I sat out on the back porch of my home in the Shire, stopping mid-sentence in writing a prayer out to God in order to savor the weather, which was a clean sunshine and an even cleaner wind. The trees bending over me rustled in great applause to the One who created them, and the scent of an early autumn permeated the atmosphere. My Bible was open to the book of Proverbs.
“Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know! Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” (Proverbs 30:4-5, ESV)
And as I sat there, my thoughts kept going back to the fact that today, this Monday, is the first day of classes at Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, New York City, and I am not there.
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)
MOMENT OF TRUTH
A handful of weeks preceding this day, in the last few weeks of July, I traveled down to Fayetteville, North Carolina, to spend time with the Navigator ministry there, as well as to get a feel of what being married to Jacob in Jacob’s environment would look like. Up to the point of taking the trip down there, I’d been desperately praying over a decision that needed to be made:
There’s been talk of a deployment of Jacob’s brigade next summer, which would prevent the wedding from happening in June as we’d originally planned, and would do one of three things: it would move up the wedding date to the beginning of the spring semester of my senior year at Pratt, it would prevent me and Jacob from getting married until after he came back from deployment, or it would result in he and I getting married and having him leave only a few weeks later.
Along with this, in the middle of the spring semester of last school year, one of Jacob’s groomsmen had asked me why Jake and I weren’t marrying sooner, why we were having a year-and-a-half long engagement instead of a shorter one.
“If marriage is meant to be a priority,” he’d said. “and if both of you really believe that God has purposed you to marry each other, shouldn’t you want to fulfill that purpose immediately?”
I had answered that we’d both decided to wait until I finished getting my degree at Pratt.
“But you could just transfer your credits to a school in Fayetteville and still get married early.”
This suggestion raised an ache in my heart.
It’s more than just getting a degree. It’s not even about the degree anymore.
I thought through how much God has grown me in the last three years. I thought about the girls in Bible Study, the ladies and gents at church, the people of New York City, the hold that the enemy has there, and the divine victory I’ve experienced since setting foot on the campus grounds.
And what kind of testimony would it be if the church girl who’s stuck it out for three years suddenly bailed out once she saw the finish line? What would happen to Kat, Bree, Taylor, and all the other girls in Bible Study to whom I’m reaching out? What about the opportunities to further write Jesus into the lives of my classmates and professors? Wouldn’t it be horribly selfish to not finish out at Pratt to do what I want and marry Jacob?
And these were my thoughts and arguments and convictions. And I thought I’d established what I believed to be the best decision here, but I was wrong, and I knew it.
POKE AT THE WEAKNESS
During another trip before the trip to Fayetteville—this time it was an adventure in Seattle, Washington, with newly-engaged Hannah and Matthew—Matthew challenged me on my thoughts, convictions, and decision concerning marrying Jacob, asking similar questions that Jake’s other groomsman had asked of me. I’d become hurt and defensive during this conversation, and I left it frustrated and angry with Matthew.
We’re waiting because this is the best thing to do. We’re waiting because we see this as the wisest thing to do. It’s the right thing to do. This is what we should be doing.
And then, upon returning from Seattle, I prayed. And prayed. And prayed. And I was realizing that my response to my talk with Matthew shouldn’t have been anger towards him, but a re-evaluation of my own heart. I talked to Jacob and asked him what he thought, if he wanted me to forsake my last year at Pratt in order to marry him sooner, because among human opinion, his was and has become the most important to me.
“I think that we have made a commitment to God and to each other that should be fulfilled as soon as possible,” he said. “…but, I also think you should do whatever God is asking you to do, and if that means getting married later rather than later and finishing out at Pratt, then you need to do that.”
And so I prayed. And I cried. And I prayed some more. And I talked to the godly couples in my life, and I talked to my Father, and I was afraid, and I was sure, and I was uncertain. I came to a breaking point of sorts one day, when too many people were telling me too many of their thoughts, and all I needed to hear was “whatever decision you make, we will still love you….” I needed to know that God would still be pleased with me and love me even if I made the wrong decision…
Jacob’s attitude throughout my decision-making process, throughout my hurts and frustrations and fears, was a huge blessing. He was very hands off, but not in the sense of “This is your decision and you’re the one who needs to figure this out,” but in the sense of “Whatever decision you make, I will support and love you regardless, and I will trust that it’s the most godly decision you could make.” And it was through his attitude and treatment of me that I was reassured of God’s love for me regardless of what I chose to do.
“Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you. I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 43:4-5a)
BREAKING DOWN AND BREAKFAST TALKS
Finally, I drove down to Fayetteville with my family, along with Paige, a wonderful lady my age, who’s presently staying with the Brocks. I had a mind to talk to Jacob face-to-face about this rut I was in, to pray through it with him, and to figure out what I should do: to finish out at Pratt this year, or to not.
Within the first few days that I was there, as I talked through all of my thoughts, concerns, fears, and convictions with some of the ladies there in the ministry, even before discussing it with Jake, I realized what I’d been doing this entire time:
I’d been looking to do the least selfish thing. I thought that finishing up my senior year at Pratt before getting married would be the more selfless thing I could do, and would require the most sacrifice of me, because of course I wanted to drop it all and get married to this man God has given me.
“Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.'” (Jeremiah 33:2-3)
And yet, as God shed light on my heart, I realized that this was not true: going to Pratt would be familiar; I would have my own job, my own space to live in, my own ministry to pursue, and I would be able to be independent for at least another year and not make the transition into, well, being dependent on Jacob, and ultimately being even more dependent on God.
One morning, before going to Fayetteville, I’d spent time praying for all of Pratt and the girls there. Then, I went to pray for the guys that Jacob is reaching out to, and I realized that I’d just expended all of my time and energy into praying for what I was doing, instead of seeking to love, support, and affirm Jacob through my prayers…And from what I’m seeing and understanding of God and His Word and His intentions for marriage, He means for that supporting and loving and affirmation of Jake to be freeing and the most fulfilling, but I was not able to do that because I was so focused on doing my own thing, if that makes any sense.
It was the third day in Fayetteville, and Jacob asked me out to breakfast. So he picked me up from where I was staying with Paige, and we went out to Cracker Barrel to indulge in lemon cream cheese-stuffed French toast and wonder if rusty farm equipment would fall on our heads as we conversed.
And it was then that I explained to Jacob the shift in my thinking that had happened. It was then that God solidified in my heart that this was okay…it was okay for me to let Pratt go, to trust Him with the people there, to love Him enough to believe that He was bigger, that He didn’t need me in order to save them, that He could especially take care of Bree, Kat, and Taylor, who had become such kindred spirits and sister-like friends to me. I could give Him that burden, and believe Him when He said He could handle it.
In light of Jacob’s possible deployment and my desire and conviction to transition into being his wife and following God with him, I have decided to take a Leave of Absence from Pratt this next year. Should he deploy next summer, I will return to Pratt and finish my senior year there while he’s overseas. Should he not, I will transfer my credits to a local school. Jake and I will be getting married sooner, now in this upcoming November.
My prayer has been of protection, against regret, doubt, and resentment, since the enemy is so skilled in the art of manipulating my insecurities and fears. My fear of appearing weak is a big one…I have virtually chosen getting married over getting the career, and I am too aware of how pitiful that looks to the rest of the world.
God has fought for my heart, however, and has protected me valiantly. He has shifted my thinking since then, has kept me safe from fear, and has kept me steady and stable throughout the last month or so of planning and preparing and paperwork. I don’t know how it’s all going to work out, and I don’t know how things will look. But the One who holds my heart knows it all well, and knows how my heart is hurting, and also how it’s filled with joy because of this decision. He understands my thoughts and feelings more than I ever will, and He sees how everything affects me and He knows what weakens and strengthens me.
“God’s got it, and it will be okay,” has never been a truer statement for me than it is now.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.'” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)