“I’ve been praying for you and for our relationship. I think God wants to give you a lot of revelation, and I’m so excited about that. When the time is right, I’m excited to hear what he’s been telling you.”
This was one of the last things Julie wrote to me before our month of silence. She displayed such honour and respect for me and for God in these words. She wanted to be led and gave me the platform to lead. At times in our relationship, God’s revealed certain things to her first. Why? I’m not too sure, but I know He moves through the both of us equally.
Julie could’ve quite easily gone ahead of me and shared what she thought God would speak to me. And if she’d done that, I would’ve been tempted to move forward without hearing from God myself. Her heart was for me to seek God and to lead her into our relationship, a battle field of the complete unknown.
I didn’t take this responsibility lightly and spent many hours in Cape Town’s mountains that month, running and taking time out of my day to seek God in His rawest form—His creation. When the world around me is chaotic, nature is a “safe place” I can escape to and seek the Lord. There are few better places in the world to experience nature than in the mountains and beneath the ocean’s surface. Luckily for me, my life includes both.
August 2013 brought me very little physical comfort and interaction with the world. You see, my work at the time involved prolonged silence. It’s physically impossible to talk whilst mining underwater, and I was submerged for up to eight hours a day. As an extroverted person, I was greatly challenged by being in my own head all day. But after some time and a change in perspective, I realized how much of a blessing those moments of solitude were. Honestly, I went to war every day.
It seems uncommon to take time to reflect on one’s life and to ask God to bring a sense of peace into the spiritual journey.
I woke up cold every morning that month and drank instant coffee (which honestly isn’t that bad even though Greg Pampell would disagree) and a rationed amount of vanilla chai tea that Julie had given me as a gift before she left South Africa. I ate peanut butter on dry bread, got into a wetsuit before sunrise and dragged my limp body out of my suit after sunset. It was a challenging month, both physically and emotionally, but looking back, I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to walk through it. It instilled a certain level of character that can only be formed through pain and discomfort.
I prayed a lot that month and felt at peace about pursuing Julie on a serious level. Our relationship felt like it was serious from the start, something I like to call a “God thing.”
In my entire life, no one has ever called me to dependance on God like Julie did (and still does). She’s always encouraged me to walk in my own skin and to seek God above all things, including her. At first, that was hard. I’d always been involved in unhealthy relationships, and not getting entirely consumed with each other was tough to both comprehend and do. I remember Greg Pampell telling me over the years a Christ-centered relationship looks different than a relationship of the world, and that bit of truth finally clicked after I met Julie.
Our marriage (yes, I was going to marry this woman), our family (yes, kids were in the future) and our life would stand in stark contrast to the world’s way of doing things. Christ is counter-cultural. He calls us to a life that counters what culture deems correct.
Nearing the end of the month, I felt a familiar bone of adventure strike in my spirit. Julie was flying to Thailand for month nine of her Race, and in order to get there, she had to fly out of Johannesburg, South Africa. (That’s right folks, there are no flights straight from Swaziland to Thailand.) I had an idea.
What if I surprised Julie at the Jo-Burg airport?
I knew it was risky business because I remembered her telling me once that she wasn’t too keen on surprises. Julie prefers being aware of what’s coming up ahead.
The ocean picked up at the mine, so we divers returned to Cape Town for the last week of August. During my drive to church on the 25th, I thought again about flying to Johannesburg. The idea seemed more possible than ever, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to go.
That night, a pastor spoke a message over my life that was concise and to the point: “Just go for it!”
So I did. I clicked a few buttons on my laptop and received an email stating the following:
Dear MR TONY BARWICK,
Thank you for booking with Mango! Now your flight with Mango is only three days away! We'd like to draw your attention to the following important flight information...
Everything was sorted, and I was leaving on Wednesday to find Julie. My tentative plan was to fly up, spend the day walking around the airport looking for her (since she’d have no wifi), sleep in the airport, then fly home the next morning.
I needed to do just one more thing: Break the news to Julie.
This talk posed some difficulty since we agreed to only speak again once she was in Thailand, at least that’s what I thought. On Tuesday morning (August 27th) I woke up and decided to clear my schedule and wait for Julie to get hold of me. Why did I do such a thing? I can’t give you a straight answer, but I could feel it in my bones that I was going to get a message from her. Contrary to what logic and sensibility would have advised, I stayed at home and waited patiently for my message.
I’ve realized that sometimes God calls us to do things that make no sense and that’s OK. My job is to be obedient.
I waited patiently, and at 12:05:25 pm, my long-anticipated text arrived. Immediately, I asked Julie if we could Skype. Caught a little off guard that I’d responded so fast, she wrote back and warned me that she was slightly sick and sounded like a boy. I was so excited to hear from her. It was like we’d never stopped talking.
I experienced what I would liken to an adrenalin rush as I broached the subject of me galavanting off to Johannesburg to see her. The sensation was unreal, and I knew I’d made the right decision. (I’m glad I had the wisdom to bring the surprise into the light, though, as I’m not sure how it would’ve been received if I just rocked up out of the blue.)
So... I packed my bag the next morning and thought to myself, “God’s up to something.” I had a strong feeling there was something more that God was going to do through this whimsical expedition. And I was right. But at the time, I couldn’t have imagined the degree of significance the trip would entail.
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