Veronica Marwa and I have decided to get married.
She’s a good one ❤
About a year ago, I was talking to a friend.
“I can tell that I keep expecting too much of romantic love. Idolizing it. I know that a happy life is to come more in love with God each day, through each thing in my life. But even though I know that, I keep looking for romantic love to make me happy.”
“Hmm. What if marriage could be one more way of coming in love with God? Instead of me continuing to put it above God? What if I could help her to come closer with God, and she could help me to come closer with God each day?”
Friend: “Wow. That sounds like a good direction to go. There may be a lot of wisdom there. But how would that happen, I mean, what helps you to come more in love with God?”
Me: “I’m not sure. I know that I come closer with God when I become more humble. But I don’t know why I become more humble sometimes, and more arrogant, self-obsessed at other times. Maybe I’ll start praying about that each morning and get back to you.”
I prayed about it each morning, and also went back and reviewed the last few years of my life. The patterns I saw weren’t what I had expected.
The times when I was most humble, and found it easiest to believe and remember that God loves me, were not times when I spent more time in prayer each morning, or times when I read the Bible more, or times when I engaged regularly in deep conversations of philosophy or theology. They weren’t correlated with great books I had read, or even with times when I had worked hardest at having mercy on my impoverished neighbors.
The times when I was most humble were the times when I was surrounded by genuine, loving community.
Those seasons, growing up, when I actually chose to engage with my loving parents and three younger siblings. The times at Auburn University when I chose to spend more time with my dear friends who I met at the Auburn Wesley Foundation. July and August of 2019, when I first moved into the Bonhoeffer House, before I got busy.
And the times when I was most arrogant, self-centered were the times when I was most lonely. The semester I took too many classes. Times serving in Tanzania when I couldn’t find any friends. Times when I bound myself to lofty goals with hard deadlines that required me to work around the clock.
A couple weeks later I talked to the same friend about what I had found.
“I’m shocked. And when it comes to romance, I’ve never once looked for someone who loves me well, who makes me feel loved. It’s never even been on my radar as something to look for. It’s like I normally look for affirmation- affirmation that I’m better than others- rather than love.”
Shortly after returning to Tanzania in January, I asked a friend about this. She agreed, and gave me some very good, and very needed advice for dating Tanzanian women. And a couple days later, she called me.
“Mambo. Hey come to NK Restaurant at 3 pm on Friday wearing something nice. And make sure you shower.”
“Okay… what’s going on?”
“Haven’t you ever heard of a blind date? Just be at NK on Friday. I think you will like her.”
It turns out I did. She had a lovely smile that showed her polished top teeth, she laughed easily, and was passionate about her calling- to help African women know that God loves them just as much as men.
As the weeks went by, and I tried to love her, I was surprised to notice that she didn’t make me feel like I was better than other people. But she did make me feel loved.
She listened to me. Very few friends in Tanzania listen to me. Not because they don’t care, but just because it’s a foreign concept here. The closest Swahili word to “listen”- kusikiliza- means something like, “to hear someone explain their problem and then do something about it”. But Veronica didn’t just “kusikiliza”… she attentively listened to me talk about what was on my mind, like she was really interested, and then she asked questions. It was like I was an open book to her.
I asked if we could pray together every day. She didn’t act like this was strange, or too much to commit to. We started praying together every day, and the prayers made both of us feel so loved, and helped us to learn new things about each other, and each others’ spiritual lives. We’ve continued to this day. I don’t understand why she doesn’t get tired of praying with me every day, but I’m just thankful.
One day she ironed my clothes. I never knew that I wanted anyone to iron my clothes. I didn’t especially need my clothes ironed… but the personal attention was so nice.
As with all relationships, things weren’t perfect. I can be arrogant and stubborn, and she has her own growing edges. But this time, everything was oriented differently. We weren’t expecting each other to save us or fulfill us or satisfy us. It was just one more way of coming closer with God. And with things oriented there, we knew what was really important to us, and what growing edges to accept and bear with in the other person.
As we were both members of the QuadW missional community here in Tarime, we got to know each other pretty quickly through living and working together every day. And as our 6-month trial run of QuadW Tarime drew to a close in August, we agreed that we didn’t want our life together to end; rather, we wanted to make our two lives into one, and to live one life together for as long as we both shall live.
Then she said, “You’ll have to meet my family, you know. And I’m Kuria tribe, so they’ll probably ask you for cows before they approve of you marrying me.”
Me: “There’s so many things I don’t understand about Tanzania. And I don’t understand this one, babe. You can’t put a price on you. You’re worth more than a million cows to me. But if that’s what it takes for them to approve, we can do that.”
It turns out they did ask for cows. 22 cows, to be exact. My good friend Mwita Baita, who I’ve talked about some before, helped bargain them down to 9. We gave them the money to buy 9 cows, and her family gave us their blessing.
The title means “I love you”. I’ve never been this happy before, and I’ve never been so close to God before. I can’t wait for our wedding, or for us to live out our callings together here at QuadW Tarime, or to see her again in a couple hours. I don’t know what I ever could have done to deserve this.
*We are hoping to get married in the U.S. in January or February, if the U.S. grants Veronica a visa. If you know anyone who could help us with visa-related information, we would appreciate it.