Thursday, March 11, 2010
There was still the matter of the vow.
I hadn't made it lightly. And I had made it to God - a God of whose love I was no longer certain.
The months after the hospital passed under a cover of grace, grace I recognize in the looking back, seeing now the fear that stalked me then.
Pete's and my friendship deepened; I sought God with him, co-teaching a Sunday School class for the teens at our church. My pursuit of Him was rote, something I knew to do, something I'd always done.
I tried not to think about my friend, about the outstanding question of his return to me. I tried not to hope - for his return, for the return of my health, for anything at all. After several years of unresolved health issues I knew this: God was sovereign, and He would do what He wanted, regardless of my desire.
God told Pete to ask Him for me.
Not in the "ask Me so that I have the place to tell you no" sense. In the "ask Me for a sign and I will give it to you" sense.
So Pete obeyed and asked and fell in love with me.
I was not in love with him. But I knew I was no longer in love with my friend either. That wasn't something I shared with anyone. Not even with God. The inside jokes I'd shared with Him earlier in my story were over, the ready trust, the easy surrender, the passion behind my vow, the vow that kept me from returning Pete's love. The vow that depended on God's work in the heart of my friend.
Work that wasn't happening.
Christmas came. Questions about our friendship had arisen for both Pete and me. His family didn't know what to do with our relationship. They counseled him strongly against it; he shared his heart with his dad. His dad prayed.
My parents couldn't understand why I was still holding out for my friend's return. I explained the vow I had to keep. I told Dad that I'd shared the vow with him, that he hadn't said anything, that because of it, I was bound to it, for the sake of keeping the vow to the Lord.
My dad stared. "I never heard you. And if I had, there is no way I would have said you should keep it."
Humbling words. Frightening words. Freeing words.
I spent the New Year at a bed and breakfast retreat Pete had given me for Christmas. I intended to pull out my Bible and repeat the last year's New Year retreat - Genesis through Job seeking and discovering God. Pete figured if I found Him, he'd never see me again.
My heart wasn't in it. After my dad's words to me releasing me from my vow, I couldn't open my Bible. I was scared to find myself that alone with God. But He was pursuing me. He was so close, I felt if I turned and looked, I would see Him.
I rented a movie. Hit two rental places looking for a VCR on which to watch the movie. The one in my room was broken. I bought one.
I didn't make it back to the bed and breakfast to hook the thing up and turn on the movie before He caught me in the dark of my car, so present, so real I couldn't escape Him.
"What do you want?" I remember asking Him, a little annoyed, a little afraid, gutsy enough to be the one to speak first, take the bull by the horns.
He didn't say anything. Not yet. I could feel Him looking at me, the pointed kind of look that says, "are you actually serious, asking Me that? You know."
I tried leaving Him in the car. Went inside. Set up the VCR. Put the movie in.
Turned it off.
"What do you want?"
It was Him this time, asking me.
Pete and I were married in October, 2005.
I had been freed from my first vow to make a new one, but I'd not been freed from my fear. I clutched Pete almost wildly to myself, waiting for the ball to drop, waiting for the inevitable loss that I was sure must come if I loved anything or anyone too much.
God wanted all of me. After I'd admitted my love for Pete to Him, I dived for cover, and He let me go, for a time. Let me live. During my first year of marriage, He spoke still and small His "I love you," over and over and over.
I acknowledged. "Yeah, God. I know."
"I love you."
Piper was born in July, 2007. A year of "I love you" culminated in faith to cling to Him during her birth.
I was ready to move on with life. I figured it was time to start growing spiritually again. Trying to find God again. Trying to love Him again. Which meant laying down my life for Him. And figuring out what it meant to lay down my life. I wanted to get to the "life abundant" on the other side of that "nevertheless."
Somehow, I thought I might be able to manage it without letting Him into my heart again. Without being so vulnerable as I had been. Without facing the fear that held me captive.
Somehow I thought I could lay down my life for Him without Him.
Love Stories: God and Me, Part I
Love Stories: God and Me, Part II
Love Stories: God and Me, Part III
On Thursdays in February (because I never know quite what to post on Thursdays), I was writing out my love story. Not the one about my crushes or my first love or even my love for Pete - though those stories all play a part. Bonnie Gray at Faith Barista and Holley Gerth at (in)Courage challenged us to write out our God love stories, and I had one to share.
It's been on hold for a couple of weeks, and here we are in March with what should have been the final post - but I discovered this morning that it won't be the final post. There is too much more that I cannot share today.
Thanks for your patience. More to come next Thursday.
(Image © Informal Moments Photography)