiritual life during a pivotal season for her. How amazing was this? God had positioned Stephaine under my ministry and allowed my heart for God to be known to her without really ever meeting me.
Being Equally Yoked
During our lengthy conversations early in our relationship, it was obvious that we were equally yoked. Being single for so long made me sensitive to the desperation and unwise decisions of people who desire a relationship—any relationship. God clearly had prepared me for this moment. I was so ready and so impressed with her spiritual sensitivity and desire to be in the will of God for her life that it is difficult for me to imagine how this journey toward destiny could even begin without a relationship with Jesus Christ. Without His teaching, direction, and guidance, it is frustrating at best to try to connect with the person God has for you.
As we got to know each other, I was impressed with the depth of my conversations with Stephaine. They revealed a lot, but they also created a sense of transparency and honesty. When two people connect, communication is vital to the well-being of the relationship. I counsel so many couples and single folks who struggle with communication. The blessing in getting to know Stephaine was that our communication was organic; it was natural. It flowed because we shared similar passions, hopes, and desires. One moment we were discussing politics and the next education. It was refreshing to meet someone who was well versed in a variety of fields. The depth of communication was also a clear indication to me that our relationship was evolving beyond friendship.
Iron Sharpens Iron
The way we communicate says a lot about our character and our potential. I came to grips with the fact some time ago that my initial attraction to Stephaine was intellectual because of her easy communication style. When you are progressive—that is, moving in God's purpose toward your destiny—and your mind is actively engaged, you are attracted to people who challenge you and stretch you beyond your comfort zone. Relationships should add value to you. Iron sharpens iron. You need people in your life who can motivate you and bring out your best rather than allow you to stagnate. We challenge each other and inspire each other. When it's destiny, you know that God has placed something in that person and something in you for each other. My worldview was changing and my level of sensitivity was increasing all because of the wonderful conversations Stephaine and I had.
When I Knew She Was the One
People ask me all the time, "When did you know?" When was it apparent that I would be with this woman? I must admit that even prior to meeting her, I fell in love just by talking on the phone. I knew she was the one when I could be open about my pain and she assured me that she would cover me in it. She gave me the liberty to discuss anything that was on my mind. Talking to her became cathartic. No matter what was going on in my hectic day, once I got on the phone with her, everything was at peace. It was my refuge.
If your relationship does not give you peace, I am convinced that it is not of God. He is not the author of confusion; He is the author of peace. This doesn't suggest that Stephaine and I didn't have disagreements; however, we were able to work through them because of our ability to communicate on so many levels. No matter what was said, I came to know her heart and she mine because we invested in our communication. I knew she was the one, because I knew her. How much do you invest in your communication? Does it need to have higher priority in your relationship?
The Challenge of Communication
One of the things I have discovered in ministering to couples is that communication is a significant challenge, partly because they give it such low priority and partly because they don't have that skill set. Because many people struggle with communication, they rely instead on unhealthy assumptions, which can hinder the relationship from developing in a healthy way. Unhealthy assumptions can also create a great deal of suspicion and hesitancy within the relationship based on bad past experiences. One way to avoid assumptions is just by being open about asking and answering questions. Stephaine and I came to know each other because we were intentional about asking appropriate questions and answering questions that were asked, because unasked and unanswered questions can linger over a relationship and prevent it from becoming all that God desires.
After Stephaine and I talked on the phone for an entire month, I knew it was time for us to meet. I've heard people say that they have fallen in love with a person prior to meeting them face to face, but I had my reservations. I knew I had feelings, but I was a little unprepared to find out how deep they really were. It's in moments like these that God will literally blow your mind. He certainly blew mine.
Being Open to God's Ideas about Your Destiny
I will never forget that flight to Boston. I had a great deal of anxiety, because I knew that my life was about to change forever. I was about to meet this woman who had wowed me and given me a reason to love again. I was nervous the entire flight. The path to destiny is not without anxiety. I know that God does not give us the spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind; however, when you are about to experience a significant shift in your life, it can bring up unmanageable emotions in the best of us. I often wonder what Abram felt in Genesis 12 when God told him to make a significant shift in his life. To leave the confines of what you've decided is normal and open yourself up to God's great unknown can be unnerving to say the least.
I remember hearing God say to me in that moment on the plane, "Do you trust me?" How did I know God's voice? I knew it because when you've been through what I've been through, you become accustomed to the voice that has guided you through tumultuous times. I had to truly trust that God knew what was best for me and that this flight, this encounter, was all preordained by Him. When I accepted and embraced this fully, I found peace.
When you come to recognize that you are in the will of God and that where you are is a part of a larger plan for your life, you will find refuge in that moment. God told Jeremiah that He was up to something in his life before his mother conceived him in her womb. It was clear to me that everything that had happened in my life had led me to this place. I took great comfort in God's promise made in Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Even so, that relatively short, two-hour flight seemed like a trip across the ocean. But it was necessary in order for me to approach meeting Stephaine in peace and not in panic.
Excerpted from Becoming A Couple Of Destiny by Joseph W. Walker III, Stephaine Hale Walker. Copyright © 2011 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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