It all started in Solomon Yoder’s boat. The day was hot and we were restless. Fishing was a waste of time and our “running around” time, or rumspringa had begun. We had yet to leave our Amish community and taste the outside world.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. How often do three Amish boys show up at an Englisher’s beach? Of course people would be curious. Observing unnoticed had been a foolish notion. Meeting her was inevitable.
“Are you young men enjoying your rumspringa?” The angel before us brought warmth with her smile. Her gentle nature challenged our concept of Englisher girls. Gentle laughter tickled our ears as we sat with mouths open and void of speech.
“My name is Jill. I know Anna Esau. Her family sells baskets outside my Dad’s shop. I’m sorry if I offended you. I figured you were her age and starting your “running around” time, too.”
Thus began one of the most important relationships of my life. Her Dad’s ice-cream and talks of Jesus quickly filled my rumspringa time. Love and respect for God and those around her exuded from Jill and it gave her intense beauty. I was on the brink of falling in love when IT happened.
Her hands clenched the beach sand, “Jakob, I still don’t understand how you can believe in salvation as a gift of grace yet have to live a good life to get it. How is it prideful to accept a gift God is offering? Isn’t it prideful not to?” Jill’s eyes were moist with conviction and compassion.
Words were spinning so fast in my mind that minutes passed before I realized I hadn’t spoken any of them. Hadn’t I been asking myself that same question for days? Was it possible to avoid pride in assurance because the salvation was all from God? Unless, of course, being sure made me prideful in the assurance I possessed.
Tears born of conflict and emotion filled my eyes as I continued to gaze at Jill in silence.
“Jakob, no one could ever accuse you of being prideful. Accept his gift of assurance and be confident in his desire to use you for the good of others.”
That’s when it happened, the awakening. Never had my path been so clear.
With aching heart I took Jill’s hands. My rumspringa had begun with her here at the beach, and now it was ending with her here at the beach.
“I do accept his gift of assurance. Today he has made my future so clear.” I caught the shine of hope in her eyes knowing she wanted that future to include her. I almost faltered.
“I respect my family. I cherish my Amish heritage. I know this love is placed here by God. I must bring this truth to the ones I love.”
“Jill, I have never been tempted to leave my plain life until now. If I knew God chose you for me, I would give in to the temptation, but I know he has not.”
Trembling fingers stilled any more words on my lips.
“I trust you, Jakob. I know you hear God’s voice. I want you to know that you will always be treasured in my heart and I will always be your friend.”
The ache of loss mixed with the excitement of discovery churned inside me as I returned to my Amish home. God was good. God was faithful, and his purposes would be accomplished.
Birds twittered and horses clopped as the summer breeze cooled. An old man and his aged bride sat cuddled on their squeaky swing. A smile on their lips and peace in their heart spoke of years of sharing.
The sound of an engine alerted the couple as it intruded into the soft sounds of nature. A familiar blue Buick parked in front of the porch and an Englisher emerged, aged with a few more wrinkles but love and respect exuding from her.
Jakob smiled as he and Esther welcomed Jill. The trio talked into the night sharing memories and tidbits of life.
Yes, God had been good. God had been faithful, and his purposes had been accomplished.
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