As Providential and chick-flick-esque was the meeting between J. and me, it wasn’t without its complications.
A few weeks prior to our meeting, my mind started turning toward missions again. I had just come back from a missions trip to Brazil in July, and I was feeling the itch again. Since my nephew would be graduating the following spring, I was beginning to think about my next move. My plan was, as soon as school started, to jump in and start seeking out opportunities.
However, I clearly sensed God say to my heart, ‘Katie, give Me a chance to order your steps.” So, I felt like I was to be still for a bit and see what God would bring to me.
As summer ended, I was just coming off an intense time with God, from my magical summer the year before (2006) and the months that had followed since. I had plans on Labor Day to have a special day with God. To show my renewed commitment to Him, I wanted to do something significant. That day, I went to the beach, and I renewed my covenant with Him in a personal way, just between us.
I bought this ring as symbolic reminder.
The ring has 5 bands, to represent Jesus’ covenant with me. The ‘five’ comes from Hosea 2:19-20: ‘I will betroth you to Me in RIGHTEOUSNESS…in JUSTICE…in LOVE…in COMPASSION…in FAITHFULNESS.’
I wanted Him to know I was all in. All His.
I met J. the day before this.
From the start, we both sensed this was something out of the ordinary. J. later told me that even the way he wound up at my church that Sunday was Providential. That Friday, he had been home contemplating his life, knowing he wanted things to be different. He went to the beach by himself the next day, not a friend to be had.
‘All the sudden,’ out of nowhere, his friend Rob and his girlfriend showed up with a sandwich and drinks to meet him. J. later described it as ‘other-worldy.’ They weren’t supposed to be there; they were supposed to be in Connecticut. He sensed that this somehow was an answer to his prayer from the night before. After spending the day together, Rob encouraged him to come to his church the next morning. J. did. And you know how that turned out.
Within weeks, as Providential as it was, I was spiraling in a tailspin. I felt this conflict between my growing relationship with J. and the possibility of being called to missions. Was this relationship from God? Was it a distraction? Should I not even get to know him? Would I fall in love only to have God send me away? Did this mean I didn’t love Jesus? I felt tortured in my heart the more I got to know J. I definitely sensed something between us, but I was so afraid of the potential conflict between following my feelings and obeying God.
Was it too much to hope that maybe they were the same thing?
I prayed hard, and all along the way, God used many different ways to keep us moving forward. But I still felt guilty. I had told J.from the beginning that moving overseas was a possibility for me, but he felt peace about us continuing to go forward and trusting God.
By November, my heart was so tortured that I knew I had to put it out there and just get an answer from God. One Sunday, our pastor gave a message about persevering and doing the will of God. I was so confused because I didn’t even know what that was. So, I went up for prayer and just laid it out before God.
“Lord, show me your will and I will do it, whatever it is. If you want me to go overseas, then I will go. If you want me to stay and pursue this with J., then I will do that. Please just make it clear to me. I can’t hear you in my heart because I’m so confused and conflicted. Please show me in some other way.”
A woman at the front prayed for me, and she encouraged me to just trust God; He would make it clear.
It was the scariest prayer I’ve ever prayed.
After the service, J.mentioned to me that he really wanted to go on a short-term trip the following summer. I encouraged him to do it. As for me, I didn’t know if that was something I’d be doing; I could be planning to move overseas at that time – for good.
On our way out of church, we ran into a young married couple who was on the short-term missions committee. I asked them if the trips for next year had been planned, and they said, no, not yet. J. said to them, “You know, I’d really like to go to Nigeria.” They joked and said, “Katie, you should lead a team to Nigeria, then.” [They later told me that they had actually said this. I had no recollection.]
Nervously I waited for God’s answer. I remember having a conversation with my parents about all this. “But Katie, you teach in a Christian school. You are doing missions!” Well, sure – but I couldn’t pretend that I hadn’t been thinking about moving overseas before I met J.
The next day, as I was walking into a class, I heard my named being called. “Katie! Katie! Miss Mauro!” I turned, and it was our missions pastor and the head of the short-term committee. “Katie, we just heard from the Lord!” they said, half-joking, half-serious.
Oh gosh, here it comes…my heart froze and my eyes opened wide. “Katie, we are taking a team to Nigeria next summer, and we want you to lead it!”
Everything started spinning around me as their words sunk in. Short-term trip. To Nigeria. They wanted me to lead it. Wait – J. wanted to go to Nigeria. Oh my gosh…my answer! It wasn’t either/or – missions or J. Here it was – God was giving me both. His will wasn’t for me to go overseas for good. For now, the plan was to lead the short-term team to Nigeria.
I gave J. the news that Wednesday, and a smile came over his face as he processed all of this and the ramifications sunk in. And, it was that Saturday that J. officially asked me to date him exclusively.
I somehow always thought that it had to be either missions or marriage. It seemed too much for me to believe or ask God for both. But in His Providence, He proved that He really can do exceedingly, abundantly above all I could have dared to ask (Eph. 3:20).
[Photo Credit: Wikimol via Wikimedia Commons]