A whole lot of years ago, I was off in College Town, studying hard, learning seventy-three different ways to cook cheap Ramen noodles, supplementing my diet with 59-cent bean burritos from Taco Bell, using an obscene amount of Aqua Net hairspray, studying like crazy, and dating a tall, dark and handsome basketball player who was busy keeping up with the demands of law school and his fraternity. I thought that my life was about perfect, and I envisioned myself settling down with a successful attorney who dedicated his entire spring to March Madness.
And then he traded me in for a little red-headed girl who had a passion for cheap beer, and who had dropped out of college and was busy supporting herself by mowing yards and slinging the weedeater along the edges of people’s driveways.
I know that it comes as an enormous shock that I was the one traded in, because I’m such a catch and all. I think, if I had enough sequins and rhinestones on a pink cape, I could have been (dare I say?) a super heroine, and a fellow would pretty much have to be insane to give up someone who can save the world in a feminine cape.
Eventually the initial shock gave way, and I settled into a small rut filled with a little gloomy depression. I decided that I was going to be doomed to a life of living alone. I suspected that I’d become one of those crazy cat women who shopped the ads, buying Newman’s Own Chicken and Brown Rice canned cat food in bulk when it was on sale. I went through that phase of depression, as I pictured a life like Joan Wilder’s in Romancing the Stone, BEFORE she went off to find an adventure in Cartagena with Jack T. Colton.
My roommate’s boyfriend informed me that it would be absolutely no problem (just! no! problem! whatsoever!) to get the stereo out of the basketball player’s car and sell it to a fence across the state border, all without leaving a single fingerprint behind. I’m ashamed to say that I asked to think about this offer for three entire days, before I finally told him no. The basketball player had been powerfully proud of that car stereo and all the bass-thumping it was capable of. I’m also hoping that I’ll have an extra diamond in my crown in heaven, because I made the right decision there and suggested that we leave the stereo IN the car. (However, I also suspect that I would have had NINE EXTRA DIAMONDS in my crown, had I told my roommate’s boyfriend, “Um, no thanks; we’d better not,” immediately instead of tossing the idea around in my head for three full days and entertaining daydreams of the basketball player emerging from his apartment to head to class one morning and finding his stereo PLUM GONE.)
A couple of months later, I graduated from the university, and my degree and I moved back to Small Town, where I eventually dated a couple of other cute, athletic losers.
And that, people, is when I started to talk to Jesus about the possibility of Him maybe picking someone out for me, because it was apparent that I was headed straight for a single rocking chair on the front porch and thirteen different litter boxes in the bathroom, if I didn’t let Him take over.
I’m also ashamed to admit that it was the very first time I’d actually willingly handed the reigns of my life over to Jesus, because I’d always been so confident of my own abilities. I was also filled with a healthy dose of unbelief that Jesus would pick anyone decent out for me, as I figured he’d choose a quiet troll of a man for me, who wore cardigan sweaters that smelled strongly of mothballs, but who would proudly hold my hand wherever we went. My expectations of what Jesus would deliver were at BORING, but NICE, because I was plum convinced that Jesus was probably more interested in a fellow’s heart than how cute he was, which meant I’d get the troll with the good soul.
In the meantime, I dated a couple more fellows, who were also athletic, but who were no longer that cute. And although they were not fans of the cardigan sweater, they also didn’t seem to be boys Jesus was selecting for me, even though they were a little troll-like. Trolls who could throw footballs, if you will.
So, I gave up boys completely. Gave! Them! Up! I turned down dates when they were offered, and I stopped answering the phone in my apartment, which was difficult to do, because this was a day and a time when Caller ID didn’t even exist. I dedicated my life to working and to enjoying time out with my girlfriends. And, through it all, I continued to whisper to Jesus almost daily, “Do You still remember me? And that I am hoping that You pick someone nice out for me? Because I’m still interested in dating someone nice, even though I’ve told the entire world that I’m giving boys up permanently. Like, forever. I don’t think I meant it, but maybe I did. So if You do pick someone out for me, could You make him cute AND nice? Please?”
And then one day, I answered the phone in my apartment, and it was a call from this cute, athletic wrestler who had a really sweet mullet. Although he didn’t wear a cardigan sweater, I assumed he wasn’t going to work out for me, because I was tired of the jock stereotypes, and he most definitely fit into the mold of CUTE AND ATHLETIC, which, of course, meant that Jesus wouldn’t pick him for me, because I knew Jesus wasn’t interested in cute. When the fellow asked me if I wanted to catch a movie with him sometime, I replied, “Sure. Just not tonight, or even tomorrow night, because I am very busy. Very. Busy.”
My sister, who just happened to be visiting me at the apartment when that phone call came in, said, “Wow. That was a little harsh.”
And honestly? I was at a point in my life when I simply didn’t care. I was getting frustrated with Jesus, because He was taking a sweet forever, and I was getting frustrated with boys who had once scored many, many touchdowns on high school football fields and were trying to relive the glory days after graduating from college, when it had been years since they’d last been a quarterback. I assumed that by answering this phone call, I was going to be regaled with stories of how “I put so-and-so in a headlock on the wrestling mat and made his nose bleed for an hour afterward during our freshman year.”
For the record, I called the fellow back. And I was extremely polite during our second phone conversation. And I went out to see a movie with him the following week.
I also thought that his 1968 Camaro was a Ford Mustang, but we all have our flaws.
After we’d seen the one movie together, I ended up having lunch with the fellow, and we laughed and laughed, and he didn’t tell me about his high school glory days in a blue and gold singlet, which actually worked in his favor.
And then I had dinner with him at a restaurant.
And everyone began to ask me, “So? Are you two…dating?”
And I emphatically said, “No,” because I was still waiting for Jesus to send someone boring in a cardigan sweater, because I was thoroughly convinced that Jesus would definitely pick out someone VERY BORING for me. And this fellow wasn’t boring at all. He was fun and kind, but my expectations of who Jesus would choose for me were rather low. It was that whole issue with UNBELIEF at the time.
And then, the boy with the mullet cooked me dinner at his house, and he introduced me to his youngest brother, and still! Even after THAT introduction, I still went out with him again.
(Because when I met Brother for the first time, he had just gotten out of bed. His hair was sticking up in twenty-two different directions. He was also wearing nothing but his boxers, and he was SCRATCHING, people! He plum grossed me out. Thankfully, Brother went on to improve himself in my eyes, and I’m happy to say that he always wears jeans instead of his underwear when I’m around him now. Brother did, surprisingly, turn out to be a decent sort of fellow.)
The dates with the cute boy in the mullet began to pile up, until pretty soon we’d been NOT DATING for an entire month.
And then he kissed me.
Because I finally let him kiss me.
And that’s when I knew.
I knew with that one kiss that sometimes Jesus really does send us our hearts’ desires, even when we don’t really know ourselves what the desires of our hearts actually are. And Jesus doesn’t send out boring. Jesus, it turns out, can really surprise you with a love story, when you stick with Him and keep talking to Him. And even when you expect something simple and dull, like a cardigan-sweater who appears troll-like and boring, but who treats you kindly, Jesus will plum wow you by sending you someone who has never even owned a cardigan sweater. Someone whose entire dress code consists of Levi’s and wrinkled T-shirts, because he doesn’t even know how to fold a T-shirt properly. Someone who is so ornery, he makes you giggle every single day of your life. Someone who thinks AC/DC and Waylon Jennings are incredible musicians. Someone who loves Jesus, too. Someone who turns out to be pretty dang wonderful, even though he fit the mold of being cute and athletic.
For a while, I assumed that Jesus simply grew tired of listening to me pester Him every single day with all the specifics for my FHO (Future Husband Order). I figured that Jesus simply gave in to me, because SWEET MERCY! He was tired of me banging on His door every day and reviewing my order and asking Him WHEN? When was the FHO going to be fulfilled, and was I really doomed to be a Crazy Cat Lady? He was so tired of hearing me whine day in and day out, He simply tossed this cute wrestler into my life just to get me to shut up and stop bothering Him. But then…I sort of realized that it all boils down to BELIEF, even though I didn’t have a lot of it then. It’s true — I doubted. I suspected that talking to Jesus about an FHO meant that Jesus would give you someone dull. What I didn’t realize is that Jesus kind of knows how to surprise the socks plum off of a girl.
On March 10, 1994, Hubs took me on our very first date, even after I’d tried to discourage his initial date-seeking phone call by telling him that I was very busy.
Jesus used my sister to encourage me to call Hubs back the following night, and I’m powerfully glad He did.
Because, seventeen years ago tonight, that first date showed me that Jesus answers prayers, and He answers them in ways you never fully expect.
Better ways, in fact. Because Jesus simply doesn’t DO boring.
After seventeen years of hanging out with you, I can still say that you’re my favorite. I hate AC/DC and I loathe Waylon Jennings, but you make me happy. You’re the very best husband a girl could ask for, and the very best dad a small boy could get, and I’m glad Jesus picked you out for me. I would like to keep you forever.
And go ahead and say it, people. That is one sweet mullet! I would have been crazy to have stuck with the Very Busy Story!