A Journey of Love: Against all Odds
Jijenge: How did you meet and what attracted you to each other?
Sam: We were in the same Campus, The Kenya Polytechnic University College, now called The Technical University of Kenya. We both served in the Christian Union, Emily as the CU Secretary and I as the Missions Director. I had some non-negotiable qualities from the person I was looking for as a life partner; one who is born again and actively involved in ministry, someone who will accept me as I am and one who would agree to my ministry and life aspirations. Emily had a simple and a natural lifestyle, committed to her faith and service, and good looking. That is what attracted me at first. We became friends, fond of each other and the rest is history.
Emily: I never knew him. I would hear his name come up during our C.U Executive Committee meetings but never knew him in person. There is a day that we were going for a mission in Embu. The bigger number had already left for the venue and the rest of us were left doing exams. Being the CU Secretary, I had to organize the few that had been left behind and Sam was part of that group. He came in the CU office as his phone played ‘The Promise’ by The Martins. I had for many days searched for that song and this was an opportunity to talk. I borrowed his phone to listen to more music as we sat next to each other in the bus while travelling. We became friends, confided in each other and our friendship grew day by day as we kept in touch. I loved his heart of care and generosity. You can never struggle when near Sam; he is always willing to help.
Jijenge: What is your understanding of love? Does true love exist? What’s your take on this?
Sam: Love is both a decision and a feeling. You get attracted to someone by the outward appearance which includes character and physical appearance, but you get to decide to love this person and commit to it after knowing them well. True love exists because two people have decided to be true to each other, because true to say, there will be times when a relationship is sustained by the commitment you made to one another and not feelings. But let me be quick to add that true love is first built from your relationship with Christ, if you cannot submit to Jesus it is not easy to submit to your husband or love your wife as a husband. True love is built over time, it does not just exist, don’t let the soap operas lie to you.
Emily: Love is sacrificial. You cannot be selfish and still say you love. By being sacrificial I mean you consider the interests of the other person above yours. 1 Corinthians 13 elaborates this clearly.
It is only in Christ that true love exists. We love because Christ first loved us and we understand the extent He went to prove how much he loved us. As Sam has said, it is your commitment to the relationship that will make you grow in love. There are behaviors you get to know about your partner as the relationship grows that you may not like. You have got to decide to evaluate the behavior whether you can cope with it or not.
Jijenge: According to you, how can one identify the right partner or spouse?
Sam: I believe everyone has in mind the kind of person they want as a life partner but this should be based on the right motive and realistic expectations. For me, I was easily pushed away by ladies who put on indecent clothes and extreme makeup and the reality is that if you are uncomfortable with something before and during dating it does not change much even in marriage. To give a few pointers I will say, look for someone who you connect with naturally- this will help you be able to generate a conversation without struggle, one who complements you in some of your weaknesses, one who makes you a better person whether in your faith, character, and in life aspirations, one who is serious and committed with their walk of faith and one who shares the same vision in life with you, two cannot walk together unless they agree (Amos 3:3). Notice I dint mention money- “financially stable” but men should demonstrate an attitude of hard work and being responsible, tribe and color skin also for me are non-issues for believers. God is amazing how people say we look alike with my wife and we come from very different tribes and many are surprised to hear that. Every day in our dating was a confirmation that this is the person I want to spend my life with. It was not all clear at the beginning but prayer and spending time with her played a key role in knowing her better.
Emily: This is always a hard question for me. I have heard different stories of how people met and knew they were meant for each other. I always wanted to hear that “still small voice” but that never happened. I knew Sam was the one because of the many prayers God was answering through him. I had prayed for a man after God’s own heart, who would love me for who I was and who would buy into the ministry God had put in me. When I met Sam, somehow some calmness just kicked in. I had issues both in the family and at a personal level then. Every time I shared my frustrations with him, I was peaceful. I was in the process of deciding whether to join voluntary ministry but still did not know how to say it to my parents. I talked to him and he really encouraged me to go for it. Surprisingly, my parents had no objections.
There is this time before we got into the relationship that we set time to pray and ask God for peace. We only needed peace as a sign and for me, the prayer was answered. I was so peaceful.
Jijenge: What should partners discuss in their early stages of a relationship and the time before they get married?
Emily: Discuss everything under the sun. Talk about the relationship before and after the wedding. I remember we talked about almost everything. Our background, our past relationships, our aspirations in life, our fears, in-laws, career development, sex, whether we want children, how many, after how long, family planning, how to bring up our children, our communication channels, finances, conflict resolution, how to keep ourselves sexually pure to the day of the wedding, ministry engagements, which church to attend and anything else that came up. Knowing all this helps you to understand the type of person you are relate with. For instance, Sam told me that he was not sure where God would lead him but he was ready for anything. His question was “In case I am called to be a pastor, are you ready to be a pastor’s wife?” I said, “Yes!” It was my desire to get married to someone in ministry. Some decisions made in these discussions might change as you go through life and therefore you need to have an open mind.
Sam: As my wife has said talk about anything and everything, your past, present and future. Your expectations in the relationship – some of them may not be met but at least the other person knows them. Talk about what you would want your relationship to look like together and set a clear pathway on where that relationship is headed.
Jijenge: In this generation, ladies desire to propose to men. Is this proper?
Sam: Men should propose ideally. I know of men who take ages before telling a lady what they want. They just take her out for coffee, to the stage but not say exactly what their stand is. This is wrong. I tell ladies if your relationship takes this direction it is okay to ask the guy where that relationship is headed. Some men who are not serious are scared off but some will take that chance to declare their stand. As men we always fear a NO for an answer that’s why many fear to act or take long waiting for that right moment. Am not saying that ladies should propose but should act in a way that gives the man some confidence to ask the hard question. Surprisingly some men already know the answer is YES by the time they ask because of how the lady’s interest in the relationship, but ask to confirm it’s a YES.
Emily: Traditionally, a man should propose to a woman. Our generation is a different one. We have men who are so busy to notice that a woman has interest in them. Before a man proposes, there is a friendship that has been created. This friendship allows the two of you to know that you are interested in each other. It will be very hard for a woman to ask a man to be her boyfriend but there is a way she can discreetly let the man know of her interest in him. Position yourself in such a way that the man notices you.
Jijenge: It is said that relationships have challenges. Are there challenges that you have faced? How did you go about them?
Emily: Yes. There are challenges and conflicts in every relationship. We have had a challenge of communication for a long time. We have talked about it and we are still working on it. In marriage, we had a time that both of us had no jobs. This was a difficult time for us since we were used to doing the house shopping every month; support ministries like FOCUS Kenya and iServe Africa, support friends and families in need and enjoy ourselves. We had to learn how to survive with the savings we had. At this time, you really need each other to pull through. Blame games do not work at all. My husband is a man of great faith, he always said the positive and believed God for it and to His word, and everything unfolded as he had prayed.
Sam: Challenges are unique in many relationships but the common one is communication and personality issues. There is no straight answer to this but my advice is talk about it and everyone be willing to adjust and correct where they are wrong. No one is perfect. There is nothing that cannot be changed if one is willing to do something about it especially if it makes the other person unhappy. Don’t always give the excuse that I was born that way. Every character was developed over time so that can change if one is willing to. The Bible, prayer and saying sorry has been a great pillar for fighting our challenges.
Jijenge: What common things do you love doing together? How has this helped you as couple?
Emily: We love spending time together so we grab every opportunity to ensure we do so. Our best times are spent in visiting and hosting friends, doing shopping, helping with the house chores, watching movies, talking about life and laughing about the silly things we have done in the past, taking nature walks together as we eat roasted/boiled maize, a fruit or sugarcane and doing ministry etc.
Jijenge: What is your advice to those who say they will not get married due to circumstances that they once encountered in their lives?
Emily: I think one cannot just choose not to get married from the beginning. Marriage was ordained by God. Unless they are doing it for the sake of the gospel or they went through a circumstance that hinders them from being sexually active in marriage. In that case, they should seek emotional healing for the trauma they went through and learn to trust. Given time, some of the things we have said we will not do, we overcome and heal from those circumstances and we have the courage to do it now. My advice is that don’t enter a relationship with a lot of fear and suspicion. If you are not ready wait until you have healed from whatever hindrance. If you are not drawn to it seek help early from the right people.
Jijenge: We have severally been told to marry our best friends. How realistic is this?
Sam: Most people have actually married their best friends. The thing is, even your current best friend you once met them and developed a relationship with them. Even relationships start from somewhere and grows to the point you can call that person your best friend based on the depth of your relationship. If what you do or talk about with your best friend, you can’t do the same things with your partner like share personal issues, I don’t see why you should get married to that person unless for the wrong reason like being pregnant with your child.
Jijenge: If a relationship isn’t working out, how do you fight to restore it before deciding to let go?
Sam: The truth is many relationships like ours get to a point of “we need a break” or even a silent treatment for a period of time. If you keep fighting over the same issue and no one is willing to make adjustments, chances are that relationship might not work. It should not always be one person to make adjustments. For some reasons when we go through some issues in our relationships, we tend to think it is unique to us. As we share with other people whom we trust, we find out that they have also gone through the same challenge. Sharing with a mature couple friend helped us know we are not alone and it can be overcome. My advice on this is, don’t run away from issues or sweep them under the carpet. Address them as they come with wisdom, respect and grace. The fact that one is born again does not guarantee a relationship will work. If a relationship is not working out for one reason or the other don’t force it. Move out but with dignity and respect and don’t tarnish each other’s name and character.