A LOVE STORY: by andrea rush
What I love about following Jesus is that nothing is random or without hope, not even a house flooded by the upstairs toilet. He can take the most seemingly difficult, challenging circumstances and use it as an occasion to change your life. I know this to be so because that is where my love story begins.
I did not grow up knowing Jesus. I got saved in a bookstore in Chapel Hill, North Carolina at the age of 20. I committed my life to him at the age of 22, when, in a series of very pointed and intimate ways, Jesus showed me that I was not forgotten, that in all the world, He knew my name and loved me. The question that ultimately brought me to my knees was whether I would ever know love in my lifetime. His response to my query was, “Even if you never marry, will you trust me enough to follow me wherever I lead you?” At that moment, I knew that if I said yes, I would have to mean it.
I did say, “Yes.” Through the next several years, pattern by pattern, the Lord began showing me a more excellent way. He was an exceedingly patient Gardener, tending to some very overgrown and untamed shrubs and vines that grew thick around my heart. At times, the pruning was intimately painful and very humbling but I learned, and grace was so fulfilling to a heart that had already wandered.
In that season, the blessing of my life was Jesus Himself. Through rich teaching and fellowship with other believers, He was faithful to build a strong foundation and to clear away the wood, hay, and stubble of my own efforts. As the years passed, Jesus loved me too much to stop challenging me. Instead, He allowed the feelings of rejection that began to isolate me from others to become the fire through which He would prove Himself, skimming off the impurities that had found root deep inside.
Part of the rejection that I felt from other believers seemed based on my marital status. While my contemporaries were in community with each other, I felt very much on the outside of a social club to which I did not have what I needed to belong. I had never really felt compelled to apologize or wave the banner of “singleness,” it was just the fact of my life and all I had ever been. I confess I struggled with bitterness and hostility at having been left out. I also experienced waves of intense and paralyzing loneliness. I’m sure from the outside I looked a bit like a beggar.
I was in my late thirties at this time and had never married, never had children, and never had even a boyfriend. Oh, I had crushes! But in His immense and (probably, at times, exasperated!) patience, He kept His hand of protection closely over me. My way of dealing with this was to roam the earth and look for places to be useful in His name. I learned much about judging outward appearance and how off the mark it can be from what is going on inside a person’s heart. I loved my time with Him in those places. I felt like He was saying, “I can use your life for My glory. Are you willing?”
Toward the end of these years, Jesus taught me to allow Him alone to define me, and in doing so, brought peace and deeper love for my own family.
I stood on the edge of my fortieth year with mixed excitement, relief, and grief, knowing that for me, the question of the hubby, 2.5 kids and picket fence was answered. Honestly, I felt in part like the pressure was off. I was so grateful for the gift that my life had been to that point; the ministry tending to broken bodies and hearts, of traveling to amazing places, of living with forgotten people and the total flexibility of being an unmarried woman loving Jesus. I lived it to the best of my ability and now, I would be free to live it with even more abandon because part of me was not going to be wondering “if” and “when.” And yet, you see, I had never signed up to miss the family, to miss the husband, to miss the kids in all their moments of mess and wonder. All those years, I confess that I hoped but I didn’t live there. In those times, I found Him still loving, still asking, “Will you follow me and trust me?”
As a way to mark the passage of this year and to step out of the boat I decided to do something crazy; this girl from the suburbs of D.C. started climbing mountains. They were breathtakingly beautiful but not easy to reach, becoming a place of transition and the only thing big enough to occupy the complex space in my heart. Every trail, every skill, every step, He met me there. He put me in a community of people who loved me and looked like the church, only they weren’t the church. In a season outside its walls, He showed me what being healthy in the church looked like. Climbing mountains with Jesus changed my life.
Late that summer I found myself on the doorstep of Solid Rock, obeying the Lord’s direction to look for Him there, in the fellowship of believers. In doing so, He gave this weary heart brothers and sisters to enjoy and a family in which to belong. I met some great people at events like First Thursday. I love when people just show up and are willing to pray and be with others, no pretension, no expectation, just “real.” Through the months of showing up, faces became more familiar and those faces became friends of mine.
One of those faces belonged to a man whom I had met at a First Thursday in a small prayer circle. His life had been very different and, in the last several years, he had his own story of faith, survival, and hope. We sat at a hockey game one night with others and talked and then would see each other from Sunday to Sunday. I remember thinking that God had done a good job with him and that he seemed like a nice man. That’s it. Through my learning in those months, I began to realize that one of the most powerful resources that unmarried people have for support and fellowship is other unmarried’s. Satan picks off people the way wolves pick off sheep. He looks for the ones who are weak and alone. He waits and stalks them but there is strength in numbers. When one plus one plus one come together, their strength is in His presence as they gather.
It was this understanding that was the thinking behind an email I sent to this hockey-watching brother one night. It was a short prayer request asking for prayer because I had flooded my home the night before. He wrote back and said he would definitely pray for me. I stayed in the house, living in the upstairs bedroom, eating cereal and carry-out, as my kitchen was down to the studs. (It was kind of fun actually, when I put it in the context of living as a missionary in a foreign land!)
Days passed and a couple of weeks later, we randomly ended up chatting on Facebook. He asked if I knew of anyone who would be interested in going to a concert because he had an extra ticket. Being passed the “dating age” and not worried about what people thought anymore, I said, “Sure. I’ll go.” I went to his home for a hot lunch and we headed to the concert together. As the music blared, we stood together jumping around, screaming, and generally whoopin’ it up. It was a blast! Three weeks later, he invited me to a gathering of friends and kids at his house for New Year’s Eve. We played cards and talked until I left at 11:30. The next day, he invited me over to watch football and we talked and watched “Bolt.” The next day, we drove to the coast to run away and he saved me from a rogue wave that drenched my feet. The next day, he and his son sat on one side of the table at the yogurt place and I looked at them knowing that I was open to whatever the Lord would have in it, or not. There was about a week and a handful of next days and from the outside I’m sure it looked alittle…fast. But at 41 and having prayed and walked, I knew that any list that I might have made up for what I desired in a husband had seriously been blown to bits. Through direct and diverse testing and confirmation, we came to understand that the Lord was doing a work here in our lives and that the sum of our lives together would be greater than each life separately.
What did I see in him? Most importantly, he’d loved Jesus even when it might have been easier not to trust Him. Through His story, I found him to be faithful, exceedingly kind, patient, supportive, and filled with integrity. This man’s testimony is also proven by fire and yet he trusted Jesus in the midst of that fire. I confess that God’s handiwork didn’t hurt and that I find him to be quite handsome, and not least of all, he plays like a kid! Six months and thirteen days later, we married.
Our wedding day was amazing! We shared it with everyone we knew; family, friends, and acquaintances who had walked through the dark seasons with us. We wanted them to know that we love them and that He is faithful and able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. I’m sure my dad is still in shock.
In the time since that day, I am coming to know more each day of this friend, brother, husband and lover of mine. I imagine the learning will last a lifetime, Lord willing. I know that I am taking each day in its fullness and not taking for granted one of them. My goal as a wife is for my husband to go to bed at night grateful that I’m his wife and that we are together. I love his company so much. When I don’t know what to do, I just imagine that I’m a missionary plopped into a strange land and I ask God why He put me there.
People I know have said, “When you’re ready, God will bring your spouse.” I don’t know that agree with this. I am convinced that any marriage does not come because the bride or groom deserves it but because it is just what God’s grace looks like for them. For some people, their story is that they married young and grew together over a lifetime. For others, the story is different but no less glorious if it is embraced as God’s gift of a good thing. It’s not that He is scandalized by the questions, but rather, He wants us to bring those questions to Him, spend time with Him, press into Him, and find our worth and value in who He says we are alone.
He was and still is my Boaz and Beloved. Looking back now, I can say is I am so glad that our story is what it is. So many times I wanted to take the pen out of His hands and scribble down the chicken scratch of what I wanted instead of what was His will. I am glad I waited. God’s story in you of grace and love is His to write on the canvas of your life; in timing, mission, and marital status. Be faithful and let go of the pen. Let Him write it. It will be so much “other” than you can imagine!