I asked for God to give me a sign… He gave me a building-sized billboard.
Joey and I kept in touch and would talk to and see each other now and then, but it was clear that she was headed in one direction and I was headed in the other. And just as she had told me: if the timing had been different, things might’ve worked out for us.
I was okay with that. I really was. I didn’t expect anything, especially anything good. It was too good to be true, and that made it easy for me to dismiss. If something like this happened (or almost happened) in years past, I would’ve been stressing over it. Working every angle to try to make it happen. But that’s not where I was. God had me somewhere different. I had been putting my future in His hands and was feeling good about leaving it there. I have a feeling that’s part of why it came to be in the end… because I was okay with it, even if it didn’t.
Maybe that’s how God’s logic works. You have to be okay with not having something to be given it. I think about that often: God’s logic. Things like… he who is least is greatest. Whoever is last is first. Give it away if you want to keep it. Die to really live. It doesn’t really make sense on paper, but it works. And that’s all that matters.
I got a call from Joey on Valentine’s Day. It was late morning, and she said that she had broken up with the doctor. That he was supposed to come down that weekend but was too busy with work. She had given him three chances, and this had been his third and final chance. They were over. She said if I wanted to spend time with her, she was available and would like that. The vet clinic she worked for was having a little Valentine’s get-together that evening, and she wanted to know if I’d like to come with her. As her date.
I didn’t really have to think about it. I knew the answer.
I hung up the phone and called the girl I was dating and told her it was over. We just didn’t work out. I know that probably hurt her, but we had been dating only a short while. God had just moved a mountain, right in front of me. And I was going to see what was on the other side.
I spent the evening with Joey, her coworkers, and the doctors she worked for. They were all wonderful. I could see that they loved her. Joey was a hard worker and incredibly devoted to her job. To anything she committed to. But I also learned that when she turned a corner and was finished with something, such as her ex-boyfriend, she never looked back. I filed that away. This is a woman who means business. She won’t break up with me and later want to get back together, letting drama run her life and mine for months on end as it had in the last couple of relationships I’d had. For Joey, commitment was a one-time thing. I could tell with her, things were gonna be different.
The truth is, Joey wasn’t what I was looking for. I’m ashamed to say that, but it’s true. I had always dated voluptuous women, and Joey was tall and thin. With the girls I dated I had always felt a physical chemistry first (part of the reason why I made bad choices), and then I looked to see how compatible we were afterward. With Joey, I wasn’t really feeling the chemistry. It was more about the strange magic and the circumstances surrounding her that enamored me. And I knew that if this were to turn into a forever thing, forever is a long time to go without chemistry and deep attraction for someone.
I asked my sister Candy about it and told her my dilemma. She had been following our progress since the first time I’d called her after our truck-stop meeting, and she was excited to see this next step that Joey and I were taking.
She asked me, “What if what you really need is something that you don’t know you need?” She continued, “What if what’s on the other side of this is the greatest love and chemistry you’ve ever felt… even though you might not feel it right now?”
I responded, “But what if it isn’t?” Something inside of me was telling me that Joey was the one, but I still wasn’t completely sure. I needed a sign. I wanted one. So I prayed that God would send me a sign. That He would show me, clearly, that she was the one for me.
I was playing another show at the Bluebird Cafe, and Joey was there with me and Candy. Joey’s mother was in town visiting her and was there also. Near the end of the show, Joey got up and sang “Nothing to Remember” with me. Afterward, she and her mom invited us to come to Joey’s apartment for coffee and some dessert. As we sat in her apartment, we started talking about our childhoods, about how we’d gotten interested in music. Joey said that her mom and dad sang while she was growing up and that her dad played guitar. I said, “My dad played guitar when I was growing up.”
She said they used to sing songs that she didn’t know… songs from long ago that her parents grew up on. I said, “My dad sang songs that I never heard on the radio, songs from long ago too.” Then I asked Joey, “Like, what kinda songs?” And she picked up the guitar sitting by her chair and played the chorus of “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You.”
My sister started crying. She got up out of the rocking chair where she was sitting and ran to the bathroom. Chills were rolling down my back. Joey stopped singing and said, “What’s wrong?” She had no idea what she had just done. But Candy knew, and so did I.
My father only knew about ten songs that he played and sang on guitar. He probably knew more, but there were only about ten that he sang most of our childhood. The one we heard the most was Jim Reeves’s “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You.” Recorded originally in the 1950s, Dad sang it our whole lives. And when my father died in 1988, it was the only song played at his funeral. That’s why Candy was crying.
I never questioned if Joey was the one for me again. Ever. I just trusted that God had brought her into my life for a reason, and He would show me how and why and everything else I needed to know when the time came.
Within a few weeks Joey and I were talking about marriage. I don’t know why; we just did. We barely knew each other, but we knew we were made for each other and that was enough. Joey wanted to be married. She always had. I would learn that marriage was part of what would make her world complete. And as well as her music or life was going, she wouldn’t be fulfilled until she was a wife with a husband to love and take care of.
I knew this relationship was different, and to protect it, I wanted to do things differently. Be different. Joey did too. I had a past. A long list of sins and habits that still wanted to be part of my life. Joey had a very short list. She wasn’t perfect. She’d made some mistakes. Had a few regrets, but nothing compared to mine.
We committed to doing the right thing. To waiting until we were married before we would consummate our relationship. By then, I was almost thirty-seven, and Joey was twenty-six. I had lived a lot of life, and that physical intimacy had been a big part of relationships, and my life, for a long time. I even had two kids. To try to be with someone without “being with” someone wasn’t gonna be easy. But I also knew that’s how God said it was supposed to be. And it was something I’d never tried before.
Maybe it would make a difference. If we honored Him, maybe He would honor our relationship.
Excerpted with permission from This Life I Live by Rory Feek, copyright Rory Feek.
Author photo credit Bryan Allen.
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“I had been putting my future in His hands and was feeling good about leaving it there.” What about you? Are you in the place of giving your life and whatever the outcome ends up being to God? I’ve always said that and thought it was true, but recently have come to realize that I hadn’t fully put my life in His hands. Do you relate with that? Rory and Joey’s story is a beautiful one in light of God’s goodness and mercy, even through heartbreak and tragedy. Is that true for you, too? Come share with us on our blog. We would love to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full