I can vividly recall my grandmother sitting in her rocker decades ago. It was outdated even back then, old and orange and sticky from years of rocking grandchildren.

My grandmother would lean in closer to me with a sweet smile on her face as I sat cross-legged on the floor beside her, anxiously waiting for encouragement during the years of my search to find the right man.

I can still feel the cool touch of my grandmother’s hand as she reached out to hold mine. With a strange smile she would say, “Be patient, Kelly. You’re going to be married a long time.” When she said those words, she stretched out the word “long” for emphasis.

The truth? I hated the words. They painted such a pessimistic view of marriage. My grandmother, of course, never meant to discourage me, but I rejected her advice. I wanted to be married — soon — and not to just to anyone. I wanted to be married to The One. The man who God would choose for me.

I grew up in a broken home and where divorce was the normality of my life. My childhood was anything but stable.

I remember nights lying in my bed in tears, longing for the kind of family that my friends had. No family is perfect, I know, but back then the one request that I asked of God was that when I married, I would marry the man that He had chosen for me … and that the marriage would not end in divorce. This was the prayer of my childhood, and it was one that God answered.

The day I married my husband Matt in 1996, I knew that he was The One. Now, 17 years later, I can say that I’ve never regretted a single day of our marriage. How, then, did I come to know this truth about Matt? How was I so sure he was right for me before I married him?

If you want to be certain that you’ve found the right person, like I did, here are five reasons why I knew Matt was the one for me:

1. I Asked God to Show Me His Will Before I Said Yes

In the wonder and excitement of being in love and contemplating marriage, this simple step is often forgotten. Given the hurt in my past, I wanted to be certain that the match had God’s blessing. After all, only God knows what struggles we would one day face. Oh, Matt seemed like the right guy, yes, but I had made poor choices in past relationships. Could I trust my own judgment?

I asked God to clearly let me know that Matt was the right man for me. And God answered. Not once, but three times. The third time, as Matt greeted me with a hug one day, I prayed a silent prayer to God: Lord, I know you have shown me before, but I have to ask you just one more time … Is Matt Your choice for me?

At that very moment Matt said, entirely out of the blue, “Kelly, do you know what my name means?” I shook my head. Matt whispered words into my ear that I will never forget: “Matthew means ‘Gift of God.’ “

In that moment I knew that God was sending His blessing in a special way. Matt was God’s Gift to me.

2. He Wanted to Know More about God

God had spent the last three years healing the emotional wounds of my soul. As a result, I flowed with gratitude and passion for His restoring love. The strength of my passion must have been strange to Matt.

Rather than pulling back, however, Matt was intrigued by my faith and wanted to know more about this God Who had healed my brokenness. Today, Matt and I share a passionate faith together, praying our way through all of life’s difficulties.

3. He Never Played Games with Me

You know what I mean. The promise to call and then not doing it. By the time I met Matt, the words, “I’ll call you,” meant absolutely nothing to me. Matt, however, didn’t play word games. He was simply Matt, always there, and always doing exactly what he said he would do.

This kind of relationship was entirely new to me. I had unconsciously chosen distant men for most of my relationships, and here was a man who was not afraid to grow closer. Yes, it took a while to feel comfortable with that kind of honesty. Yes, I was scared of getting hurt again, but God walked me through that fear and I’m so glad He did.

4. I Had Dealt with My Emotional Baggage

My grandmother was right about one thing: marriage is hard. If I had met Matt before allowing God to poke at the raw spots in my heart, I would never have been ready to meet the real deal. I would have run for the hills in a panic from a man who was confident enough to pursue me.

For most of my life, I didn’t feel worthy of being loved. But as I surrendered my pain and emotional scars to God, He loved me unconditionally. Finally, I had a taste of the kind of love that God intended me to have in marriage: Unconditional love. God’s perfect example of love provided a powerful picture of the love that I wanted in my marriage. I couldn’t settle for anything less.

5. He Was in It for the Long Haul

It took time for me to understand that Matt wasn’t going to be a runner, leaving me like other men had in the past. Again and again, Matt promised that he was in this relationship for good. “For the long haul,” as he said. God helped me release the pain of the past and trust not only God, but Matt, too. Trusting a man to stay, after the instability I experienced as a child, was hard. If our marriage was to work, I had to learn to trust again.

In our 17 married years, Matt has stayed for the long haul. We’ve wept through prayers for our autistic son, and we’ve held each other up through severe financial stress. We’ve laughed a little every day, and we’ve managed to stay best friends. No marriage is perfect, and neither is ours. It takes daily sacrifice, lots of love and hard work.

My grandmother, it seemed, knew this truth. I imagine her looking down at me from heaven. She smiles and says, “Yes, you’re married a long time … but Kelly, those years are precious. Thank God for them.”

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