August 16, 2014.
I had circled the date on my calendar.
I had repeated it over and over again in my head, and found a place for hearts to hold on a little longer in the midst of trying to push the date back, to slow it down.
August 16, 2014. August 16, 2014. August 16, 2014.
The chill came, the leaves faded and fell, and the world shifted our insides; his soul started to sway to a different tune while mine stood rigid, humming along to the song we’d already been singing. In May, I had sworn we’d been made of the same stuff, that our souls had nodded at each other and hit the floor running at the same time. But fall came, August 16 came, and our souls no longer recognized each other.
August 16, 2014. That was the day I watched the world tilt, the day I watched all the things I had wanted become something I had to cling closely to my chest because I knew I was about to lose them all, could feel them inching away.
I shook my fist at God and asked Him what the point of it all was. If He’s a God of purpose and reason, I wanted to find the meaning in all of the years that he and I had stayed connected when the intertwining of our lives should’ve been nearly impossible.
In my head, the days that followed August 16, 2014, were supposed to look like study baskets for finals and seeing him in a suit for the first time at swim banquets and baking him a cake and making him feel like the most important boy in the world on his birthday and Christmas time by the tree and on the ice with him and a book full of all the things I had kept since our very first date that I had wanted to give him; this summer was supposed to be me and him and weekend trips and beach vacations and California and Mexico and more concerts and helping him move into his new house. It was supposed to be him. It was always supposed to be him.
But instead it looked like getting mad at God. Instead, it looked like trying to understand and forget. It looked like letting go and panic attacks at three in the morning and getting sick in my bathroom all hours of the night. It looked like my mom being in and out of the hospital and taking care of my little sister. It looked like learning what family means and watching the cousin I’ve grown up with break all of our hearts. It looked like family secrets showing their face in the living room of my house, and no one being able to breath. It looked like losing an uncle. It looked like mistakes and having social media tell me that I needed to be doing better and learning that you actually don’t have to have it all together when you’re only twenty. It looked like walking away from the Boy With Blue Eyes and realizing he was just a boy I grew up with that I had to learn to let go of. It looked like new friends who built each other up and kept each other accountable and spent our nights worshipping together. It looked like a dream job at Free People. It looked like co-founding a website that proves how incredible humanity is. It looked like crying in the pretty white bathroom of a church because I had lost my joy; crying because I had chosen to cope with the pain and bitterness that had made a home inside my chest by telling God that I was going to start doing things my way; it looked like God flooding that bathroom with His presence and whispering, “I have called you for something. Now get up and walk.”
Everyone always writes about “staying.” All my friends, they want to get better at staying where they are and who they are with. And it’s hard for them. But I said I’m a good stayer. I’ve always been good at staying. Until I sat in that pretty white bathroom and thought about the places of life I’d been stuck in during the months before.
The truth? The truth about being a stayer: I could run so quick from person to person bearing my scars, saying, “Do you see them? Can you do anything about them?” Because at some point, after life had thrown me “x” amount of curveballs, I stopped running to God.
Wouldn’t He follow me? I remembered He is good, so wouldn’t He, in His goodness, follow me?
My sin was this: I ripped my pain out of His healing hands because I was impatient. I knew how it worked. “Okay, I know there’s a lesson in this; I know You want to teach me something, but do You mind if I just bypass that for the sake of ridding myself of all this hurt?”
The consequence: a life lived on the outskirts of His presence.
I left that bathroom with a word on my heart, a word that sounded like a foreign language.
In a society where Christianity had become a social endeavor, being called to ministry was the equivalent of being the captain of the cheerleading squad or homecoming queen. Surrounded by twenty year olds trying to make their faith look pretty, I hesitated.
If He wanted me to walk forward in this, He was going to have push me. Was this of Him? Or was I just trying to fit in? So I asked Him to show up while I took steps forward, waiting for Him to push me where He wanted me.
I got up and walked.
God showing up looked like an Instagram post from North Point Community Church about a internship program for young college students who needed guidance in the world of ministry.
God showing up looked like a phone call from a woman I had shared my heart with who said, “He called you. You took steps forward in confidence. Now He’s connecting the dots for you,” and offered me a position to help with a new project at North Point Community Church.
God showing up looked like a crazy senior year schedule and me saying, “Okay God, if you wanted me to do this then why is it not working out? Why is it not looking possible?” only to discover that I had calculated my credits wrong the semester before. That I was actually on time to graduate in the spring. And that my classes would line up the week before my new internship started. An email from a professor saying there had been a mistake in the registration and I could in fact take the classes that I need. That everything would fall right into place, and I’d have Mondays and Wednesdays entirely free to work for the church. Just like I had needed.
Jesus served the best wine last. When we would’ve served the best wine first. Can we just talk about how that speaks volumes about who Jesus is and about life? The fact that, just when we think all the good has already happened, He comes in and serves us the immeasurably more? The better than we planned and expected? Better than what we would’ve done for ourselves?
He had just been waiting for my heart to be ready.
Bitterness is a liar. And confusion likes to push us into the deep end where we feel like we are drowning. And I’m a control freak. Not the kind that has to be in charge– the kind that looks at God and tells Him He’s not making sense and that I don’t understand so I’m going to handle it my own way.
Maybe God smiled at me, when I told Him that last year. Maybe He smiled and shook His head at my demands, laughing to Himself, “Just wait until I come and make this so much easier for you. So you go ahead and run, girl. Run until you can’t and then wonder where I am. And then I’ll come in and give you the things meant for you. I’ve just been waiting to give you the things that are meant for you.”
Let me tell you, loosening my grip on my own life and the things that I want hasn’t been easy. There are days that I am quick to tighten my fists and head for the door. Because having control seems so much easier in my head. Not having to learn the lessons and not having to feel the pain– ridding my heart of its loneliness– seems so much easier. Loneliness is a terrifying kind of emptiness: it loves to dress up like all the things you think you want and convince you that those things never hurt you in the first place.
But then I remember how God got me where I am right now. The clockwork of it all. The smooth transitions and the scene I see when I take a step back. So I take a step back. And I breathe. And I remember God.
I saw him. I saw him two days ago.
Sat with him. Spoke with him.
God, he’s so different. For so long, I daydreamed about growing with him, cheering him on, celebrating big things with him and for him, seeing him transform as a person as life changed. I didn’t know how lovely it would be to see the product of who he would become without seeing the process of his becoming. He’s comfortable and happy and sure of himself. He’s not the man I sat down to have coffee with two years ago. He’s not the man who told me he loved me in April. He’s not the man who walked away from my car last October. He’s what the past year has made him.
But no more playing God.
Instead, I cried on the way home. Because that day with him was one of the sweetest gifts God has ever given me. Void of all bitterness. Filled with freshness and yet comfortability. Getting to see him happy and getting to laugh with him without that nagging thought, “Do I get to have him back now?” in the back of my head.
It was me and him and everything that’s happened since August 16, 2014 sitting between us.
I’ve been like Moses, hiding in that cleft on the rock: I didn’t see God’s glory passing by until He had already passed.
Now I beg Him, “God, show me your glory.”
That boy is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. But I never thought that I would ever be so thankful that he walked away from us.
I learned so much about people when I got my heart broken. Even more when I had to figure out a way to cope with that pain. When new hearts hurt mine, I just nodded at them. “Oh, I understand now. You’ve felt this way, too”
I don’t even recognize the faith I carried so heavily in my heart before August 16, 2014.
August 16, 2014. A new breath of God I did not recognize before came and awoke dry bones in me.
I don’t know that we’ll ever love each other again, he and I. But I don’t know that we won’t, either. And the part of me that would’ve risen to the occasion now just smiles that I got to sit in the presence of his happiness and enjoy it without strategizing a way to get him back. Now I just breathe, and enjoy, and close my eyes and whisper, “Show me Your glory, God. I feel You passing by. Show me Your glory.”
Here’s to time.
Here’s to August 16, 2014, and every hard day that I’ve missed him.
Here’s to the way things change, and learning to breath instead of lash out and shut doors on people for good.
Here’s to fighting for the people we love, even when they hurt us.
Here’s to sharing secrets.
Here’s to ministry.
Here’s to taking steps forward even when I have no idea where I am going.
Here’s to the way bitterness tastes when God makes it sweet again.