Dewan and Bimla Singh are members of the Taylor Oakwood Seventh-day Adventist Church. Photo credit: Jason Gloudon
A wedding invitation arrived in the post that day, along with other miscellaneous, less interesting items. After opening the ivory envelope, we passed the finely engraved card from family member to family member. Shock, disbelief, and even anger registered on the faces as, one by one, each person read the words. There was the name of my betrothed, Bimla, but alongside her name was the name of another man! How could this be? My hands shook, and my mind raced as I tried to make sense of this nightmare. Surely there must be some mistake!
Bimla and I had both grown up in India where arranged marriages have long been accepted practice. They still are today, though love matches also occur. In arranged marriages, parents or other relatives assume the important task of choosing a suitable partner for their unmarried family member. I knew that when it came to marriage, my family expected me to rely upon the wisdom of my elders.
One day my brother came to me with some news. One of his good friends was planning to leave for America, but before doing so, this friend wanted to see his sister, Bimla, married. My brother and his friend had discussed the matter, and both agreed that Bimla and I would be a fine match.
Respect for one’s elders is a very important tenet of family life in traditional Indian homes, so I listened carefully to my brother’s words. I knew I could trust this father figure who had always demonstrated that he had my best interests at heart. I thought quietly for a moment about what he had outlined, that I should unite our families by marrying Bimla. After weighing his words some more, I assured him I would willingly abide by his counsel.
Discussions between the two families commenced in earnest, and after a year, Bimla’s family agreed to a wedding date. I spent much time in prayer that year. I wanted to be sure that I was following not only my family’s will, but my Heavenly Father’s will as well. As time passed, I grew increasingly convicted that in preparing to marry Bimla, I was following God’s leading.
Now, as I held the unexpected wedding invitation in my hand, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Had I been wrong somehow? Had I allowed my family’s desires and my own resolve to crowd out God’s promptings?” No, I reasoned, I had remained faithful. I had prayed. I had studied the Bible. I had sought God’s leading at every step of the way. But here in my hand was printed evidence that in just three days, all I had come to expect and hope for would dissolve. “Lord,” I prayed, “I am helpless. I can do nothing. If it is your will for Bimla and me to marry, please do something! Do something now!”
Though I knew it would be incredibly painful, I decided to accept this invitation and attend the wedding of Bimla and this other man. At first, my family members resisted this idea. They insisted that our family had suffered a terrible insult. Eventually, however, my elder brother and his wife agreed to accompany me to the wedding. With heavy hearts, we set out. Never had there been such reluctant wedding guests!
On the day of the wedding, just before arriving at the chosen venue, we ran into someone we knew. He asked where we were going. My brother explained where we were headed, and was told, “I’ve just come from the bride’s home. Don’t go there, Mr. Singh. Return home. The wedding has been cancelled.” Our acquaintance had very few other details to share.
Mystified, we returned home. At first, we thought there must have been a death in the family, or perhaps some terrible accident had occurred. Why else would a wedding be called off at the last minute? Upon arriving home, little by little, we began to learn more about what had happened. The wedding had been set to take place. Decorations, flowers, food, musicians, all were ready. More than 1,000 guests had gathered to join in the celebration. Suddenly, just an hour before the ceremony was scheduled to begin, the police arrived and arrested the groom for alleged criminal activities. Upon hearing this part of the story, my family members and I felt very bad for all concerned. Immediately we began to pray for the individuals and the families.
Fifteen days later, several of Bimla’s family members called upon my family. “We have been punished,” they said contritely. “Please accept our apologies. We seek your forgiveness, and wish to honor the original marriage proposal. Would you be willing to do so also?”
My brother sat silently for a while, pondering this latest turn of events. I could read the anger registering on my sister-in-law’s face. I understood why she felt that way. While we wished no one ill, it had been a very difficult time for all of us. We excused ourselves to discuss this unexpected offer.
“What is your will?” my brother asked me. “I remain in agreement with the original betrothal between you and Bimla,” he added.
“I will respect your wisdom,” I said to my brother and his wife. “You decide. But I am agreement with what I have heard today. I will honor the original proposal, if you say that is best.”
A month later, Bimla and I became husband and wife. A few days after our marriage, we received news that the other bridegroom had been released from police custody. All charges against him had been dismissed.
Today, decades later, as Bimla and I look back on the unusual events surrounding our marriage, we can’t help but marvel at how, in the brief span of one hour, God made a way for us where there had seemed to be no way.
On May 25, 2020, Bimla and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. It was indeed a golden jubilee! God has blessed our commitment to Him and to each other in more ways than we ever could have imagined. We now make our home near Detroit, in Southgate, Michigan. I trained as a medical technologist and Bimla as a nurse and educator. Together we served as pioneer workers at the Melton Memorial Hospital in Hapur, India. In addition to our work as medical missionaries, we have enjoyed many opportunities to serve our God, His children, and our denomination in numerous hospitals, schools, and churches. We have been blessed with three daughters and two grandchildren.
Bimla and I remain fully committed to following God’s leading—both when the way seems clear and when it seems less than clear. We have learned to wait patiently upon the Lord, knowing that his timing is best. We frequently remind one another of a favorite pledge recorded in the gospels: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24, New International Version) As we look back over our years together, we do so in the firm belief that heaven’s blessing rested upon our arranged marriage all along. Our wedding just required some divine rearranging before it could take place!
Dewan and Bimla Singh are members of the Taylor Oakwood Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Edited by Beverly Matiko, PhD, Andrews University Department of English professor emerita.