From Brighton to Israel
Picture this. You're getting married in two months. You've already quit your job and now God's telling your wife-to-be to quit hers too. Your current accommodation is soon coming to an end but all God's telling you to do is wait and do nothing. That multi-million-pound lottery win still hasn't come through (forget the fact you didn't actually enter) and Jesus is showing no signs of coming back any time soon. Well, that was us in the run-up to our wedding.
Let me set the scene. Melissa and I met in September 2018, the month I moved to Brighton. As the sun started to rise on 2019 (figuratively speaking), two things were certain in my mind. I knew I wanted to quit my job in the summer and, even more importantly, I knew I wanted to marry Melissa. My resolve to act on the former would ensure that whatever I did, the coming September would carry an air of uncertainty. So I figured, in for a penny in for a pound, let's get married as well and then at least Melissa and I can be uncertain together. Poor girl didn't know what she was getting herself into.
We got engaged in February 2019, giving ourselves six months to attempt to work out what life would look like after the wedding. I'll be honest, I was completely out of ideas. The job I was doing, a 'push the door on a career and see if it opens' kind of thing, had repelled my efforts to such effect that if I could I would have given the door to Mike Wazowski to be shredded and never seen again. Melissa was working as a freelance tutor, a job she enjoyed but not as a 'forever' kind of job. So with September looming, and no sense of where we would live or how we would support ourselves, Melissa and I started praying, asking God to show us what His plans were and what we were to do.
We very quickly felt that God had something planned for us, and that all He wanted us to do was wait and resist the urge to panic. This instruction was not made easier to follow by the lack of details regarding what we were waiting for. The only specific instruction He gave us at this time was directed at Melissa, telling her to quit her job (which meant handing over a sizeable clientele of music students she had built up over the years). It was another uncomfortable step of faith we knew we had to take, but it still brought us no closer to clarity on where we were heading.
There was a moment in July where I think the craziness of what we were doing started to hit us both. In two months we would be on our honeymoon, as things stand with no job or house to come back to. We'd be pitching a tent in someone's garden and raising our children on a strict diet of grass and garden insects - not exactly the scenario most women dream of when they think of married life. Desperate for some answers we continued to seek God's voice, and finally we started to get some more direction.
We sensed that God wanted us to go away for six months. That at least made sense of why we weren't looking for jobs and houses. Another evening we were praying together and Melissa suddenly said, "It's Israel! God wants us to go to Israel!" This idea of going to Israel immediately stuck in our minds and hearts, in a way nothing else had up to that point - it felt like we had finally seen a glimpse of the path God was leading us down. It was exciting, but didn't begin to answer all the questions we still had.
Later that week, as I continued to mull over whether Israel was the right destination, I asked God for a verse to confirm Melissa's word. Normally when I do this I end up with some wildly unhelpful verse telling me to slaughter my neighbour's cattle (or something of that ilk), but I figured it'd be worth a go. So I sat down and asked God for a verse - and into my mind popped Ezekiel 17.
Now, before I go on any further, let me backtrack slightly and give some context. In the earlier months of our engagement, when praying about what we would be doing in September, God had given me a picture of an eagle on a runway. I saw us getting off a plane and being carried off by this heavenly eagle to a huge mountain. I saw other eagles circling this mountain, and sensed it was a place where we were to have an audience with the King. Up to this point it had been an 'exciting but not that helpful' picture, but nonetheless one that felt significant and continued to remain vivid in my mind.
You can now hopefully appreciate the excitement I felt when I opened up my bible to Ezekiel 17 and read the heading 'Two eagles and a vine'. Promising. I read through the chapter, and verses 22-23 jumped out at me: "This is what the sovereign Lord says: I myself [like an eagle] will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it... on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it."
I remember laughing in disbelief as I read this. I was staggered at how this passage resonated with my picture of the eagle. This could only mean one thing - we were going to Israel! God confirmed this to both of us for a third and final time a week later. As we were worshipping together I felt God saying to us "From Israel to America, I'll meet you there." We started singing through Ezekiel 47, about the river that flows out of the temple and down towards the Dead Sea - another passage that closely mirrored a picture we'd had. We were greatly encouraged when we later realised that that very day was 47 days until our wedding!
This is where God really started to show off. Don't forget that we were less than seven weeks away from the wedding. Granted, we now had something resembling a road map (six months away, three in Israel and three in America), but we still had no idea what we'd be doing other than it would be in Israel. We started to investigate potential places to go in Israel, and were quickly drawn to a place called Succat Hallel, a House of Prayer in Jerusalem. They were offering a three month internship, and even more amazingly the internship started the day we were due to get back from our honeymoon! I was reminded again of my picture of the eagle on the runway, which so clearly had been pointing us to something that would begin straight after our honeymoon. The building itself was at the foot of Mount Zion, just as in God's promise to us from Ezekiel 17. God had known all along, and it was amazing to see all of the pictures He'd given us start to make sense as the way opened up before us. We applied to the internship and were accepted, and in the end were able to ask our wedding guests to give towards our time away in Israel.
We got married on 31st August, spent two weeks in Italy on our honeymoon, and then on 17th September 2019 flew out to Israel for an unforgettable three months. We still had no idea what we'd be doing in America - but we were in awe of God's faithfulness and how He had taken care of us and led us down a path we would have never thought to go down. There was wisdom in the waiting and there was such grace in the process.