“If someone overpowers one person, two can resist him.
I was driving down the interstate, cruise on, a full tank of gas, and radio blaring. “I’m okay,” I remember thinking, yet I was still a little nervous. There was something unsettled deep within me. I tried to drown it out through the song on the radio. “It doesn’t really matter how hard you try…” “It might be nice to have people, but I don’t really need anyone” I mused, “besides, I’m going with the flow of traffic here, I’ll be fine.”
That was me, a year before I met two people who wouldn’t leave me alone. My life seemed to be going fine, I wasn’t always super happy but it wasn’t like I was depressed either. I was trying to find the status quo, a simple version of the American dream, after all I didn’t want to disappoint myself by setting the bar to high, and I was on my way. Things were pretty much under control. I had minimized the risk of failing by downsizing my expectations. I was going with the flow.
Then I met her. She was wearing a red skirt and a white shirt, with long brown hair and big brown eyes. Everything about her was unique, and she piqued my curiosity. Of course I was too shy to go up and talk to her, that would mean putting myself in jeopardy of failing, but I did do things to try to get her to notice me. About the same time, there was someone else trying to get me to notice Him. Up until then, I’d heard a lot about Him, I’d studied about Him in class, I’d read a book He’d inspired, and I’d enjoyed how creative and thoughtful He was. I’d even believed in Him to take my sins away and get me into heaven, but somehow I didn’t know Him. That was about to change.
A few months later…
Unnoticed, the volume on the radio had lessened. There were people talking, and I wasn’t as lonely. I was more aware now, like a driver who has just had a close encounter with a deer. We were visiting, the three of us, the conversation going from light hearted jesting to serious discussion and back again. “Don’t go there,” the girl would say, “By trying to protect yourself by avoiding others, you’re actually hurting yourself. Besides, Jesus loves you, why should you be angry?” Sometimes, I was like the two voices were one. I wanted to listen. I had been afraid, but they had pursued me. I didn’t run. How could I have missed Him before? After all I’d studied about Him, all I’d read. The sound on the radio was barely audible. My foot on the gas pedal… somewhere back there I was no longer on cruise control.
It was sometime during that year that I decided to pull off of the interstate. I don’t remember making a conscious decision to do so, it was more of a gradual change. My desire to follow my new friends had subtly grown stronger than my desire to maintain the status quo. It was easy for me at first, I was enjoying spending time with them. It wasn’t long though, until I realized now I had to worry about oncoming traffic. Still, the discussion in the car kept me alert. As we talked together I felt more and more sure that I was on the right road. I didn’t really know where this road would go, but I guess I hadn’t really known where I was headed on the interstate either, I’d just figured I’d be okay since there were lots of other cars going that way. Then, unexpectedly, I found myself talking to myself. “Where did she go? What did I do?” I had come to a fork in the road. “Do I go back or should I press on alone?” “Aren’t you forgetting someone?” I heard a voice. “All those times we spent together, was it just because of her? Will you keep following me down this road even if it means going alone?” He asked. “As long as you go with me, I’ll keep going.” I decided. “Okay,” He said, “Why don’t you stop and pick her up, she’s just up the road.” And so it went. That happened a few more times, but each time my resolve grew stronger to see where this road went. I wanted to keep following Jesus, I didn’t want to go back, I wanted to see what was around the next bend.
Three years after I’d met the girl, I asked her to marry me. She agreed, and that led to our toughest time yet. We were engaged for a year, and the road we were on seemed to be constantly under construction. The conversations between the three of us, and at times the two of us, became much more honest, and they started boring down beneath the surface. At this time, I was learning who she really is, and I was also learning who He is. It was like all the things I’d learned about Him were puzzle pieces in a box, facts in history, yet as I began taking them out of the box and searching for how they fit together, a beautiful, powerful, yet kind picture began to emerge. The first step in getting to Him was realizing that I could get to know Him. In fact, as I started putting the pieces together, I realized that He wanted me to get to know Him, and that has been part of his plan all along. Of course, that’s why He’d been speaking to me, I just hadn’t known it was Him. I was no longer studying facts about a historical figure, I was reading letters from a living Savior. His words began to sink into my heart and continued to change me. I found they gave me strength to love the girl, even as she struggled to find her way.
The next year, we were married. She was now my wife. The new proximity brought with it new challenges. She, who had been influential in getting me to turn off the interstate, although perhaps unwittingly, now wanted to live on cruise control. It was like we had each done a 180, and we were now on opposite sides of the spectrum from when we’d first talked. We met somewhere in the middle, and we managed to make it through that first year. Meeting in the middle doesn’t always imply unity, however, and in this case, it was more out of necessity than anything. Four years after our first meeting, we were further apart than ever, and it was usually just the two of us talking. Changes in life often bring with them the opportunities to develop new habits, yet instead of using this change to focus on building a strong relationship among the three of us, we coasted, and it wasn’t always pretty. Yet thankfully the third person among us, the one usually forgotten, Jesus, is not just beautiful, powerful, and kind, but also patient, and a little bit jealous. I think He missed those conversations among the three of us, and He was about to give us another chance by bringing another change into our lives.
We both saw the “road ahead closed” sign at about the same time. We had been talking in the car about a possible change of direction, but now we were sure, a detour it would be. We turned off the paved road we were on and for the first time felt the crunch of gravel underneath our tires. Coasting was no longer an option, as we were now driving slightly uphill. Animated conversation filled the car, “where would this road end up?” “Is this a dead end?” “Will we have to turn around?” “Trust me,” He said, “You won’t have to turn around, I know where this road is taking you.” We continued on driving, putting more and more distance between us and the familiar hills behind us. Many thoughts filled our minds. We knew we would miss the many people who had shared in our lives. We would miss the places where we used to hang out, where we made our first memories together. Yet, we knew we were heading in the right direction. With mixed emotions, we drove on. Eventually, the road led to a blue mountain lake nestled underneath a granite wall, with pine trees dotting the near shore. It was beautiful, and sitting around a fire later that night, we thanked Him for leading us there.
During the years that followed, we continued to grow in our appreciation for Him. I had gone from knowing about Him to knowing Him and from knowing Him to trusting Him. It’s funny how I’d had no problem trusting Him with getting me into heaven after I die, yet it took me so long to trust Him with my life while I’m still alive. In our minds we always want to think the worst yet seeing how He led us to that beautiful place inspired confidence in Him, and we could trust that He really did want what is best for us. We developed better habits, and we once again grew closer together. We made friends with new people, they welcomed us in and we learned from each other. We still had times where one or the other of us would struggle, but slowly we were learning how to fight for each other. We’d seen how Jesus had fought for us, instead of kicking us while we were down He’d extended his hand to us, and He was teaching us how to be a team together. Now, instead of turning on each other when things got difficult, we were learning how to watch each other’s backs. This would be crucial for what came next, as shortly after a new baby got added to our team, we’d make another turn, and we’d once again be driving into the unknown.
If that experience were a lake, then this next experience would be an ocean. In fact, we crossed an ocean in order to get there. Here, we were starting out brand new, armed with the promises that He was with us and the memories of how He’d been faithful to us in the past. The first few months, we flopped around like fish out of water. We didn’t know what to do and things were spinning around us at crazy speeds. We had rich conversations almost on a daily basis, but even those didn’t keep us from foolish decisions and fighting against each other. Forgiveness was an essential part of those conversations, and it no doubt got us through many difficult times that first year. That was still before it got hard though. Our second year started off in a valley filled with sand, houses, and colorfully dressed people, all speaking so fast we kept getting left behind before the train even left the station. Our first night in that place God blessed us with the gift of laughter, a tired ‘are we out of our minds?’ kind of laughter. Still, He was with us, and He gave my wife a promise from His word. That promise kept us going when everything else said ‘turn around now.’ Our conversations thrived here, the intensity was pressing the three of us together. Seventeen months later, we moved out of that valley remembering it as “the valley of blessing.” Sometimes blessings can still wear you out, however, and that’s what happened to my wife. We were about to head into a new phase.
Travel by bus is a lot different than travel by car. In a car, you have a certain amount of freedom over your situation, you can listen to whatever you want to, you can stop for food when your hungry, and you can stop to use the bathroom when the need arises. In a bus, you are at the mercy of the driver. Sitting in the back of the bus, with dust coming in between the cracks, the bus bouncing up and down, my stomach growling and my lips dry (my remedy for the infrequent bathroom breaks), the interstate sure seemed a long, long ways away. Still, I didn’t miss it, as I was enjoying talking with God right there in the bus. I needed Him to lead us to the right place again, and He did. This time we didn’t move into a valley, we moved on top of a hill. Here we could enjoy the view and feel the fresh air on our faces again. He always knows just what we need for each phase of the journey, and that was what we needed. It seemed like our list of needs just kept getting longer though. We were over our heads right from the start. Actually we were over our heads ever since we crossed the ocean. There were many times I felt like we were swimming away from shore instead of towards it. Well at this point we couldn’t see the shore anymore, and we were getting tired from swimming. Now we had to fight for each other, all three of us, if we were going to make it there. Sometimes days would go by, even weeks, where one or the other of us would get hit. Jesus never gave up on us though. During this time we were learning something else about Him. He has enemies, and they hate it when we’re together. They’ll do everything they can to divide us in hopes of conquering us. They focus all of their energy on destroying His plan. In this battle, however, we found that we also had allies, other people who were following Him just as we were. They joined us in our conversations and together we found strength to keep going. We found that by going by bus, we had lots of company.
We might be back on this side of the ocean, but the road we’re on still feels a little precarious. In some places its more of a path than a road. Large rocks litter the trail, and large portions of gravel have been washed out by the rain. We still need to talk together a lot, the three of us, to keep on the right trail. At times we’ve gotten off track, but when we go to Him He takes us back. If we look down over the edge we can get a little queasy, yet the view is amazing, especially when we look back over where He’s taken us. We still don’t know where this path is going to lead, but we do know that its bringing us closer to Him, and we’re privileged to be on a journey like so many others who have chosen to walk by faith in Jesus instead of living for the status quo.