There are two reasons why I’m writing this post today:
#1 February is about celebrating love!
#2 I heard a sermon today that reminded me about my “love story” with James in college.
I have been very blessed to not have had any earth shattering traumatic events happen in my life thus far. When someone asks me to think about your last moment of true and utter despair, I think back to April of 1999-when James and I broke up. We had been dating for a year and a month up until that point, (every month counts when you’re dating!) Christmas of 1998, James gave me a watch (that I still wear everyday!) that was inscribed on the back “Till the End of Time” (yes, my English loving friends, he used the wrong spelling of “till” and I tease him to this day.) Every naive college girl knows that when you give a girl a gift like that, you are FOR SURE getting married, right? I mean, he wants me to till with him til the end of time! So, imagine my despair, when in April of 1999, James was convicted by the Holy Spirit to end our relationship. He said to me that we were putting each other up as idols in our lives and our relationship became more important than our relationship with God. (He was super holy like that.) I was pretty devastated because he did give me that watch, so now what?
This is where the sermon comes in that I heard today. It was about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and that He modeled for us how to act in moments of despair.
1. Matthew 26:37 “He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he began to be filled with anguish and deep distress.” We are to invite people into the depths of our struggles. When James broke up with me, I was very fortunate to have the best roommate who knew the situation and how deeply I was hurt. (And that roommate still lives by me today, around the corner in fact, and we live life together almost everyday. It is not uncommon to find us going grocery shopping together in the same car!) Love her!
2. Matthew 26:38a “He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.” We are to share our weaknesses with them. Jen, my roommate, got an earful almost every night. She probably couldn’t understand most of it because I was sniffling back tears.
3. Matthew 26:38b (Jesus said to them) “Stay here and watch with me.” We are to ask them to fight with us. Jen helped me for sure during the 7 months James and I were broken up. One of the best things she ever did during that time was when I opened our apartment door one day in May and she and another one of my friends had written encouraging Bible verses on index cards and taped them all over our apartment! It felt like there were hundreds of verses and it meant so much to me!
4. Matthew 26:39 “He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.” We are to pour our heart out to the Father. Some nights this felt impossible, because all I could do was cry. But during the 7 months of despair, I found great comfort in journaling and the Psalms. I also find creating things is therapeutic for me. So in the summer of ’99, I created this 30 in. x 40 in. board:
I used all the Psalms that spoke to my heart during that difficult period and typed them up on different colors of paper with different fonts, and glued them together in a stain glass look of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane. I felt like this image of Jesus praying spoke to me most because he was in a moment of despair like me, (of course His despair was infinitely greater than mine!)
5. Matthew 26:39 “Yet I want your will, not mine.” We are to rest in the sovereign will of the Father. The top sentence on the above board is this verse. In my heart I truly wanted God’s will. And if that meant James and I weren’t supposed to be together, then I knew God had a better plan for me. In my journal I wrote, “Father, thank you for loving James and I so much that you chose to separate us so that we may be closer to you. Thank you that according to our strengths and weaknesses you have us each in perfect places this summer. I pray Father, if it is your will, that you protect James’ love for me. Lord, I want you to consume me, not my situation, not anyone else, but You.”
And that is just what He did. I was alone all summer, no friends in town, James was out of state and then out of the country with no way to correspond…I was consumed by Him, and it felt so good. I fell in love with my Savior again and then my Savior brought back my earthly love in due time. It was a true love story.