Laying Down My Isaac: When Surrender Means the Death of a Dream

It was August and I had just returned from Uganda.  While there, I had become certain that he was the guy I should marry.  It made sense.  I knew how passionately I wanted to follow after Jesus…with all of my life.  I knew how passionately he followed after Jesus.  I felt it deep in my soul: we should be together in this life.  Plus, it helped that I had had a secret crush on him for forever. 

I shared these thoughts with a good friend, asking my friend if I should just tell the guy that God showed me that we should get married.  Thankfully, my friend told me not to do that (thanks, Stacy).  But, being certain that this was the direction to go in, I called the guy up, made plans to take a trip out to visit him and prayed like crazy that we’d finally get together. 

[It’s important to note at this point that he, the guy, was fully unaware of my interest in him and assumed that we were just friends planning to hang out for a weekend.]

In October, I went out for a visit.  And a conversation began early in the visit that I thought was going to end with us getting together as a couple…only it didn’t.  He shared that he was interested in someone else and planning to pursue her.  I shared that I wanted to marry him.  Knowing that that might be my only chance to ever speak my heart, I laid all my cards on the table.  It was painful.  I was confused.  The conversation ended with us deciding to enjoy the weekend together as friends…but also with him still planning to pursue this other girl.

Each night during that trip, when I as alone in my room, I would cry, asking God what was happening.  I thought this was the plan.  I thought I had understood that we were supposed to get married and live our life on this earth together.  Why was it turning out this way? 

We had an amazing weekend connecting deeply as friends.  And yet still, on the last day of the trip, this guy told me that he still felt led to pursue this other girl.  That he wanted to be completely honest with me and not keep my hanging on.

I returned home devastated.

I held onto the hope that he’d eventually figure out that we’d be together.  Only he didn’t.  Months passed.  Nothing changed.  I knew through mutual friends that he was actively pursuing this other girl. 

I couldn’t make sense of it. 

My prayers were intense and direct and full of questions.  I finally understood that while I felt like I had seen that he and I should be married, I had never once been promised by God that this guy and I would get married. 

So one night that December, as I journaled, I asked God pointblank to give me an answer about this guy, whether or not to wait…and in the middle of journaling that sentence, the guy called.  He had been in bed (halfway across the country), ready for sleep, when he felt God prompt him to call me and tell me in a final way that he was definitely pursuing this other girl.  God answered with strength and depth.  It was time to let go.

I thought that would be enough to let go.  But it wasn’t.  God spoke.  But I struggled to let go. 

More months passed, my heart still hurt.  I so wanted this man.  This one man.  This life.  With him.  He was amazing…the most amazing man I had ever met.  One of my life’s greatest dreams was to be his wife, to live life with him, to do ministry together for our time on this earth.  And it wasn’t going to happen. 

I still couldn’t surrender this dream.  I hoped being interested in other guys would help.  It didn’t.  Even those interests ended and I was still faced with the truth that my heart was still holding onto this one…desperate with the empty hope that it would somehow work out.  Holding so tightly to this dream I had of life with this one man.  

During that season, I listened to a sermon where the preacher talked about God withholding things from us that we would worship more than Him.*

I knew that this guy, this dream had become that for me.  I knew that God couldn’t give them to me…especially since my deepest heart’s desire was to worship God with all of my life.  If I truly wanted to worship God with all of my life, how could He give me the thing that I would put in His place. 

So, I took a day that summer to sit and pray through fully releasing this guy, this dream, this hope.  At this moment of surrender, it was no longer about the guy…the last I had heard he was planning to propose to that girl he had been pursuing.  I knew this wasn’t about him any more.  This was about God and me.  Would I open my hands and release my dream to Him?  Would I trust Him once again with my life?  All of me in His hands? 

So I did.  I surrendered.  I forgave the places of hurt that this guy had left, for the first time truly handing the whole experience over to God.  I trusted God once again with my heart, my life, my future.  I threw away every single thing in my house that had to do with this guy.  Every picture from our friendship.  Every email.  Every single thing.  I had finally surrendered everything to God, no longer holding my grip around my plan.

What I didn’t know was what was about to happen next.

Five days after that moment of surrender, an email popped up in my inbox.  An email from that guy.  He wondered what I was up to.  He had broken up with the girl.

The rest of the story is that we were married almost exactly a year after that email.  There is a lot more to the middle of the story, of course.  A beautiful and powerful middle of the story that evidenced God’s active work in us; however, it was the moment of surrender that took me past my tightly held dreams and completely into the arms of God, trusting Him with everything. 

When I think about this part of my life, I often feel connected to Abraham as he took his son Isaac up the mountain, wondering how it would all end.  God had given him this long awaited for son, yet now God was asking for this son back.  It didn’t make sense.  Yet Abraham trusted.  Abraham was willing to release his grip on his dream.  God was asking whom Abraham worshiped foremost.  And by Abraham’s surrender of his son, the deepest part of Abraham’s heart was evidenced. 

God always knew He was going to give Val and I to each other to live out this life together.  He never was confused.  But He wanted me to know who my heart worshipped most.  He did not want to give me something that I would only put in His place.  So He asked me to surrender.  It was painful.  It was hard.  But it was freeing.  And once I surrendered, my trust of Him was more solid than it had ever been before, because I surrendered my deepest dream to Him, trusting Him with His plan for my life. 

* Click here to access the sermon I mentioned: “Worship: God Transforms”


  1. Good stuff...I remember that time....I was sooo bummed!

    1. I know!!!!! I am glad you share in the memories of it all :)