the first few weeks in manila were a blur. we had a lot of decisions to make as a team, yet we hardly knew each other – which adds to the stress of making decisions in a new culture. the three of us girls lived in a large house for a couple weeks, each with our own room. as we adjusted to the newness of everything, i spent a lot of time on my bed with the door shut, crying and thinking. and missing home.
as we moved into our permanent apartment a couple weeks later, things didn’t immediately get easier. but, as we fell into a routine and started working on campus, i did find myself thinking less often of michael.
something amazing started to happen as the days ticked on. God began to teach me of himself in a very deep and personal way. as i mourned the loss of the man i loved, i saw God in a way i never had before. i became convinced of his goodness. his righteousness. his faithfulness.
even when i didn’t understand it.
one morning, as i sat in our garage (which we used for many things, but never for housing a car) with my feet propped against our gate, i read psalm 139.
“…if i take the wings of the dawn,
if i dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
even there your hand will lead me,
and your right hand will lay hold of me…”
those verses became a source of comfort to me over the next several months. from where i’d grown up, i had moved almost as far east as possible, i’d taken the wings of the dawn. i was dwelling in a very remote part of the sea. and still, regardless of my circumstances, God promised to lead and guide me. to be faithful in all his ways and kind in all his deeds (psalm 145). i began to become convinced that God would be good to me, even if it meant heartache for awhile.
slowly and surely, my heart began to heal.
i still had moments of intense sadness. like the time i stumbled across a file of email michael and i sent each other. i mourned the loss of my friend.
like the time i received a cd in the mail from one of my sisters. many of the songs reminded me of michael and i cried as i sat on my bed with my back against the cold cement wall. i mourned the loss of my love.
but mostly, i began to move on.
i moved on changed in my heart. because of the work God was doing, i wasn’t bitter or angry. our first five months in manila were filled with a very real sense of God’s presence for me. i was growing and deepening in ways i don’t believe i could have with michael only an email or phone call away.
i still really, really missed him. and loved him. i wanted to be with him. but i was beginning to imagine life without him. and because of the things God was teaching me, that life didn’t seem so scary. or horrible. i knew that i would be okay if God never brought our relationship to be again.
and then, i started to hear through my friends and family that michael was asking about me. wanting to know what i was doing, how i was, if i had plans to come home over the summer.
as strange as it sounds, my immediate reaction was hurt. and then confusion. when he broke up with me, i understood him to say that he would not pursue me. and here he was, trying to get into my life through my family.
if he didn’t want to date me, why was he pursuing me in this roundabout fashion?
i was confused and distracted, hurt and yet still hoping. my head started to spin and i struggled to get my bearings. all the grief i thought had passed crashed to the surface with those four simple words from someone in my family. michael asked about you.
and so, with the help of an older guy friend i trusted, i did the opposite of what i wanted to do. i spent a week writing the most difficult letter of my life, as unemotional as i could write, asking michael to please stop talking to my family about me.
as i wrote, the rest of the grief and sadness i had poured out of my heart. how i was able to write without manipulation was only an act of God. more than anything, i wanted michael to pursue me.
and here i was, asking him to do just the opposite.
it was the greatest act of surrender i’d made in my life, greater than the sacrifices i’d made in moving to manila, for i knew those were but temporary. here i was telling God this is what i want, but whatever you do, whatever you require of me, you are good. when i finally and completely let go of my relationship with michael, i had no idea if God would bring another man into my life. or if i would spend the rest of my days single.
i cried every day for a week. the day i mailed the letter, i came home from the post office and collapsed in a heap on the shoulder of my teammate lisa. i was exhausted and spent. i cried myself to sleep that night for the last time.
i woke up the following morning, a sunday, with the most intense sense of God’s presence i have ever experienced. despite all the emotion, i knew without a doubt that morning that God would take care of me. with or without michael, i would be okay.
and that moment changed my life.