Loving The Unlikely (And How I Missed It)

He wasn’t different in the sort of mysterious-let-me-find-him-out sort of way. To me, his different wasn’t other, it was just wrong.

I was twenty-something and ambitious and full of all sorts of ideas about how life should be lived and, from the way he folded his clothes to how he spent his time, well, we might as well have been opponents. I used to wonder if my blindest moment was the day I thought I might marry that boy.

That was the day it all started, the day the twenty-something version of me began to end.

Tears leaked out of his eyes at the end of that aisle that felt like one long mile in the old Virginia church. I was stoic — embarrassed even — to have so many eyes curiously peering into the emotions between two in love, ones that I thought should’ve been bottled for a private moment, not a public showing. He was a bleeding heart and I was that bottle, capped.


I resented our differences and resented him for not being more like me. One-ness meant same-ness, to me, though only subconsciously. I was focused and driven. I siphoned days into minutes and life into measurements. I was always measuring something.

Nate was a bit of a free spirit. He loved to travel and stay up late over dinner with friends and made last-minute decisions often. He loved stories. He read literature. Though each of these things contributed to Nate’s private conversations with God and His worship, none were things I valued. So I naturally dismissed them.

One evening he pulled me outside of his little cottage on Rose Valley Farm to look up at the stars and I was trapped between the feelings that came from absorbing timeless beauty from the Creator God, and the discomfort of being in skin that didn’t know what to do when time stopped. I felt awkward, even. Where did this kind of thing fit in with my — our — ministry plans?

Plant MJ

This was our way and I assumed “different” would make us opponents until one of us changed. But my jaw was set. It wouldn’t be me.

Time and tug-of-war wore me down.

God used His tools to give me pause and ask what is it in me that’s contributing to this rift? Life stalled and so did my heart. I found that I was living under a wet blanket, in both my externals and on the inside. I couldn’t rally myself to drive my life any harder and much of what I put my hand to wasn’t quite working anymore.

It was easy to dismiss Nate’s ways when my life was working for me, but when God began to chip away at my pride in my methods (in the way He so masterfully does), my view of Nate began to change.

My value of this one, so different from me, came out of my own weakness. Where external strengths made us to be like opponents, my weakness opened my eyes to God’s perspective on Nate.

I didn’t start to value him out of duty, I needed him.

Candle Wheel

We took long walks and hiked the Blue Ridge and canceled ministry plans so he could pull out his guitar and we could just sing and worship. I began to read stories that awakened my heart to God. I unhooked my watch and slid it in the crack of the chair where I’d spend my morning “quiet times” — because now His Word was becoming alive to me, again. Much of this at the urging of this one whose free spirit I once saw as a hindrance to my growth in God.

It was at the hands of this same urging that I began to write.

piano mj

Where I once scrutinized the decisions he’d made as if his priorities were all askew, Nate was introducing me to a God who wanted to move me from being a worker to a daughter in love. Nate’s differences, to me, soon became other — beautifully other. I grew to value this man of God and his heart, though its outward expression was sometimes foreign to me. God was making us one, though still allowing for our differences.

He is a multi-faceted God.

His complexity is revealed in the man who quietly serves his wife and his family with a job that pays the bills but which doesn’t get him likes on Facebook. It shows up in the artist who spends long hours on one single painting — a picture God gave her in her sleep — only to add it to the collection in her closet that God, alone, sees. God’s complexity rings in the hollow cathedral as the pianist plays to a solitary Audience. He shows another angle in the single mom who ushers her children to take communion while still wondering if their Dad will ever return.


God is made for our searching — endless, always, every-single-day (and hour!) searching — and to ask Him to see value in another, so other, is to ask Him to reveal the array of His layers.

My day is populated with “Nates” — people, little and big, who aren’t like me (but who want to be like Him). It’s to the glory of God that I search Him out, in them.

The value in Nate is that he was another window by which I could search out God. Nate, in all the ways he was different from me, held another angle of God.

And without him I may never have picked up a pen to write.


For Your Continued Pursuit: John 17:20-23 | 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 | Proverbs 25:2 | Psalm 139 | Genesis 1:27

Photos compliments of Mandie Joy.