You know what? There are times when I like working at Wal-Mart.
For example, this happened well before the annoying events of last week: it's 9:15 on a Saturday night, the jewelry counter closes at 10:00, and I'm starting to get antsy to go home, when a customer comes up. He asks to see an engagement ring, and wants my opinion of it. I ask some of the usual questions; What kind of jewelry does she usually wear? Does she wear rings? Have you bought other jewelry for her?
He tells me that he was planning to propose the next day. This is a common level of detail for a customer to share with a sales associate.
He then tells me that he has just gotten off the phone with her, and now he isn't so sure that he wants to go through with it. You see, she was calling to check on where he was, and what he was doing, because she didn't trust him to behave himself.
This is not, in my limited experience, a common level of detail for a customer to share with a sales associate. However, I don't mind. I like listening to people sometimes, and I'm not really that busy.
I won't share with you the details of his story. It's not really my story to tell. But I will share with you the advice that I shared with him. Let me know if you think I've gotten anything wrong here:
1. Proposing to someone is not something that should necessarily come when the mood is just right. That very premise suggests that the response depends on the mood of the moment. While this makes for good t.v., especially in sitcoms (Cheers comes to mind), it is not a good way to decide your future. Because marriage (a good marriage, anyway) is not a mood thing; once you get married, you are married all the time, whether happy or sad, sick or healthy, rich or poor, etc. A marriage has to weather some rough emotions. It seems to me that if the proposal of marriage is easily tossed by these emotions, the marriage is also likely to be tossed.
2. Pray about it. All night if need be. Don't listen to music, turn on the t.v., read, or do anything else that will draw your attention. Just pray about it, and ask God for peace once you have reached the best decision. Because for many of us, that feeling of peace is the clearest way to hear God's voice.
3. Imagine your life with her. Don't imagine her changing, because you have no right to expect the person you marry to just become better because they are married to you. Is it easy (and realistic) to imagine that you are both happy? If yes, refer back to number 2. If not, another year or two of dating (on top of the three years so far) is unlikely to change that. (As a side note, you should also not expect your marriage to follow this imagined path, but I didn't go into that with him.)
4. Don't just do what other people want or expect you to do. Though your family may still be your family for the rest of your life, you have to actually live with your wife for the rest of your life. And if that relationship is solid, you can survive without the immediate approval of either family, yours or hers.
5. God is in control. There is a reason that I am closing tonight and you are here to buy a ring. God is sending you a message, though even I don't know the details of that message. And as cool as it would have been for God to have sent me a dream saying "Tell the guy yes," or "Tell the guy no," sometimes God wants us to work for the right answers.
There were other details. I shared a few relevant anecdotes from my marriage, and some methods we use to get along. He went more into depth as to his misgivings.
I joked with him at one point that I felt more like a bartender than a jewelry sales person. We were both a bit sorry that there were no alcoholic beverages to be found behind my bar.
He didn't buy a ring that night, and I'm not entirely sure what role I played in that decision. I told him that we open at seven a.m., and that if he felt right about it, he could come in and buy a ring before meeting his girlfriend. I ended up cleaning the counters as I talked with him, so I didn't leave more than five minutes past my usual time. I prayed for him as I rode home, and asked our Sunday school class the next day to pray for him, too.
I hope that he tracks me down some time to tell me how things are going. And I really hope that when he does track me down it isn't through the telescopic sight of a high-power sniper rifle. Giving advice can sometimes cause trouble, though I still feel good about what I told him.
This is a different job than anything I've done before, that's for sure. My expectations were actually quite low, and there have been times when they were met. But the times like this definitely balance them out.