Sixteen years ago, I sat in my rocking chair in my college dorm room reading my Bible. I sensed the Holy Spirit ask me to read about Abraham. I turned to the story of Abraham sacrificing his son on Mount Moriah and read about Abraham’s willingness to give up what he loved most, his only son, to be obedient to the God he chose to follow. Then God’s spirit asked me, “Would you be willing to give up what you love most for me?”
“Sure,” I replied.
“I don’t want you to move to Colorado.” His words meant more than a move to a different state. They meant giving up a good young man, who I loved. They meant choosing something that felt too hard for me: being alone.
“No! That’s not the plan!” I said out loud. And then the whole room grew still as God’s presence loomed over me. The birds fell silent and the traffic sounds stopped and I felt the fear of God in a new way. I had just said, “No,” to the God of the Universe, my creator. Quickly, and tearfully, I changed my answer. “Okay,” I said. I chose Him, hoping, as He did with Abraham, that He would give the young man back. Choosing God hurt so badly that day.
Unfortunately, after I felt clear that the young man would not come back into my life, I snuck out of God’s presence here and there over the next five years and looked to appease my loneliness in new romantic relationships. All of them left me miserable and frantic. When the relationships ended, I would run back to Jesus for help and comfort, which He gave freely, but I would leave His presence again, to settle my wandering heart rather than trust Him to help me. I was weak and not fully convinced that He could truly fulfill me.
Finally, when I was twenty-three, I broke up with a young man who by all my standards was the best. It was a miserable relationship that I could not make work, no matter what I tried. A few months prior to this break up, I had a dream that left me convinced of Jesus’ love. That dream was the only thing that got me through the sadness. I told Jesus on the night of the break-up, “The hurt is so deep.”
He said to me, “Yes, but my love is deeper.” I was left with the freedom to morn. And as I processed, I looked back over the trail of broken hearts left behind me.
I told Jesus one evening soon after the break up, “I don’t know if I want to say this, because I know you are going to take me seriously, but I don’t want any more broken hearts. I don’t want to date anyone else until it’s the man you want me to marry.” I was scared to give Jesus that much of my life, my heart, and my future. By putting that on Him, I was making a statement of faith: I believe You can take care of me better than I can take care of myself. I will wait for You to tell me when the time is right, because I am not happy with my choices. I knew it was the right thing for me to do, but letting go of the ability to choose for myself was scary and felt like suffering.
I have since come to believe that we will suffer in this life no matter what we do, but that if we choose to suffer for the sake of Jesus by letting go of our desires in order to follow Him, the suffering will always lead to joy. If we choose to grab happiness for ourselves first at the cost of relationship with Jesus, we will find suffering that leads to emptiness.
Four years later, I found myself in a strong friendship with Thomas. I was beginning to see the relationship head down the old familiar path of romance, and I sought Jesus. Jesus told me to spend more time with Him than with Thomas, and to not spend time alone with Thomas. After a few exhausting weeks of waking up at 5:00am to have 2 hour prayer and bible reading times so I could spend an hour on the phone with Thomas at night, I soon realized I had to tell Thomas I could not spend as much time with him.
Although we were not formerly dating, it felt like breaking up. I told Jesus how hard this was, that I didn’t want to give Thomas up, that I had given up everything for Jesus already; But it came back to this decision: would I be willing to give up what I loved most for the sake of obedience and relationship with my God?
Over the previous four years I had suffered through loneliness, and I let Jesus meet me. He had drawn me into friendships that were deep and fulfilling. He had met me in the places friendship could not venture and left me with hope. I had never been left disappointed or hurt in giving up my life for my Lord. So in light of this, I chose to lay my relationship with Thomas on the alter before God. I told Thomas I could not spend as much time with him, and then went on to fully avoid him for two months because I did not trust myself to follow Jesus if I spent any time with Thomas.
Toward the end of that time, I had a dream that made me sure Thomas was the man God intended me to marry. I didn’t want to move forward on this thought though, without certainty. So I prayed, “If this dream is from You, Lord, then have Thomas approach me with the intention of marriage. I will not pursue him, but if he asks me to marry him or to date him with the intention of marriage, I will know he hears from you and that this dream was from you.”
This story has so many beautiful details for me, but to spare you pages of those and get to the point, Thomas approached me with the intention of marriage within a week of the dream (after a near death experience on his part that left him realizing he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life without me). It was a surreal and amazing moment, full of romance and all the things my heart had ever desired. It was the unbelievable moment where death turned into resurrection. Eight months later Thomas and I were married in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
Today is Easter. We traditionally celebrate Easter in the Christian Church as the remembrance of the day Jesus came alive again. For the forty days of Lent prior to Easter, we remember that His death on the cross meant our salvation and the payment for our sins; but on Easter, we step from death into life. We are awakened into a new covenant, or promise, between God and those who choose to believe that Jesus is real and alive. The promise is one of Love: If you believe Me, give your life to Me, and love Me, I will give you abundant and eternal life; I will give you hope and peace and a purpose; I will prove myself to you and fulfill your heart desires; I will take the ugliness out of your life and give you beauty; I will give you My Holy Spirit to make your spirit alive with love for those around you, power to live in a way that will bring hope and joy to you, your family and all those you come in contact with, and a sound mind to help you discern order from chaos, be creative with purpose, and plan without fear of destruction so My purposes of Life will reach all the people who see you.
As a follower of Jesus, He does all of these things for me on a daily basis. The more I give to Him, the more He gives to me, and I see examples of resurrection all around me. The clearest example of resurrection in my life to date is the story of my marriage to Thomas. And today, I am grateful that I can wake up every day into that resurrection life.