(The UCU Standard – February 3 – 17, 2020)

MUKONO, UGANDA — This column is about UCU’s new, yet-to-be-named vice- chancellor. But first let me tell you about the Ugandan who was happy to tell me about his recent marriage.

“Congratulations,” I said, before asking, “How old are you?”

“Thirty.”

I said congratulations again. “That’s a good age.”

Then, like a good counsellor, I shared my own experience, how my wife and I were 35 when we met, before marrying shortly later. We had plenty of time as singles. People change greatly in their 20s. They grow. They grow up. I told my Ugandan friend.

There are also life circumstances, pragmatics, to consider. This doesn’t sound so romantic, but, well, can
I afford it? Am I finished with my formal education? Are there other issues forcing me to wait? Because the right person at the wrong time is the wrong person.

That’s a phrase I picked up during my own journey. And it was a journey, being single so long. Certainly
it enriched and broadened my friendships. And remember, singles are not second-class in any way. Jesus, after all, stayed single.

And, in my story, when some previous opportunities for marriage arose, I dug deep. I threw myself at God’s mercy, to ask myself, and Him, if this was a “good” choice, or, more so, the “best” choice.

And there’s an important difference. Because in marriage you’re yoked with another human who’s as imperfect
as you are. For a long time. Which can be both joyful and stressful. Then children. More joy and stress. Then work pressures. And possibly health issues. And extended family. And finances. The list of stressors goes on, even as the joys do.

If someone has a serious fault line, often unseen, the foundation of a marriage can then easily give way. This is why separation, divorce and single-parenting are so common, and harmful, worldwide. It’s one reason – but not the only one – why many people with starry hopes of never-ending bliss end up hurt and disillusioned. Choices that were not the best.

Of course, it’s up to you, dear unmarried, hopeful reader (sorry, it’s too late for you marrieds) to determine what’s “good” versus “best.” What I can say is that for me (and I’m 18 years happily married) waiting, while praying, was key. Taking that posture of dependence.

Which brings us back to the issue of UCU’s search for a new VC. And make no mistake, this is like marriage. A yoking. For better, which UCU has enjoyed with Godly and wise leadership for 20 years. Or for worse, which could bring this university into an unfortunate, painful situation, later, if not sooner.

Into this comes that need for prayer. Intentional prayer. Targeted prayer. Broad community prayer. Prayer like when I had a long weekend from work, when I’d drink lots of fluids, but also go without food for as long as I felt led. Because, while we don’t understand its mystery, fasting, in the right spirit, gives prayer an added effectiveness and power.

A UCU community-wide time of prayer. It’s something to consider while the need for a new VC takes on greater urgency. Because 2020, the planned retirement year for VC John Senyonyi, is marching on.

And what if only a “good” choice, but not the “best” choice, emerges? Looking at my own story, I know what I’d advise. Wait.

Because it’s better to be single, or in UCU’s case, delay marriage, than be tied to what’s not the best of the best. Give prayer enough time, though, and don’t be surprised if someone beyond even your wildest imagination comes along. I’m living proof it’s true.