“I leave you now with this one question, will you be my wife?” Elated, mesmerized and speechless, I jumped into his arms. Our lips met and tears flowed. “That is a yes, right?” he questioned me. In the midst of my excitement, I realized I hadn’t actually given him an answer. “Of course!” I shouted! The sunset that night over the water was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Dolphins jumped next to our boat as we headed for shore to celebrate with our eagerly awaiting families. It was the best night of my life!
I was a college senior finishing my student teaching; engaged to my best friend and love of my life – we had been together for six years and the wedding was only three months away! Time couldn’t pass fast enough. Because he was in graduate school and I was finishing my teaching degree, we had been surviving a long distance relationship for the past year. Although it was challenging, the promise of forever was within reach.
Things couldn’t have been more perfect. Each and every detail of the wedding was falling into place better than I could imagine. I was more in love with him than I'd ever been. Filled with joy and anticipation, I went to visit him. While there I accepted a teaching job and we found a house! It was our dream house - at the exact price we prayed for – with a rainbow over it when we drove up (no kidding)! Cards, flowers, romantic dinners, laughter with friends and worship at church… it was the perfect visit!
He squeezed my hand as we pulled into the parking zone at the airport. “I can’t wait until you are here with me all the time, sweetie. Just a couple more months!” Gosh, it was so hard leaving him! Boarding pass in hand and tears flowing down each of our cheeks, we said “I’ll see you soon,” as we vowed we would never say “goodbye.” He held me so tightly I could hear his heart beat heavily against his chest. Once again he reassured me of his love, “You’ve changed me and made me new, I’m the luckiest man in the world. You’re my guardian angel, my girl and I couldn’t live without you.”
The TSA agent urged me through security. Reluctantly I let go of the love of my life and proceeded through the checkpoint. Once through, I looked back one more time. His handsome figure stood in the corridor waving and blowing kisses. Tearfully, I blew a kiss back and thanked the Lord for blessing me with such an incredible man. Little did I know that would be the last time I would see him.
One week later, I was in the height of student teaching and wedding planning. While working on the slideshow for the reception, my phone buzzed with a text message. I loved hearing that familiar ring tone! I lunged for my phone delighted to read what my romantic fiancé had to say. “We need to talk. I can’t honestly say I am in love with you – I haven’t been for quite some time. I can’t do this…” From my shaky hands, the phone fell to the floor. Surely not! This had to be a cruel joke. The lack of response to my texts or calls began to confirm this was no joke. This couldn’t be happening. The man who held me close and promised to never break my heart had left me broken, without a job, without a home, without a plan and without an explanation.
He never came. He never called. I never knew why. The days and weeks that followed were torture. Never in my life had I felt more broken. I cried more tears than I knew any one person could. I felt as if I’d been run over by a freight train I never saw coming. He’d just given me his wedding vows the month before! There was no warning, no fight, no face-to-face conversation, just a text message after six years together… surely I would wake from this nightmare shortly. I struggled through school and work, desperate for any kind of closure or explanation. I was mentally, emotionally and spiritual devastated.
One month later, after another sleepless night, I was driving to school giving God an earful of my opinion. I cried, yelled, screamed, hit the steering wheel… I’m sure it was a site to my fellow early-morning drivers. For twenty minutes I carried on in desperation, knowing without a doubt that I heard God’s voice confirm the man, the future, the dream. “How could you let this happen to me? I don't understand! I KNOW WHAT YOU PROMISED, GOD!” I screamed. Angry tears stung my eyes making it difficult to see the road in front of me.
Realizing I needed to look composed to walk into my classroom and greet my bright-eyed babes, I attempted to end my temper tantrum and gather myself. I turned east onto the road leading to the school. Storm clouds clearing from the nighttime shower, the sun began to rise over the lingering thunderheads. The sunrise was absolutely breathtaking. My spirit was quickly reminded of the faithfulness of our Savior. My attitude convicted, I took a deep breath. It is HE who allows the sun to rise each day. HE who allows me each and every breath of life. The ONE to whom the storm clouds answer. The beauty of the sunrise struck my spirit and an overwhelming peace enveloped my broken heart.
Never do I have my phone out when I drive, but that morning I felt like I needed a visual reminder of God’s precious promise of peace. Driving 40mph down the road, I took my phone from my purse and quickly snapped a picture – I did not look, I did not aim, I did not stop.
My mascara streaks erased, I arrived at the school and looked at the picture of the sunrise before I went inside. (See photo above.) I literally lost my breath and the tears flowed harder than before. I heard the Lord remind me, “Sweet daughter, I am with you ALWAYS; before every storm, in every storm and after every storm.” A telephone pole had been captured in the light of the rising sun creating an unmistakable cross as the storm clouds faded. It was in that moment I began to believe that I would survive this trial; that his rejection was simply God's redirection.
Why is it that on good days, it seems so easy to walk in the faith and promises of the Lord, yet when a storm blows into our lives, we panic and seem to instantly forget who’s leading us? Whatever circumstance you’re in, God is there. He may not be easily visible, but He promises to never leave you or forsake you. In this life, we will all suffer pain, disappointment and loss, but God is in control despite what you or I might think or feel at any given moment.
Sometimes He will calm the storm you’re in, other times He will calm you in order that you might withstand it, and other times, He teaches you to swim. Matthew 14 accounts Peter having faith enough to step out of the boat, yet he had to go “swimming” in order to learn the lesson necessary for his future ministry. Are you learning how to swim right now? Treading water is tiring, but it does build a great deal of strength and endurance!
God is far more aware of your needs and desires than you are. If your storm is raging, recall who orders the wind and the waves. If you are navigating through the storm, be thankful that the Lord is your Captain. And if you’re swimming, keep treading water, trusting that He is your strength.
God is in your storm as well as in the sun that rises after the clouds have dissipated. When you ask for His presence and His peace to permeate you (or you simply throw a giant-sized temper tantrum like I did) rest assured that Jesus will show up. Look to the heavens. See His beauty in the setting sun, relish His attention to detail in the night sky, and rejoice as a tiny seed pushes up through the dry earth and produces an oak tree. He is with you and will see you through any and every trial.
Out of ashes, the Lord is capable of creating something more beautiful than imagined. Healing is a process, but six years later, I’m happily married to the rugged warrior God designed for me. (Knights in shining armor haven’t seen battle.) I’m eternally grateful God gave me a man who has a few dents, battle scars and victory stories. Together now, we look for God in the sunrise.