I got up that morning a little earlier than normal. I could feel the nerves or maybe… the excitement?… yes, the excitement in my guts. I checked the clock and did the math twice. There was time so I took my jitteriness and went on a 3 mile run down my parents’ country road. Normally on a day like this, I would spend my alone time on the run rehearsing all of the could be scenarios of the conversation, but this time I couldn’t even imagine what could be. How was I going to feel when I stepped through the doors of the coffee shop and she was just there? Would there be any hint of sadness? Would a shoot of bitterness spring up from the soil of my heart? I tried not to think about it too much. I knew the Lord had done a work in my heart, but this was the test that would reveal if the changes would stick.
I got home. I showered. I tried on outfit after outfit. Jeans? Dress pants? Skirt? I worried about trying too hard and not trying hard enough before landing on some tailored blue jeans and a thin summery red shirt with cap sleeves. I put on flip flops at the door and didn’t look back.
I texted to let her know I was on my way. She texted to let me know she was there.
On the drive there I thought about the first time I had learned of her. I had come into church and gotten pulled aside by a friend. She looked down nervously as she told me the kind of things no woman wants to tell another woman. She ended by saying a phrase I would hear over and over and over in the months that followed from every person who wasn’t sure if I knew or not but felt compelled to tell me, “I just felt like you had the right to know”.
What I remember most about the morning was feeling the color drain out of my face and the sensation that all of my insides had somehow congealed and plummeted to the pit of my stomach like one of those rides at Cedar Point that drops you straight down. I felt mad. I felt stupid. I felt like I should have known and maybe I did. That’s what I had told my friend, “Well I didn’t know, but I expected”. Saying that helped me save a little face. But as I got settled into my seat with Cohen, I knew the better part of me hadn’t and that try as I might to gain control over my hurt, it was very much with me, refusing to just loom in the corners of my heart.
I struggled to participate in worship that morning. I wanted to leave the church and make some phone calls and get some questions answer like right now. But something good in me rose up and demanded that the Lord be given the glory even on a morning with bad news. And so I fought through.
And it was a good thing too because I needed that resolve to love the Lord more than my rights as the weeks unfolded. What I had not known or expected was suddenly right in front of my face wherever I turned in my small town. Everyone I knew was texting or calling to let me know what they had seen here or there. I couldn’t get away from it.
Barely a week had passed before I sat down with Pastor. He reminded me of the encouragement he had given me all along. When he repeated it this time, I saw in his eyes that he had already known the very revelation that just blown apart my old wounds. Before I had the chance to consider that maybe my worst fear was true- that I was the last to know-, he comforted me with the Word and encouraged me to care about what the Lord cared about.
I told him that day that I hoped someday she and I would be worshipping the Lord together in freedom under that very same church roof.
I had no idea that very thing would come to pass almost exactly one year later.
I had never led music at church before that Sunday in June. Pastor called me earlier in the week and asked if I would, along with my aunt and two cousins. I hesitated a little, but when he says that he feels the Lord wants it, how can you argue? So I helped to lead worship, with a shaky voice and shaky knees… I kept my eyes mostly closed so I wouldn’t think about the fact I was on stage and singing…
…which is why I didn’t see her.
I shook Pastor’s hand on the way out and he leaned over and quietly reminded me of what I had said in that counseling session so long ago. I nodded. She was here, he said.
And her being there and a few phone calls made to mutual friends and one week later, I was in my car on my way to a coffee shop where we’d officially meet.
She was surprised I wanted to meet her.
I was surprised she wanted to meet me.
That’s about as far as we’d gotten in a few days a texting before the coffee shop.
I parked my car and walked through the doors and she was sitting right there. We hugged and the ordered our breakfasts and coffees. We sat on overstuffed chairs and ate and talked.
While she talked, I understood how it was that she and I had had so many mutual friends over the years. She was kind and smart and funny and easy to talk to. I was somehow not surprised at having the thought that her eyes were really pretty or that she was someone I would be glad to have around or that immediately I genuinely liked her. Even that first hug seemed right, knowing that the Lord has a way of working out all of the conflicted feelings that could be between two people.
So we talked and we ate and when it was a few minutes before church, we both got in our cars and headed that way. She found a seat with friends and I made my way up to where David and Cohen were already seated.
I cried that morning more than usual during worship. I cried thankful tears to a God who knows how to deliver us from our own emotions and rights and demands so that we can get even the smallest taste of His Goodness.
She said that morning over coffee that she hoped she wasn’t ruining church for me by showing up. My heart flinched of how true that could’ve been without the Jesus. I marveled at how the Lord will use the very hurt itself to weave together such a beautiful and unexpected redemption…
…for us both.
As we sang Christy Nockel’s song “Hosanna” that Sunday morning, the bridge felt particularly fitting:
Heal my heart and make it clean,
Open up my eyes to the things unseen,
Show me how to love like You have loved me,
Break my heart for what breaks Yours,
Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause,
As I walk from earth into eternity
“Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest” rolled off of my tongue that Sunday with more sincerity than perhaps ever before. I found this neat link of John Piper’s where he had done a word study on the phrase and said this is the definition: “Let all the angels in heaven join the song of praise. Salvation! Salvation! Let the highest heaven sing the song!” So let all the angels and the highest of heavens sing about the salvation of the Lord! He doesn’t just save us one time from our sins, but He continually saves us from our opinions, rights, attitudes, and demands.
Hosanna to the God of Unexpected Redemption!