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.
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 . . .