I’ve never been much of an “inspirational quote person.” I have nothing against them, per se. I even find some to be inspiring. My problem is less with appreciating quotes than with remembering them. It doesn’t matter how much I love a certain quote; if I don’t write it down right away, I probably won’t remember it.
Sometimes, though, there are exceptions. On these rare occasions, the quote not only sticks, but I can’t get it out of my head. I encountered one such quote last weekend:
“If your circumstances make no sense, stop and wait. God is up to something.”
This quote resonated because it perfectly summarized my last year. Let me explain.
Exactly a year ago, I was heartbroken. In less than a week’s time, my boyfriend went from talking through the logistics of getting engaged to informing me that our year-long relationship was over. I was devastated.
As if the emotional whiplash of almost-engaged-to-single weren’t bad enough, I was also left with an avalanche of unanswered questions. What had happened to change his mind? How did he go from sixty to zero virtually overnight? Had I done something wrong? Was there something wrong with me? I wracked my mind for answers but kept coming back to the same question: What the heck happened??
I repeated that question many, many times over the course of last spring (though I definitely used another word for “heck”). I talked to friends, to counselors, to my pastor, and my family. I read books, I journaled, I listened to sermons. But no answers came. The breakup still made no sense. I couldn’t figure out what had happened or why.
Then one evening in March, I decided to take a break from wrestling through my breakup and invited myself to a friend’s apartment for a UNC basketball game. Assuming the Tar Heels played well, it promised to be a low-key evening with a small handful of friends and acquaintances. The perfect, no-pressure way to distract myself on an inconsequential Friday night.
Yet as fate would have it, this particular Friday night was anything but inconsequential. Because among that handful of friends and acquaintances was someone new. His name was Jim, and crazy though it seems, he is now my fiance.
Although our relationship progressed quickly, this doesn’t mean that meeting Jim let me instantly get over my ex. In fact, when he asked me out after the game ended, I told him no. I was interested, I explained, but I had just gone through a difficult breakup and wasn’t ready to date. I then drove home, crying the entire way. The next afternoon, Jim called me. He told me that he appreciated my honesty and that he wanted to give me space. His offer for dinner still stood, but there was no rush. I could take as much time as I needed. He called again a couple weeks later, just to say hi. That’s when I told him we could go on a date. We did. And then we went on another date, and another, and another after that. After much soul-searching and heart-working (along with some encouragement from my friend Emily), I agreed to be his girlfriend. Seven months later, I became his fiance. And in less than six months from now, I’ll be his wife.
As I write this post, I am struck again by how crazy our story has been. In the span of just a few months, I went from absolutely heartbroken to falling in love. And in the course of a year and half, I will have gone from anticipated engagement to one person to marrying another. How crazy–and crazy good–this life can be!
So now it’s time to circle back to the original quote. What does it mean that, when our circumstances make no sense, God is working? And how does Jim’s and my story show this to be true? At the most basic level, the answer seems easy. Clearly, my first relationship had to end in order for the second one to begin. But what if the truth–and the reality of God’s working–goes far beyond that?
Even without my unexpected breakup, Jim and I would have likely met and hit it off. We might have even dated at some point. But our relationship would have developed very differently. You see, I naturally put up walls and an “I have it all together” facade. While I hope I would have eventually trusted Jim with my real, rather emotional self, I can’t say for certain that this would have happened. However, because I had been wounded through my breakup, my usual walls were already broken down. As a result, Jim saw the “real me” from the get-go. This vulnerability drew him in initially and, eventually, made him fall in love with me. In the same way, his compassionate response to my emotions and my “being a mess”, as I put it, made me feel safe enough to spend time with him. And as I got to know him, I began to see that Jim cared for me and wanted the best for me. Once I could accept that he meant what he said and that he truly was in this relationship for the long haul, I discovered that I loved him too. Though the circumstances made no sense, God was most definitely working.
Don’t get me wrong; the breakup still remains one of the most challenging seasons of my life so far. But while I wouldn’t repeat the experience or wish it on anyone, I also am grateful for it. Because even in that time of sorrow–especially in that time of sorrow–God was working. And I wouldn’t trade the outcome for anything.
And yes, you can quote me on that. 😉