A Love Story: Eleana Figueroa
It was 2009 and I was in my sophomore year of college. I was 19 years old and I thought I knew what I wanted to do, ie. Nursing, but in the back of my head I was honestly unsure. I was young, loving life, traveling, and so focused on my involvement in church and my studies that “falling in love” wasn’t exactly a high priority on the list. I had a crush on a guy at church but that didn’t go very far and I honestly wasn’t interested in any guy because my standards were “too high,” according to many of my friends and family. But then meeting Ray seemed to change all of that.
The day I met my husband was a regular workday, at our local Chrisitan Book Store. It was slow so we were trying to pass the time. Then, Ray walks in with a friend and I noticed him to be quite handsome but I didn’t pay any mind to that. I’m supposed to be working, not flirting! They were both in the store for quite a while I remember or maybe it seemed like a while because I was so curious about who Ray was. They finally walked up to the counter, which made me get all nervous. Get it together girl! Like, why are you acting like this???? You don’t even know him!
Come to find out, my coworker actually knew him because they had classes at the local community college together. I immediately thought to myself, YES! I have insight on what this guy is like. But wait, you don’t have time for a relationship girl. You’re waiting on God. CHILL. Anyways, I ring him up and he strikes up a conversation with my coworker and of course I eavesdrop. Why not? It was slow at the store so I listened in on the conversation, DUH! Not that I remember any of it now, but at least I knew that he at least seemed like a good guy with a good head on his shoulders.
Funny thing is, I had never seen him come in the store until that day but then all of a sudden I started to see him come in the store like ALL the time! Stalker much? I did find out later on in our relationship, that he learned what car I drove and would only stop in if he saw my car parked outside…smooth boy, real smooth.
A Sign from Up Above
So when did this all turn into a relationship, you might be asking? Well, thanks to my mother for instigating a Sista! I briefly mentioned to my mom about Ray and she was asking all kinds of question like a mother should. Then she asked if he had a Facebook, which I had already scoped out, so I pulled it up for her to see. “Oh! You need to invite him to your sister’s Harvest festival at the school. We need to meet this young fella,” my mom said with almost, what seemed like, more excitement than me. I was thinking that there was no way that this guy would come to my sister’s school event with me. We barely know each other. I looked back at my computer screen looking at a picture of him on his Facebook page and I heard the Lord clear as day say to me, “This is your husband.”
I broke down in tears immediately and both my parents came over to me asking what was wrong and I shared with them what I had heard. I NEVER told anyone that until I knew for sure that Ray was on the same page and that was a whopping 6 years later when Ray sat me down and asked me what we were doing with each other. How can a 19-year old young woman hear so clearly from God about who her husband is? To this day, I don’t have an answer but what I do know is if you wait and trust, God will tell you all you NEED to hear. You have to position yourself to listen. I did end up sending Ray a message shortly after sharing “the news” with my parents and he accepted my invite to come to my sister’s school Harvest festival. We were just friends but boy, did my parents drill him that day he came to pick my sister and me up for the festival and they have been drilling him ever since.
In the Friend Zone
It was not all daisies and roses after that day. I gave Ray such a run for his money that I, to this day, don’t know why he still came around. We never technically dated either. Well, my little sister would come with us to go get ice cream or he’d come over and chill with my family and me but we didn’t date until 2015 when we were both settled and just waiting on the next steps in life. We were “just friends” and never defined the relationship.
Through the years, we broke each other’s hearts, or should I say, I broke his heart too many times to count. Each time we would try to become serious, I’d blame it on having a crush on someone else in the past or telling him we’re better off just friends. I just knew he hated me and I started to grow hatred towards him too. I remember telling him my senior year of college that we were just better off friends because we were going in different directions. But deep down I was still scared about what God had told me as a 19-year old woman who barely had life figured out. I really wrestled with God about this. I put up walls so thick that I just knew they weren’t going to come down.
There were times Ray and I wouldn’t speak for a year or two at a time. He dated other people and so did I but those relationships never went anywhere. Even when my parents would mention his name, I would almost death stare them down. Surprisingly enough, he still kept in contact with my parents over the years and even me. He would email me from time to time to see how I was doing, especially after I moved away to get involved in ministry. I would deliberately wait days or a week before I’d respond because I had a love/hate relationship for his emails. I loved each time he emailed me but I hated them because I didn’t know what to say to him and honestly couldn’t let myself fall for him AGAIN even when I knew that at some point in my life we were going to be something, just not sure when. But how do you know when the time is right?
When Everything Changed
I don’t have that answer but I do know that January 2015 changed my whole world. Ray came back into my life to stay. I was fresh out of a long distance relationship that didn’t even last a year and Ray swooped back in a little too easily. He got in contact with me that January and said he wanted to invite my dad to his swearing-in ceremony at a new agency but didn’t want to step on any toes so he asked me if that was alright. I didn’t mind and told him to go right ahead and then he asked me to coffee.
I easily said sure and coffee turned into dinner and dinner turned into reminiscing about our past hurts towards each other. I then shared what God had told me when I was 19 years old, and that I promised myself I wouldn’t share with him until that time was right, and man it was so right! Ray could, but at the same time, couldn’t believe it! The pursuit had found its course and he finally knew the direction we were going.
Third Times the Charm
It took Ray and I a total of 3 times to get this thing right but the 3rd time was indeed a charm. By the way, the Biblical meaning of the number 3 means completion. It was the year 2016 that we went before God and literally sealed the deal in front of our loved ones. That was a whopping 7 years later! You may say, that’s too long. Well, God just knew that we weren’t ready yet. And to top it all off, the Biblical meaning of the number 7 is completion and perfection. God truly wrote our love story. Had we tried to make things work sooner, who knows how out of God’s will we would’ve been.
For example, I was a virgin on our wedding day but think of how things could’ve been if we both would’ve tried to create a relationship without God’s help? When we wait for God’s perfect timing, everything falls right into place. There is no confusion; there is only ORDER. Before we said yes, there was too much confusion and frustration and we both had much growing and maturing left to do (and STILL do). But this charm of a 3rd time was God’s way of showing us how in control He is in every area of our lives. Everyone’s love story is different.
Some people may wait 7 years, some may wait 7 months but that doesn’t mean God wasn’t in the midst of those love stories. I am here to encourage you by saying this: even when you know who God has for you, WAIT for him, don’t rush into it. Rushing into things always causes more problems than there needs to be. There is absolutely no peace in that. We are so thankful and blessed to be two perfectly imperfect wholes brought together as one through years of growth, purpose, and pursuit. He is my better whole. I will leave you with a verse that has carried us through it all: “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” – Phil. 1:6.
****Ray and Eleana have been happily married for a year and a half. Ray is a police officer for the city of Tampa and Eleana works for a local community-based care agency serving kids in the foster care system. Both come from multicultural family backgrounds, love peanut M&Ms, serving and planning spontaneous trips to new and exciting places.