The date is 16 July 2019, 8.45 pm.
I was supposed to leave 15 minutes ago.
I needed to head back to camp if I was going to make it for last parade at 2130 hours.
But here I was, telling Julia that I had feelings for her.
Oh, and it was a few hours before she left for her studies overseas too.
I couldn’t believe this was happening. I shocked myself when the words “I like you, Julia” lifted off my tongue — it was terrifying.
Truth be told, I didn’t even plan to confess — the words just came out of my mouth.
Since it was supposed to be the last time I saw her face to face, I just wanted to be honest with her before she flew off. I even told her I didn’t think I was ready for a relationship yet.
I’m not sure how she felt about that, but she asked when I would be sure I was ready — a question to which I had no answer. All this time, I had not thought about what it would take for one to be “ready”.
We didn’t reach a conclusion that night. I said I would spend the next three days outfield thinking about it (tropical jungles really do leave you with much time to think about things) before saying goodbye and wishing her a safe trip.
I had never confessed to a girl before, and that was not how I thought it would go.
But that was the story of how we got together.
A guy who was pretty fresh into National Service, and a girl who was about to start university overseas.
For two dating greenhorns, starting off like this was a bold choice.
National Service. Long-distance. It was the worst timing ever. Which is why looking back today, we are convinced that it was God’s timing.
And, spoiler alert: I made it in time for last parade.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Four years before that night, was when Julia and I first became friends.
I’m not sure exactly when I started catching feelings for her, but I can only thank God that I never acted upon my feelings in my younger days.
I wasn’t sure what I was feeling, probably didn’t even know what I was looking for in a life partner, and had yet to pray about it.
Suffice to say, I’m not sure how our relationship would have turned out if we had gotten together earlier.
And with a rush of blood to one’s head, it can be easy to run ahead of God.
Though I was convinced that it only made sense to start dating with marriage in mind. And I knew I was not mature enough to do that at that age, so I never looked for a relationship.
For that wisdom, I thank various mentors and my older siblings.
If not, it would have been easy for butterflies to block one’s vision. And with a rush of blood to one’s head, it can be easy to run ahead of God.
So I grew comfortable being single.
In fact, until the words “I like you, Julia” were uttered, I had never entertained the idea of being attached.
After all, I had considered singlehood a gift. I even told God that I would stay single if He willed it for me, on the way home after my confession.
As the train pulled away from the station, I asked only that God would make me content.
Looking back, what I was telling God wasn’t that I wanted to stay single, but that I was fine with whatever He had planned for me. It wasn’t exactly an easy prayer to say, but an important one nonetheless.
That was the crucial first step I took in yielding to God’s will, without even realising fully what I had signed up for.
Apparently, Julia had done the same.
She wasn’t open to the idea that dating meant getting to know someone for the sake of a relationship. She needed to organically get to know this person first as a friend.
That, however, was easier said than done. Her mother even told her that her “pond had very few fish” because of that dating philosophy.
Even so, she refused to budge. Deep down, Julia trusted that God would provide the best person for her or, more unlikely, that God would somehow give her the strength to date someone whom she wasn’t first friends with.
So, she wasn’t the least bit fazed. She was fine remaining single until some suitable fish swam along. She was also fine remaining single if no suitable fish swam along.
And until that happened, her priority was to be the person God wanted her to be. If anyone came along, she would also be the partner God wanted her to be.
MUM KNOWS BEST…
Unbeknownst to Julia and I, was that God was working behind the scenes.
In a shocking plot twist, it was revealed to us that our mothers were way ahead of us in the game.
Apparently, one Sunday, when my mum saw Julia pushing an elderly lady on a wheelchair in church, she was so taken by Julia’s kind heart that she literally prayed: “God, can I have this girl?”
She didn’t really know Julia very well, but felt that God had planted that thought in her mind.
Similarly, Julia’s mum — who had driven Julia across the island to meet me that night — also felt the prompting of the Spirit to pray: “Lord, if there’s interest, give Jeremy courage to tell Julia.”
I couldn’t make this up! Even after hearing this story so many times, I am always humbled by the way God had orchestrated all of this.
God had been preparing our hearts, and the hearts of our mothers, way before any of us were aware of it.
…BUT GOD KNOWS EVEN BETTER
Even if you discount these things, God’s hand in our story is still impossible to ignore.
I wasn’t supposed to be out of camp on that night. It was a “nights out” — a big deal at the time because it was one of the first that us trainees had ever been given.
Apparently, the nights out wasn’t scheduled either. It was only granted by our Commanding Officer as a spontaneous gesture of welfare.
If that nights out didn’t happen, Julia would have flown off without me confessing.
On the other hand, if Julia had not had to leave the country, I may have never confessed my feelings for her.
It took me years to recognise my feelings for her and it was only when I was about to miss the boat that I finally did.
So in the stillness of the jungle night, as I reflected on God’s perfect timing, the most surreal wave of peace swept over me.
So what if it’s long distance? What are 5 years of long distance in the light of a lifetime together?
That night, I decided that if I still wasn’t ready, well then — I had better get ready!
I became convinced that this was God’s timing, and I wasn’t about to miss it.
“God has perfect timing; never early, never late. It takes a little patience and it takes a lot of faith, but it’s worth the wait.” (Author unknown)
Two years since that night, the questions have changed.
- When is it right to get engaged?
- When is it right to apply for BTO
- When is it right to get married?
Again, we don’t have a conclusion just yet, but what we do know is where to find the answers.
More specifically, we know who holds the answers.
So to Him who makes all things beautiful in His time do we look to bring to completion the good work He has started.
- Define dating. What do the runway and boundaries look like?
- What wisdom does the Bible offer when it comes to dating?
- How can you date or wait well?
- Who is a spiritual friend who can mentor and guide you in this area of relationships? Seek them out to journey with you on this.