After many friends and family have encouraged us to start writing our story, we finally decided we need to just do it.
We were waiting for things to make more sense, for loose ends to be a little less loose, but we’ve realized it’s here in the mess of the middle pages of the story that we are really finding out who God is, who we are, and who we want to be.
We’re all in the middle of something—we hope that what we share here might be something you can resonate with, too.
If you don’t know us, we’re a couple with an absurdly elongated long-distance relationship. Jeandre is originally from South Africa and lives in England and Emily is American and lives in the US.
We met six years ago in England while Emily was living in the UK, and have been dating long distance for the past five years.
Five years exactly–since October 13, 2013. Since then, we’ve never once been together on an October 13th. Sharing this post today is especially poignant for us because this past week we were expecting to get a definitive answer regarding our visa application, but because of paperwork issues out of our control, we were instead told we still have to wait.
And so we are still waiting, holding our breath.
We’re still hoping we can get married in November, but with each day that goes by, it feels a little more crazy. We began the visa process in December 2017, and we had prayed to get married in July. When May came with no visa, we let go of that dream and began hoping for the fall.
Sometimes the mountains are taller than you thought.
We’ll tell more of our story as these posts go on, but the past six years have been pretty crazy–we’ve wrestled with what it means to love, what it looks like to hope, and what it takes to have faith as we’ve faced things together and individually on our different sides of the ocean.
We know long-distance isn’t the most relatable of situations, but we do know that at some point in our lives we have all had to make the decision to go the distance.
To stay in, to last, to keep going–because life can get really hard. It can feel like you are climbing through a mountain range with no end in sight and all you want to do is grit your teeth and close your eyes until the hard part is over. But after closing your eyes for long enough, you start to wonder whether you’re missing something.
This is where we found ourselves this summer. When we found out wouldn’t be able to get married in July like we hoped, we realized we couldn’t just keep holding our breath until the ‘hard part’ was over, because the hard part just kept getting longer, and we were exhausted.
We felt like we were in the mountains but could never seem to get through them. But we’d been trying to “just get through” for so long we started to feel like we can’t just keep waiting to live until it’s not so hard. If life isn’t on the other side of the mountains, how do we find it in the midst of them? We started to wonder what it would look like for our hearts to adjust to the altitude.
Maybe we were made for mountains.
When God brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, he tells them that “the land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for.” (Duet 11:10-12)
In Egypt, the Israelites knew how to farm, how to manage production and construction and take care of themselves. Life in Egypt was captivity, but with that system came stability and predictability: they knew who they were—slaves, and they knew what to do–work.
God was inviting the Israelites into the mountains where all their ways of doing life and taking care of themselves literally wouldn’t work because the geography prevented it. Here, where they cannot do what they did, they cannot be who they were.
God did not want to just rescue them from the place of slavery but from the identity of slavery that prescribed a life sustained by work. The Israelites knew planting, harvesting, working, and surviving, but God wanted to offer them freedom. A freedom they would only find it in the mountains where they would learn to trust, sustained by Him.
We’re not suggesting here that our struggles are authored by God. God is not the author of pain or disease any more than he is the author of the US Immigration law that won’t let us get married. These are not the mountains we were made for.
We were made for the journey and the adventure of discovering how high, how deep, how long, and how high the love of God is for us (Rom 8). Our muscles are designed to strengthen with resistance, and lengthen as they are stretched.
When our hearts are worked hard, they learn to beat easy. When we run until we have no breath, we build capacity to hold even more. We were not made for heartache and pain, but even these mountains can release strength and life inside us because our muscles were made to bear weight, to stretch, to tear, to grow, to strengthen.
These are not the mountains we were made for, but just as he guided the Israelites, God in his mercy promises to meet us here in these mountains he didn’t make so that even in the hills and valleys of heartache and pain, we can still experience the discovery of how high, how deep, how long, and how wide is the love of God as we learn to trust him.
This picture speaks to us in so many ways. Over the past five years, people often tell us “God is teaching you so much in this time.” It’s true, God has taught us a lot, but after five years we started to wonder what is wrong with us—what is it we haven’t learned yet that we don’t deserve to be together?
But God did not bring the Israelites into the mountains to learn a lesson—he brought them into the mountains to redefine their life. As we’ve begun to embrace the journey we’re on—we’ve started to see the hard things not as a test we can’t seem to pass but as an invitation to trust.
God is not testing us, he is inviting us to experience the freedom of trust. It is much easier to look for the lessons rather than relearn how to live, but Jesus said he came to give us life. An experience, not an explanation.
So what does it look like to embrace the mountains? First, we have to stop lugging around our gardening tools and looking for a place to plant our vegetable garden, because it’ll just stress us out.
We have to be willing to exchange what we know how to do to survive so God can redefine what it means for us live. Lean into the trail. There are muscles inside us we will find on the mountain road that we never knew we had.
Let our lungs adjust to the altitude.
Let our hearts wonder what is around the next bend.
There is a fullness of life in peaks and valleys that the flatlands just can’t beat.
We were made for mountains. When we round the bend to find the trail climbs even higher than we thought, may we seize the chance to see the love of God reach even higher.
Sometimes the mountains are taller than you thought.
See you on the road,
Emily and Jeandre
James 1:2 My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested[c] it stirs up power within you to endure all things. And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking. (TPT)
We believe the is made for mountains. May we live not to reach a destination AT longlast but find life as we #LongLast in the journey.