Remedial Christianity



LT 1995

My last post was all about my wonderful marriage to Heather Shah and I realized after publishing it that although it was nice, it didn’t really hit on the question that I am ASKED MOST about our relationship…..

“How did you know that she was THE ONE?”

So today I will reveal that mystery.

It was the fall of 1994. I was working as an engineer and volunteering with our church on the campus of the University of Michigan.  Heather was a Junior and had just gotten back from Leadership Training that summer.  She was all fired up for Jesus.  She was spiritual, and a servant, and feisty….and super cute.

I was interested.  I will spare you the boring details of us hanging out & eventually dating.  {This is primarily because I was so random and wishy-washy, and I violated every principle that I so passionately teach guys about today}  Let’s just jump to the summer of 1995.  We had decided to date a few weeks before and now I was in Myrtle Beach SC taking a bible class being taught to our collegiate staff.  (we had professors from Moody Bible Institute come down to teach us week-long intensives….so much fun)

Well, one day when I was in bible class, I was bored and daydreaming.  I know that sounds terrible & i REALLY do love the bible, but I’m also pretty sure I have some undiagnosed attention issues.  Anyway, I was crying out to the Lord and asking for insight while doodling Heather’s name over and over on my notes.

At one point I had a flash of insight.  I spelled out her name.  HEATHER TANS. Then I decided to assign a number to each letter based on where it was in the alphabet (A=1, B=2, C=3…)  Then I added it up.  Her name added up to 119.

Inspired, I then did the same with JONATHAN SHAH.



The Lord had spoken.  I had found my soulmate!  A month after I arrived back from LT, I proposed, and we have lived happily ever after.

(I will pause here while you all go and compute your numbers & the numbers of your spouse, boy/girlfriend, or crush)

I know what you are thinking right now….“Jon, now what??  OUR NUMBERS AREN”T THE SAME!”

Well, don’t be discouraged.  It doesn’t mean you can’t have a decent relationship.  You can still love God, have a mediocre marriage and probably even reproduce.  You just won’t be SOULMATES like Heather and I.

Ha! Just kidding.

Well, I’m not kidding about our names adding up to 119.  That was true.  But I would definitely NOT encourage you to use this method to determine who to marry.  That would be stupid.

God has made moral decisions very clear in scripture.  But what about the “non-moral” ones?  Like who to marry… what job to take…where to live?

Does God have specific decisions He is just sitting back and waiting for us to discover?  Where if we choose correctly we experience the life of blessing God desires for us, but if we miss, then we have failed and live out our days wandering in a life of mediocrity?

That’s a lot of pressure.

And for many of us, we can get so DESPERATE to make the “RIGHT” decision that we will cling to anything that sounds convincing….

  • Examining Circumstances.  (“we’re in 4 classes together, this is clearly God at work!”)
  • Setting up Criteria.  (“she meets 74 of the 81 ‘essentials’ that I read about in this book”)
  • Building a consensus of people who agree that it sounds like a fine idea.  (“most of my friends & my dog all really like him”)
  • Random numerology created in a classroom stupor (ok, I’m probably the only one to ever do that)

The problem is, when our emotions get involved, most of us are EXPERTS at justifying anything.  And we KNOW this.  So then we get even more stressed and anxious.  And paralyzed.  What if we choke?!?

That ever happen to you?

What if there was another way to think about these questions?

Listen to what Kevin DeYoung says in his book, “Just Do Something”:

“Does God have a secret will of direction that He expects us to figure out before we do anything? The answer is no. Yes, God has a specific plan for our lives. And yes, we can be assured that He works things for our good in Christ Jesus. And yes, looking back we will often be able to trace God’s hand in bringing us to where we are.  But while we are free to ask God for wisdom, He does not burden us with the task of divining His will of direction for our lives ahead of time….I’m not saying God won’t help you make decision…I’m not saying God doesn’t care about your future.  I’m not saying God isn’t directing your path and in control amidst the chaos of your life.  I believe in providence with all my heart.  What I am saying is that we should stop thinking of God’s will like a corn maze, or a tightrope, or a bull’s-eye, or a choose-your-own-adventure novel.”

Isn’t that a freeing idea?  Let me confess something…

I never did figure out if Heather was “The One” before I married her.

No one had ever told me that I needed to do that.  In fact, in other news, I’m still not sure I even know what ‘soulmate’ means.

DeYoung continues…

“God is not a Magic 8-ball we shake up and peer into whenever we have a decision to make.  He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for Him.  We know God has a plan for our lives. That’s wonderful. The problem is we think He’s going to tell us the wonderful plan before it unfolds.  We feel like we can know – and need to know – what God wants every step of the way. But such preoccupation with finding God’s will, as well-intentioned as the desire may be, is more folly than freedom.

The better way is the biblical way: Seek first the Kingdom of God, and then trust that He will take care of our needs, even before we know what they are and where we are going. “

Ironically, years before this book was written, my mentors had modeled for me similar ideas.  Serve the Lord. Occupy yourself with what you DO know.  Ask for wisdom.  And trust that He will lead you in the way you should go.

This is how it worked itself out in my life…

1.  I prayed a lot.  

First and foremost about MY OWN walk with the Lord.  Am I following Him? Am I committed to His mission?  Do I have the right view of marriage?

Then I prayed about Heather.

2. I got a TON of input.

From people who knew me, who would speak candidly into my life & are spiritually mature.  (this is NOT the time to surround yourself with simpletons and “yes” men)

3.  I scoured the Bible for wisdom and principles to apply. 

(Yes, there ARE biblical principles to apply here, and a TON of good books with thought provoking questions to consider)

My recommendation to anyone who is considering marriage now or in the future is to pick up the book, The Meaning of Marriage – by Tim Keller.

4.  I took a risk and committed myself to loving this woman for the rest of my life.

In my mind, it has always been a choice.  And a risk.  God has invited me to love this woman, and I gladly accepted.

And now she IS “The ONE”.

Maybe that is why for the vast majority of our marriage I have felt that it’s a privilege to be married to Heather & not a burden.

18 years.  So far, so good.


PS {By the way….I would encourage anyone wrestling with God’s Will and direction to get ahold of this little book by DeYoung. He provides interesting thoughts on why this preoccupation with making the “right” decisions can breed fear and passivity in our lives}



  1. So good, Shah. This is exactly how I feel looking back. If I just went by emotions, engagement for me could be described as “terrifying and/or deeply disturbing” because there really is no way to define or be confident in soulmate-ness. I even cried really unhappy tears the night before getting married, because it was so scary! BUT, I kid you not, the second we were married, I never felt that fear again. It was like I had crossed over the threshold and the big question was no longer one worth asking. Kevin was the one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s