By Julie Ferwerda
Racing ahead of God’s leading for romantic relationships seems harmless at the time, but it always leaves behind unpleasant permeating problems, much like running over a skunk in your car. And the stench doesn’t dissipate quickly. The lingering odor of consequences continues as a reminder as to why you don’t ever want to collide with black and white stripes again.
Right after my divorce a few years ago was one of those times. After thirteen years of being married, I was having a hard time trusting God with my future. I was apprehensive about being alone and eager for Him to get something moving in my romantic pursuits. It had already been two months since my divorce and as far as I was concerned, it was time to get on with life.
There was one little set-back. Due to the circumstances surrounding my divorce, God had specifically instructed me through prayer and counsel to wait until my ex-husband remarried before considering relationships, to allow for the possibility of reconciliation. Still, the usual rationalizations played through my mind. But Lord…he’s involved with someone. Besides, I just want a little companionship. I don’t have to become romantically involved. I would just like to have a friend. That seems harmless enough.
So…unwilling to be patient and accept divine directions to stay solo, I started a “friendship” with Tom. In many ways, Tom was a great catch. He was a committed Christian, very involved in church, a good dad, athletic, and extremely talented. Oh yeah, and he was rich! Could money really buy happiness? With all the other things going for Tom, it couldn’t hurt! Satan’s temptation loomed just like Monte Hall’s enticement on “Let’s Make a Deal,” offering me all three doors and the bag.
“Yes, Julie, all these can be yours for the taking. Door #1: a huge lake home in the mountains; Door #2: a red mustang convertible—I know you’ve always wanted one; and Door #3: frequent world travel, your favorite pastime. Anything else you want is already in the bag. All you have to do is have it your own way and don’t wait for God. What’s it going to be, I need your answer?”
Oooh, so tempting!
The lifestyle he offered was so tantalizing, that I actually began rationalizing that God must have brought us together for a future—down the road of course, when my ex-husband was remarried. Since we lived several hours away, Tom and I could begin a good relational foundation and then reevaluate the possibilities in a few months after my ex-husband’s scheduled wedding. Maybe by then God would be ready to follow my lead and let us take the next step. I had it all neatly planned out.
Tom had his own set of plans. He wasn’t feeling too friendly. Even from a distance, Tom’s premature feelings for me inflated like a helium balloon. His all-too-soon lovey-dovey, possessive behavior left me feeling like the smothered cat in the Pepe Le Pew cartoon. Pepe, the love-sick skunk, anticipates his favorite feline’s every move and is waiting for her around every corner with his aromatic presence and profuse kisses. The look in her eyes proclaims that only suicide would be a step up from this stifling acquaintance. Still, with all those “fringe benefits,” I had to give it a chance. Perhaps in time he would back off a little, giving me some space to breathe, and we could ride into the sunset in his red convertible to “happily ever after.”
The ride in his convertible did happen shortly thereafter, but not to “happily ever after.” Too soon into the relationship, he drove down to visit me at my parent’s home, against my wishes. Between Tom’s annoying determination and the conviction of my sin, I was feeling more cornered and unsettled than ever. Sensing the obvious signs of turmoil going on in my thoughts, my mom could only nod her understanding and agreement throughout the weekend as she handed me yet another Kleenex.
My dad, however, was in love with Tom. They shared a common passion for hunting and fishing, a prerequisite for any potential son-in-law. When Tom sat forward on the green wingback chair in the living room halfway into the weekend and stated his intentions, my dad was already won over.
“Mr. Browall, I want to let you know what my plans are concerning this relationship with your daughter. I think I would make a great husband for Julie. I certainly have a lot to offer her.” Tom looked as if he might flex his biceps at any moment to prove it.
“Undoubtedly.” My dad beamed back his approval as he thought of all the future hunting trips they would take together.
“Anyhow, I love Julie. I’m asking your permission to marry her. I will take good care of her and provide well for her.”
My mom, true to her sensitive nature, noticed me steaming over on the couch.
“Maybe we should take more time to think about this. After all, you have only known each other for a few weeks.”
Excuse me! I hate to intrude in this little private conversation, but since this is my future too, could I have a say in this? You don’t win a woman the same way you hunt down an animal. You can’t possibly love me already. Intense frustrated and frantic thoughts drove me to the kitchen for a moment of solitude.
Spilling tears into the sink, my heavy heart spoke up. If I had just listened to God…I wouldn’t be in this terrible mess and I wouldn’t have to drag Tom through needless pain and rejection. This was my plan, not God’s. Now I’m more miserable and empty with Tom than when I was alone.
More than anything, I was now ready to wait for God’s plan for my life in His timing, no matter what it was or how long it took. I just wanted peace again. I just wanted to be lonely again. I just wanted to get rid of the skunk.
That afternoon, when every Kleenex box in the house was empty, I sent Tom down the road for good in his cute red Mustang—the one thing about him I did love. Ready to wait on God, I felt so relieved and lightened in spirit, even—happy. As the car disappeared from sight however, my dad cried his eyes out on my shoulder.