It was the love story of a Catholic girl’s dreams.
I met Greg* my senior year of college doing a month-long mission trip in Hawaii with other college students. We were quickly drawn to each other as we led retreats, vacation Bible school and did sidewalk counseling and prayer outside abortion clinics. It’s pretty hard not to fall in love at first sight when you see your hearts both come alive for the same things.
Soon after the mission, we were officially dating. Despite the ups and downs after graduating and beginning graduate school, our relationship only grew and matured. We met each other’s families, started making plans, and before we knew it, two years had passed. He proposed beautifully, and I wholeheartedly said yes. We excitedly made plans for our life together enjoying God’s will for our lives finally unfolding.
And then, after putting down a deposit on an apartment in New York, attending an engagement retreat together and buying the perfect wedding dress, just three weeks before the big day—he called it off.
He called me and said he was having serious doubts about marrying me and that he felt God wanted something else for him. I was shocked, confused and heartbroken. I never saw Greg again after that conversation.
I was devastated not only to lose my best friend, but also the plan I thought God had for us. It seemed like God wanted us to be together…until he didn’t. I felt deserted and was angry at both God and Greg. How could God do this to me after bringing us to this moment?
I had a lot of questions and not a lot of answers. Maybe “God’s will” wasn’t meant to be after all?
The months that followed after my breakup were dark, full of confusion and doubt about God and his faithfulness. All I could do was take one day at a time and trust that somehow God had a good plan for me. It was the hardest time in my life. Healing both from the relationship and the disappointment of what seemed like God taking away something good took a lot of time and grace. I was so angry. But I tried to be as faithful as I could.
Prayer, time and good people were the best healers for me. My prayer during this time was always that God have mercy, heal me and give me peace. I didn’t get any big responses, but I did get lots of little ones along the way.
I decided to move to Denver, Colorado to be near some friends and get a fresh start. I got a job as a therapist for at-risk teens and their families. It was perfect for me in that it gave me purpose and helped me get out of my head by serving others. As time passed, I was finding that God was slowly healing my broken heart.
And then, on my 25th birthday, something happened. At my birthday dinner, a friend invited the man who would be my future husband, Jonathan.
After a fun night swing dancing with friends, I was gathering my purse and getting ready to drive home when Jonathan asked if he could walk me to my car. “No thanks,” I said. Something in me had a knee-jerk reaction to push away a guy that could even be remotely interested because I was afraid.
But on the road, Jonathan pulled up next to me at a stoplight and asked me if I wanted to get something to eat. I agreed. As we talked, we realized that we had both previously been engaged to other people and completely understood the other’s pain and doubts that were left from the wound.
It’s hard to explain in words, but I felt we understood each other on many levels. Within a few hours, I was pretty sure that I was going to marry him, and of course, the thought of it scared me. While I thought he was more than I could have ever asked for in a husband, it was hard to trust that I wouldn’t get hurt again. Still, our relationship moved forward smoothly, and as we both struggled with fears, we worked through them together and prayed for healing.
After about 10 months of dating, he proposed by washing my feet to symbolize Christ’s love for his disciples. It was a beautiful surprise, and without hesitation, I said yes to this man that I knew God had brought to me. It was so clear to me that God had his hand in our relationship from our first conversation. We married eight months later in a beautiful cathedral downtown and were surrounded by our closest friends.
It’s been nine years now, and three sons later, I look back on my experience of coming into my vocation with gratitude.
Meeting and dating Jon brought about tremendous healing, and was, to this day, the greatest consolation and gift God has given me. It was hard at first to trust that the same thing wouldn’t happen again, but I took it one day at a time and tried my best to trust God and Jon.
If I ever saw Greg again I would tell him, “Thank you. Thank you for being brave enough to break off our engagement. God had a better plan for both of us that we could never have known back then.”
Now, Jonathan and I help run Engaged Encounter retreats for our diocese and share our story, encouraging couples that marriage isn’t always easy, and love is a decision you make every day. But God is always present with the graces we need. If ever you experience fear in your relationship because of past hurts, bring it to Jesus. Go to a good therapist if you need it. Be honest with your current boyfriend about your fears. God is a loving Father that wants what’s best for us. This is something that’s hard to accept when things don’t go as planned, but it’s real and true.
Whatever his plan is, even if it isn’t what we thought he wanted for us, we can trust that it is far bigger and better than anything we had in mind.
Diana Anderson is a mother of three boys. She enjoys making her house a home, volunteering in her kids’ classrooms and is always trying to be intentional about bringing the Catholic faith into everyday life.
Therese Bussen is a wife, mama and freelance writer and poet who lives in Western Kansas. Youcan follow her work on Instagram, @mrsbussen.
Diana and Jonathan on their wedding day photos by Jimmy Breen.
*Name has been changed for privacy.