By Sarah Colson
We were sitting across the table from my dad’s financial advisor. The handsome and intelligent Jonathan and I had just recently gotten engaged and had taken my dad’s advice… OK, we were forced to take his advice… to sit down with his financial advisor, Jeff, and come up with a plan for when we might be wed. We had two options: the option favorited by Jonathan and me included a Christmas wedding (I really wanted lit Christmas trees and Christmas cookies); my dad’s option included waiting another semester to be married after graduation.
Dad’s option did make the most financial sense. At the time, I had zero plans for a job and was about to take off on two back-to-back, out of the state and then out of the country internships. Jonathan hadn’t yet applied for Milligan’s super-competitive Occupational Therapy program, so who knew what his future held. All we knew was that we loved each other and we didn’t want to wait until we had it all figured out.
Looking back on it, I’m pretty sure my dad had planned on Jeff telling us how foolish it would be to get married without a secure plan. Unfortunately for my dad’s blood pressure, Jeff may have accomplished the opposite.
Jeff started his counseling by telling us riveting stories of his and his wife’s early marriage. Kip and Jeff got married when they were both still undergraduates. Instead of Ramen Noodles and Kool-Aid it was pizza and salad leftovers that kept them from starvation during those early years of counting pennies.
As soon as I started thinking, “That doesn’t sound all that great. Maybe Christmas trees and cookies won’t be worth it…” Jeff’s eyes began to water and I saw that look of deep joy that comes only with nostalgia flood his face. “Those days were hard,” he said. “But we have never been more in love with each other than during those pizza and salad dates. I wouldn’t trade those days for the world.”
He went on to say that if we really wanted to make this young married thing work, we could. In fact, he told me he was going to do the opposite of what Dad had hoped he would. “Sarah,” he said, seriously, “I’ve known you since you were a little girl. I know you’re extremely stubborn. When someone tells you that you can’t do something, that only makes you want to do it more. It just might be that stubbornness that makes your and Jonathan’s marriage work.”
That was back in 2013. Now, two and a half years later, Jonathan and I are sort of back at square one. He did get into the OT program at Milligan (I told you he was intelligent); I started working for this wonderful newspaper and decided to go to grad school as well. We didn’t really know where we would end up, but neither of us could have guessed it would be here.
“Here” is one month away from my last “real” day at the News & Neighbor. “Here” is responding to perhaps my first adult calling from God to focus solely on school and a new storytelling ministry. “Here” is realizing that while Jeff and Kip’s story was romantic, their evenings spent eating pizza and lettuce were also spent crying together over whether or not they could pay their bills that month; studying long hours and wondering if it was all worth it; and experiencing paralyzing self-doubt in the midst of more love than they ever imagined they could feel for one another.
When I first brought the idea of leaving this job to Jonathan, he was doing great in school and was making good money. Within one week he realized, after seeking the counsel of some second-year students in the OT program, that keeping a job throughout his second year of school would be nearly impossible. Thus, he decided he needed to quit his job in the fall to focus on school. Since then I’ve been fighting self-doubt and have been second-guessing my intentions of starting something new.
At church Sunday, my pastor delivered a sermon about work. After all, he said, quoting Tim Keller, “Our God is a god with dirt under his fingernails.” My pastor’s four points were this: Work is from God. Work is good. Work is for others. Work is worship.
I’m not sure exactly how many hours I’ve worked here since May of last year, but what I do know is this: I’ve seen God in the dozens and dozens of people I’ve interviewed; the stories I’ve been a part of and I’ve watched my friends write here have been good; I really hope I can say that at least most of the people I interacted with, whether it be through telling their stories or snapping their pictures, have felt their worth; and I’ve done my best to keep Christ at the forefront of my thoughts with every word I type.
So as I write these words and reflect on all that’s been going on in my life and in the lives of those around me, I’m sad and scared to think about leaving the comfort of the News & Neighbor. And I’m also conflicted about what it means to leave a really great thing for something that is so unknown and might involve eating pizza and brown lettuce while Jonathan and I cry over how to save money on dog food.
Here’s what I think might be happening: I really think God is asking me to sacrifice. Romans 12 says: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” That’s a scary passage. To offer ourselves up like that is one thing; to actually hear God’s will and follow it is another.
What we talked about around the table in 2013 has now become our reality and we are not yet so many years removed to see the sentimentality of it. It’s no longer cute or romantic. We are scared. There are moments when I want to listen to my self-doubt and say, “forget what I think I’m called to and just keep things the same.” But that isn’t the right kind of sacrifice. There’s not trust in that. There’s only the potential for bitterness, lost dreams, and relying on our own abilities. So I’m learning what sacrifice actually is for the first time in my life. It hurts. But in the midst of that hurt, God whispers, “it will be worth it. It already is.”