I left for a mission trip to Africa feeling incredibly sure of my singleness. I came back 12 days later with a girlfriend, and in the final hours of the trip home, we each said “I love you.”
I don’t think there’s anyone who would deny that we went extremely fast, and when we got back, we were definitely told so by peers and mentors alike. It’s been hard to explain to people the peace and certainty we felt every step of the way. Sam put it best when she said that she wouldn’t recommend doing what we did to anyone. It's true... if a guy came to me with this story, I would definitely tell him he was crazy and needed to slow the heck down. And yet, we both knew in our hearts and minds that we had done it right. We had followed God’s lead.
Why the paradox? Why am I so confident about a decision that seems so foolish and impulsive? For several days, I honestly didn’t know. But as I pondered the events of those 2 weeks, the answer became clear.
Mission trips are highly-charged spiritual events; their very nature requires you to be plugged into the Holy Spirit at all times. I was in constant prayer, and was both reading the Bible and worshipping for at least an hour every morning and every night. I have to be honest, that’s not normal for me. I wish it was, but life is busy and the things of this world love to steal our attention away from God. Even ministry work can become more important than our relationship with the Father. Saying no to things that shouldn’t be a priority is a big struggle for me, and it’s something I’m working on. I don’t spend as much time with God as I wish I did, simply due to business and stress. However, things were different on this trip.
Here’s the first lesson I learned in my relationship with Sam: When you’re plugged into God, there is light to see clearly. When you aren’t, you’re forced to stumble around in the dark.
Those two weeks in Africa are a long and beautiful story of faith in God. I’m so thankful for them, and there’s nothing I would change about them. At some point soon I will write about them in glorious detail. Right now, I have another story to tell.
I’m writing this exactly 2 weeks after Sam and I first used the words girlfriend and boyfriend to describe each other. We both agreed it felt childish, but knew it was already what we were.
2 weeks later, I’m experiencing what it’s like to not be plugged in… to be stumbling around in the darkness. And last night, I got hurt.
Like I said, I struggle with busyness. I work at a church, and there is always something calling for my attention. It’s literally endless, and some weeks it overcomes me. This was one of those weeks. In the mornings I would rush to work, in the evenings I would get home late and immediately fall into bed, only to do it all again the next day. There was no time for God this week. I read the verse of the day on the Bible app and listened to worship music in the car, pretending that it was enough to satisfy me. That’s like living off of two Snickers bars a day.
Last night, I felt the sting of it. Sam and I were cuddling at her house (one of our favorite activities), and after a bit of kissing, in an emotional moment of passion, I told her that I was all in, and that I wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.
Foul on the field.
I didn’t realize it in the moment, but that was way too far. It turns out Sam felt it insurability, but it took me a little longer. I didn’t have God’s permission to say that, and it wasn’t the time to be making such sweeping declarations.
Later in the night, it sunk in. I completely lost the peace that I had had only an hour before, and knew I had done something wrong. I was suddenly filled with anxiety and worry, and it seemed like Sam felt it too.
The best decision I made that night was to go to bed as soon as possible. I try not to make life decisions when I’m exhausted.
The next morning I woke up, and still felt a little anxious. I decided to give God my day, and have spent it reading his word, worshipping, and listening for his voice. Bit by bit, my peace has returned. He convicted me that I needed to reconcile with Sam, so I sent her this text:
I want to ask for your forgiveness. I crossed a line last night. As usual, not a traditional line. Not something the world would see as that bad. It was an emotional line that we weren't ready to cross yet. For heavens sake, it's only been 2 weeks. We need to slow down. I know we keep saying it, but somehow we keep finding new ways to speed things up.
I need to have emotional self control in this relationship. I never knew that was a thing. I mean, I kind of heard people talk about it, but now I understand. Right now we're dating, and wow, I love it. 10/10 would recommend. I want to live in it, and enjoy it. As much as I REALLY want you to be the one, I don't know that you are for sure yet. That's so scary to me. I don't like variables. I don't like uncertainty. I don't like grey.
I'm sorry Sam, please forgive me. Like I keep saying, I want to do this right. I'm realizing more and more I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm just trying to follow God's lead. I'm sorry that I didn't do that last night. I'm going to try to do better in the future. I'm finally spending some extended time with him today, so hopefully I'll have a lot more clarity by the end of it.
Thank you for being patient with me. You remind me of God in that way. I love you, and I can't wait to see you tonight. :)
She replied a few hours later and forgave me, and told me that she still trusted me. Everything I said about Sam in that text is true. She is patient with me, and follows my lead, even when I don’t do or say the right thing. I’m thankful to be in a relationship with someone like that. No, I don’t know if she’s the one. I want her to be, but I’m choosing to be patient and wait on God’s timing. Emotional boundaries and just as important as physical boundaries, and I’m sure at some point I’ll post about that.
Stay plugged into God, friend. Follow his lead. He knows what’s best.