Before we take up again at where I last left off on my travel adventure romance in the United States it’s important to flash back to where I had been in my life about a year prior.
Almost exactly a year before my travels stateside I had taken a holiday to Fiji by myself. I had gone to attend a wedding but apart from that function, I had no agenda, and a lot of time by myself. It was a truly relaxing holiday. I spent it sleeping, eating, swimming in hotel pool and lying on a recliner chair near the beach reading. It was spring time and the weather was sparkling; glorious.
Spiritual direction and images in prayer – becoming closer to Jesus
Since the beginning of that year I had been doing some spiritual work using imaginative prayer with the help of a spiritual accompanier. Before I had started this process I had been very angry at God. I felt God had purposely let me through several rejections from several men, that I was never going to meet a life-partner and would be single forever. This is something that I did not desire. But, through this process of imagining, I uncovered a deep fear that I was not aware I had.
I came to the realisation that although for many years I had been ‘searching’ for the one I was quite scared about the actual reality of meeting him. I had a fear of men that stemmed from some past experiences, that had meant I had entered this extreme state of preservation. I also had found that, although I was pretty okay with the Holy Spirit, and somewhat pretty ok with the creator God, I was not really ok with Jesus. He was a man and I was not really ok with men; I was intrinsically distrustful.
[The exercises my spiritual accompanier was using at this time was called the First Spiritual Exercises – https://www.first-exercises.com/]
So gently with my accompanier we started to do some imaginative prayer exercises imagining Jesus. I found Jesus, a true gentleman and being sensitive to my fear, did not impose himself on me. At first I could not see or sense him easily. I could only get tiny glimpses in my mind of where he was or a tiny snippet of a sensation of his presence. It was more of a feeling that I had. I felt comfortable and loved. It was similar to how I had felt around other people who had loved me in life but even more freeing. He stood at a distance. But as I felt a little more comfortable I invited him to come a little closer and my images started to become more vivid. Previously my experience of Jesus had been through other people. I hadn’t been able to identify Jesus as a person separate to those from whom I’d felt true love. But now I could identify Jesus as a distinctly separate being.
Jesus seemed to joke with me in my prayer. I had a few unexpected images that made me chuckle. One day I was feeling particularly lonely and I remember asking Jesus where he was. I then had a spontaneous image of different versions of himself popping up all around me. He was telling me he was everywhere.
A month or so later I asked the same question and I saw an image of Jesus walking beside me holding my bags; carrying my load.
Later, at my home, I must have been listening to some music and I had an image of Jesus laughing and asking me to dance with him. I slowly was becoming more comfortable with the idea of Jesus being more vivid in my prayer and being closer to me.
I took this prayer experience as inspiration to get dancing lessons and for about six months I went every week to learn ballroom and latin dancing. Tom was my instructor. He was Scottish, tall and a true professional. Teaching me to dance he was required to touch me but in a non-threatening and respectful way. With this experience I slowly became more comfortable with being physically close to men.
Distinct words of Jesus while in Fiji
I slowly became more comfortable with Jesus and having this spiritual relationship with a man. In my prayer I began to speak directly to Jesus and distinctly remember the responses I got while on my holiday in Fiji. I spoke about the fear that I had uncovered about having a real relationship. I’d become quite comfortable with Jesus and perhaps the clearest words I’ve had in prayer came next:
“Don’t worry, he’s friends with me”.
I realised I had become quite attached and comfortable with Jesus to the extent that I did not want to lose this newfound relationship should I in fact end up meeting someone. Jesus also responded to this concern:
“Don’t worry, I will still be here for you even when you are in a relationship.”
I began dating again but this time I began to experience the process differently and somewhat began to enjoy it. I met some nice men. At first none of these dates went anywhere but I was still having a pleasant time and then I met Ezzio – a very unlikely candidate for me to date.
Ezzio was Swiss Peruvian and had all the hallmarks of a stereotypical playboy including that he was good-looking, well-dressed and vain. I only agreed to date him as he pursued me relentlessly and I felt to find the right man I need to “go through all the open doors” and this was one of those. Despite the “door being open” I did not feel at peace with Ezzio and did in fact feel anxious and uneasy around him. I wanted to get out of dating him and was about to call it quits on one of the dates he took me on until I spoke with him about my faith (hoping in fact that this would somewhat deter him from wanting to date me) when he literally pulled out a picture of Jesus from his wallet and put it on the table we were sitting at.
However, despite this card, after a few short weeks of relentless pursuing, including paying for me to visit him while at work in New Zealand (including a separate hotel room) and gourmet five star dinners in Melbourne, Ezzio decided to start to ghost me. I managed to contact him and ask him what was going on and he told me that he had been transferred permanently to New Zealand and so we could no longer be together.
I was devastated for a few weeks. Upon reflection, this was just as much because I felt all the intense prayer experiences I had must have been my own imagination or wrong, as it was because a romance that had been very excited had ended.
Then months later once I had processed my sadness Ezzio decided he was going to come back from the dead. He had been transferred back to Melbourne he told me and he wrote “now we can be together”. I decided I needed to confront him straight up with what he thought our relationship was going to be. To this he replied that he was not actually ready for a girlfriend.
I could have fallen back into a slump and decided that God had played a dirty trick on me but I decided to take a different path this time. I threw my hands up in the air and told God I didn’t care anymore – whatever would be would be and I gave the whole meeting someone over to Him.
I did still question my prayer. Perhaps how I had interpreted my prayer with Ezzio was a lesson about how not to take prayer so literally? But Ezzio never actually said he was friends with Jesus. He simply played the card…literally by pulling one out in front of me. Perhaps my choosing to continue to date him was a misinterpretation of prayer? But maybe Jesus was still leading me because if I had never met and gone through the open door with Ezzio what happened next would never have happened? It was to help myself recover from this “relationship” with Ezzio that didn’t really ever start, that I immediately did two things which changed my life. I booked a holiday to visit the west coast of the United States, and as a further distraction that I joined Catholic Match, an international dating website that a friend I had met in Melbourne from Canada had joined and was the reason she had come to be there.
As soon as I joined Catholic Match a person called Matt, living in Phoenix, Arizona, began to talk to me online. The conversation was easy and I felt like I had known him all my life. We had so many things that seemed to be in common and we could easily hold a conversation about many things through our correspondence. This is something I had not experienced online since I had begun online dating. I told him that I was in fact visiting the United States in a few weeks time and that he could come and visit me if he liked. This seemed a most natural progression of our correspondence. We also had a skype date before our meeting in person which, although short, flowed quite naturally.
Our first date and meeting in person
Your can read about my first date with Matt in person here – Los Angeles – A once in a lifetime trip to the coffee bean and two lives changed forever
Back on the road
So now I’ll return to the road.
We were on the road to San Diego and I was getting to know my fellow travelers.
There was easygoing Nick from the Netherlands, Sophie from Wales well-adapted and mature beyond her years, Greg from Australia, a self-confessed and definite alcoholic and Christian from Northern Ireland who was spending three months abroad after receiving a redundancy payout from his human resources job.
We were on the less scenic route south, one of the sprawling ten lane highways the led out of the greater Los Angeles area.
As we did not know one another very well and we were seated in our van it was a fairly quiet ride.
We arrived at our camp site in the late afternoon and pitched out tents. Matt arrived once we had settled in and our tour leader, Alyia, cooked us dinner while we had some time to mingle and have some drinks. After dinner our tour guide initiated some ice-breakers. Using a talking stick to take turns to introduce ourselves we each spoke about our favourite movie and what animal our spirit animal would be. One member of the group from Korea participated in this process entirely through google translate.
Matt left for the evening after we finished our games and had a few more drinks and my tour group, that I was just starting to get to know, started asking the question, “What is your relationship with Matt?”. I wasn’t sure how I would respond to this question so I laughed it off. But I knew I would be asked again and wouldn’t successfully be able to laugh it off forever.
The next day we were in San Diego and our tour had a few options on what we could do for the day. However, Matt had taken the initiative to decide that this day two of my tour was in fact going to be a continuation of our date and I soon found myself on a private tour with him in the downtown. San Diego seemed to me to be very similar to Los Angeles albeit a lot more relaxed. We had something to drink at a sports bar while college sport played in the background and our easy conversation continued to flow. He then took me to the historical oldtown for Mexican.
After we finished our meal of margaritas and authentic tacos and started on our way out of the restaurant I broached the subject of my travel companions and their curiosity about the nature of our relationship.
“So everyone is asking me how we know one another. What do you think I should tell them?”
Despite my having come around to the idea that online dating was a normal way to meet I thought that the whole truth, including the exact site we met upon and that we in fact were dating internationally may make me sound a little more extreme than I generally feel I am. And I don’t like being judged as someone that I don’t believe myself to be.
“We have mutual friends…” Matt suggested.
“Jesus”, we both said together.
Matt and I looked at one another and chuckled.
Ohhhh, I thought. This is it, this is the one Jesus has meant in my prayer. Instead of the intense fear and anxiety I had felt with Ezzio, this time there was a deep peace. My life from now on was going to change. But this wasn’t the time to sort out the details. We were only just getting to know one another.
Matt took me back in his jeep to our campground and then had to leave so he could drive six hours back to Phoenix so he could be at work the next day. We said our farewells and he spoke to Alyia about where we would be in two night’s time, a “cowboy camp” close by to Phoenix. He planned to meet up with us there after work.
To read more about my journey in the USA you may like to read –