Into the Storm
Updated: May 3, 2020
This post was originally written a few days after Valentine's Day on Feb. 16, 2016. Just over a year later, I met the man who would become my forever Valentine, James Fratkze. And, I ran head first into the storm.
This was my best Valentine’s Day yet.
I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I didn’t have any extraordinary plans. There weren’t any unexpected surprises. No flowers on my doorstep or a handsome man in a suit with the final rose.
I just began and ended the day with this inexplicable sense of hope. I’d been soaking the day in prayer for a couple weeks, tired of it being a day that I considered dark.
I asked God for a different kind of day. I asked that he would make it my possibility day. When you ask God for things, it can sometimes feel like a mystery box. You know it’s going to be good, but you don’t have any idea what’s inside.
I woke up to a sunny day and put on one of my favorite dresses. I knew deep down, this was going to be a good one.
I went to church in the morning with my friend and gave her a cookie I bought the day before in the shape of a heart. It said “Netflix and Chill?” because that summarizes our relationship perfectly.
We always have the best intention to meet up and watch a movie or Netflix, and just end up talking about life for hours. Our friendship is the pause button.
I got to see the church that she calls home, and meet friends who go there that I hadn’t seen in a long time. They invited me to a BBQ after and I sat around the table with six or seven people, some whom I just met, and we broke bread.
Later that night, I sat snug on a couch with my roommate, a glass of wine and we watched The Notebook. As I watched this movie, a movie that may seem to some a pretty unrealistic picture of love, I just couldn’t shake this feeling that a story like that was possible.
That the kind of knock you on your heels, tear you apart, run into their arms kind of love exists. That summer love isn’t so much a product of a season, as a state of mind.
That there is a guy out there with a plaid jacket and tousled hair who will ask me to dance when there is no music playing.
You should know I didn’t always believe in the love story.
For a while now, I’ve taken a pretty realistic approach to love, still do. It may begin all fizzle and pop, but at the end of the day, love is a choice that we have to make on the daily. Even if our brains catch fire when our knees touch.
And yet, there I was, watching two characters fall in love on the screen in the middle of a South Carolina lake in the rain, and I thought to myself: This is entirely possible.
It would be so easy for me to answer that in a swirl of sugarcoated speculations, but I’m not going to. I want to give you some meat to chew on because the hope I experienced that day was the fruit of nothing but prayer and God teaching me to tear down walls that I’m an expert at building.
I used to file feelings as inconvenient. A girl named Icebox was my role model as a child, I related to Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network and if someone asked me to be numb, even now, I would know which blinds to close in my heart.
At some point, I realized that I was missing out on all the good things by blocking out the bad.
That there were dreams that I didn't want to forget.
I found the visions I had as a child of a prince on a white horse or Peter Pan at my window had been replaced by a man with a Bible in his hands and his heart on his sleeve who likes the colors of my eyes on a fall day.
A man who realizes that the great fight has nothing to do with fists and everything to do with digging in to do the slow and steady of work of building the kind of life we want to live together for the God we love.
All of this to say, I’ve been learning how to feel again. These past few years, more than any other, I’ve made the most progress with God as my guide, my teacher and often times the one pulling the strings to the blinds. I just have to look out the window.
The key to all of this has been one word: surrender.
I have a lot of pride. It’s one of the things God continues to break within me. I once sat in front of a good friend and said “I have a rebel heart,” as if I was confessing when deep down I wore it like a badge of honor.
To me, surrender was a dirty word.
For a girl who loves battle metaphors, organizes capture the flag events and imagines herself wearing war paint on the daily, the word “surrender” is difficult for me to swallow.
Surrender sounds a lot like giving up to me. It sounds like I’m throwing in the towel. It sounds like a road that no one should find themselves on without a good excuse.
Like anything, surrender is one of those things that runs a precarious balance between good and bad. In the right circumstances, it can be a beautiful thing.
It all depends on what or who we are surrendering to. Surrendering to God has less to do with giving up and more to do with giving in. It's letting God love us as we are, in the good and the bad.
The author David Benner explains it best:
The English word surrender carries the implication of putting one's full weight on someone or something. It involves letting go - a release of effort, tension and fear. And it involves trust... Surrender to God flows out of the experience of love that will never let me go.
When you surrender to a God who love you unconditionally it feels a lot like free falling without ever reaching the bottom.
It's like having the stomach flu. Nauseous and then overwhelmingly freeing.
The secret no one likes to talk about is that the amount of love we experience on this earth begins with us.
Think about it.
Love is like the rain. It’s all around us, pouring into the lives of others from God, our maker, pouring from one person to another. Sometimes it’s just pouring like a waterfall, waiting for someone to discover it and gasp at its beauty.
We’ve gotten so good at building walls to protect and umbrellas to shield ourselves that we’ve become content to sit snug on our couches with a good book and the assurance that love exists, it just doesn’t have to touch us.
We don’t have to get wet.
And, then we wonder why our lives feel like a drought in the dead of winter.
Love is not an invitation that you didn't get. It's the party you were too tired to go too. It’s the book you never had time to read. It’s that regret that keeps you up an extra minute each night.
And, I like my sleep.
So, for the first time, maybe ever, when I saw The Notebook on Valentine’s Day I knew what I would do the next time I heard the crackle of thunder outside my door.
I knew what I would do when a guy with eyes like a wishing well asks me to dance in the middle of the street.
I will run head first into the storm.