Last Sunday at church, our pastor challenged us as a congregation to document the God stories of our lives – to recall, relive, and relate to those around us. I’ve been meaning to write down the biggest earmark of my life, so here goes.
A synopsis: Boy meets girl. Girl falls for boy. Girl realizes her True Love Waits ring she’s worn since eighth grade doesn’t provide an automatic bubble of immunity when it comes to their physical relationship. And then the real adventure begins…
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My husband and I met in college. Our first authentic conversation (after two or three disputable “first meetings” – it depends on who you ask) was on the way back from a Bible study group early my sophomore year. Maybe it was the lingering effects of studying the Word together, maybe it was the crisp September air in the foothills of beautiful Tennessee, maybe it was the cool dusk and the long walk…but whatever it was, it was a catalyst. I clearly remember parting ways once we reached our dorm, rushing into my room, and confessing breathlessly to my roommate, “I think I’m going to know him for the rest of my life.” (As cheesy as it sounds, that is a direct quote.)
And so we began our courtship a few months later with noblest intent. (It took him five months of me basically – yet modestly – throwing myself at him before he finally asked me out, in spite of his insistence that he had wanted to since day one.) We entered into this new relationship with every honest intent of exploring the possibility of marriage. We were serious straight out of the gates. It was unlike any other relationship I had been in, or pretended to be in, and I was both awed and afraid of what we were getting ourselves into. Nineteen years old, and this might be the man I marry?
After a few short months, I knew the answer was always intended to be, “yes!”
For whatever reason or excuse, we fell into the trap that so many other Christian couples navigate around successfully, and found ourselves four months pregnant on our wedding day.
It’s an unfair understatement to say we shocked everyone around us. He was a small group Bible study leader, I helped lead worship with our InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter, we were both active in FCA, and attended church faithfully. And it wasn’t just a facade outside of our relationship. We studied the Word together, we prayed together, we had theological debates just for the fun of it.
So needless to say, after hidden sins behind closed doors, it rocked our family and friends to their knees.
From the second those two pink lines showed up on the pregnancy test, we knew we had one path to follow. My heart grew tenfold when I looked at Hubs with uncertainty, and the first words out of his mouth were a resolute, “Well, we’re going to keep it.” As long as we were in this together, I knew I could weather the ride.
It took awhile for those closest to us to come around, some longer than others. There is something to be said about active confession – so much more than the bedside prayers recounting the sins of the day to an all-knowing God. Confession first to the Lord, then to the spiritual leaders who had depended on our faithfulness, family who expected more, friends who never saw it coming…God’s disappointment and sadness and hope and redemption now had an expression in the tears and faces of our family and friends, and it was, if nothing else, heart-wrenching.
And so we had a shotgun wedding, and within just a few months of first finding out we were pregnant, our small, close-knit college population were all in on the secret. We had weeks to plan a wedding, months together as newlyweds, and a lifetime to prove we had made the right decision. I fought constantly with the nagging feeling that an undercurrent of failure preceded us, that we were destined to crumble, like so many other young and reckless couples before us. I struggled daily with the fear of forgiveness…was it really that easy? I knew God’s perfect forgiveness, and lived daily in the forgiveness of our family and friends, the commitment between Hubs and me to forgive each other and move forward, but the darkest, most hidden part of me wondered if I could ever forgive myself. The question repeated itself often. Was it really that easy?
I never admitted it to anyone, scarcely to myself, that I secretly looked forward to the horror stories of labor and delivery, thinking that the physical pain might ease some of my arrogant inability to accept myself, as if my own forgiveness was more just than God’s.
But that was before the consequence of our selfishness breathed his first breath.
Every single day since July 22, 2004, I have been able to witness, firsthand and in the flesh, the power and presence of the Lord and His forgiveness. Every single day, as I watch my beautiful son grow and learn, as I watch the bond between my husband and me deepen impossibly, as I watch the swell of my belly, full with another child created the “right” way, I am reminded of the constant ability of God to redeem, and to redeem in creative, unimaginable, glorious ways.
The consequence of our sin became our reward, despite our wavering faithfulness. We have had front row seats to a divine, daily reminder of the transforming power of our God, a God who specializes in hope and reconciliation, and we can only stand around with our jaws hanging open in amazement.
We are blessed beyond deserved, and can only accredit this story to a God who is able.