The Song

. . . Continued from “The Ring”

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Daniel Swanson Photography

In the picture, it looks like I’m knighting him.

He’s kneeling behind a pillar, and I have this giant rolled-up paper in my hand that could pass for a scepter (especially as the picture is blurry). In another one we’re kissing, and the poster is blocking his face.

If you read the previous post and are a particularly attentive reader, you may be wondering, “How are there pictures of the proposal? I thought he didn’t plan this out.” Evan didn’t plan it, but I can’t help feeling that Someone Else did.

We didn’t plan anything, but Someone Else did.

In the midst of my astonishment, I remembered that we were late for the concert. I grabbed Evan’s hand and pulled him toward the theater door, wondering if we were going to scoot awkwardly past people’s knees in the middle of a song. (The answer to that was yes.) As I touched the handle, someone called out, “Wait!” A woman approached us with her phone in her hand.

“I saw you kneeling down,” she said, “and I thought, ‘I should take pictures!’ Would you like me to text them to you?”

I had already been crying, but I think at this point I started to sob. I felt sorry for the woman; being thanked by a weeping person appeared to make her uncomfortable. Evan gave her his number, and now we have two of the photos framed side-by-side on our mantle.

On the way in, Evan suggested that I add a note to my poster telling Jon Foreman what had happened. I had left my permanent marker in the car, but I found a pen in my purse and scrawled the message.

The concert was amazing. Jon Foreman has the gift of intimacy: he made us all feel like we were the only ones in the room. From the stage,  he held conversations with individual audience members, dedicating one song to a toddler named Daisy in the first row and bantering with a joker in the balcony. He even invited a girl onstage to sing a duet with him. Then, a few songs in, he asked us to dance.

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Daniel Swanson Photography

“This next song is a waltz,” he announced, “and if anyone wants to dance, feel free to come to the front.” It was too perfect. I really had to push because Evan isn’t the showy type, but when I stood up and yanked on his hand, he followed. People started cheering when we went forward.

Eventually, two other couples joined us. Well, I remember thinking, this night can’t possibly get more amazing. Jon asked us our names, and we shouted them out. “Thank you for coming up,” he told us. “No one’s done that in any of the other concerts.”

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Daniel Swanson Photography

It was a few songs later that he picked up my poster. He took his time reading it. “I don’t know if you can see from out there,” he told the audience, “but someone is really artistic: look, there are all these little hearts around the edges. . .” He paused, and I got butterflies. “I want everyone to see this,” he said at last. “The song title is written in big, black letters, but there’s a smaller note at the bottom. It says that someone just got engaged. Evan and Marie, where are you?”

We walked to the front with our knees shaking. “As far as I’m concerned, this is your night,” he told us. “If you don’t like a song, come up halfway through and tell me to play something else. What would you like me to play?” In the silence that followed, every song we had ever heard fled from our minds. The only title I could recall was the one written on the paper.

“The reason I requested that song,” I heard myself saying, “was that God spoke to Evan through it. We were going to break up, and he heard your song, and God told him to stick with it . . .” So Jon played our song.

Here, my dear
This is where
We’ll shake the nightmare free

I dream to hold you in my arms
I dream to hold you in my arms
To hold you in my arms
Wide awake
In my arms

That night, I had the awesome sense that I was observing God. He wasn’t performing for me. He was simply being Himself, and in a rare moment of clarity, I could see Him at work. After the concert, someone in the audience approached us with a video she had taken of our waltz and offered to post it on Facebook. Many strangers congratulated us on our way out, and my secret miracle followed me into the next day and beyond.

I had the awesome sense that I was observing God.

All along, I’d been afraid of backing out. Would I doubt my decision? Would panic block my way forward as it had in the mall jewelry store? I had feared that my chronic uncertainty would continue into engagement, but instead, I experienced joy. Confidence was the gift that lasted from the concert to the altar.

I wish we could tell Jon Foreman how much he did for us that night, but I doubt I’ll ever get the chance. The truth is, he probably participates in stories like that all the time without realizing it. God orchestrates private miracles continuously for His people, and only occasionally do we notice. I’m thankful for the one He showed to me.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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The Ring

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On September 28th, 2015 Jon Foreman held a concert in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Anyone who has been to Grand Junction will tell you that it’s hours from anywhere else, one tiny metropolis surrounded by countryside. Few stores stay open past six o’clock. The drive is beautiful, especially in the fall.

In the car, I decorated a poster. Jon Foreman had informed his fans via Facebook that this would be a “by request” concert. If you wanted him to play a song, simply write the title on a piece of paper and place it on the stage. I figured I should make mine stand out, so I bought the largest piece of paper I could find and drew each letter six inches long. I decorated the border with Sharpie hearts and colored them in with highlighters.

The previous day, my boyfriend had driven to my parent’s house after missing a night of sleep. He had worked until six o’clock in the morning, swung by his house to take a shower, thrown some clothes in a suitcase, and hit the road again. The plan was for us to spend the night at my parent’s house and leave for the concert in the morning. There were a few other Plans we didn’t know about.

On his way up, he got a call – from me. I wanted to get engaged. He wasn’t sure he had heard me correctly. I had spent the past year and a half resisting engagement as hard as I could while he tried with all his might to marry me. When he arrived, we talked. He wanted to know if I was sure. I was. Should he ask my dad for permission? He didn’t have to, I told him. He did anyway.

Driving toward Grand Junction, all I could think about was our distinct lack of ring. Now that I had (finally) made up my mind, I wanted it to be real. In fact, I wanted it to be now. The problem was that I was leaving for California in a couple of days, and I doubted Grand Junction had much of a diamond selection.

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It was my fault, really, that we didn’t have a ring. You see, back in May of the previous year, I had seen one in a glass box at the mall. The sign above it read, “70% off, Closing Sale.” I thought it looked like something a princess would wear, sparkly but not overpowering. It was this ring that sparked the marriage conversation, and it was in the mall hallway that I experienced my first symptoms of panic. The store eventually closed, and a season of darkness ensued. A year and a half later, we arrived at this sudden and inexplicable juncture in our relationship unprepared.

While I decorated a poster in the car, my boyfriend frantically attempted to form some sort of plan. Didn’t most men write speeches and orchestrate romantic settings? But here was this woman desperate to seal the deal. He wasn’t about to let me change my mind.

We arrived in Grand Junction late and hungry. About a block from the theater we found the only restaurant open past seven, ordered our burgers to go, and stuffed them in our faces while we walked. Outside the theater, Evan got on one knee.

He doesn’t have a ring. In the time it took to think this, I was aware of the row of yellow bulbs above us, the cobblestone street, the rolled-up paper in my hand, and the box he was pulling from his pocket. I recognized the name of the store immediately, written in silver lettering across the lid.

I’m not one to cry during big moments – I’m more likely to break down during a sappy commercial – but I was floored by this. I tried to understand what it meant: that he had bought the ring all those long months ago; that he’d kept it through the days of uncertainty; that he’d waited so long and stayed so sure. To this day I can’t get over how much he wanted to marry me.

As I started to cry, one thought surfaced above the emotions: God was there. What seemed like such a big mistake at the time (and probably was) didn’t surprise Him.

My mistake wasn’t too big for Him.

You see, the ring had been my mistake. I had taken Evan shopping before I was ready and then effectively changed my mind. The rejection had been unintentional but no less painful. I had been wracked with guilt and paralyzed by fear for so long, and God had remained so silent. Seeing the ring now did not explain the past year and a half, but it did flood me with certainty that God had seen me. When I was sad and confused and scared, He wasn’t. My mistake wasn’t too big for Him.

The thing is, we can’t ruin everything. It’s not that God determines our futures, exactly – I believe He gave me a choice – but my blunders don’t blindside Him. I still haven’t figured this one out completely, but I think it means we don’t need to be so afraid of making terrible mistakes.

Now, back to that poster.

To Be Continued . . .

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