Late in the year of 2013, my boyfriend of nearly a year stepped down from a company he had been a key player in for six years. Not a year prior, he had begun to train employees at the Chick-Fil-A corporate headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. He left both the local restaurant he had faithfully served at and the more intensive job simultaneously, as well as moving out of his home for the first time. Big steps, right? We thought so. Many conversations and cups of coffee later, we had established that it is a step out there in some direction of blind faith, putting himself into the care of God with no real goal or timeline in place. Of course I was scared. Selfishly, I had a sinking feeling this meant that all the talk we had already had about someday getting married would be delayed for God knew how long (and still does).
We are serious, and yesterday we celebrated our year-and-three-month-iversary. Admittedly, until I wrote that down I hadn’t been aware of it with everything else happening. But I’m sure he will forgive me.
Nobody could have told me what this combination of life changes would bring about months later, when attempts by my boyfriend to begin work again were seemingly thwarted at every turn. A later conversation revealed that both of us had very specific ideas of how the next few weeks, months, and years would unfold. God would pull through later before we could blink with some incredible job opportunity, something that nobody saw coming. Every word of caution he heard earlier last year would come back to virtually slap our “ye of little faith” friends in the face.
Suffice it to say, that didn’t happen. It has truly proved to be a test of faith which James talks about in his first chapter, about how it develops perseverance and all that. I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing as straightforward a spiritual 2×4 as I have with James 1:2-4. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you are faced with trials and temptations. For the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” Could there be a more straightforward way of telling your readers that the hard things in life will only build character?
Ten months into the relationship with little to no financial worries and a very liberal budget, the commencement of 2014 was difficult, to put it lightly. Emotional strains on both sides have manifested and are still causing added stress to minor setbacks as well as several tragedies that have struck. We were in for a rude awakening when I paid off my student loan around the same time that his income ceased altogether, setting my bank account back to nearly square one. It feels good to not be in debt, but it doesn’t feel good when I can’t remember the last time I bought something for either myself or my man.
I used to receive “just-because” gifts, flowers or a necklace. We went out to eat fairly often, and treated each other to activities that actually required payment. Additionally, living a mere ten minutes away was, as I’m now understanding, a significant privilege. Now, on the northern side of the city I live southwest of, he lives thirty minutes and a good chunk of my nearly nonexistent income in gasoline from my house, and it’s hard to make a visit happen between our schedules and situations. To put it gently, since November and December of last year the general ambiance between my S.O. and myself has become far more stressful, distant, and at times hurtful or bordering bitter than it was when we began this adventure in mid-January of 2013.
The biggest struggle has been faith in the sovereignty of my God. I find myself developing in my selfish attitudes sometimes, nursing the idea that I’m owed more than I’m getting or that something isn’t right. I should be happier, I should be better at making my boyfriend happy, basically every issue in the book. I fell to my knees as he left my house after a short visit last night feeling broken and hopeless. I cried out to Jesus in my desperation and he heard me. He sent my boyfriend back up the steps to give me a long hug and to hurt with me, to tell me again that he loves me. I don’t remember much of what was said, but I remember coming out of the embrace feeling assured that I’m not fighting this fight alone, that God’s holding my hand and my best friend holding my other hand.
What I want to come through remembering is that it gets hard, it stays hard, it doesn’t improve, we become hopeless, we selfishly hold on to every small hope we can find, and then we open our eyes and cry out to God.
And God comes through.
I saw a little glimpse of that last night. God is faithful. He’s given my boyfriend, in the last week, four job opportunities; two of which are career-promising, and instead of having no choices, the challenge became to choose between good and best.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus in John’s gospel said it better than any words that will ever come out of my mouth. I can only keep my eyes where they were created to look, to my maker, to the only hope I really have.
photo by Gwenyth Shedor 2013