‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ (Jeremiah 29:11).
My husband was the one I almost didn’t meet. My well-meaning friends in my college Christian fellowship did not want me to take the internship. It was in Washington, D.C., across the country, and they thought I was too vulnerable and prone to making bad choices about intimacy with guys. I had just confessed my past to these new friends a few months earlier. So my sharing that I was going to head to Washington for the summer to work with at-risk kids to explore whether or not I wanted to be a teacher felt to them like a red flag.
I sat in my friend’s dorm room as he laid out the reasons why I shouldn’t take the internship, but should instead attend a college Christian retreat. He did a lot of talking. I did a lot of listening. While the details of the conversation have slipped away, I remember the fear that rose in me as he claimed that I would not be doing God’s will by not attending the retreat. I would be going against Him. He had been healing my heart around my past bad choices, and He wasn’t done with me yet.
But I knew I had to go.
Despite being terrified that God would, indeed, desert me, if I did not heed my friend’s stern advice, my heart rebelled. How could a God who longed to heal me only love me under certain conditions? How could it be true that He wouldn’t be present with me in Washington? Why would He only be present at this retreat, in the California sunshine, with a bunch of Christians? This wasn’t a God I wanted to know more about. It wasn’t even the God I thought I knew.
I just couldn’t believe that the God who came for me a few months before — who loved me and wanted to bring healing to me despite my past — would be fickle in His love for me. While my friend’s words were harsh, I knew his intentions for me were good. I got on that plane that summer wondering if I was doing the right thing, wondering if God was mad at me, wondering if He wouldn’t be with me in Washington, worried that I wasn’t supposed to go.
When I left for Washington I was still in a long-distance relationship with the boyfriend I had from my previous college. It was a relationship that I was supposed to have ended; but, in my insecurity and selfishness, I had held on to the relationship like a security blanket when I transferred to this huge school where I didn’t have a single friend. When I was leaving for the internship, this boyfriend actually proposed to me (fearful that I would forget about him for the summer), and, while this is incredible embarrassing to admit, as I knew months earlier that this relationship wasn’t good for us to continue, I said ‘yes’. My boyfriend had no idea about my past and how God was trying to heal me. That’s the kind of person I still was: a person who wasn’t honest and who used relationships, guys, to help me get through.
Leaving for the internship, I was ashamed of this heart, this darkness in me that cared more about myself than another person. God was trying to heal me from these bad choices I had made, and here I was, still making them. This was the dark heart of mine God was working to redeem.
My friend who was encouraging me to not go to Washington was hoping to protect me from making another bad choice. He was fighting for my heart, trying to help me spend time with God so He could continue to heal me; but I felt I had to take the risk. I needed to see if God would go with me, to Washington, too.
I met the man who would later be my husband a month into that summer. We both attended the same university, but we had never met. All of the interns were housed in the same apartment building in Arlington. His roommates knew my roommates, so we hung out together as a group. As soon as I saw him and looked into his green eyes, as soon as I saw him smile, heard him laugh, and listened to him speak, I was captivated. He was different from any man I had ever met. He was handsome and confident and smart and interesting, and — what was most significant to me at the time — he felt safe.
But of course I could not be more than friends.
The first time the group split up one Saturday, while we were in the Natural History Museum, and I found myself standing with him in front of a New Mexico exhibit, the state where my current boyfriend was from, I told him about my relationship. I told him I was engaged. A week later, the first time I had ever told a soul outside of my Bible study group, I told him about my abortion when I was sixteen. I wanted him to know who I really was. I was tired of pretending to be someone I was not. Something was stirring in me to be honest — for the first time. And I shared with him about what God was doing with me, but also about how I kept messing up.
And he listened, and he believed I was more than my bad past choices. He knew all about me, and he still stayed close. He loved me still. He still cared.
My heart aches for the damage I caused to so many lives by caring more about myself than anything or anyone else. There is so much wreckage behind me, hearts trampled on, misused, neglected. I have repented of these dark choices I have made. I know I did not deserve – in meeting Justin, my husband — any second chance.
Father, thank you for how Your love for us never wears out, is not fickle, does not turn. I don’t deserve this, Father, this chance to love again. And You give it anyway. And You heal me with this Love that never ends. Let me honor You with this marriage, with a heart to love others more than myself, to love like You did, Jesus. Thank You for picking me up and carrying me through when I fail.
Father, I pray for Your girls who have wounded hearts, who have lost hope, who need You to remind them You are with them, that they are not alone. You are their Healer, their Restorer, their Warrior, their King who connects hearts and never leaves. You love them without hesitation. You are captivated by their beauty, by the good heart You see and adore. You have good plans for them. We claim those, Father. Come for Your girls now.
How have you been given another chance?
I am linking up with Bonnie, at the Faith Barista, this morning. Her blog focuses on offering encouragement for our hearts. Come on over!