I remember seeing her disappearing outside for the first time after one of our many days at Rainbow Preschool. Without really thinking, I made myself a cup of hot tea, casually strolled down into the courtyard, and found Julie with her elbows on her knees sitting on a concrete perch.
I generally don’t have a problem with talking to all types of people and suppose I felt no different in this situation. Our talks involved long pauses of silence (and deep stares on my behalf). Julie, on the other hand, couldn’t hold a stare for longer than a glimpse when we first started talking with one another.
Our tea drinking escapades eventually became an evening affair, and I looked forward to them everyday. At this point though, I had no clue as to what was going on and how it would all pan out.
I very quickly learnt that Julie didn’t fight for my attention or put on a show. My heart had set on her strong castle walls, and I was willing to swim the mote to enter. She was real and down-to-earth and expected the same in return.
There was a pivotal moment in regard to my feelings for her... that time she called me out. Let me share with you a piece of my story—a struggle I battled for many years as a young Christian man and leader:
This struggle probably started when I received the gift of salvation in 2007. My lifestyle didn’t change at all. In actual fact, it got progressively worse as the years went by. I had accepted who Christ was but had not accepted His grace and redemption. Therefore, I was always ashamed of how I was living and would put on a ‘holy face’ when I was at church so no one ever knew how I was living. In 2008 I started leading 16 to 18 year-old young men at my local church in Cape Town. It’s amazing when you look back on the years and realize God’s grace for you, how he uses His people no matter how messed up they are. And He always gets the glory for it. I was living life with one leg on either side of the fence back then. Christian by day, animal by night. I never wanted my high school youth boys to find out that their leader was living a double life, so I lied to cover my tracks. Eventually, in 2009, I was exposed. I was caught fighting at a local nightclub and was charged with assault GBH. Moving forward from those times, I always struggled to be honest and vulnerable with those around me and engineered a cyclic habit of running from those who cared for me... so they wouldn’t find out who I really was.
It seemed like people were worried that if they confronted me I would walk away from the faith. (My friend and mentor, Greg Pampell, had a way of loving me through all of my junk. That was a brotherly kind of love that I will carry in my heart to the grave.) But for the first time, I was called out by a female. And the truth Julie spoke to me one particular evening was undeniable, hard to receive and challenging. It was exactly what I needed to hear.
Julie challenged me to not put so much emphasis on what others thought about me. “You’re never going to make everybody happy,” she said. “What matters is what God thinks about the way you live your life.” She challenged me 1) to live for Him alone, not for the people around me and 2) to be myself and not put on a show for the crowd. Bingo.
I now say: “A woman that has the courage to call you out on your junk is a keeper and worthy of pursuing.” That’s my Julie, and this part of our story is a testimony of how God gives His children exactly what they need at exactly the right time.
To read our full story, please visit our Love Story page.