“Got your keys?”, yes, I answered as we hurried out the door. We were on our way to the airport. Consumed by our checklists and carry-on bags, time was of the essence to avoid missing our flight. It was our third year together. Nathaniel and I were college sweethearts who’d met in my junior year and his senior year. Now that we were totally engrossed in adulting, we both managed to scrape our coins together and take a trip. You know, one of those all-inclusive getaways that would make us feel like we’d work hard to play harder, but only in correlation to our starter salaries. He’d been working in construction, while I was an admissions counselor at a local community college. Everything seemed like the stars had fully aligned for us. Friends first, date for two to three years, get engaged, and then married. This had been my plan since I was a teenager. I knew that if I followed this to a “T” I’d be a wife by 30 and could shortly thereafter start a family.
Things were perfect, at least in my eyes. “We’ll be landing shortly folks” was the message that came through the speaker from the pilot. I binged watched tv shows I’d fallen behind on, while he slept the entire flight. The comfortability level that we’d reach was adequate for a couple of three years. There was a settling in that we had with each other, and I was content, as was he. Finally, we’d landed in the beautiful Virgin Islands and was now exiting the flight. The excitement was now materializing into a reality and vacation mode had kicked in. This trip was the perfect scene for my dream proposal. I just knew it was going to happen. I could feel it. The conversation of tying the knot had come up over the past year and a half. He had gotten a job at a well sought-after construction firm and would express how his financial future was looking up and how he could see us moving towards purchasing a home and building a life together. This was a far cry from our college days of ramen and flaming hot Cheetos for dinner. We were certainly forming this life together that had so much promise. At least that’s what I kept telling myself. For some reason, the very things I always wanted were coming to fruition and externally I showed the joy my life was now becoming, but internally I felt uneasy.
“So, what do you want to do first?”, he asked. “Well, I was thinking we hit the beach and then grab lunch”, I responded. “That sounds cool, but I was thinking since it’s later in the afternoon, we go to the beach tomorrow instead and just go grab a bite and chill out the rest of the day.” “Sure, that’s fine”, I answered. “Man, I really wanted to go the beach now, but I am pretty hungry and a little tired from the flight”, I thought to myself. This was typical in our relationship. He’d ask me what I wanted; I’d answer only for him to counter my suggestion with what he wanted to do. I guess I’d gotten used to it by this point, but for some reason this was always blaring at me. I’d always minimize it because I’d tell myself that besides this one annoyance, he was a really good guy. He loved his family and whenever they called, he answered. He got along with my family, and they thought I snagged a unicorn. On and off paper we made sense. So why would I make a mountain out of a mole hill? It was always easier to downplay or legitimize the things that bothered me about him, rather than make a big deal about it. Plus, many of my friends would complain about their lazy, good for nothing partners and it would make me count my blessings that my guy was nothing like theirs. I had it good in comparison and would feel guilty anytime I had a grievance against him. As we headed out the door to go get food, he subtly grabbed my hand and gave me one of the most lovingly looks. Again, I settled into the comfort of who he and I were together, but was I selling myself short of what I truly wanted?
The trip progressed nicely. To live up to our previous discussion, we went to the beach and allowed our bodies to inhale as much sun that it could take. In case you’re wondering, we baptized ourselves in sunscreen to ensure the melanin the good Lord had blessed us with stayed protected. I lounged on a beach chair rental, while intermittently reading a book, snacking on fresh fruit, and taking brief naps. He did the same, until he urged me to go with him to the water. It was refreshingly hot for a beach day and the added splashes of the waves up to my knees were incredible. The two of us had our moments of frolicking like kids to ease any bit of reality away, but in the quiet moments standing in the ocean, I would look to the horizon and say silent prayers. Even in these moments, I felt like I was supposed to be pursuing something other than marriage and a family. Like I was called to something greater, higher even. Growing up in a Christian household carries a lot of influence in one’s life and God was my beacon for everything. I had always taken my relationship with Jesus seriously. From a very young age I knew that I wasn’t the orchestrator of anything, but He was. Whenever I had to make a major life decision, it felt like a pesty gnat that wouldn’t leave me alone. Like this unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach that I couldn’t easily shake. Why was I starting to feel this way, now? It seemed I was on the precipice of getting everything I always wanted. It didn’t make sense that I was starting to think I wasn’t supposed to be with the person who had become a big part of my life.
Four days in and our vacation was quickly winding down and this would be the last night of our getaway. Still no proposal and oddly enough I felt relieved. Tonight, was the night of our “fancy” dinner at one of the local establishments that was known for their amazing seafood and ambience. We both had packed our date night attire that required a flowy dress and heels for me, and a belt and button-up shirt for him. A piece of me felt like this could be it. He was acting a little weird the last day or so, like he had something heavy on his mind. Anytime I would ask if he was ok, he would respond casually that he was taking in the beauty of the island, but I knew something was up. I could feel it. I also could feel that uneasy feeling I described earlier about God and me. This feeling of wondering if Nathaniel was the man for me started way before this trip. It was actually a few months prior. In response to my dilemma, prayer was my solution. It didn’t make sense that the person that I clicked with may not be the right one for me. But there is this thing that God does that is sometimes confusing. He’ll make what makes sense, make no sense at all and vice versa. And like the scriptures say, His ways are not our ways. There were things that I still wanted to pursue, like seminary school. When I mentioned it to him, he brushed me off by saying “I don’t see myself living a life of ministry”. Or the time I wanted to start a small business selling vintage purses and he told me it would be a waste of time and money. There was always this tinge of competitiveness with him instead of unobliterated support. My prayers were starting to sew the pieces of my apprehension together and I had a major decision to make. What was I so worried about? Sitting at the table nothing about the evening seemed suspicious, he’d only gotten up to go the bathroom twice throughout the dinner.
The waiter came with the dessert menu and asked if we’d like to order something else or get the check. Nathaniel nodded at me to see if there was something that caught my eye. He knew I loved German chocolate cake and they had it. He let the waiter know we’d like a slice to share and to bring two forks. As the waiter returned, I noticed there was a red box on the plate, placed just shy of the whipped cream on the side. “Here we go”, I thought to myself. I took a deep breath. This is the moment of truth. Surely as I suspected, he was ready to propose. My heart and head were flooded with a mix of emotions that I suddenly felt overwhelmed. Almost as if I had stepped out of my body and was watching myself like the other restaurant patrons were watching us. He’d gotten down on one knee with light beads of sweat forming on his brow. He opened the box, and the ring was gorgeous! For a split second I felt like I had reached the top of Mt. Everest. This long trying trek of love terrain had its challenges and setbacks, but I had made it. The other part of me was unsure that if I said yes, my life would be as I already knew it to be. Nothing more, but maybe less.
All my prayers were resting on this moment and God was quietly whispering to walk away. Caught up in the moment I said yes, and the entire restaurant let off a roar of praise that even had the kitchen staff peeking through the servers’ window clapping excitedly. We embraced each other in hugs and kisses, forgot about the cake and headed out to the beach to take a walk. I had to tell him the truth of how I was feeling. So, I blurted it out those four dreaded words, “We need to talk”. My stomach was in knots. I could see his expression change as the moonlight hit the side of his face. He silently listened. I then began to explain to him how I really loved him, but God had a call on my life that I couldn’t shake. I reiterated his words to me after I told him I wanted to go to seminary school and how I needed someone who would support me in my walk with Christ. I had always supported him in any and everything he wanted to do, but it wasn’t reciprocated. After I finished, we stared out into the dark abyss as the sound of the waves crashing temporarily soothed the moment. Surprisingly enough, he told me that he only proposed because he knew my plan and he thought that was what I wanted. I told him, that’s what I thought too, but God had a different one. Though I loved him, I made it clear that I had to walk away to walk the path that God was calling me to. I then slid the ring off my finger and gave it back to him.
That night we went back to our room and stayed up and talked. All night. It was amicable. What I thought would be devastating, wasn’t. It confirmed that God’s nudge on my life was meant to be, and all the things would work out for my good. The next morning, we packed our belongings and headed to the airport. For the sake of his closure, he decided to book a different flight and I understood. As I waited alone at the gate for my flight to arrive, I received an email. When I opened it, it read, “Congratulations, you have been accepted into Dallas Theological Seminary”. The pesty gnat had finally flown away and I knew that I had made the right decision.