A lonely woman relies on the power of prayer when she meets a man who may be "the one."
Aug 1, 2008
It's just lunch, I told myself. Not a real date. I slid the hangers across the bar of my closet as I rated each outfit. Too stuffy. Out-of-style. A date? I hadn't had one of those for two years. I'd sworn off dating after my last marriage fell apart—my second marriage to fail. I just didn't trust myself. Things had gone so terribly wrong I didn't think I could even make a choice anymore. One afternoon two years later I confided my disillusionment to a friend.
"Write down on a sheet of paper all of the qualities you want in a husband. Pray over it and put it in a special box. Then trust God to choose someone for you," she suggested. So I did. I made my list, folded it up, put it in my cedar jewelry box and prayed without much hope. I'd always seen myself happily married, chasing kids around a backyard. Here I was, 39, alone and about to meet a guy I barely knew, for lunch.
Friends said I was a "young-looking" 39, but your age is your age. I stepped back from my closet with a dark-olive top and silk pants, brushed my hair, freshened my lipstick and wondered, What am I doing?
As I drove to the restaurant, I thought about the guy I was meeting. We'd been introduced a few weeks before at a friend's place. We only chatted briefly, but he seemed nice, with dark eyes and an easygoing manner. I didn't think much of it until a week later when the phone rang. "It's Michael," he said. I was a little surprised to hear from him, but his friendly manner quickly put me at ease.
A few calls later, he suggested we get together. "I don't date," I said. I took a breath and laughed nervously. "I've had some bad experiences. I want to build a friendship first."
"Then let's be friends," he replied.
We talked every other day. He seemed too good to be true: He had a promising career in counseling. He sang in the choir at his country church. He didn't drink. All the qualities I'd put on the list. But I tried not to get my hopes up. There was an unknown: I'd only seen Michael that one time, but I remembered he looked younger than I was.
I pulled into the parking lot and glimpsed him standing in front of the restaurant, with a boyish grin. Yep, I thought as I walked toward the breezeway, definitely younger. "Good to see you," he said. He held the door for me. "I'm glad you suggested Bellini's. It's my favorite."
"Mine too," I agreed. "Let's go dutch."
"Out of the question," he said. "Since I invited you, it's on me."
His manners impressed me, but I still wasn't sure what I was doing there. I picked at my shrimp piccata. We talked about a lot of things—music, books we loved, even spiritual stuff. I'd never met a man who was so comfortable talking about his faith. I felt relaxed around him. When we finished, he paid the tab and left a generous tip.
"Let's do this again," he said, walking me to my car. "My 10-year reunion's coming up this weekend, but maybe we could do something next weekend?"
I did the math. Ten-year COLLEGE reunion? That would make him 32. Maybe 35, if he got a graduate degree. Or 10-year HIGH SCHOOL reunion? He'd only be 28. I ran the numbers over and over in my head. Best case scenario, he's only a few years younger. Worst case, 12. I could've been his babysitter!
"Call me," I said. "Thanks for a great lunch."
I sighed deeply as I slid behind the wheel of my car. How could he be the one? He would want a younger woman he could start a family with. Not me.
That evening I slipped on my pajamas, curled up on the couch and flipped channels aimlessly. After the news, I padded into my bedroom and dug into my closet for my cedar jewelry box.
Nestled inside under a silver band my grandfather had given me was a sheet of paper. The list. I unfolded it and reread the qualities I'd chosen for a mate two years earlier: "honest, loyal, sober, happy, enjoys singing, shares readily, generous, educated, financially secure, emotionally open, churchgoing, laid back, interested in building a family, and within three years of my age." Michael had all the traits—but one. And that would end up being the deal breaker.
He called a few times the next week, but I made excuses to avoid him. Finally, he caught me on my cell Thursday afternoon. "Meet me at the movies tonight? The new Shrek is playing."
I tried to make myself say "no," but the truth was that I really wanted to see him. We got tickets, got some popcorn and found seats. "So, was it fun to be back on your college campus?" I tried to sound nonchalant as I sipped my diet soda.
"Nah. I decided not to go," he confessed. "And it was my high school reunion." The lights dimmed and the previews began. I couldn't concentrate. The calculator whirred in my mind. In the dimness I could see him laughing at the screen, that nice easy laugh I liked, but the confirmation of our age difference soured my mood. Besides, it was a cartoon. Movies I liked had human actors.
"I always catch the new Simpsons episode on Sunday evenings," he said as we walked out of the theater, stunned that I wasn't into animation.
"Everyone likes The Simpsons."
I wanted to shout at him. "Next time, you pick the movie," he offered as we walked to my car. Next time? What was I doing?
Everyone your age!
That night I reread the list, again. For two years, I'd prayed for God to send me the man of my dreams. No, not even the man of my dreams. Just a man who made sense for me.
And now that he'd answered that prayer, there was something terribly wrong, not about the guy but about me. I was a much older woman. Michael seemed to be everything I wanted. But what would he think when he found out the truth about my age?
We talked nearly every day. He was a good companion, a friend. I could feel myself falling in love with him and he seemed to care about me. He suggested having a picnic and watching Fourth of July fireworks together. I knew I'd have to clear the air. I punched in Michael's number that morning and paced around the kitchen as I waited for him to pick up.
"Michael," I took a deep breath, "do you know how old I am?"
"No," he answered. "Not really." I heard a hint of confusion in his voice.
"I'm going to be 40." Silence. "How old are you?"
"Twenty-eighy," he replied, almost nonchalantly. "Where's this going, Stephanie?"
"I just think you should be clear on our age difference before it goes any farther."
"O-kay.…" Michael said. "We're still going to see the fireworks, right? Pick you up at five?"
At sunset, Michael and I drove to the church parking lot. We found a spot on a hill, spread out a blanket and unpacked the picnic basket. "I know you're concerned about our age difference," he said, putting his hand on my arm, "but I'm not. I've prayed for a wife. I don't want to be too bold, but I think you might be just that someone."
The first fireworks popped in the night sky. My heart leaped. Michael had been praying for me while I prayed for him? He wrapped his fingers around mine as we watched the brilliant colors burst across the darkened canvas of sky.
You know what? I still think cartoons are for kids, but I've come to appreciate the chance to curl up on the couch every Sunday night with Michael to watch The Simpsons.
My husband, Michael. Our 5-year-old daughter, Micah, has been put to bed and if I doze off it's usually with a smile on my face, because I'm happier than I've ever been, happier than I knew was possible.
The man I married is everything I prayed for—with only one slight difference that turned out to matter, but not in the way I'd thought. Our age difference was an issue, not between Michael and me, but between God and me. It was a challenge to my trust in him to answer my prayers perfectly.
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