When The Puzzle Piece Doesn't Fit - Finding God When Doors Close
There are some nights that you remember, that your brain saves every detail about the way they feel.
That night was one of them.
The white cinder block apartment on the third floor was just too small and hot that June evening, like a too-small jacket that I desperately wanted to take off but couldn’t seem to get out of.
I paced. I sat down. I paced some more.
And after I drove my roommate completely crazy, I found myself sitting out on the three-paces- wide balcony, tears dripping on the white stone floor.
“God, I don’t understand. I thought you brought me here. And now I feel trapped.”
“Here” was overseas in general, but it was supposed to be England, a country I’d loved and lived in for two years to the day — the day my visa ran out and I’d had to fly home.
It was a long story, but through things that could only be explained as God’s hand shutting every possible door for a residency visa, I just couldn’t seem to get back there.
I began to wonder if I was going to be staying in the Middle East, where I’d been living in a holding pattern in my white concrete apartment. But just about the time I said aloud that I was okay with that instead, I found out that was a no go, too. My employer really wasn’t sure what to do.
I’d become the puzzle piece that didn’t fit anywhere, and that’s why that apartment felt so tight that night.
“I know You called me here,” I whispered at the dark desert sky from my tear-stained seat on the balcony floor. “But I don’t know what to do. I’ll do anything. Really, anything. Everything is on the table, just like it was when I came here. Just show me, and I’ll do it.”
The next morning, I got an email with a book offer.
It couldn’t have been weirder.
It might sound exciting, but to me at the time, it felt like an even tinier and hotter jacket. “God, going back to the States and writing a book sounds even more out of my comfort zone than living in the Middle East. I don’t like being out in public. I also don’t want to become the poster child for how singles can make their life fun.”
I remember whispering those words that morning because I knew why that email had come my way … a blog I’d written a few years before, one that talked about letting go of your dreams of marriage in order to chase God without anything holding you back.
And I was hesitant.
No … I was scared.
But I took the conference call that afternoon, and with my friend Abi helping me take notes, we listened to everything they had to say.
“So … you don’t want it to be a book on singleness then?” I asked.
“No. We want it to be about who God is when your life doesn’t turn out the way you expected.”
I made eye contact with Abi over my laptop, and she grinned and whispered, “You might have some experience with that.”
I squeezed my eyes shut. And when the call was over, I groaned.
But before I had time to say much, Abi said this.
“Grace, the reason you came overseas was to tell people how Jesus can change your life completely, how He can give you joy and peace like no other in the midst of any circumstances. Even if you have to leave living overseas, if He gives you a different kind of platform to be able to say that, why would you ever say no?”
She was right.
Several years before that, God had absolutely wrecked my life in the best kind of way and stripped away thing after thing that was claiming my heart’s affection.
And when He was done, when His Word had soaked into my heart and changed the way I thought of Him — as the prize to be won rather than the means to the life I wanted — to say I was different was an understatement. And I wanted to tell as many people as I possibly could.
Marriage, kids, careers, vacations, houses — nothing can fulfill like He can. Not even close.
Grief, singleness, barrenness, war, crime, cancer — nothing can shake us when we’re buried in Him.
I wanted everyone to know that reading the Bible really can change your heart, really make you see God as the one life’s all about. It can change the way you believe about those things, but it can also change the way you feel about those things.
I wanted everyone to know it can be different. And He is worth it.
So that’s why I found myself back in America for the time being, suitcases in the closet, passport in the drawer. It’s so that, while this is where He has me, I can tell as many people as I can where to go for what they’re looking for. It’s in the pages of His Word, in the thread of His story.
And it’s just waiting for you to grab on.
Grace Thornton loves a good story. She believes that God writes the best stories, even when our lives may not look anything like what we imagined. As a storyteller and blogger, Grace has found her narrative taking her all over the world. She’s passionate about knowing God through His Word and encouraging others to discover Him and let Him write the story of their lives too. Her blog, gracefortheroad.com, received more than 2 million visits after her post “I Don’t Wait Anymore,” on living fully as a single person, went viral in 2012.