On This Day in History
I want to tell you a story.
Five years ago today, I got dropped off on Biola University’s campus to catch a ride with a stranger to the Bay Area for Spring Break. My dear friend Sarah and her parents had graciously invited me to spend the week at their home on a vineyard in wine country since I couldn’t afford a flight to Florida where my family lives. I also couldn’t afford a flight to the Bay Area, and after exhausting all my attempts to find rides with friends or acquaintances, I came to my last resort. The Biola Ride Board: where people post things like, “Hey, I’m driving to Oregon for Spring Break—who wants to carpool and split the cost of gas?” I found a guy who was leaving for the Bay late at night—he said he could cover gas, he just wanted company for the drive. My parents said, “Don’t get a ride with a stranger, please!” Then a friend said, “I played intramural volleyball with him…he’s safe.” I said, “Ok, I’ll take the ride.” It was my only option.
Which is how I found myself being dropped off at Horton Lobby at 10:30 p.m. by friends who said, “Good luck! Hope it goes well!” I had my duffel bag, pillow, book, and book light. I was prepared to retreat into silence, read and sleep the drive away, and soon be at my friend’s house and away from awkward rides with strangers.
What happened next was unexpected. You see, I was coming off the worst semester of my life. Trying to work a full time job while being a full time student had landed me in a black and paralyzing depression that I was just beginning to see an end to. I was weak. I was skin and bones. I was on an antidepressant. I was living off checks from my generous grandmother because I was too exhausted to work. I had just ended a relationship with a guy I cared for deeply, but knew was not the right person for me. I expected nothing. I was, frankly, too tired to hope. I wanted to get to my friend’s house and enjoy a peaceful, relaxing vacation before having to come back to the weight of my life.
I was in no condition to meet the love of my life. But that night I did. I was waiting in the Horton Lobby, anxious and awkward, and in walked a tall guy, in jeans and a Biola sweatshirt, with a beard on his kind and friendly face. He offered to carry my bags to the car. He gave me the front seat (there were three more guys in the back!). He shared Girl Scout cookies with me as we drove, and I didn’t read, and I didn’t sleep the entire drive. Instead we talked. And talked. And played Bible games. And laughed. And listened to music. And sang songs from the Wizard of Oz. And ate In-N-Out burgers in the wee hours of the morning.
The rest, as they say, is history. We got married a little over two years later, and still love to relive and retell the story of how we met: the thousands of details that had to come into alignment, the perfect string of coincidences and happy accidents that allowed us to meet in such an unforeseen way. We always come back to that story, and not just because it’s the beginning of our love story. We come back to it because it reminds us of God’s love, and His provision. It reminds us of the way He took two broken strangers who had temporarily given up on “finding love” and lovingly placed us in a car together for an eight-hour drive. It reminds us of the way God surprised us with a gift so beautiful that we still marvel at its existence.
As Christians we often write about how God is there with us in our suffering, but He is also there with us in our joy. He is there when everything works out perfectly, and the stars align, and love and hope blossom out of the pain and disappointment of our past. I wanted to share this story to remind you that God is there—He is there in the depth of our sorrow, planting seeds for joy and love and hope. He is there on every ordinary day when we don’t feel a thing, when we don’t expect or even dare to hope for the miraculous, when we lose sight of the overarching design that God is crafting in our lives. And—perhaps most importantly—He, the Father of Lights, the Giver of every Good and Perfect gift—is there in our joy: delighting in us, rejoicing with us, and orchestrating our seemingly random and haphazard lives to bring glory to His name and joy to the world.