The “I AM” series tells the story of God - one name at a time. The Bible contains the stories of thousands of individuals who all searched for meaning, purpose, and an understanding of who they really were. And in discovering God’s identity, they discovered their own. Here we echo those discoveries with the tale of our own journeys to discover the great “I AM.”
July 11, 2014 used to be the worst day of my life. My fiancé and I were having issues in our relationship, but my perception was that we were on the mend. Things seemed to be going well that week, and I had no inclination that anything was wrong. It was Friday, and I made my way to meet him at his parents’ house, looking forward to the weekend we were going to spend together.
But my optimism soon turned to dread.
On the back patio of his parents’ house, my fiancé told me simply that it wasn’t going to work out. This wasn’t happening. This wasn’t real. I got down on my knees to beg him to change his mind, but he wouldn’t.
My hopes and dreams for the future were shattered in an instant, and I walked through the pain of my new reality in the weeks to follow. I moved my things out of the place we were living in. I returned the engagement ring to my ex-fiancé at the new apartment he moved into without me. I told my bridesmaids and close friends that the engagement was off. My parents canceled the reservation at the wedding venue and got only a portion of the deposit back. And not long after all of that, my ex started dating again.
My life fell into a pit of darkness. As I wrestled with how I was going to move on, I couldn’t wrap my head around why a loving God would allow this to happen. I wasn’t close with God at the time, and I didn’t know how to have a relationship with him. Little did I know that God was working in this failed engagement and using it to teach me something about himself.
In the Bible, Jesus gave himself an interesting title. He called himself “the good shepherd” (John 10:11). He didn’t mean that he herded sheep. Rather, he used the title metaphorically to illustrate two characteristics.
First, shepherds guide their sheep. Without the direction of a good shepherd, sheep can wander straight into danger. The sheep don’t understand that they’re walking into danger and probably get frustrated when the shepherd tries to redirect them. Shepherds sometimes use goads, which is a spiked stick that is used to prod an animal. A goad can be painful, but it helps the sheep get back on the right path.
Second, shepherds must be prepared to sacrifice their life for the sheep. When predators come, shepherds must protect the sheep. This sometimes means dying to save the flock. (Life as a shepherd is far from easy.)
So what does this have to do with me? Well when my engagement ended, God was redirecting me toward a better path. I loved that man, but the relationship was not good for me. I was blind to the fact that I was not loved or respected the way I should have been. I was not going to leave on my own, so God allowed the wedding to be called off. It was painful like a goad, but I later learned that I was being led toward a life of more fulfillment than I could have ever imagined.
And like a shepherd who sacrifices his life for the sheep, Jesus laid down his life for me. I loved my ex-fiancé—and other men and relationships for that matter—more than I loved God. I put them first in my life, and God knew that idolizing something so temporary would ultimately hurt me. It would lead me to a broken relationship with him. But Jesus didn’t want me to be separated from him for eternity. So, he died in my place so that I could be reconciled to him. There is no greater love than this sacrificial love.
July 11, 2014, used to be the worst day of my life. But now I look back at that day thankful that God allowed me to walk through the pain of a breakup. Like a good shepherd, he redirected me and sacrificed himself for the mistakes I made. When life takes an unexpected turn, I can trust that the Good Shepherd will guide me through it.
Lindsey Monsivais is a former journalist who lives in Texas with her husband and miniature dachshund. She loves using writing as a tool to teach others about God’s love.