To Store Up In My Heart
The following is an open letter to those who find the time to read it. It is not perfectly composed. Most of it is my thoughts being spilled out without a filter. But these thoughts are coming from the raw emotions I have in response to the amazing things I have seen God do this day.
Today was a day full of things to remember… things I am still processing. I am unable to collect my thoughts and emotions, which are currently a combination of satisfaction, gratitude, and awe. I think of Mary’s response to the scene at Jesus’ birth, shepherds and complete strangers coming from afar to see the newborn Messiah. She “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart,” according to Luke 2:19. That’s exactly the state of my heart at the moment. So where do I even begin to tell you what great things God has done in my life, leading up to today? It seems like so much has happened since we last spoke. Indeed, so much has. I feel like I’m a completely different person than I was during the summer…even just yesterday’s words seem so far from me. I guess this is what happens when God works in my life. There is never a season where He is not growing me. There is never a time where He is not faithful to discipline, comfort, mature, strengthen, and love me. Truly, every day is a new day. Truly, every day, He is worthy of praise.
I have been dating a young man named Austin for almost three months now. We met under very special circumstances, circumstances born out of very unique trials in our respective lives that ultimately brought us together in a way only God could have orchestrated. In fact, there was seemingly no reason for us to meet otherwise. He had just graduated from UCLA, already working successfully for the NFL, and had moved on to the young adult ministry at church. Meanwhile I was just starting my second year of college, with a slightly unrealistic view of college based on nostalgic memories of freshman year, zero cooking skills, and way too many meal swipes. From the surface, it seems that we should never have crossed paths… but, he had become a Christian about half a year prior to our first conversation. And one day, recovering from surgery in NorCal and reading my last blog post about depending wholly on God through seemingly unbearable trials, he messaged me (yes, slid into my DM’s) to tell me how encouraged he was to know that someone else also understood the pain of trials and the importance of relying on God alone. This is what brought us together, and this is the beauty of joining God’s family – fellowship that would otherwise be impossible or illogical between two people suddenly becomes rich, sweet, and grounded in something (or someone) higher than the two of you combined.
And that was just the start. Soon after that initial message, we continued to talk….and talk…and talk…about the innumerable things we had in common. Our mothers were both raised in Catholic homes. Our fathers are both unreligious. We both play tennis. We both love music and art (he was a design major and I’m a music major – I mean come ON that’s a pretty darn cool combination). We both love cold weather and Christmas. We love the same movies, our family values are on the same page. Things like that. 🙂 But through all of the personality traits and hobbies we share, still the glue that has held us together is the common love we have for Christ and the inexhaustible Word of God. I’ll never forget what he said to me one night on the phone: “We’d never get bored of talking to each other. Like, one of us could open the Bible and point at something and be like, ‘What do you think of that?’ And it would be heretical to not want to say anything.” How right he was.
But our growing interest in each other conflicted with my decision to refrain from dating for a year. So through hours and hours of prayer alone in my building’s garden, I struggled with this question: “Lord, is my desire to date a selfish desire?” I knew in my heart that I wanted to honor the Lord whether I dated Austin or not. But was dating going to be too much of a distraction from that goal? I became ashamed to admit how much I liked Austin. I felt judged for wanting to date and for wanting to get married eventually because I felt weak comparing to other sisters in Christ who were single. In the end, however, God pointed me towards 1 Timothy 4:1-4:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
I then realized, marriage is a gift from God – not something to be ashamed of. I knew that I had gone to God in prayer, asking that He guide me in my decision-making with His wisdom rather than letting me be blinded by my own desires. I knew that Austin was striving to honor God through his actions as well, waiting to date until God revealed to Him the right person and the right timing. And so, seeking additional counsel from multiple disciplers and my very wise parents, I decided to trust God with the outcome and to cease my agonizing and fear of judgment. Later that week, Austin drove to my parents’ house, first seeking their wisdom and opinions on our relationship, then asking for permission to date me. And to my pleasant surprise, my parents were happy to say yes.
Since then, God has indeed been faithful to grow the two of us. Austin was baptized today. He shared his testimony, one that I will never grow tired of hearing. And for me, the most amazing part of the whole night besides the already beautiful baptism, is that my unbelieving father not only agreed to attend church with us for the first time in so long… he also brought his video camera to film Austin’s baptism.
If you know my dad, you know that video camera means a lot.
In the past, I’ve associated my dad and his trusty video camera with piano recitals, graduations, and family road trips. Yet here he was, sitting as close as he could to the baptismal, filming my boyfriend (whom he had only really met a couple months ago) getting baptized in church… as if Austin were his own son whom he took personal pride in. It was a bittersweet thing… I was amazed to see how my dad had opened up to this boy, and consequently to our faith. At the same time, I cannot shake the fact that he has not yet come to full repentance and trust in Jesus Christ. I know true fellowship that is rooted in Christ cannot come to be unless my dad completely accepts the Gospel.
Yet as I ponder all these things in my heart, I am overcome with hopefulness and thankfulness to God, my Heavenly Father and the one who has orchestrated every single second of my life. I pray with so much hope for my father! Yes, Austin entering my life has turned the tide for my family’s spiritual life. For the first time, we pray at the dinner table as a family and discuss the sermons we have heard and the great things we have witnessed God doing in our lives. But I know that ultimately, all of this… this mere glimpse of Heaven… would not be possible apart from the God who created us and sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die for us.
Thank you, God. How you love us!