Updated: Aug 7, 2019
January 1, 2018
It’s a new year. We’re all going to lose weight, be nicer people, blah blah. For some of us it’s our goal just to survive the year. That was me last year. January 1, New Years Day, the man I loved and knew I was going to marry shattered my heart in the most humiliating, knock-the-breath-out-of-you kind of way. There I was in a town I didn’t really want to be in the first place, all of my college buddies had scattered across the world, my one true friend in town and I were now broken up, and the university I was working for started going through a workforce reduction. My world was flipped upside down every time I turned around.
Then, a dream opportunity came open in Charleston, SC. “Oh, thank you, God, this must be what You are doing through breaking all of these ties! A dream job in a town where I have friends and, hello, it’s Charleston! …If this is such a perfect opportunity, why is there a knot inside me about it?” I was running. Instead of standing and fighting during a time I needed to most, Satan was tempting me to flee to a life that glittered in every way. The reality was that lifestyle would have quickly darkened to a lot of partying, temporarily numbing then worsening the pain with other guys, and a detrimental fixation on material things. I am a therapeutic shopper in the worst way! From day one of last year, God called me to stand and fight by praying for the good of this man who had crushed me and soon after by remaining in this town where the pieces were scattered. I mean it was like walking on broken glass throughout this town. I would run into my ex, more hurtful situations would arise, then I ended up taking a severance package from the university, which included them paying for my entire MBA degree – praise God for that blessing. I began to look for those blessings and signs of going/staying where He wanted me. So there I was a week out from not having a job, I was working part time in events, and the Charleston position was looking really good. Ten o’clock one night, a woman whom I had just met called and without knowing my situation, laid out exactly why I needed to stay in Shelby, NC. I didn’t have to look hard for that sign, God couldn’t have made it any clearer. “Okay, God, if You want me to stay here, please send me some friends.” For a social and very prideful girl, that is a humbling prayer. “For He delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper.” – Psalm 72:12 He delivers. He was my strength to get out of bed every morning. He was my focus to form the habit of starting my day with Him. He was my clarity when my mind was overwhelmingly foggy or cluttered with thoughts. He was my provider of part time jobs that made up one tightly-stretched income. He delivered friends in the most unexpected ways. He was my source for humility in asking for help in mentorships and especially in seeking out a Christian counselor with whom I still take joy in our monthly sessions. He has been the only source of patience and confidence when nothing seemed right, even if He was promising to “work all things for my good” (Romans 8:28).
At the beginning of last year, God made quite the promise for reconciliation. Reconciliation between this man and me, yes, but my eyes were so pressed up against this one part of His promise that I almost missed the big picture of God reconciling each one of us with Him and reconciling us with one another through the forgiveness, grace, and love only He can deliver. My pride weighs on me to sit on this promise until it actually comes to fruition. Where is His glory in that? My impatience, frustration, and fear push me to run. A whole new relationship would be “easier.” On the night when it seemed most impossible and my running shoes were on, in the most intense experience I have ever encountered with Him, God almost audibly whispered, “just wait.” It stopped me dead in my tracks. “’Just wait?’ ‘Just wait’ to be second choice? ‘Just wait’ to get hurt even more? ‘Just wait’ around in this town to work part time jobs? ‘Just wait’ until I go broke and am paying these student loans off forever? ‘Just wait’ on You to possibly deliver me from this, but what if You don’t? God, this hurts!” I screamed. I threw things. And when I finally finished throwing my tantrum, God lovingly whispered, “just wait for me to work all things for your good.”
He didn’t promise just to work the good things for my good; He promised to work all things for my good. Even though I was speaking out of a lot of angry and hurt emotion, He was taking the good of keeping the conversation open and the bad of my poor decisions, the bad of this man’s poor decisions, and combining them to give me hope. Hope in His “plans for me. Plans to give me hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). I grew up loving that verse after my mom wrote it to me in a card she sent to me while I was at sleepaway camp as a kid. Now you see it everywhere to the point we don’t stop to think about its message; its promise. Not just hope for heaven, but here on earth. The word “hope” never resonated with me because growing up in church, I constantly had people telling me, “you have to have hope” or “you have to hold on to hope.” To me, it was basically like they just told me to “live, laugh, love.” All I wanted them to do was get out of here with their little crossed-stitch pillow talk. No one likes to be told what to do. Sometimes, it takes the experience over being told what to do before we learn the lesson. For many, like me, who grew up in church, you’ve heard about every verse. It goes in one ear and out the other, just like your parents talking to you. No matter how old we are, that behavior carries on, whether it’s your earthly parents or heavenly Father speaking. Have you ever been told, “gosh, you just have to learn the hard way, don’t you?” You’re not alone and God gets that! He can do anything, anything! He can make the sun stand still. You don’t think He could make these life lessons easier? He can and tried. I mean, He did give us the playbook. But He knows that we let His words go in one ear and out the other and that sometimes we must learn the hard way. The best analogy I heard was pastor Ben Stuart say it’s like teaching a child to navigate the stairs. It would be easier, faster, and safer for the parent to carry the child up and down the stairs, but how would he or she ever become stronger? A good parent doesn’t send a teetering toddler down the stairs and wish them the best of luck. They walk alongside the child the whole way, ready to catch them at any moment. God is our Father giving us the space to learn the hard way when we insist, but walking right alongside us ready to catch us when we stumble.
That is faith in a Father who loves us. That is a Father that doesn’t hurt us, but “gives us hope and a future.” It took me being in a place for the first time in my life where all seemed shattered beyond repair and hopeless before I understood the beauty of hope and “holding on” to it. I look back at this past year whether I was trying to run or He was calling me to jump to Him in faith. Either way, His loving arms have been stretched out to me, ready to catch me. I’m not saying everything is perfect. My relationship with this man is not reconciled, but my relationship with God has been in a way that I do not ever want to let go. If I had continued to press my eyes up to the only win being this earthly romance, I would have missed the big picture. A relationship that has called me to act in faith leading to more adventure than ever imagined. More honest and loving relationships with family and friends, this beautifully diverse church family, the most amazing small group Bible study, and now working full time in my passion for marketing and events through a company my mom and I partnered to start. God is good. “I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.” – Psalm 116: 1-2 The words God stuck on my heart for 2017 were “reconciliation” and “assertiveness.” For 2018 He has made clear “supplication,” asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly, and “confidence.” Confidence that what He has heard my cry for and what He has promised, He will bring about. Confidence of deliverance from this pit that isn’t a pit of singleness, but of lacking self-worth. Confidence that I am going to get to know more of my Father, not just His help, in the coming year by loving Him and saying “yes” to what He puts in front of me.
Whether you’re one of the ones praying to survive the year or just know you need to say “yes” to God on something, my hope is that you will jump into His arms like a kid again. My hope is that a year from now, you will be helping someone else do the same. “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In Your love You kept me from the pit of destruction; You have put all my sins behind your back.” – Isaiah 38:17