Written By Julie Schwab, USA
One morning last summer, I rolled over and looked at my phone. One new message. I smiled. It was from a guy who took me to dinner the night before.
I sighed in contentment and sat up. The new room around me was finally starting to feel more like home. I was staying with an extended family member. She had offered me the room when she discovered I had an internship in town (three hours from home) and needed a place to stay.
She was a great host. We had meals together, talked about sewing projects, and she even took me to a graduation party where I had the chance to meet some of her family members. Things couldn’t have been better.
That afternoon, after work, I headed to my college campus where I would meet up with the guy I was hoping to continue dating. I had some time before he got off work, so I strapped on my roller blades and headed out for a few laps around the pond.
On the roughest patch of sidewalk, I could see him in the distance. He smiled and waved. “Hey, you’re almost as tall as me.” He laughed as I made my way up to him. “I kind of like it.”
I forced myself to just smile, butterflies exploding in my stomach. “Aren’t you supposed to be working?”
“Oh, I just had to go grab something.” He glanced over my shoulder. “I’m spreading mulch over there. I’ll be done in about an hour, so we can do something then.”
“Sounds good, I’ll let you get back to work.”
We waved and I took off again, rounding the corner of the pond and hitting a smooth stretch of concrete. I glanced back to see if I could still see him, but some trees were in the way. I smiled to myself and let the warm air brush past me. The idea of a new relationship was all I could think about. After being single my entire life, the thought was hard to grasp—almost too good to be true.
My foot suddenly twisted to the side, my body off balance. I flung my arms into the air, but my feet kept sliding under me.
My hands hit the ground first but did nothing to brace my fall. The right side of my face and head smacked the cement.
I pushed myself up. My glasses were lying a few feet in front of me. I grabbed them and looked them over in amazement. They weren’t broken. But my head . . .
I pulled my unharmed phone out of my back pocket and looked at my reflection in the screen. Blood streamed from a cut near my eyebrow. My whole face was throbbing and everything hurt.
I needed help.
Embarrassed, I resolved to avoid seeing my guy friend again and headed to campus services where I knew someone who could help me.
I called a friend who took me to the emergency room where we discovered I did not have a concussion but had sprained my wrist. I had to wear a splint for the next couple of months.
The days following the fall, I felt like I got hit by a bus—it hurt to move anything. But things were okay, I was well taken care of. My parents called me to encourage me from home and that first night, my best friend called me to make sure I would wake up (as the doctor suggested).
My parents were in the area that weekend, so they came to visit me. I couldn’t wait to see them! But while they were there, we had a misunderstanding with the relative I was living with, and she stopped talking to me. A week later, I moved out.
The housing staff on campus graciously let me move into an apartment there, but of course it was at a high price.
I liked the new place, but I shared an apartment with a girl who was gone almost all the time and when she was around, she hardly said a word to me. On the rare occasion I did see her, she only came out of her room to make dinner, then disappeared again.
The guy I hoped would be my boyfriend stopped talking to me with no explanation. I was confused and hurt. I had hoped we could at least be friends. I suddenly felt extremely alone.
For the next month, I babied my injuries and tried to connect with my friends back home, but they were all too busy to talk. My mom offered encouragement, saying God was teaching me something and giving me suggestions on how to occupy my time, but it didn’t take away the emptiness I felt. I wanted someone to talk to other than her and God.
I put on a brave face to try to convince those around me that life was still great and I loved being on my own, but the ache of feeling unwanted wouldn’t leave, and the long hours of free time I had after my internship only seemed to get longer.
One afternoon, I finally dropped to the floor in tears. “God, why are You allowing this to happen? I know You put me here for a reason, and I’m grateful for this internship, but why does it have to hurt so badly? I want to trust You—and I do—but You’re making it really, really hard. Please send me a friend. I know You love me, but I need You to prove it.”
I spent the rest of the summer learning how to be alone—something I hoped I’d never have to do. But it was a blessing, because it taught me how to entertain myself. It allowed me to take up scrapbooking and photography, and to spend more time practicing the guitar. During that time, I also learned to praise God through the mess and drew nearer to Him.
Eventually, God provided me with a friend who was somewhat of a mentor to me. We talked a lot about friendships and relationships, and it helped me look at each with a different perspective. I met with her weekly and, although I was often still lonely, I felt God healing me.
It was a rough summer, but I wouldn’t have learned what I did if it wasn’t. It helped shape who I am today. During the following semesters in school, there were many moments when I felt completely alone, but I was able to trust God better through it knowing that no matter how much it hurt, He was still taking care of me and has a plan that’s beyond my imagination.
Recently, I was able to encourage a friend going through her own difficult situation. I could confidently tell her that even though this season of her life doesn’t make sense and it feels like she isn’t learning anything from it, she will look back one day and see God working in it.
The most important lesson I learned through that time is that life isn’t always perfect and doesn’t always go how we plan. We can be in the middle of something amazing—for me it was the opportunities my internship provided—and have things still falling apart around us, but through it we can depend on God and trust Him to take care of us. Even in the chaos, He’s still working. If life went smoothly, we wouldn’t grow.