Lord, I feel like You don’t want me to move on.
In the summer of 2016, that prayer sounded crazy. I’d just said goodbye to a guy who’d become one of my best friends. Since we’d met, there’d seemed like it could be more, but he was on a dating fast. In the meantime, he came by for weekly dinners (which we spent talking over everyone else) and even skipped an SEC football game so he could spend Halloween with us. It all seemed to fit.
Then he decided to enter the seminary. Back in his home state. 2400 miles away.
Maybe I’d misread things. Maybe I’d misinterpreted our friendship. Surely that’s what happened. It seemed like the only explanation. But even as he said goodbye for seminary, something told me I wasn’t supposed to close that door just yet.
I tried to ignore it. I went on dates. I tried to move on. But as the months passed and the distance between us grew, I couldn’t shake this feeling that I wasn’t supposed to let got just yet.
After several months of uncertainty, I finally prayed a novena, asking for an obvious sign by November 22nd if God wanted me to wait for this man. I wanted some sort of peace, but I wasn’t expecting to receive anything else.
And by November 22nd, I hadn’t. By that night, I’d even forgotten that I’d been hoping for a sign.
Then my sister talked me into going shopping. I almost didn’t go. It’d been a long day of dealing with customers, and I was exhausted. But my sister wanted company, and I couldn’t refuse.
I don’t remember much of the drive. All I remember is that just before we turned into the parking lot, my sister laughed. “Huh,” she said. “That license plate says ‘Wait for him.”
Incredibly, it didn’t really register. I just smiled, shook my head at God, and carried on. It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized that God’s answer would be a vague one. I was to wait, specifically for a seminarian 2400 miles away. And I didn’t know for how long.
Just writing it sounds ridiculous, and its improbability made it challenging to share with people (it took months just to tell my mom), so I was mainly waiting on my own. But I have never prayed so hard for something. A 54 day rosary novena, a daily Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and a daily Memorare, all specifically for the man I’d been “told” to wait for. But even my mom wasn’t sure what to think. Because even if he left the seminary, we’d stopped talking. Our connection had been chiefly severed months earlier.
“I just don’t understand how You’re going to work this out.”
But I’d been told to wait for him. And as hard as that was, that was the only option that brought any peace. I had to take a leap of faith and trust God would work it out somehow.
Then one day in late February, my mom called me to say he’d decided to leave the seminary. Within a month after he left, we were talking to each other daily, as if we’d never stopped. We talked about me coming out to visit, and a month later, he came to see me. After almost a year apart, we’d come almost full circle.
But this story doesn’t have a happy ending. After that summer, he never came back. We heard from him occasionally, mainly when he called to say he was dating someone and then engaged. Within a year of his visit, he was married. And that day remains one of the most challenging days I’ve lived through. But the bitterness that came with it was worse.
Because I’d taken that leap of faith. I’d done what I thought God had asked. And a 2 ½ year friendship ended with my heart broken. That year of waiting? All those prayers I’d prayed? Was that all so he could drop off the face of the earth? If that was how it was supposed to end, why did I have to wait?
Lord, I don’t understand… why won’t You answer?
Until recently, I didn’t have an ending for this. It came when I was talking with a friend about the peace that comes from following God’s path for us. In his case, he thought God wanted him in a particular career. He felt that peace and so took steps towards it… only to end up hospitalized, missing the window for the job he wanted. “It didn’t end well,” he said. “So it must not have been what God wanted.”
Is that true? Because my friend ended up evangelizing in that hospital. Debating with a Protestant patient. Praying for strangers--he wouldn’t have known them otherwise. What if the ending doesn’t determine whether God called us there? What if the end was only wrong because it wasn’t the one we expected?
For years, I thought there were only two thoughts about everything: either I’d misread the sign, or God had misled me. And it couldn’t be the second, but maybe it wasn’t the first either.
See, when people said, “Oh, God must have meant to wait in general,” I didn’t believe them. That sign was very specific, and if God wants you to wait, He shuts every other door. In that case, a sign wasn’t necessary. But He gave me one anyway. Because for some reason, I needed to wait for someone specific.
I don’t know that I’ll ever know why. I don’t know that I’ll ever see the good that came out of a broken heart and the ending of a 2 ½ year friendship. But maybe that leap of faith in 2016 was just the beginning. Perhaps the rest of it is now.
Noelle is a cradle Catholic with a love for adoration and all things football (Roll Tide). She spends her days immersed in stories and air conditioning in an effort to survive the 9-month summer of the Deep South (so far, so good). A romantic at heart, she can occasionally (always) be coaxed into ballroom dancing. For more of Noelle M., visit her blog, https://beingevanescent.wordpress.com/ or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Title: John Greenleaf Whittier