JC - LA
I was at the lowest place I think I have ever been. I was fed up with life and fed-up with God. To be blunt my life sucked, my family sucked and the church they dragged me to sucked. All I wanted was to turn eighteen so I could leave, and move in with my boyfriend. He was the only person who seemed to give a rip about me at the time.
That’s when the church group my parents forced me to attend decided to go to a concert in LA. Of course, I couldn’t go. I had no money and my parents weren’t about to pay for anything. The one cool thing this group was going to do, and I was going to be left behind. At our next meeting, the group leader announced that the church wanted everyone to go and they were willing to cover what we could not.
Then I found out, it wasn’t really a concert. It was a Jesus culture conference. Sure they would have lots of bands but lots of speakers too. Even so, I was down. Anything to get some time away from home. As we departed on this trip, I made God an ultimatum.
“Either you speak to me during this conference or I am done with you for good.”
The conference was going to be held in the staples center, and I was immediately traumatized. You see I am a rural girl, not a city girl. LA was a forest of buildings the size of mountains wedged so close together I began feeling claustrophobic the moment we arrived. So, I did what I always do when I am feeling out of sorts, I found a guy to latch on to, and that’s when I found him.
He was the first person I talked with after we arrived. He was part of the group from our church and seemed like a nice enough guy. As we walked from the hotel to the conference the first day I was struck by his genuineness. From the get-go we talked like old friends, carrying on a conversation with ease. An actual conversation. How long had it been since I had a real one of those? It seemed that always I had been ignored or others would smile and nod all the while just waiting for their moment to speak. Yet this was different. It was then I said to myself “I need to make him my friend by the end of this thing.” So, I came up with a plan.
First, I brought my back-pack and volunteered to hold everyone’s water. As it was the only thing you were allowed to take in instead of buying inside. Second, when our group leader handed out the tickets, I volunteered to help pass them out and made sure his seat was right next to mine.
When the conference started, however, he was the last thing on my mind. Both the music and the speakers were amazing. Now for the first time in what seemed like forever, God came back into my life. He had heard my ultimatum and came to answer me. God showed me that I had been living my life in constant fear of abandonment. He showed me how being abandoned by my biological father, and then my friends, had left me with deep emotional and psychological scars. Scars I had been ignoring by throwing myself at any guy who showed me even a sliver of kindness. And here I was doing it all over again. God told me that he had always loved me and always would. At that moment some part of me broke. A weight of darkness I hadn’t even known was crushing me, fell away. I knew that I could not force God out of my life and I didn’t want to anymore. I knew he would never leave me and would always love me and that was enough. After the session, I went back to our hotel convinced I would grow up to be the crazy cat lady who just loves God and loves her cats. And I was fine with that, but God wasn’t.
The next day I kept talking with the guy I had met. Though this time it was deferent. I was at peace with who I was and didn’t need to throw myself at him to feel secure. Instead, I focused on just being a friend. The next session was awesome and the music was a lot of fun. One of the speakers though kept having us hug the person in the seat next to us. Which meant I was hugging him repeatedly. The first hug was awkward. Two strangers hugging each other as you can imagine. Then another hug, then another and another. Near the end, I was bright red and had to excuse myself before the speaker could tell us to give our neighbor a hug one more time.
Little did I know that the hugs were just a warm-up for what God had planned next. I came back to the auditorium and found my seat with only minutes to spare before the conference would break for lunch. That’s when God dropped the bomb on me. I can’t say it was audible, but I can say I have never heard God so clearly in all my life. And he said…
“Look to your left.” Which was where he sat. “And there is your husband.”
I blinked in surprise and if anyone had seen my face, they would have wondered how someone’s eyebrows could drop so low from utter confusion. I thought…
“What? But you’re supposed to be my husband. Just me, you and the cats remember?”
But God didn’t reply. I came back to reality in time to notice the auditorium was emptying around me. Grabbing my things, I quickly trailed behind my group, still very much in a daze. As soon as we were out, I made a b-line for the nearest Starbucks. I needed caffeine to clear my head. After getting my order I wandered a short distance away from the group to drink my coffee in peace. I needed time to be alone and process what had just happened.
Despite my desire for solitude the guy God had proclaimed to be my future husband walked over and sat down next to me. To my utter amazement, he wanted to learn sign language. Apparently, he had watched me sign to some of the worship songs at the conference and thought it looked cool. I told him I would be happy to teach him and we could set up a time to meet once we got back from LA. Then he shocked me again. He didn’t just want to learn sign language. He wanted to learn now. No one ever wanted to learn now. Sure, I have had plenty of people say they were interested in learning. Some even set up time to meet. Yet each time I was left hanging. But now, here he was wanting to learn right then and there. I was flabbergasted, flustered and frightened. My brain nearly shut down as I fumbled to think of signs to teach him.
I had been doing sign language for years, I was an expert and now in front of him, I could barely keep my wits. Then he made a suggestion which saved me. This was not just a conference but a concert after all, so someone ought to be selling CDs. And if we bought a CD it should have a lyrics list. Once I could see the words on a page everything came back clear and I could sign again.
We spent all of our free time that second day together practicing. So much so that some of the people from our group found another back-pack to keep their water in. By the time the trip was over, I most definitely had a crush on him. Before we left, I snuck my bag into the trunk of his car and intentionally forgot it there. That next Sunday at church I sought him out and told him I needed to get my bag. I brought up the idea of learning the rest of the song we had been practicing and to my surprise, he said yes.
That week I broke up with my boyfriend confident that God had a new path and plan for my life. Now if only somehow this man God had said would be my husband could see me as more than just a friend. As the days went by, we continued to practice together and I decided that the promise of a husband was given to me by God and when the time was right, he would fulfill it. All I had to do was be patient and wait.
“So, what is going on between you two? Do you like her or what?” My friend asked. It was a simple question but until that point, it was something I had never considered. Like her?
Looking back, any outside observer would have classified all the hanging out we had been doing as dating. Yet somehow the thought of this girl as more than just a friend had completely escaped me. So I answered as honestly as I knew how.
“I don’t know.”
And I didn’t, but the question stuck with me. In fact, it haunted me. For the rest of the evening, I couldn’t get it out of my head. Did I like her? And if I did, what then? After a deep dive into my feelings, I decided that I did. So now what? Ask her to be my girlfriend? I knew she would say yes, but there was a bigger issue.
The more I thought about pursuing an intimate relationship with her the more I began to fear. You see I was, and still am a very conservative person. To that point, I had only ever had one girlfriend, and the relationship had ended in tears. Her tears, when I broke up with her. I remembered it clearly. Everything was going fine, we got along great and I thought I loved her. Then one day out of the blue everything changed. When I looked at her, I felt… nothing. I tried to keep the relationship going but couldn’t. It had quickly become nothing more than an oppressive obligation. So, I broke her heart. Now years later I wondered if it would happen again.
Could I ask this person to be my girlfriend? I felt affection for her at this moment, but what happened if one day it was just gone. Would I break her heart too? I wanted to pursue a relationship but not if it risked hurting her in the end. She had become such a good friend and perhaps things would be better if they just stayed as they were.
I wrestled with this question deep into the night completely unable to sleep. I cried out to God, praying in a language I had no knowledge of. It was like my very soul was crying out to him. As I lay in bed shaking with anxiety something changed. The very air in my room became thick. It weighed upon me like a heavy blanket holding me down as it radiated warmth.
The strange sensation lingered for several long minutes. Then suddenly all of my fear and anxiety over the possibility of one day looking at this woman and feeling empty disappeared. The thick air pinning me to my bed lifted taking the fear and anxiety with it. Leaving a simple sentence ringing in my head.
“It’s ok to love her.”
At those words, something inside of me broke open and I realized I had never understood love until this moment. A deep knowing that I did love her and need not fear this love ever leaving, filled me from head to toe. I shot out of bed and quickly sent her a message.
“I love you.”
Those can be big words in a relationship but they were true and I knew that now. What I didn’t know until several months later was that God had already told her this day was coming and she had been patiently waiting for me all along.
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