Without knowing it, I met my wife Olivia at an end-of-year youth event at our church in 2007. It happened to be our respective first nights at youth. I had just moved to a new city with family and she had just moved to a new church. Olivia had beautiful blue eyes, long blonde hair and a sassy attitude, 3 things I liked, but I was 6 years older so I left the friendship there.
I distinctly remember God speaking in my spirit that night saying, ‘Look after that one.’ So for the next few years, I did. It wasn’t anything unusual or over the top, I was friendly, said hello and just made sure she was okay. I had become a youth leader and she was a late teen facing some painful family hurdles and was in and out of church, so I ensured there were good female role models to help her through and thought nothing more of it.
As an eligible bachelor that everyone tried to find a relationship for, I had a carefully compiled a list of things I thought my future wife could or should be. I mean I was a single guy in my early 20’s, I totally knew what a wife needed to be and what I needed… ha! My list was long, so I was single for a while.
I had a mutual rapport with a girl in our friendship circle that certainly drew me some flack. For us, we just enjoyed each others company, challenged each others thinking and got each others humor, yet for everyone else we seemed a match made in heaven. I remember praying on 3 separate occasions asking God, “Have I missed something, should I date this girl?” Each time I felt God speak in my spirit and simply say, “Olivia”. The first 2 times I remember thinking that is weird but I just left it. Olivia was part of our friendship circle, however she was in year 12, well caught up in the party scene, not in a strong relationship with God and by my measure of girlfriend material, morally not what I was looking for. The third time I prayed I again felt God say, “Olivia” but it was followed by “Read the story of Hosea and Gomer”. So I did, which confused me as it was the redemptive story of a prophet pursuing a prostitute and Olivia & I were neither of these. So I kept it in my heart but said nothing.
Later that year I was on the Gold Coast for a church staff retreat. For unknown reasons we had booked the retreat the same week as Schoolies. Late one night I received a call from my mutual friend saying that Olivia was at Schoolies and had just been arrested for being intoxicated and drinking in a public place, as well as resisting arrest. So I met her at the police watch house along with another friend. We couldn’t enter the watch house, so through the intercom system I called reception and said that I was Olivia’s brother, and asked if I could bail her out? While on intercom I heard a policeman speaking with Olivia in the background about her brother Reuben. She yelled back that she didn’t have a brother Reuben. So they confronted me and I had to confess to the police that I was lying and in fact I was her youth leader. After a laugh and a chat about telling the truth they said they could only let her out in a few hours once she had sobered up. So we sat outside the watch house for 3 hours before being met by a shaken and highly emotional Olivia. That night was a turning point for Olivia. She took it as an opportunity to slowly begin to find herself back in church and in relationship with Christ.
The reason God kept putting Olivia and the story of Hosea and Gomer on my heart began to make sense after that night. It wasn’t that I was a prophet or that she was a prostitute, but more that our story was also one of redemption and restoration, and one where God would invite me to help Him call Olivia home. The girl whom I simply looked after all those years ago was the same girl that God was restoring back to Him and beginning to soften my heart for.
The cliché checklist points I assumed significant in relationships began to change as God began to reveal to me deeper things of significance in strengths and traits of character that Olivia possessed. As her relationship with God grew so did our friendship and as a result, several months later we began dating. I remember the day I asked her to be my girlfriend. She was so excited she ran around in circles squealing. She ran to tell her family but tripped and fell flat on her face. So I guess you could say she fell for me. I didn’t feel God say, “You must now date Olivia” but I felt a peace in my spirit having known that God had pointed me to the right person. It was like I knew God had given me all I needed and the rest was now up to me. I felt the same when it came to asking her to marry me. I never questioned whether she was the right one, because I’d grown to realise she was, as it was, a God ordained set up all those years ago when we met for the first time and it wasn’t coincidence that our staff retreat fell on the same week as Schoolies. 8+ years on we are happily married (4yrs) with no kids and a dog. Our marriage continues to be one of redemption and restoration. Not just for Olivia, but for us both.
Looking back on our story I was reminded of something someone told me in my early teens which I always held on to. That was: ‘Rather than looking for the perfect partner, work on becoming the perfect partner.’ If I had to give advice to any singles, I would say the same. Work on your character, your resolve and your relationship with God now. Learn to be kindhearted, and strong willed when they may not matter, so you don’t have to learn those things when they do.