Recently I had a conversation with a man from my church who had been engaged for two years. Let’s call him, Dan and her, Sarah. In the course of the conversation Dan said: “Well, we have been engaged so long we are essentially married. I mean, we eat dinner together every day, and all my spare time is spent with her!’
My initial reaction was: “If that’s what you think marriage is, you are in for a surprise!” Later on, when reflecting on the conversation, this Bible passage came to mind –
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. ” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Engagement is a funny thing. I remember feeling like I was in limbo. I wasn’t dating anymore. Things were more serious. I mean, I was going to spend the rest of my life with Simon. But also, I wasn’t yet married. We hadn’t had a wedding. We weren’t living together. We didn’t have a joint bank account. We didn’t have to talk about bills, or whose parents we should see for Christmas. Being engaged was a time to plan a wedding, but not yet a time to be married. It was a time to send out invitations, but not a time to share a bathroom yet.
It got me thinking of the importance of boundaries. We often think about physical boundaries, but are there other things that we should consider saving until it’s the right time?
I think we would agree it would be strange for a single woman to buy her wedding dress. It would be the wrong time to do such a thing. Many of us would laugh at the idea. Surely, when that person gets engaged, they will regret buying that dress, as they wouldn’t experience the excitement of being engaged and planning for a wedding in the same way.
So let’s think about something a little subtler. I wonder how many people have a Pinterest board dedicated to ‘my dream wedding’ before they even have a boyfriend or girlfriend? I could name quite a few. If someone has already picked out the colour scheme, the invitations, and the honeymoon before they have a fiancé to share these decisions with, maybe they were using borrowed time. That one person has stolen something they could have done with their fiancé in the lead up to their wedding – an activity that could have brought them closer together. Planning a wedding is meant to involve the couple making decisions together, but if one person has already decided everything months, maybe even years, before getting engaged, then surely they have taken something that should have been saved for the proper time.
I thought of Sarah’s housemates. I wondered if they felt sad that, in the last few months of living with her, they barely got to spend time with her. I wondered if they came to resent her for never joining them for movie nights, and never being there offering her support and friendship like she used to.
I thought of Dan and wondered whether he had spent time investing in his best friends, and spending as much of his time and money as he wanted on his photography without having a wife to consider. I wondered if Dan and Sarah realised that from the moment they said: “I will”, life would never be the same again?
Now I’m not saying that it is wrong to dream, or be excited for the future. Of course we can. But, there is a difference between dreaming of the future, and doing things now that might take away from our future happiness. So, let’s consider carefully and make the most of our time. It’s not easy, but let’s not borrow time that should be for later. Let’s consider what should be done now, and what should wait for the right time.