From the day I proposed to my wife, Jennifer, I desperately prayed, “Dear God, if you don’t want me to marry this woman, please stop this. If this is a terrible mistake, shut every door. Don’t let it happen.”
In 1995, I was an unemployed college student, poorly living out my faith, and mostly directionless except for the fact that I wanted to marry Jennifer and had some vague notion of pursuing a career as a novelist.
Our engagement taught me a lesson so valuable that in the years since, I have applied it countless times to situations relating to employment, marriage, children and everything in between.
With no path of success before me, I knew that what Jennifer and I planned to do was idiotic. How would we support ourselves? What about finishing college? Where would we live? The questions were as numerous as they were unanswerable. In this practical society of dollars and cents, our relationship seemed doomed from the beginning.
Our engagement, however, taught me a lesson so valuable that in the years since, I have applied it countless times to situations relating to employment, marriage, children and everything in between. What I learned was the prayer, “Dear God, if this is not your will, please stop it.”
Getting married was the first of many risks that Jennifer and I have taken together, and it was the first of many times we have said that prayer with noticeable results. With the prospect of marriage drawing us forward, I soon had a wonderful entry-level job, and we found the perfect starter apartment. Our wedding brought together all of my siblings in one place for the first time in six years. Friends from the various states in which I had lived we moved around a lot when I was growing up were able to come to town and meet one another and my new bride for the first time. On that day, God united me to my best friend, the woman who would become the mother of our five children.
Nearly 17 years later, I marvel at the fact that my father-in-law gave us his blessing and, more importantly, that God has blessed our marriage so abundantly.
Marrying Jennifer was a tremendous risk, but it was one entered into with significant prayer, much of it asking that God’s will, and not mine, be done. It was prayer with a willingness to give up even my fiancée whom I considered the best thing to ever happen to me if our marriage was not in keeping with God’s will. There are times in our lives when it is necessary to trust God so completely, so fully, that we are willing to risk it all.
I have applied this total trust to other life-changing ventures, and God has always been faithful. I once accepted a job that would have been full of terrible consequences, and God stopped me from ever starting it. Conversely, when I felt pulled to quit my career in information technology to pursue a full-time Catholic media ministry, God opened every door. I have since approached a number of projects, such as the creation of a Catholic sitcom pilot for the CatholicTV Network in Boston, with that same prayer: “Dear God, if this is not your will, please stop it.”
Being Catholic, being a leader, requires risk. Such risk can lead to incredible blessings by uniting us more fully to the will of God. But that must always be our goal: God’s will be done. As I often say on the radio show that Jennifer and I host for The Catholic Channel, my life is a prime, though imperfect, example of the fact that if we take the risks necessary to accomplish God’s will, we can be assured of his faithfulness.
Today, when I meet an engaged couple, I imagine that my advice to them may seem initially off-putting. “Congratulations,” I’ll say. “Pray every day for God to end your relationship if it’s not his will. And if you make it to your wedding day, you can be assured that he’ll look after you.”
Greg Willits is the founder of NewEvangelizers.com, co-host of “The Catholics Next Door” radio program on The Catholic Channel, SiriusXM 129, and co-author of The Catholics Next Door: Adventures in Imperfect Living (Servant Books).