The breaking came shortly after graduation, when, despite two years of planning, or, perhaps, because of them, our goal to begin a mission base in Belize crashed and burned in a manner worthy of the Hindenburg.
We were flattened and without direction.
But, as any good Type-A Irishwoman would, I considered our Hindenburg tragedy a temporary speed bump in what was, surely, a glorious destiny.
And being practical folk, my husband and I looked for areas of service a bit closer to home while we recovered from the incineration of our plans.
We joined a small church in Washington state, and perked up when the pastor said he’d like us to lead the young adults group. At last! A calling! Something we could sink our hearts and newly minted diplomas into! A place to make a difference™.
(Note: making a difference™ is a key accomplishment, which ranks just below spreading the gospel™ and saving the lost™. Together, these three items form the holy trifecta of BCG (Bible College Grad) success.)
There was just one problem: We didn’t have a comfortable living room for the meeting. And anyone who is anyone knows you must have a hip, comfortable living room in order to succeed in ministry.
We lived in a rental that was old, cold, and badly furnished with garage sale cast-offs we’d purchased the first month of our marriage. Totally not worthy of this new chapter in our glorious destiny.
So, we made a deal with our landlady. We’d scrape and repaint the inside of the house if she’d let us pick the paint colors.
And, since we had lived without credit cards and had no credit score, we made a deal with my father-in-law to co-sign for a loan at the furniture store. There, we purchased two, soft, cushy, Sahara sand colored sofas which practically trumpeted “Ministry Couch! Prayer Couch! Glorious Destiny!” from the moment I saw them.
Now our BCPs (Bible College Professors) taught us that the road to ministry success is littered with trials, so we knew what to expect. A demon behind a bush here, a divine intervention to save us there, that sort of thing. We just didn’t realize trials came in the lead paint variety.
For the next six months, we battled through seven layers of old wallpaper on the walls, four layers on the ceilings, toxic chemical fumes, blistered fingers, debris and dust covering everything, and yes, lead paint. All buried in the depths of the 1901 relic we called home. All standing in the way of our glorious destiny.
Instead of a comfortable, hip meeting space, our entire home now resembled the den of Cujo.
And then I got sick. The fumes and debris and lead paint in our house turned a basic case of the sniffles into a septic infection that caused my face and neck to swell to double their usual size. I was so sick I had to quit my job, and couldn’t attend church for over a month.
Still, we had a vision. We were going to be young adult ministry leaders! This was all part of God’s plan for our glorious destiny! We were not backing down.
The week after we finished, we attended a young adults group meeting. We knew the pastor was going to tell everyone about the new leadership plan that night, and we couldn’t wait for all our hard work to finally pay off.
As we sat in the meeting, the pastor leaned over and asked us where one of the other young married couples was, and whether we knew when they would arrive. “They’re the new leaders”, he said. “We can’t start the meeting without them.”
That night, we went home, sat on our ministry couches, and stared in silence at our freshly painted living room. Our glorious destiny seemed very far off.
It’s been seven years since that moment on those couches.
Since then, we’ve hauled our couches across the country. Divided our couches when we were on the verge of divorce. Slept on our couches as we struggled to reconcile. Sat with brokenhearted friends and prayed on those couches. Nursed sick kittens while curled up on those couches. Packed bags for trips to Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Mexico, Jamaica, France, Italy, and Zambia on those couches. Studied for exams on those couches.
And then, a month ago, I took this picture:
Yes, those are our couches. A little older, a little worn around the edges, but packed with amazing young couples who attend the Young Marrieds ministry we now lead for our church.
Tonight, as I sat in our living room, wrestling with a new crop of heartbreak and dashed dreams, I looked at those couches. And I remembered: I can trust God again with my Hindenburged dreams, with my indefatigable hunger for that glorious destiny. Because God is the Great Couch Redeemer.
He who has been faithful to redeem the time, and fill our couches, will be faithful again.
So, whatever hurt or disappointment you carry today, I hope this story encourages you. Keep living. Keep walking. Keep trusting in your Redeemer. And may every couch you see give you fresh encouragement:)