Finding the right person to marry is one of the biggest of all life's challenges. It is a wonder that it ever happens. And yet it does. My daughter Joanna, WORLD's editorial coordinator and editor of the blog, just got engaged.
At the moment, the details of our day-to-day lives seem to be random and without purpose. And yet, looking back at our lives, it is possible to see a vast providential design. For example, one day, shortly after starting college, I just happened to pick up a drop-add slip that I found on the ground. I don't know why I did that. I don't usually pick up litter. I don't know why I thought that piece of collegiate bureaucracy was so important that I should look up the name on the form so that I could return it to its owner. But the student who decided to drop her French class turned out to be the woman whom I eventually married.
If I had not picked up that piece of paper-or if the French professor had made a better impression so that my future wife would not have wanted to drop his class-I would never have met my wife. Our children would not exist. Joanna would not exist, let alone be getting married.
And yet, we can live out our day-to-day lives, with all of their minor decisions and happenstance, in the assurance that for all of our planning, the Lord is directing our steps (Proverbs 16:9). I can see that over and over again in my own life, and I can see it in this business with Joanna.
A couple of years ago, I was invited to go to Australia for a speaking tour. There I met Adam Hensley, a young Lutheran pastor. He was single, Joanna's age, a solid and devoted pastor, with intelligence and a good sense of humor. Besides that, he was an outdoorsman, an athlete, and a sports fan, to whom I explained American football. I liked him at once. I remember thinking, why can't Joanna meet someone like this? I remember my wife and I making a joke to that effect with Adam's mother.
After we came back to America, we corresponded a little with Adam. Then my wife suggested that Joanna e-mail this nice guy we met in Australia. Thus it started, but the relationship took off from there. It could only have happened with today's communication technology. It went way beyond mere e-mail. The two found software that allowed them to talk with each other online-with no international telephone bills!-which they did sometimes for seven hours at a time. And much of that was about their shared faith.
They said that they had fallen in love before they even knew what the other person looked like. And then came the digital pictures and the webcam exchanges.
They would have virtual dinner dates. Each would fix exactly the same meal, setting up the china and the atmosphere. Then they would each set up their laptop computers on the other side of the table. Then they would talk as they ate, enjoying dinner together.
This kind of courtship has its advantages. The two of them came to know each other from the inside before anything else. No façades. No trying to impress the other person with fakery. No premature physical temptations. Getting to know someone this way is surely better than the bars and the dating politics of the typical singles scene.
This is not to give a blank endorsement to internet dating. That can work, but one must proceed with extreme caution, since cyberspace is full of trolls with false identities and evil motives. The point here is that Joanna's mother and I knew Adam. Joanna considered it a rather Victorian throwback to the days where parents connected their children with "suitable prospects" and where couples-often separated by great distance-got to know each other through extensive correspondence.
This sort of thing went on and on for six months. Then Adam came over. The rest is-or will soon be-history.
They will be back and forth between their two countries for the first few years of their marriage. I am happy, yet sad at the prospect of Joanna living so far away. I'm researching communication software and webcams.