In April 2010, Stephen’s friend Erica communicated to him that she had been praying for him, and Karla kept coming to mind. She encouraged Stephen to get to know Karla and see what might come out of it. Stephen had met Karla a few times prior to this day, but the group event that particular night would be the first decent conversation in which the two had ever engaged. The evening was pleasant and nothing solid came out except that Stephen and Karla would now pursue a friendship. Stephen had been struggling quite a bit with a word given earlier in the year concerning marriage and was intent on discovering God’s plan for his life. After a month of friendship building and prayer, it was time to start including Karla in what Stephen felt like he heard from the Lord. On Memorial Day of 2010, the first meeting was set. It did not pan out for at least another month. Scheduling conflicts resulted in a month long back and forth conversation of when to get together. A wonderful lunch at Potbelly’s on June 19, 2010 yet Karla’s plans were still to have lunch and tell Stephen that she was not interested. Stephen’s affections for Karla grew despite her lack of reciprocity to participate in a pursuit toward marriage. Stephen was struggling for clarity on God’s plan once again.
Erica and Stephen decided it was a good idea to engage the Lord separately and reconvene after a few days. Stephen and Erica wanted to see if this really was what God had planned and if there was any mistake. After a reconvening, the words “life together” were agreed upon. There was a lot of excitement, but Stephen and Karla were not ready for the long road ahead. Following a season of intense conversations on the swings at various parks, Stephen and Karla finally came to a place of agreeing to disagree. The rejection experienced and the sanctification that resulted in both were quite powerful.
Throughout the entire summer and fall, God was growing and sanctifying both Karla and Stephen. Stephen needed some time to focus on his trip to China. Karla was being pursued by another man. It was clearly over in both of their eyes. The Lord had other plans. In January of 2011 Stephen realized his affections for Karla had not diminished. They continued to grow. Hers still remained the same. There was no desire in her heart to be with Stephen. During the spring months of 2011, Stephen continued to press into the Lord and inquire daily of the plans that God had. The desire for her remained. While Stephen did not understand why Karla was not interested, Karla could not understand why Stephen still was. God was knitting together a story reminiscent of Christ’s pursuit of the church.
Stephen’s pursuit was flawed in many ways and was by no means perfect. His view of God’s love toward him changed drastically. During the seasons of rejection, the Holy Spirit often reminded Stephen of how often he had rejected God and yet He still loved him. It was this relentless, steadfast love that God had for Stephen that shaped his pursuit of Karla. It was not anything in Stephen that caused this to happen. It was a desire to chase after God regardless of the pain and the cost because the same was done for him on the cross of Jesus. After another difficult conversation at the beginning of May, Stephen and Karla were once again not on speaking terms. It was devastating to both. Stephen felt like he had lost his best friend. Karla felt tremendously betrayed and hurt. Both were broken and crying out for Jesus to come and heal.
During the first week of June, God had plans to bring the two together. Neither knew this was happening, but God was orchestrating a story for His glory. Stephen got a word from the Lord on June 4th about the relationship that he and God share that no one else can truly understand. Karla got a word from a friend about praying for God to reveal the true intent of His plans for her and Stephen. During this week, Karla’s affections for Stephen grew, and Stephen’s desire for control over the pursuit were cast on the Lord. They were ready. On June 19th, 2011, exactly a year after that first meeting at Potbelly’s, Stephen and Karla decided to pursue a relationship that was headed toward marriage. It was an emotional weekend filled with many tears and praises to the Lord for all that He had done in each of their hearts. It was a joyously terrifying yet humbling event that God would choose to use both in this way to create a love story that gave neither one of them credit.
To Him be the glory.