We walked up several flights of stairs, got to the very top of the lookout, and stared out onto Lake Michigan. As far as our eyes could see there were trees and water. It felt like we were amidst the treetops. After a few minutes of taking in the view, Ben tapped my shoulder. I turned around and he handed me a handwritten letter with a drawing and a tiny wooden box. I read the letter and opened the box to find a wooden ring, which I took out. He put it on me. Then, he reached into his pocket, grabbed another tiny wooden box, opened it, took out a second wooden ring, and put it on himself. I stared at the wooden rings on our fingers…looked up and asked, “Wait, so are we engaged now?”
He responded, “Yeah, I guess so!”
He then asked me officially, and I responded.
Then I asked him, and he responded.
And we lived happily ever after!... Just kidding. That’s where our story began.
Anyone who knows us wouldn't be surprised by this story - wooden rings, a double proposal, Thai food, hiking in slush on a freezing cold winter day, a handwritten letter. For us, it was just another day with a tiny two-hour window between meetings. So, it seemed as good a time as any to get engaged.
Five weeks later I left him on the other side of the world as I got on a flight to India - with a one-way ticket. And… a year and a half later, I’m back in India, on another one-way ticket.
Have you ever been in a season where you are not in control of anything? And you’re in an endless cycle of things not going according to plan? Well, good. Me too. I’m still here - approaching my 1.5 year mark.
Each time I left the US and my life, I was unsure of everything, uncertain, unprepared, and with no knowledge of what was to come. It’s a lonely and isolating place to be in. Combined with terrifying and incredibly uncomfortable. Yet, when God puts us in such places, He is still near. James 4:8 says, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." So, I got on that flight with that knowledge. Honestly, it was our only choice.
Six months later, we had an engagement ceremony in India - this time, with about 300 people. It was definitely not Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in our winter coats, unwashed hair, staring out over Lake Michigan. The rings we exchanged this time were solid gold, not solid wood. And our clothes were definitely not winter coats layered over the same outfit as the previous day. This time we were starring in a scene straight out of a movie like a king and queen.
And that is our engagement story.
Interesting how God writes our stories for us. Sometimes it’s exactly how we anticipate, plan, and expect it to go.
And, sometimes - it’s just not.
I’m not writing this to share a different, unconventional, and random engagement story. I’m writing this to tell you how God is a God of the unexpected, a God amidst the uncertainty, and a God who in His perfect timing makes the unknowns known to us.
Do you know anyone who has been engaged and had almost every plan not transpire into reality? Well, me neither. But being (recently) engaged (i.e. we’ve been engaged for a year and a half), our engagement has included almost every unexpected turn of event, way more uncertainty than feels comfortable, and more unknowns than desirable.
A year and a half is a long time. There have been several twists and turns, re-directing us, more often than not, across the world from each other. But, that’s exactly the point. God has the big picture in front of Him. If we believe He is a God who makes no mistakes, and there are no coincidences or randomness with Him - it applies across all realms. Even when we do not ask Him to author our lives - He still is! Even when life is just not going our way, He never leaves us nor forsakes us (Deuteronomy 31:6). I know it’s a difficult concept to grasp, but it’s very real. And it’s incredibly liberating to live in that truth. I say this as a 29-year-old engaged woman, living on the opposite side of the world from her fiancé. With her parents. In a country where she has no job and nothing to do. And it’s been this way for 1.5 years. This is still part of God’s plan!
I am a very visual person - having studied film in college and loving all things art. I have this image of God and our stories. What we see is just scene after scene; He is the only One who sees the entire movie - start to finish. In fact, we have no way of knowing how long the movie is going to be, which scene is going to come before which, and which actors are going to join us at what point. Because, it’s innate to our human nature, we want to know. So we create stories in our minds and and attempt to turn them into reality to be able to better prepare and anticipate the next step. We do so with very limited knowledge, and sometimes even minimise God to fit into our limited understanding. Sometimes parts of our story are in line with what God has written for us, and sometimes they are not. Sometimes He takes us and completely re-directs us. Yet, He is still the author and director of our lives - start to finish and everything in between.
The last two years of my life fall under the umbrella of: unexpected, unknown, uncertain, impossible. Yet, those are not words in God’s vocabulary. That’s what sets us apart as followers of Christ. We know that He is God amidst the uncertainty and the unknowns, the unexpected and the impossibilities. So why not nurture a discipline of living in that freedom?
If I claim to be a follower of Christ, it involves complete surrender and obedience. Not partial or halfhearted. These are not passive concepts to live by, but active principles we need to pursue and practice.
Surrender and obedience require trusting in the One who is directing us. And trust is displayed when we walk an unexpected, uncertain path in faith. If we are always certain, where’s our need for God? If we know what to expect, where’s room for God? If we always know our next steps, where is the need to depend entirely on His direction?
Instead of fearing the unknown and uncertain, what if we began to look at our lives from this perspective: that the unexpected events in our lives are, in fact, exactly what God planned; the unknowns in our lives are known to God in detail; that the uncertainties in our lives are entirely certain to God; that the impossibilities in our lives were placed there specifically to manifest God’s glory.
I know that when I began to truly embrace this, understanding who God is, and His character - it allowed me to live freely in Him and trust His orchestration. Not just apprehensively, but fully desiring His direction and delighting in it, knowing He is a good and perfect Father.
The beauty of this truth is that God’s authorship is truly more magnificent than anything we could ever write up ourselves! So if we focused our energy on choosing daily to live more like Jesus. And use every part of our story to model His love and be a reflection of His character - we can live in the freedom that He desires for us. We can stop trying to figure out His plans, solve the problems, or fixate on identifying the “right” decision. Rather, we can live each day in the absolute confidence and certainty that God has a purpose for that day - and that His plan will always be sovereign. Let’s allow God to be God, and not wrest that role away from Him.
He is the potter. We are merely the clay. Let us stop trying to create our own stories or applying someone else’s story to our lives. Instead, let’s strive to demonstrate God’s love through everything we do in the uniquely crafted stories God has graciously given us to live.