After way too many hours on a bus, we arrived in Nelspruit. I was excited to see Tony, but there were two concerns looming in my mind:
- How would everyone receive Tony and Raymond coming to our debrief? I was afraid my squad and leaders would consider it terribly strange that we ok’d two ministry contacts to join us in Nelspruit.
- How would I deal with Tony’s inevitable popularity? For the month I’d known Tony, I watched men and women alike flock to him. He’s a really likable person. (And his good looks add to his charm!) Now, I was going to have to witness 40 other people building a relationship with him... not knowing where I stood in the mix.
Fortunately, all of N Squad received Tony and Raymond with open arms. Everyone had a blast safariing in the Kruger National Park, and Raymond was even invited to pray over our group after one of our evening sessions.
I went into the park with them twice, and for the most part, Tony and I maintained our distance. I opted to ride in Raymond’s vehicle as often as I could. It was safer that way. And Raymond’s master safari-guiding skills were a bonus!
On the days I stayed in Nelspruit, I spent time catching up with some of my closest squad mates and debriefing with my team. After our nightly worship session and discussion, I’d get to see Tony. I continually sacrificed a full night’s sleep in order to spend time with him.
After several days in Nelspruit, I told Tony we needed to talk. I was leaving for Mozambique soon, and this time, he couldn’t come with. So on Wednesday night, I received a text from him. “Can we talk?”
We pulled two chairs onto the deck and sat down facing each other. I think we were the only two people awake. Even though I suggested the conversation take place, I knew I wasn’t supposed to lead it. So I waited in silence as Tony gathered his thoughts.
I still remember what he looked like that night. A flood light illuminated the left side of his face; the right side was hidden by the dark. He wasn’t nervous, but he was serious. He slowly and carefully chose his words.
“How do you think we’d be as a couple?” he asked. It was a big question, and I deferred the it back to him, of course. “Well,” he said, “I think we’d be absolutely toxic for each other without Jesus. But with Him at the center, I think we’d be unstoppable.”
I agreed, and he continued.
He told me all kinds of lovely things, but one statement in particular stood out to me. It was something I knew the Spirit guided him in saying because it was spoken about my future husband almost exactly one year prior. It was the last thing Tony said that night, and the only confirmation I needed.
“I’m not afraid of you, Julie.”
I received his words and let them sink deep into my heart. As I realized Tony wasn’t afraid of me, I also realized I was sitting in front of my future husband. Then after many deep yogi breaths and several seconds of silence, I told him assuredly, “I know.”
Tony is exactly who I need. He’s the person who, over the course of a lifetime, will help me walk in true vulnerability and femininity.
Our journey together was only beginning, and already, I had a rather large obstacle lying in front of me. In 48 hours, I’d have to say goodbye to the man I just committed my heart to... and I didn’t know how I was going to muster the strength to do it.
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