February 14th, 2007
I’d been living in Afghanistan for a year and a half. When I signed up to go, I thought to myself, it’s only a year – even if I hate it there, it is only a year. But I hadn’t hated it – instead, I had been surprised at how quickly I had fallen in love with it. The beautiful country, the culture and way of life, and most of all the welcoming, open-hearted people. A few months into my contract, it had been easy to make the decision to stay another year, but now, I had another decision to make, and this time it wasn’t so easy.
There were a lot of reasons to stay – I loved the people, I loved the work, I loved my team mates. I had grown in my relationship with God, and felt for the first time in my life like I was developing a faith all my own. My heart was truly in it.
There were also reasons to go – as much as I loved my work in education, I couldn’t ignore the overwhelming medical needs of the community we lived in, and that little voice that had whispered into my heart the idea of nursing years before was making itself heard again. I wondered what else was in store for me – what other adventures and plans God had for me.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” Psalm 37:4
This familiar verse had developed a new meaning for me, as I came to understand that in giving your heart to God, you allow Him the opportunity to shape and mould your heart to desire the things He wants for you -things far better than you could ever have imagined.
In the middle of all these pros and cons was one very important factor. A boy. A boy I had grown to respect and admire in my 18 months in Afghanistan. Truthfully, I was smitten within the first two weeks of my being there, and as we came to know each other better, as we developed a working relationship, and a friendship, the school-girl crush developed into something much stronger. For the first time in my life, I was really and truly in love with a boy. And it was heartbreaking. Because he didn’t feel the same way. I had prayed fervently for a year and a half- begging God to take these feelings from me if it wasn’t to be. But despite all that praying, I was still smitten. And as much as I wanted to stay to see if there would ever be a chance for us, I knew I couldn’t base my decision to stay or to go on him.
After days of praying through it all, I had a phone date with a sweet and trusted friend, who told me that as she was praying about my decision to stay or go, she’d had a vision of me packing my bags to leave. As I packed up my stuff, Jesus walked in with a big smile on his face, and a wonderful present for me. I honestly didn’t know what to think of this, and as I processed it all, I found myself talking it through with my resident big brother on the team. On a whim, I confessed my crush to him, and immediately wondered how much endless teasing I would have to endure in the coming weeks. But instead of teasing, he kindly talked it through, and encouraged me to make a change, to see what else God had for me in this big wide world. In other words, to leave.
On February 14th, mid morning, my boss asked me to his office to chat about what I was thinking about leaving or staying. I looked into the eyes of the man I loved and told him I was leaving. He said everyone would miss me, gave me a brotherly hug, and let me go.
I returned to my office and wept. Instead of the peace I thought would come when I finally made my choice I felt turmoil, and heart break. I tried to get some work done, but kept breaking down as thoughts of leaving occupied my mind. A few minutes later, my big brother came flying into the room.
“You are not going anywhere,” he said. What?!? I thought. You just told me I should leave!!
“I just told Paul I’m leaving,” I replied. He stared at me for a couple seconds, then threw his hands up in the air and left the room.
I didn’t get much work done that day. I felt so confused and overwhelmed. I began to second guess my decision, so much so that I went back to my boss, and asked him to hold off on letting our headquarters know about my decision just for a day or so until I could process it a little more. He smiled, looking a little confused, and agreed to wait. When the work day was done, and we started making our way back to the living quarters, I was relieved to just relax and not have to pretend like I was getting anything done.
Since it was Valentines Day, the men in our group had made us a special surprise dinner, which they served to us in our common room – they even gifted each of us girls some little trinkets. We were so impressed by how they had gone out of their way to show us single girls a little love on Valentines. We even got to pick a girly movie to watch after.
As we watched Bridget Jones fall for the wrong guy, then the right one, I kept sneaking a peek at my secret love through the corner of my eye. He didn’t laugh once. He kept checking his phone. He barely seemed to be watching the show.
Either he really doesn’t like Bridget Jones, or he has something else on his mind, I thought.
After the movie, as we cleaned and tidied up from our evening activities, he approached me, asking if we could go to his office for a couple of minutes and chat. It was a short walk across two courtyards, and we walked it in silence. When we got there, he said he had forgotten his phone, and ran back to the main house to get it. I sat on the step outside the office, stared up at hundreds of millions of gleaming stars, and with the glow of Bridget and Mark’s final kiss still in my head, began to day dream about the possibility of him sitting me down in his office to tell me he liked me.
No! Snap out of it. That’s never going to happen. Just let it go.
No sooner had I broken myself from this reverie, than he was back. We went into his office, sat down, and chatted about nothing for a few minutes before he finally started to tell me what he had asked me there for.
“Raquel, as you have been making the decision about whether to stay or go, I just feel like I need to tell you I haven’t been completely honest with you…”
Crap! I’m getting fired! I can’t change my mind because they don’t want me here. Or maybe they want to send me home before I finish my contract? I thought I’d have more time.
“I’ve been praying and thinking about this a lot, and I feel like I have a peace from God to share this with you, and to share my heart with you, and I just wanted you to know that I think you are a beautiful girl with a beautiful heart and I would be interested in pursuing a relationship with you.”
………….What? ………..I don’t….What?….Did I go to sleep?….Am I dreaming?…What did he just say? …
Very lame thoughts, I confess, but I have never in my life experienced a more surreal moment. I truly and honestly thought I was dreaming this up – that I was sleeping and would wake any second, or perhaps that I was hallucinating.
Mercifully, he kept talking, somewhat nervously, I think, and that gave me some time to confirm that no, I wasn’t sleeping, no, I wasn’t hallucinating. Yes, I was sitting across from Paul Weinmaster, the man of my dreams, the one my heart loved, and he was telling me he liked me.
That was ten years ago today. Now I know that mere minutes after I confessed my crush to our friend and brother Clyde, Paul shared his feelings toward me with him too. Because we both swore him to secrecy, and because he is too good a friend and brother to betray that trust, he nearly died of internal injuries, trying to suppress his desire to get it all out in the open. Instead, he encouraged Paul to share his feelings on the most appropriate day of the year – a day dedicated to love.
Ten years goes by so fast. It feels like yesterday that I sat across that blue eyed man in his office, and pinched myself a hundred times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. At that moment, as we talked it through – as we realized the timeline of events, and shared our hearts with each other, prayed for the start of our relationship, and whatever the future would hold for us – it felt so much bigger than just us. We could sense that God was in it – that it was for His purpose that He was bringing us together.
In ten years we have had lots of ups and downs, lots of challenges and triumphs. At times we have walked purposefully in the path set out for us, and at times we have been distracted, but always we have been brought back by that night, and by the overwhelming certainty that when God created us, it was in His plan for us to love one another.
I love you, besyar ziat, my Hubs, and the wonderful life God has given us.
Happy Valentines Day!