Do you believe in love at first sight? Do you think that two people can be drawn together by something we may call "fate" or "providence"? Do you think God cares who we marry? If a marriage does not last, does that mean it was a mistake from the first?
Our culture is full of examples in movies and books of people who were drawn together by some irresistible force. Some were attracted to each other from the very first moment they met and for others it took some time of warming up to each other and overcoming odds but soon they were a couple. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have been in at least two movies that we call Romantic Comedies. First there was "Sleepless in Seattle" where Tom played a single dad needing a mom for his son and Meg Ryan got acquainted with him but there were all kinds of snags they had to overcome and soon they were meeting at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine's Day and hit it off immediately. Then there was "You've Got Mail" which had the same basis premise as the first one except Meg's character owned a small bookstore that was being threatened with extinction by a huge chain bookstore moving into her neighborhood whose CEO was Tom Hanks. Luckily, the anonymity of the internet allowed them to meet without revealing too much until they were drawn to one another and then love was in the air.
So, is that the way it works with love? Do people meet and know that they have met "the one" or are there many to choose from and they just decide on the one that seems best to them?
The Old Testament lesson for next Sunday is one from Genesis 24 that I have never preached on. It is the story of how Isaac met his wife Rebekah. It is a love story but not one that is similar to the Hanks/Ryan experience. It is more like Hanks sends his best friend or co-worker to meet Ryan and then the friend/co-worker checks Ryan out and brings her back for Hanks to have a look at her. He sees what he likes and they move in together. Romance is not really in the mix as the story is told. It is more a marriage of convenience, as was true in marriages in the old country where Abraham had grown rich. Abraham's servant went in search of a wife for Isaac, Abraham's son, and went to the town where Abraham's brother and his family lived. There, he met Rebekah who was drawing water from the community well. Rebekah was Isaac's cousin, but in those days that did not seem to matter to people. Finding a wife for Isaac among Abraham's own family was superior to finding one among the riff-raff in the other nearby lands, especially among the Canaanites (who worshiped idols). So, Rebekah agreed to marry her cousin, Isaac, and the two seemed like the match was made in heaven. (It does say an angel led the servant to find Rebekah so maybe it was indeed made in heaven or at least by a heavenly messenger.)
So, do such love stories happen today (not including marrying your cousin which is outlawed in most states)? Are there people who just know from the first that they are destined to be with another person? Is it that crystal clear or do they have challenges or obstacles that must be overcome and persistence brings about the results they seek?
I know couples who have been married many years and some say that they never thought they would be with anyone except their spouse and it has been great for all those decades. I know other couples who say they were not immediately attracted to the person who became their spouse but gradually they grew on them and then the light bulb lit up and it was clear they should marry them. I know people who thought they should marry another person but they could not make up their mind or challenges were in the way (such as family members who objected) so they did not make that commitment and they regretted it throughout their lives.
Is divine providence involved in some way in our choice of a person to marry? Do we sometimes ignore the guidance that God would give us in such decisions and that is why we make a mistake in whom we choose to marry? Or does God give us free will in all things and we choose and sometimes we make a bad decision or a good decision and that is all there is to it?
Join us this Sunday at 9:30 at our church as we think about these questions and others as we examine Genesis 24 and "Isaac and Rebekah--A Love Story".