This is Confessions of a Closet Christian, the podcast that explores Christianity from a 20-something perspective, relaying modern trends, discoveries, struggles, and pop culture references. I’m Jana Elizabeth – now Doughty – yes, about that name change.
You may have guessed it. I managed to get married. It’s the best thing to ever happen to me and this is coming from the girl who is completely career-oriented and who didn’t want to get married and bear obligatory children until at least age 30.
I met my husband, Russell, in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2010 while I was performing in a show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. An officer in the army at the time, Russ was visiting his friends on leave. We met outside a show venue that was made out of purple, inflatable plastic and shaped to look like a cow that was flat out on its back. Frequenters of the festival know it as the “Udder Belly.” Pun completely intended.
We liked each other and experienced lots of moments that were straight out of the Bachelor – like when Russ snuck me into Edinburgh Castle in the middle of the night. We were the only ones there except for a few soldiers who were staying in the castle’s barracks. It was very Disney Princess magical and I couldn’t help loving it.
We saw each other one more time while I was in Edinburgh before going our separate ways. I was meeting a bestie in Spain and Russ was going back to work. We agreed to friend each other on Facebook, but we also kept texting while I was still in Europe. When Russ texted, “I keep thinking of you,” I knew I was in trouble.
Somehow Russ convinced me to let him meet me in New York City on the day I moved there from Maryland. We walked the mutually foreign city, familiarizing ourselves with the grid and somewhere in our conversation, Russ told me “I think we should do this. See each other, although we wouldn’t actually see each other – I mean – I wouldn’t be able to take you out, but I would call you my American girlfriend.”
I didn’t really understand what he was saying, but I said, “Okay,” anyway, hoping there wasn’t a “European girlfriend” or an “African girlfriend” in the picture and figuring this wouldn’t last more than a month.
Twenty-two months later, I’m faced with a predicament. I’d been living in New York, getting involved with an amazing small group of young professional women and I’d begun co-leading my own group. I was attending Redeemer Presbyterian Church and I was falling in love with Tim Keller’s preaching. My faith in the Lord was really growing and taking a precedent in my life that it hadn’t before. Russ, while he wasn’t a Wiccan, was a traditional Christian, much in the sense that he was a Christian by title and that’s where it stopped.
It became apparent that a Christian marriage was very important to me and I realized we’d have to break up, which I put off as long as possible. After all, I was saying no to the man who gave me the Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen Parisian experience. What was I thinking?!Pain and heartbreak immediately ensued. We both cried in our goodbyes at the airport. We loved each other so much. I begged God to let him come back into my life somehow.
We tried talking on the phone a couple of times, but it only seemed to make us more upset. Sometimes I’d get an email from Russ. One email was filled with inquiries and responses that Russ had sent and received from what looked like every Christian person he’d ever encountered. It would appear Russ knew he needed to make a decision. Figure out why he believes in God or decide he doesn’t all together. It was up to him.
A phone call a month later informed me Russ had signed up for an Alpha course that would meet at a church once a week and discuss what it means to believe in Jesus. Another month passed and Russ texted me, saying he had something to tell me. “I’ve been reading a Reason for God by Tim Keller and at the end of the book there’s a prayer of faith and I prayed that prayer,” he told me over the phone.
Tears were streaming from my face. This was everything I’d asked the Lord for, everything my family and friends and small groups were praying for. That Russ would come to faith in Christ.
“I don’t know what this means for us,” he said.
I told him I didn’t know either. We’d have to wait and see what God had for us – if anything at all. We just didn’t know.
The months continued on and we’d talk from time to time. Russ was going to church on his own. I was doing my own thing, working and creating. We both separately reached places of contentment, realizing we might not be together and that really would be okay.
One afternoon on the phone, Russ mentioned he had time off coming up and that he could come visit. Since he was still the best friend I’d ever known, I said, “okay,” figuring in the words of my friend, “What 30 year old comes to know Jesus?! You have to catch them when they’re four or there’s no hope! Why not see what he has to say?!”
Russ arrived in Baltimore and we were nervous. But as soon as we began talking, our year apart disappeared.
I knew Russ’s faith was absolutely genuine when one night of his visit, we were coming back from DC and, as one who suffers from anxiety, I was having a panic attack. Sitting in the Park and Ride outside of Greenbelt station, I was crying in the driver’s seat of the car and saying, “I’m just so afraid one day everyone is just going to stop loving me.” And Russ, who was sitting in the passenger side of the car, got out and came around to my side. He opened the door, put his arms around me, and said, “You will never stop Christ’s love for you. You will never stop my love for you.” And there he was. My miracle. God’s gift to me. And I am truly convinced that no matter what happens in life – career or no career – children or no children, I’m always given everything I need.
You can follow me @JanaDoughty on Twitter or @Jana_Doughty on Instagram. Thank you for listening!
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