Ok, let me put something straight, right from the beginning. I KNOW that God has placed me here in NYC for a good reason and at the perfect time. I don’t pretend to be un-appreciative about that whatsoever. I KNOW that I have met some of the most amazing young people in my life, and some of the most on-fire catholics in this world.
BUT, I do know one thing. New York City is CRAZY!
Of course, no matter how crazy things can get, this is God’s city! And no evil power will overcome Good. But right now, the battle is not going so well….we must pray hard!
So, my point is that I NEVER planned to live in New York….even the thought of it was a turn-off!
But, love makes you do crazy things.
So, today it has been 1 year since Cristina and I “officially” started this journey in God’s ultimate plan. A year ago, we sat on the sand in front of the dark ocean (at midnight!) and I asked her to enter into this journey with me. (But I should tell you, I knew I loved her from the first time we met again) Wow! How time has flown-by!
A year ago, I was graduating with my Bachelor’s degree in Spanish (2 yeas late….) and was planning my future…like any young man would do. Except mine was looking a bit different than the usual. By June of 2010, I was in discussion with Missioners of Christ about heading back down to Honduras to serve for another 1-2 years. That was, until I met Cristina.
A few weeks after graduation, I was working a summer job, preparing for fundraising and arrangements to head down to Honduras. All seemed clear that the Lord was calling me back down to Honduras, where I could serve and further discern my vocation. I had NO idea of what was to come in the following days.
On a busy saturday at the hotel on the beach (where I was working for the weekend) I got a phone call from my friend Therese about stopping-by to visit and meet some family friends in the neighborhood. I was exhausted, sweaty and had no desire to be “meeting” people at the time. Besides, having graduating and with the plan of leaving for Honduras, I wasn’t in the mood to go through the motions of telling people my “career plans/goals”. Therese being from New Jersey, was able to convince me and so I threw on a dirty grey t-shirt that I kept in the back of my truck. (This is important in the story because I was definitely in no way “showing off” or “trying to impress anyone”)
I remember walking into the house and seeing Cristina’s mother, who greeted me with a big smile and hug. Of course, the fact that she had been to Honduras and had the connection, things felt pretty comfortable from the start. I don’t remember meeting much of anyone else, because when I saw Cristina again for the first time, I was speechless. I don’t recall saying or doing anything, just kind of staring. She was GORGEOUS! I asked myself “Was this the girl I met a year ago?!” She walked in to the room with a certain grace/beauty/elegance that I can’t explain….and she was in summer-clothes!
Maybe it’s just because I’m a guy, but the rest of the day is pretty much a blur to me……I don’t remember much of what happened or what we did, I just remember looking for the opportunity to speak one-on-one with her. To really KNOW her. There was a sense of urgency in talking with her, almost like the feeling that a fan of a celebrity has in a large crowd – trying to break through to shake hands with the “star”.
I never said or did anything “smooth” that night. I was myself and even though I was attracted to her, I left it alone and remember specifically telling God “If it is your will that we become friends, then let it be.”
Oh, how the time flew by! Within the same week of meeting, we began talking on a regular basis. Every night, we talked for a few hours about any and EVERYthing!
It’s funny because for the first time, I had met someone that I felt like I could actually talk to…..someone that I could share my experiences in Honduras with, my love for the hispanic culture and my deep desire to live a simple life. It sounds crazy to say, but within the week, I knew that I loved her. One night during that first week, I met with one of my friends in Virginia Beach and told him about everything. He called me out – “Hey man, make sure that you’re not leading this girl on…..you better make up your mind and either go for it, or just leave it alone. She’s definitely already thinking more than you probably imagine.”
I prayed and prayed and prayed……and I knew that as a man I needed to keep it real with her, to put everything on the table. I told her my intentions, and shared with her everything I had planned for the future and my intentions in talking to her. Praise God! She took it well, but not only that – she allowed me to fulfill my role as a man.
It’s sad to admit that at many times in my life, I’ve led girls on by my actions. (This is something that we need to be accountable for, men) We even get to the point of telling girls “Look, I don’t like you like that” but yet we still spend time and share really intimate moments with them. This isn’t fair. I knew that this was my opportunity to really live up to my manhood and be real with her.
So, the weeks and months passed, and we had decided to entered into a courtship. We had decided that God had some sort of plan for each of us, and that we needed to discern what exactly our roles were supposed to be in each other’s lives. I knew that if we were called to be friends-only, I was ready to figure that out and MOVE ON! But God had bigger plans – and it wasn’t just a coincident that He brought us together at the perfect moment in our lives. He had a purpose for all of the experiences that we shared…all of the situations we found ourselves in, and the DREAMS that we both shared.
The only problem – I was leaving for Honduras in a couple months and that would take us VERY far apart from each other.
I definitely need to emphasize here, how intimate our relationship was from the beginning. Not necessarily physical, but intimacy in the way that JPII and Christopher West put it – “In to me, see.” We truly bore-all to each other and shared EVERYTHING. Even as we started talking and started to have feelings for each other, I asked myself (and the Lord) – “Is this the type of woman I could marry, raise a family with….and even more importantly – could she get me to heaven?!”
Long-distance relationships are tough….but at the time and place in our lives that we were in last year, God knew that we needed an open and honest courtship/discernment. As frustrating as it was to be hours away from Cristina – God set it that way for a reason and He only gave us one-means of communication, talking. And WHOA, did we talk over those next few months! And you know, we STILL to this day have a beautiful ability to talk for hours….I never get tired of listening and expressing my thoughts/dreams/ideas with Cristina….for she is my best friend and will be my lifelong companion.
As the end of summer approached, I knew that decisions had to be made about whether-or-not I would leave for Honduras. I felt that my heart was split for I longed to be in Honduras, away from alot of my worldly attachments in the US, but this new love that God had given me caused me to start to rethink EVERYTHING. If I believed for all of these years that God had created ONE woman from all eternity to by my wife, I couldn’t just put that on hold! He spoke to us through many confirmations (So many I cant even begin to list them!), and He molded our hearts and desires SO closely that I felt the urgency (NOT to rush God’s plan) to fully discern our vocation and to be spiritually AND physically present for the coming year.
Just as we read, “Ask and you shall receive” – we had our faith in His will, and we asked the Lord to be SPECIFIC in sending us signs and opening doors. One by one, doors started opening. From one day to another, we went from looking for work (in an almost impossible New York City job market!) to Cristina getting an email about a job opening in the SAME office building. Once a job was amazingly lined up, we needed a place for me to live. Within DAYS, Cristina’s aunt calls and mentions to her that she had a room that she needed to rent for CHEAP and only a few blocks from her apartment!
We asked God to be clear, and He was VERY clear!
Of course, as a man it was difficult to commit and to “jump-in” to something so big and risky….but I knew that without putting my complete trust in Him, we would never know exactly where it was that He was calling us.
After prayer, patience and a WHOLE LOT of trust in the Lord, I was able to make arrangements to move to New York City and begin a new chapter in my life.
Without going in to too much more detail – I realized after moving to NYC and spending every day with Cristina’s family (both immediate and extended!) that this truly was the woman God had created for me, and I for her. The peace that He granted me was amazing, not emotional or like a roller-coaster (of course, there was romance involved!) but more of an interior peace that allowed us to move and flow with His will. As each day passed, and as we continuously SURRENDERED our plans to Him, He allowed that peace to grow and form. I NEVER felt at any moment that I was settling or that there could be someone out there “better” for me, or that we were in some way – rushing God’s plans. Things were so natural, in a way that is hard to describe until you find that one that you will become ONE FLESH with. I learned that the Sacrament of Marriage isn’t about compromise and each giving 50-50, but that in being FULLY who you are (without compromise) each giving 100% of themselves to the other, the two become one. God created Cristina and I for marriage to each other and in marriage, we both become FULLY who we have always been.
When God allowed us to understand this, the only logical next step was to make a SOLID and EXCLUSIVE commitment to Cristina Rivera, asking her hand (with her father and mother’s permission first) in Marriage. On December 19, 2010 I proposed to Cristina in the very same chapel that I first remember praying for her.
As I look back on this last year…..I am reminded of the Gospel in which a man goes and SELLS everything he owns to buy the pearl of great price. For the first time in my life, I felt a profound strength to truly fight for that which is TRUE and BEAUTIFUL and not look back. Cristina is called to be Christ to me in our marriage in helping me to get to heaven!
I really met my New York City Honey!
This IS NOT a photo-shopped picture. It was a real honey vender that pulled up in front of the building!