“Welcome everybody to the first servants meeting we have this year,” Lydia- the service coordinator- initiated the meeting with an opening statement. “I would also like to welcome Mark and Hans as our newest addition to the ministry. We are so thrilled to have great, dedicated servants like them joining our team,” she resumed. As soon as Lydia ended her brief introduction, my body temperature dropped, my face changed colors, and my heart beat became louder than a drum. While the meeting lasted for almost an hour and a half, I got nothing out of it. I was so preoccupied with trying my best to avoid any eye contact with Mark. Finally, the meeting was concluded with a prayer and as I was sneaking out of the door, I heard Lydia calling my name. “Marina. Before you leave, I know you probably know Mark and Hans but I would like to officially introduce you to each other. You will be serving the same age group and I would like you to find a good time to sit with the rest of the team to discuss the teaching plan for the first quarter. God bless you all,” Lydia dropped the bomb and headed out.
“Hi again,” Mark said. “Welcome on board. I didn’t know that you guys are interested in the Sunday School ministry,” I expressed my surprise. “I have always had something for kids. I didn’t hesitate when Lydia asked Hans and I to jump in and help out. Since you are the expert, any recommendations or tips from your end?” he questioned with sincere concern. “Well, nothing off the top of my head other than it requires a lot of time commitment. The kids are great and it’s a true blessing to serve them. However, they need a lot of attention and energy. If your heart is in it, you will be fine.” I looked around to see if Hans was still in the room. I didn’t feel comfortable standing with Mark for too long. “Where is Hans by the way? I don’t see him around,” I asked. “He has an errand to run and he had to leave right after the meeting,” Mark answered. “That’s fine. I guess we will not be able to discuss anything today anyway. I have an errand to run as well,” I claimed with a worried face. “Everything alright with you?” Mark questioned. “While I was trying to park my car this morning, it got stuck in the mud. It is in a miserable condition and I have to take it to the car wash.” I said as I was getting my keys out of the purse and heading towards the door. “Oh, what a coincidence! I was actually planning on doing the same thing. My car is overdue for a wash as well. Where are you taking it to?” Mark asked. “Well, I tried that one place before. I had a decent experience. It’s about 14 miles away from here,” I replied. “No, no, no. That is too far. Let me take you to another place I know. Its only three miles away from church,” Mark offered.
I stood there, in the middle of the classroom, with my mouth wide open. My car was in a poor shape as was my heart. However, the later was torn between seizing the opportunity of hanging out with Mark even if it was for a few minutes in a car wash; or to cut it dry early on and decline his offer nicely to eliminate any complications or drama in the future, especially that we were going to face one another every single week from now on. While I was deeply thinking trying to make a decision, he took two steps forward, opened the door for me and said: “Shall we?” I nodded my head and with a half-smile, I asked him to send me the address. He refused and said: “Just follow me. I will make sure you won’t lose me again.” The word “again” hit me in the face. I kept thinking what he might have meant by saying so. Seven minutes later, we reached our destination. While I was getting out of my car, Mark stepped forward and went ahead of me to pay for both cars. As most Egyptians do, we kept arguing about who should pay the bill. The cashier looked confused at us. Probably, he didn’t get to see such a scene that often. Finally, I gave up arguing after he reminded me that he was “the man” who happened to be half-Egyptian.
While we were waiting for our cars in the waiting room, he initiated the following conversation; “Congratulations to your friend by the way, I saw his engagement pictures the other day.” “What friend?” I wondered. “Your friend who drove you to D.C. one time and you insisted to ride back with him,” he clarified. “Oh! Yes. You are right. He got engaged to one of my friends actually. I am so happy for both of them.” “May I share a little secret with you? But, you need to promise me that it should remain between us,” he made this point clear. “Sure, what’s up?” I said. “For the longest time, I thought that you and him were together.” At this moment, Mark started to open up and unintentionally reveal what I already knew in my heart for so long. “Together? What do you mean?” I asked while gnashing my teeth. “I thought you were in a relationship with him. I even asked one of my friends who was there with us that day, and he confirmed my thoughts,” Mark went on explaining. “Oh, is that why you stopped talking to me all of a sudden?” I questioned him with an aggravated tone. Trying to clear his voice, he replied; “Yes. I did not like the fact that we were both talking and about to get serious, then I discover that you are already in a relationship with someone else.” What he said pissed me off and I just could not hold it anymore. “Who told you that I was in a relationship with that person? You are the one who came up with this assumption. And, to verify your thought, instead of asking me directly, you asked your friend. Whose fault is this?” “Yes, you are right. I should have asked you. I should have been more open with you. But, you too became very different with me lately. All of a sudden, you disappeared and almost ignored me completely. How would I not interpret your sudden change that way? I am not blaming it on you nor am I avoiding taking responsibility, but your indifferent attitude had a lot to do with my interpretation.”
At this moment, I didn’t know what to tell Mark. Even though I was provoked by his unfounded assumption, he was still right about my unjustified behavior. However, I struggled to tell him the truth. First, I didn’t want to reveal the identity of the person who warned me from him. Second, I didn’t feel comfortable sharing what that person accused him of. Finally, I didn’t want him to think that I took the easy route and ran away instead of seeking confrontation. While I was in the midst of this vicious justification circle, Mark interrupted me and said; “You still didn’t give me one legitimate reason to your indifferent stance with me. I think I deserve an explanation.” I looked straight in his eyes and when I was about to say something, they called us to pick up the cars. I took my keys, turned to him to shake his hands and said; “Thank you so much for everything. I will see you next week.” I didn’t wait for him to respond. I took my car and left heading home. I was so overwhelmed by what he shared with me so far. I wanted to process what just took place. Moreover, I wanted to think of a decent way to share my side of the story without causing any trouble.
One week had passed since I last talked to Mark. He didn’t try to communicate with me during that time. I didn’t know if he was upset or if he respected my desire to be silent. The following Sunday, I went to church as usual, attended my Sunday School class and went to the servants meeting after. I was so happy to see Mark there. We didn’t get a chance to talk or even say hi before the meeting. Meanwhile, I had already made up my decision. I was going to tell him the full truth without revealing the identity of the person. I felt it was the right thing to do. After the meeting, I approached him and asked if we could talk for ten minutes. We sat aside in the church and I told him everything. I shared with him my shocking reaction when I was told that he was a player. I told him about my concerns and fears. I expressed my anxiety for having no experience in relationships and that I was not willing to risk my reputation, emotions or even time with someone who was not serious nor responsible. I told him that I had no guts to confront him, at the time, because there was no format to our relationship. I kept on justifying myself and to my surprise, Mark was not shocked nor upset. It seemed like he knew exactly who that person was.
With an open heart and mind, Mark shared with me the background behind that person’s story which made much more sense than the other version. What I thought was going to take just ten minutes, lasted for an entire day. We ended up hanging out together for the first time ever. He shared a lot about his upbringing, family, work and even friends. On the other side, I found myself telling him about my life in Egypt and how I moved to the States. We both were enjoying each other’s company. The world had stopped around us. Time was just a number hanging on the wall until we realized it was already 9:00 PM. “Time flies with you,” was a text sent from Mark’s cell as soon as I made it home that night. A series of similar messages and phone calls followed. Shortly after, he asked me one day if I could meet with him during my lunch break. We sat for ten minutes in his car. He asked me if we could fast and pray for three days before he would officially ask me out. On our first date, on June 26, 2015, he met with my parents to ask for their permission and blessing beforehand. Our courting journey lasted for one year until he proposed to me on June 26, 2016, in the Bishop Garden in Washington D.C. A year and three months later, we got married on September 9, 2017.
During this beautiful journey, I got to see God’s work clearly in both of our lives. It was revealed to me that our two years of separation was part of God’s plan. During this time, God had cornered, squeezed and delivered both of us. Finally, the pieces started to come together. I knew then why I had to go through so much pain. All of a sudden, the pastor’s talk flashed-back in my head. What made no sense five years ago, made absolute sense now. If it was not for my physical brokenness that led to my emotional breakdown, I would have never been able to enjoy God’s precious gift today. If God had not allowed my foot to get fractured that night, I would have not had any issues at work that would force me to go on a retreat to sit with God and meet Mark. Not only that, but also if that person would have kept their silence or even if Mark would have not thought that I was indeed in a relationship with that other guy, we could have probably courted for some time and eventually broke up due to mutual immaturity at the time.
Today, I am a grateful wife and happily married to the most godly, humble, respectful, decent, loving, compassionate and responsible man I have ever met. It is proven to me that only through absolute brokenness, we get to experience victory and appreciate full restoration. God had allowed every kind of brokenness to penetrate my life in order to prune my heart desires. If it was not for the hurt, pain and suffering, I would have never come to my knees asking for the Lord’s deliverance. While God intended to break the self, the ego, and all different types of idols I relied on, His gentle hands were always there binding up and lifting high. I am beyond thankful for getting gently broken by the Lord as it was my only gate to experience victory, healing and liberation. “For He bruises, but He bandages up; He wounds but His hands make whole.” Job 5:18.
It is finished.