Once upon a time, there was a thirty-something woman whose heart was as dusty and dry as the desert land in which she lived. All her life she dreamed of meeting a good man, marrying and becoming a mother. Unfortunately, through circumstances (and bad life choices), she found herself grasping at anything and anyone who she felt would fill the void; drugs, alcohol, a perverted step-father, and a seemingly endless string of boyfriends—the last one being petty and cruel. She married him anyway.
It was during that marriage that the woman began searching for something bigger than herself and her problems. She longed for an oasis amid scorching sands of her soul. One day, she felt His presence and asked Him to be her Savior. Jesus quenched her deepest thirst. The woman rejoiced because all would be grand in her world. Her husband would no longer abuse and demean her. She would become the godly wife and mother that she longed to be—or so she thought. Her husband resented her new relationship with God and the abuse increased until she was forced to flee for her safety.
She once again felt lost and confused. Christian women were not supposed to leave their husbands, let alone divorce them. She found comfort among her church friends (and a good divorce-recovery counselor). She worked hard as a CPA and bought her own home. For the first time in her life, she was at peace with herself.
Almost a year passed since her divorce was finalized and she felt ready to start socializing again. All her church friends were married, so she joined a local Christian singles group. It was more of a dating service. She looked forward to group events and maybe going on a few dates. Who knew? Maybe she would meet THE one.
She soon became disillusioned with many of the “Christians” in the group. Drinking, smoking, swearing, and casual sex were as common as anything the world could provide. The only men that seemed interested in her were the basement-dwelling mama’s boys, or the ones who had no problem propositioning her on the first date (and trying to convince her that their behavior wasn’t sinful). Her heart hardened. She didn’t know if she would ever know love the way God intended. It didn’t matter, she was done with that nonsense. She decided to quit the group.
When she went to the office to remove her profile, the manager stopped her at the door and insisted that she meet the newest member. No, she wasn’t interested. The manager pressed her, insisting that this new member just wanted to meet other Christians, not date. After an excessively long awkward silence, the woman relented and said she would at least look at the man’s profile page (they were kept in binders, Facebook wasn’t around then).
She took the binder and sat down with a critical spirit. Her eyes zeroed in on the little box marking his “status” …widowed. Nope, she didn’t want any part of that mess, especially because it had only been 7 months since his wife died. She was already carrying around so much of her own baggage that she could have had “Samsonite” tattooed on her butt. Still, the manager persisted. She finally conceded and took the man’s contact information. She called him that night (it was a Friday) and left a message on his answering machine. She waited. Crickets. Three days passed without a reply, so she determined that he wasn’t interested. Case closed.
That Tuesday she came home to a message on her machine from the man. He had been camping with friends over the weekend which is why he hadn’t called earlier. He asked if she would like to go out the next Saturday. She said, “yes”. They arranged to meet at a restaurant for dinner, then they would go play mini-golf.
When she got to the restaurant, he was waiting outside. He had a nice, warm smile, but it was obvious he was nervous. They had a nice dinner with general get-to-know-you small talk. At mini-golf, he was trying so hard to be nice that he came across very awkward and a little weird. She just knew something HAD to be wrong with him. Seriously, no one is THAT nice unless their trying to figure out where to hide your body.
They finished their game about 8:30pm. He told her that he had a nice time, it was nice to meet her, shook her hand and said “good-bye.” She was surprised that he didn’t at least ask her to go for coffee or something. Again, that was that. One and done. She cried all the way home. She told God that she would stay single for the rest of her life if that was His will. She didn’t want to date anymore.
To her surprise, the man called her the next week asking for another date. She weighed her options, and seeing that she had no alternate plans, she agreed. At least she would get dinner. Oh, and she decided to unmercifully grill him about his “walk with the Lord”. Yup, her heart was hardened, and she was going to find out what this guy was all about.
They met at a Mexican restaurant. She put her plan into action over chips and salsa. “So!” She started, “Tell me about your walk with Jesus.” He might as well have been in an interrogation room from the way her eyes bore into his. He began talking.
He told her about being saved when he was 17 and working in youth ministry. He told her about joining the Air Force at 21 and being stationed in Holland for 8 years. That is where he met his first wife. He talked about not being close to God for those years because Holland is a very secular society. He talked about being reassigned back in the states and his wife’s five-year battle with cancer. He confessed to making some bad choices after she died until a friend led him back to the Lord. That is when he started going back to church and joined the Christian’s group.
The woman sat there in awe that he was being so open and honest with her. She shared a bit of her past too, but still felt too guarded to tell him too much. They ended their date playing pool and joking around. She laughed harder and more genuinely than she had in years. Another handshake, another good-bye, but this time they had already agreed to meet for a hike the next weekend. They were becoming friends. After that, they saw each other a few times a week.
A couple weeks later (on Halloween to be exact) she received a huge bouquet of flowers at work. Not roses, but tiger lilies and daffodils. She started to panic because so far, her relationship with the man was purely platonic. She wasn’t sure if she was ready for romance. What did this mean? She called and thanked him for the flowers. He asked if he could accompany her to her church’s “Pumpkin Patch” event that night. Sure, no problem. He would pick her up at her house.
When he arrived, he seemed calm, but serious. “Can we sit down to talk for a minute before we go?” he asked. She agreed.
They sat on her sofa. Her heart was racing.
“I would like permission to date you.” He continued. “I would like to hold your hand and kiss you goodnight. Would that be alright?”
She was speechless, no one had ever treated her so respectfully before. Yet, she was still worried that he may be acting out of grief for his late wife. She didn’t want to be a place-holder.
“Yes, I would like that too.” She replied. “But I have one condition—that you see a grief counselor to make sure you are truly ready for this step.”
“It’s a deal.” He said.
From that night on, the man, Herbert, and the woman, Ericka were inseparable. Six months later they were married on a beautiful spring evening in front of their closest family and friends. That was 15 years ago. It took years for Ericka’s heart to heal and for her to truly feel the love that Herbert had for her. His patient, gentle nature was salve to her deepest wounds. Their love for God has grown and so has their family.