Verdant

ra`anan

 

I once had a vision about my husband.

To be fair, I’ve had a few.

Some, I believe, were projections, wrought from my own longing.

Some, parables, I thought I could interpret, that I did not yet have eyes to see.

But there was one vision I held onto, through every ending relationship, and every test. One that I believed could actually be from God.

It came from a question, one day in prayer.

Can you show me a picture of what the gospel is like?

God doesn’t always oblige me my immediate requests, but this particular day, I had a vision.

 

I was standing in a simple linen dress, at the top of a village. I held a basket of bread. The street in front of me was cobbled and curved – stone stairs winding down with tightly packed houses rising up on either side.

As I walked down the stairs, people began to come out of their houses. I would greet them, and give them a piece of bread from my basket.

A few people said ‘Are you sure? You might want to eat this bread!’ – but I smiled and said ‘No, I’m on my way to feast, at the bottom of these stairs!’.

I then continued, a skip in my step, clearly excited to be descending to the banquet.

I gave away all the bread.

 

The vision then changed, and reset.

 

I was back at the top of the staircased village, but this time, a man was there too.

There was something invisible between us, something tying us together.

If he ran down the stairs, I ran. If he stopped, I could go no further. If he decided to turn around and walk back up, I could not tear the bond and stop him. I could not choose my own, better way. Whichever direction he moved in, I moved too.

In the vision, I held out my bread, keen to run down to the feast, but I couldn’t move.

The man didn’t want to go.

 

 

God held me, firmly, pressing the message in.

For those that are not familiar with the complexities of Christian marriage, it is worth mentioning that the relationship is both held as sacred, and also disarmed of its exclusive power – singleness is seen as a higher calling. The church has made an idol of marriage, and the scriptures continually discourage coveting it. It is recognised as a physical metaphor of Christ and the church, and a space of tangible love and joy. It is, however, suggested that the best way to pursue a relationship with God whilst married, is by marrying someone else who believes. It’s not a matter of judgment, but of freedom to live passionately.

I knew all this, but the vision gave me a different perspective.

When single, I could run as fast as I wanted toward Jesus.

If I married, I would be in partnership. I could only really run as fast as the man was willing to run. I could still believe, but my life could only be submitted to the degree that we both did.

This vision showed me exactly what was happening in a relationship I was currently in.

 

Previously, I’ve been blessed to date and get to know incredible people. The Christian men I met in the more recent years taught me so much about sexuality, love and conflict.

In choosing to date them, I could see the clear merits of these men, and figured that any difference in our expressions of faith could be reconciled by time, and some zealous conversations.

In some cases, God specifically told me that I wouldn’t end up with the person in question, but I persevered.

 

In those circumstances, I’ve been guilty of considering the conviction of the Holy Spirit as not unlike an application that keeps asking me to update.

Anna –

       Not now.

Hey, Anna –

      Remind me later.

You need to –

      Close window.

Please –

     Reset device.

 

We can override the advice of technology, because it doesn’t have emotions, doesn’t have context, and doesn’t understand. We can’t do that with God.

He is a person. He knows everything, and cares implicitly.

He communicates, through the beautiful riddle of the scriptures, and the Spirit, to gift us revelation, guidance and refinement.

 

In dating, I have experienced the writhing wrath of hearing God, and ignoring God. I have always found out the hard way.

This vision gave me a firm conviction:

The choices we make do not all have the same consequences.

I knew, from the fragility of my own independence, that the last thing left for me was to listen, and obey.

 

*

 

It was April 23 of 2016.

I was struggling.

I found an anonymous letter in my letterbox, reminding me that winter was simply preparing itself for spring.

My friend, Charlotte, offered me a word she felt was from the heart of God.

 

How handsome you are, my lover! Oh, how charming! And our bed is verdant. Song of Songs 1:16

 

Verdant.

It referred to a garden. Green, lush, open.

The word was about my husband. A man I had not met, and did not expect. Whom I’d tried to mold every other man into, unsuccessfully.

I took the word bitterly, and stored it in the secret basement of the heart reserved for hopes-that-should-not-be-named.

 

Then, someone else from my community had a vision, and the same word was given:

Verdant. I think it’s about your husband…

I brushed it off.

 

I did not need a husband.

Marriage was a distraction.

I needed to learn how to be alone.

 

So I bled life into my secret garden, and I sat with God, and I began to find that strange sensation where you fit within your skin, and the small things you fill each minute with are aligned with what you perceive to be good, and the faces you surround yourself with are those that glow with vision.

 

I prepared myself for a season in shared solitude.

I built community. I cultivated my friendships. I started making again.

I asked God to blind me, praying that if the man appeared, I would not realise.

I prayed that I wouldn’t feel that compulsion to climb inside a moving car and ask it to change direction.

I prayed that he would have to break down my walls, in order to reach me.

 

Of course, I had no idea what I had just prayed for.

 

*

On my 28th birthday, I invited my visionaries to a bar, and asked them to perform. They stood up, one after another, and sang, read poetry or danced. We cheered one another on. The space held new friends, and old. I laughed without the shackles of self-consciousness or fear, surrounded by true loves on every side.

One friend – Jonathan – came up to me with a bouquet of tulips.

He was quiet, younger – wistful. From the few months I’d known him, he seemed decent. I’d alerted a few of the single girls that he might be coming to the party.

He had moved down from Sydney, and quietly joined our community of artists, then the buoyant little church plant I was also attending.

As he handed me the flowers, something stung me.

I hadn’t received flowers in a long time.

They were fresh, wrapped in paper, bursting. He was grateful to be there, he said. There was something about his smile. Something overflowed from him. I paired him off with someone else and retreated.

Later, I placed the flowers on my desk, with a few other plants and vases. I took a photo, and labeled it.

 

Verdant.

 

*

 

I refused to date Jonathan for months.

Our story was fumbling. Awkward. Prideful.

 

He first asked me to dinner at a playreading, and I laughed at him. He did not relent.

Our friendship was punctuated by strange and forceful happenings. The circumstances kept throwing us together, as if watching to see if we’d stick.

It was my mission to make sure we didn’t.

 

He was leading people to the Lord, people we would then minister to together. We spent night after night in my living room, talking to new friends about the ways of Holy Spirit and encountering Him powerfully.

With Jonathan, I never felt the push and pull of wanting a man to notice or reach out to me. He was just there. He beheld me, almost unashamedly.

His feelings sat beneath a veneer of cheery, platonic friendship.

He pretended my rejections didn’t sting. I pretended to be oblivious.

I appreciated him, but I could not disable my critical eye. I was used to pursuing, not being pursued. I was waiting for a man with a real job, and a real vision. Someone I could introduce to my mother, and elicit an approving smile from her.

Jonathan just wanted to make films, and tell people about Jesus.

How simple-minded, I thought, burying the niggling part of me that desperately just wanted the same thing.

 

 

*

 

This is where things start to become mysterious.

Spiritual, even (as if they weren’t, before).

 

The dance had stretched out a number of months. I had given Jonathan another firm rejection, which even his friendship had wavered under. We hadn’t spoken in a week or so, but I found myself spontaneously turning up at his share-house one night, with a close friend who was moving into it.

After half an hour of us throwing passive-aggressive comments at one another, she snapped.

You two need to go outside and sort this out.

She prayed over us, on the spot, and we went to sit along the front fence in silence. The sun was setting, and we smoked a sheepish cigarette (neither of us are actually smokers).

Eventually he looked at me, pointedly.

You’ve been saying one thing and behaving differently. You need to make up your mind.

I went to protest ­– but I stopped. He was right.

We’d even kissed a few times, despite my claims of being completely disinterested. It was an ugly, ungodly to-and-fro of using and discarding.

I would say take some time, but I think you’ve had enough time.

We don’t have to get married, I don’t even have to be your boyfriend, but you could at least give me a chance.

I was taken aback. The reality was that I’d tried everything except date him, and yet he was still in my head, a lot. I hadn’t wanted to ask God about it. I was afraid of what He’d say.

Okay, let’s pray about it. Right here, right now.

It was almost a stab in itself, as I knew God spoke to him differently. He wouldn’t necessarily hear anything definitive.

But he agreed.

We sat on the fence, and we prayed. Almost immediately, I was in a vision.

I was on a cliff, and Jonathan was behind me, grinning. He did a run up and jumped off the cliff’s edge, pulling me with him. I screamed and struggled, as we landed in a river of warm honey. I was writhing around like it was poison, then slowly realised I was okay. He re-appeared in a little boat, and pulled me up into it. Steering us under a waterfall of water, he washed me clean, then wrapped me in a towel. I sat beside him, marveling at how he knew his way around this strange place. How calm I felt, how safe…

I can see a flower, glowing. That’s it.

Jonathan pulled me out of my prayer, impatient.

I sat in silence, anxious not to tell him what I’d seen.

God pressed Himself against my heart.

I am asking you to tell him.

 I slowly explained, trying to ignore how it made me smile.

Jonathan listened.

                   Don’t read into it or anything.

 I am definitely reading into it.

And he kissed me, right on the mouth.

 

 

*

As we learned one another, our worlds began to intertwine.

It wasn’t always fluid.

 

We came from different families, different dating backgrounds, different educations, different denominations.

We clashed, sometimes in dazzling public displays. Sometimes we worried, secretly, in the ears of friends and mentors, that the differences were too vast.

Every time we came back to our version of simplicity, however, the fears would go silent. Simplicity was when we shared meals with our friends, when we spent time singing together to God, and when we let go of our expectations and just listened to each other.

I learned that Jonathan was a man joy, integrity, and deep humility. He was earnest, and secretly held a wicked sense of humour.

I began to realise how I’d judged him – and perhaps not judged others so clearly. How I had previously accepted the love I thought I deserved.

Receiving ‘good love’ and not rejecting it, was a process of relearning. It meant feeling uncomfortable, and wanting to run, as Jonathan treated me with consideration, admiration, and adoration. I meant holding his heart tenderly, even when I wasn’t sure what to do with it.

Slowly, I started to experience the fruit of a balanced, healthy relationship.

 

A few months in, we decided to disappear into nature for a weekend.

I had been invited to Melbourne Cup, but my conscience stood in my way. I wanted to choose a weekend that was a microcosm of the rest of my life, not something I felt I needed to justify. So we booked a campsite in Wilson’s Prom, and Charlotte (the ever-faithful) agreed to come with us.

We arrived a few hours before sunset, and walked the deceptively winding path to Squeaky Beach.

We walked separately – Jonathan was furious at me about something, and well ahead.

I was also furious, as he had forgotten the blow up mattress.

We refused to speak to one another.

I hung back with Charlotte, wondering if this was where I learned why he and I wouldn’t work.

God pressed in.

This is where you learn how to endure. You don’t walk away from this one.

I grumbled internally.

 

Charlotte left us alone on the beach while we fought it out.

The problem, it turned out, was respect, on both sides. I was afraid of being silenced, and in that, choosing to belittle and silence him.

It wasn’t a small issue. We were upset, and pointing fingers, but at some point, the spirit of the argument shifted. We were, we realised, actually on the same side.

Reconciled, we walked back up the rocky cliff, as the sun sank over the water. We paused, and watched it. Jonathan held me closely, in his apology.

I remember looking over the deserted outcrop and knowing, right down to the bottom of the ocean in front of me, that one day he would bring me back to this place, and ask me to marry him.

 

In that moment, Jonathan leaned back.

I want you to know how committed I am to this.

It feels important, to say it right now.

 

We smiled. Then, something changed.

 

Something fell.

Jonathan looked at me, shell-shocked.

It was as if he’d been hit over the head with Holy Spirit.

 

Oh my God.

I didn’t understand.

I have to do it right now.

 

And in one movement, he had taken off the ring on his middle finger, and bent down on one knee.

The world went into watercolour, for a moment.

I took a few steps back, away from him.

You don’t have to say yes. I just have to ask you.

God’s call to endure floated through my mind.

I knew I would marry him. I had known for some time, actually. I wanted it. I’d felt hints from God about the following year, and people had even spoken prophetic words over me about imminent marriage – but it was still entirely unexpected.

 

I sat down beside him, silently, as if to break the distance between us. We curled up together by the rock pools, and for a long time, we talked about it.

We talked about what we wanted, and when we wanted it, and what it would look like, for us to have a life together.

In a fumbling, terrified way, I said yes to the future.

We walked back to the campsite hand in hand, his large, rusted ring sitting loosely on my finger.

 

*

 

We managed to keep it a secret for one week.

We had no timeline – in fact, we were willing to sit on it for a year or longer. It was our commitment, no-one else’s.

It’s worth mentioning that prophecies are supposed to be tested and discerned– by the judgment of mentors, by the bible and by the name of Jesus. We wanted to wait for confirmation, not make the commitment under the possible flutter of imagination.

But even in our attempts at taking things slowly, we wanted to know why God had accelerated the conversation.

 

Keen for answers, we fasted one morning, and prayed.

By the end of our time of prayer, one thing was clear: the time to deal with it was now. God had given us a place and a date in six months time, which (once I’d looked it up) turned out to be the exact place and date my family would be reuniting, from different corners of the world.

We promptly drove to our pastors’ house, and laid the whole situation out before them, ready to be corrected.

Tell us we’re crazy.

But they didn’t. They supported us wholeheartedly.

 

That night, Jonathan had a dream of Ephesians 5.

Someone cut off his head, and to keep him alive, sewed it onto my body.

The same blood ran through our veins.

For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body… So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body,[a] of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Ephesians 5:22-31 (extracts).

 

 

This next chapter is a tender whirlwind – full of lessons for the future, but perhaps not for today. The following six months were, to be honest, difficult.

Jonathan and I decided to follow God’s word to us, as best we could, and we faced both extraordinary blessing, and increasing opposition.

Some were deeply offended at our choice to get married, others dismissive. There were those that didn’t believe in God, who were understandably completely thrown by the speed, and spiritual undertones. There were those Christians that held a more conservative view of God’s interaction with humanity, who told us that we were being prideful or disobedient. That God didn’t speak to us, and we were under the influence of our own sin.

We respected their caution, but we didn’t agree.

Then, we had our community. Friends, family members, mentors, colleagues – believers and non-believers alike – people who saw us, knew us, and understood that actually, there was something beautiful, mysterious and constructive happening. We had those that backed us, even when we lost faith. Those that accepted that we knew, and trusted us in our blind knowing. There were those that had dreams, those that had words of encouragement, and those that blessed us physically or financially. We were completely covered, held up, and urged forward by community.

 

For three months we attempted to negotiate and delay the timeline, in order to appease those that were still in shock, but Jonathan for one, never stopped believing in the original word. The tension came between the two of us regularly, as we took on the burden of other people’s grief, and our own transitions from singleness to marriage.

We persevered with counselling, with planning, and eventually settled on a different date and place. It wasn’t what we’d heard, and we acknowledged that. We didn’t feel we had the money or the energy to fulfill the original vision, but it meant marrying at our church in Melbourne within the original week, and we felt peace.

A few days after we locked it down, a teenage girl in our church had the same dream four nights in a row, of us getting married in the church, on that date.

Of course, only a week or so after that, somebody gifted us the money necessary to get married wherever it was we chose. Then someone else gifted us our cake. Others gifted us our afternoon tea. Someone else gifted us our dance. Someone gifted us our flowers – the list went on.

God gives His grace in abundance, in the depths of our weaknesses.

 

As the day approached, we painted our new home, prepared our hearts to share the same space. As my days in the House of Love grew fewer, I felt God transition me. It was gentle, painful, and very, very right.

The season of singing had come.

It was almost time.

 

On April 23rd, 2017 – exactly one year to the day after I was given the word verdant by my maid of honour, Charlotte ­– both of my parents walked me down the aisle, to an archway we had all made together, of green leaves, and feathers.

It was there, in front of our family and our friends, that I married Jonathan William Weir.

 

 

*

 

I will always remember the light, the most clearly.

It hit us side-ways, like warm honey.

We were reunited with all of our people, all in one place.

I fell off a cliff, that day.

I fell in love.

 

*

 

God promised a joy with our marriage, that I wasn’t sure I believed in.

It hit me at full force those first hours after our vows, and has remained.

I am astounded by this experience, by the blessing this man is to my life. We run together to the banquet, distributing our bread. We keep pace with one another, in our descent.

 

If dating is an arrangement of flowers, marriage is the transformation into the same, rooted plant.

We can put two flowers of a matching aesthetic together in water, to deem their suitability, but they are not of one another.

Marriage transforms two into one.

The tree is altogether different to the bouquet.

 

I had learned wrong, in believing marriage would be a war of the selves, a wrestle of needs, or a competition for sun. I feared that the Other would always keep me from my deepest Self, rather than re-introduce me. But marriage is different to what I expected.

It is reconciliation.

It is a surrendered lowering of arms. It is a crumbling of the tower around the heart, so that suddenly, somebody else can see in.

It is the gospel.

 

Verdant is a strange word to describe a marriage, but perhaps it is right.

 

It is the Hebrew transliteration, ra`anan:

The secret garden, in which the hearts grow.

The archway of foliage, under which the hearts unite.

The tree of life, rooted by river, in which the hearts are known.

 

Ra`anan.

 

My lover is mine, and I am his.

beach

About Anna Weir

Anna is an actor and writer, based in Melbourne, Australia. She can be found on Facebook under @annaweir, and on Instagram and Twitter under @annamcgahan.

9 thoughts on “Verdant

  1. Wow. This so lovely. And so timely. I was struck with such a sense of déjà vu as I read it. I so admire your fierce vulnerability in sharing this with the world.

  2. Anna this is so beautifully written, and an important story to share. Such rewards for listening to GOD and obedience…..much love to you both. X

  3. Your verdant garden will be renound to many nations and future generations. Love from your peoples in the land of angels. Plus Ireland *will* happen 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *