Our relationship started wrapped in mystery; I was doing a research paper debunking the science behind online dating and came across his profile. He lived five hours away, but he was cute and his picture was clearly of him on a mission trip. That’s the Western Christian Girl’s aphrodisiac. A quick message sent, followed by emails and late-night phone calls.
I was wondering. Should we meet?
It was like You’ve Got Mail but without AOL and dial-up Internet.
One day a month later, we met face to face. I disguised my nervousness behind half a Xanax and some gold-rimmed aviators. If Tim was nervous, he covered it up in romantic gestures. How do two thirty-two year olds “date?” It was like high school but much more awkward. Much more…uncertain.
I do not do well with uncertainty, so a whole two hours after we met, as we got in his car to drive to dinner, I blurted, “Is it just me, or are we clicking? I just need to know.”
Give it to me straight, buddy. I don’t have time to waste worrying. Tim looked surprised, then confused, then happy. “Of course we’re clicking.”
Certainty. Sigh of relief.
We got married six months later.
When you take two people who lead relatively uncommon lives (both work-from-home/self-employed entrepreneurs in the faith and arts), uncertainty easily turns to combustible chaos when combined. I followed Tim around the world as he captured videos for NGOs, Tim followed me around the US selling my books at events where I was speaking.
Last summer, our travel schedules collided: Tim would be in Nepal while I spoke at a conference in St. Louis. A week apart was no big deal, but the work God did in Tim’s life while he was in Nepal was life changing. We both arrived back to our newly purchased home in Nashville and Tim said, “I want to put down the camera and just minister to people.” He uploaded his resume to be a youth pastor and sold a decade’s worth of videography equipment. We thought it would take a year, maybe two, to see where God wanted us. Until then, we would wait.
I went on walks praying for God to give me a sign. Show me a license plate with a different state and that’s where we’ll move! I looked for hidden meanings in songs. Tim and I played rock-paper-scissors with churches who were interested in him candidating. Alabama? Arizona? Texas?
Texas. Not even three months after Tim returned from Nepal, we chose Texas. All the puzzle pieces fit together. We could afford it. It was near where I grew up, close to my family. A young church with passionate people (and free coffee for staff families on Sunday mornings) offered him the role of a youth pastor. Perfection.
And it was bliss. Total bliss. West Texas sunsets. Friday night lights and thirty or so teens and families that we fell in love with.
Differences in leadership values, theological misalignments, structural conflict. Was this a season of perseverance or were we out of place?
We sought counsel from mentors. Over the next few months, it became clear that we, in good conscience, could no longer serve at this particular church. With nothing planned on the other side and in a gesture of obedience and faith, Tim put in his notice of resignation, offering a transition period and laying out how he would fulfill his commitments into the coming months.
Instead, his employment (and paycheck, and the ability to attend the church where we worshipped each week) ended a few hours later.
Awestruck, we sat with our closest friends. We walked the streets of a First Friday Art Crawl, ate tapas, and tried unsuccessfully to interpret abstract art from local university students. It was a good distraction until Sunday came.
We sat at home, uncertain of what to do. Our phones and inboxes and Facebook messages were blowing up. “Where are you guys? What happened?” Beforehand, with our mentors, we composed a statement that was both truthful and yet not tell-all. It didn’t need to be. We had nothing to hide, nothing to lose, nothing to gain by speaking ill of the church—God’s church.
While we didn’t understand the actions of the leaders, we still needed to and agreed to submit to them and their decisions. God loves His church more than we ever could. God loves the students at His church more than we ever could.
This was not very long ago.
And here we are again.
Tim and I both picked up part time work at a landscape company owned by a wonderful couple who are pastors even if they aren’t ordained or have doctorates in theology. God has been faithful in providing just enough through our friends, through strangers, and through each other.
Uncertainty feels like pandemonium to me. Anxiety-ridden since my fourteenth birthday, there are not enough encouraging chalk-art-boards on Pinterest or little green pills to keep my panic attacks at bay sometimes.
Uncertainty removes gravity; our feet that were once planted firm start to lift off and we float, unsure of where we’ll land. But it is in this uncertain time that I trust (and hope and pray) God does His best work.
If I found the love of my life through uncertain means, certainly the One who loves me enough to give His son’s life knows what tomorrow holds. In fact, I know He knows. One verse that has echoed in my mind since before we began floating into the void of uncertainty is “He who goes before you…”
He has been before us. He has seen our future. A good future. To prosper us, not to harm us. He has prepared a way. Maybe that phrase is the certainty that keeps us tethered to the ground, even while we have days where we drift away.
Strong-willed and stubborn, loyal and with some minor anger issues, I can be unpredictable when the world seems out of control. I have punched walls. I have thrown my phone across the alley. I have wept in the Thai food aisle at the grocery store. In my impulsivity, I have recommend we move to Belize, to Alaska, to anywhere-but-here.
Tim, who on most days does well with uncertainty, reminds me both through his own character and his actions and through his words about God’s character and God’s actions, that even though life is uncertain, we can be certain we have built our house on a solid rock. He’s right. We have. We are not perfect by any means (see above instance of hitting walls and throwing phones). But we can say with a clear conscience we have built our home on a firm foundation with integrity and faith.
The storm always comes whether your house is on the rock or on the sand. It will hit your house. It hit ours. It’s beaten, battered, and won’t ever look the same. Maybe yours has been too. Take comfort. You are on the solid rock. God has gone before you. Be certain He will not let you or your spouse drown. Be certain joy will come again.
At least, that’s what I’m certainly hoping for.
What promises do you and your spouse cling to in times of uncertainty? Start a conversation with your friends by sharing one of these photos: