25 years ago I had come to a place of contentment in my life. After years of bad relationships, emotional distress and healing from the wounds of life, I had found a solid foundation. I had become grounded in my faith and healed in my soul.
What was more important, I had become content to live life without a man. That's a pretty tall order for a woman raised in a culture that tells you your worth comes from being desired by another person, particularly of the opposite sex.
For almost eight months I worked, tucked away in a small office next to the reception desk, as an assistant to the vice president of human resources at my job. Every day the FedEx man came in to pick up and drop off packages.
Over a period of time, I began to look forward to his visits. He was always friendly and from the beginning, we knew we shared the same faith. There was one problem though: I had to get over a bad first impression.
You see, the first day I met Russ, I was brand new on the job. Overly nervous and not at all shy, I made what I thought was a witty joke. What he heard was someone who wasn't serious about her faith. Little did he know, I hadn't been more serious about my beliefs in all of my life.
Thankfully, as the days and months wore on, I relaxed but my pursuit of God didn't. He was a new Christian whose thirst was unquenchable. He wanted to live a life healed from a tumultuous childhood and addictions that had gripped him for most of his life. He was finding the path out of his past at the same time I was making my way out of mine.
Neither of us really knows the exact moment our relationship began “taking off.” It seems that it was the day he was setting his Thanksgiving schedule to see how to plan his route for that pesky Friday in the middle of the four day weekend most of us who aren't in retail take for granted.
It was in front of two co-workers he phrased it like this, “Are you open the day after Thanksgiving?” Puzzled, I responded, “Are you asking me if (the business I worked for) will be open the day after Thanksgiving?”
It was his turn to look confused. (Looking back this isn't a foreign pattern in our communication. We confuse each other a lot.)
“I need to plan my route around the businesses that are open on that day,” he said. Trying very hard not to look totally deflated with my voice forcefully cheerful I replied, “No! We get the day off that day!”
As soon as the door shut behind him my cheeky little co-worker knowingly accused me with her southern drawl, “Ah know wuut yourr thinkin’! I'm not sure what I said next, but I think it was something like “shut up” as I turned on my heels, retreating to my office as soon as possible.
The next day I happened to be in the lobby when he arrived. The co-worker decided this would be a good opportunity to reveal my secrets. As I pleaded with her to stop after, “Russ, do you know what she was thinking yesterday?” He replied, “If she doesn't want me to know, I don't want you to tell me.”
I think he had me at that moment. I was undone by that simple act of protecting me. When many would have pushed with the intention of building their own ego, he chose to live without the information in order to shield me from embarrassment. At the same time, I'm sure he was taking it in and prayerfully considering his next steps.
A few weeks later I returned from working in the warehouse to find a small plaque on my desk. It held a scripture found in the book of Isaiah chapter 40, verse 31: “But they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
No one seemed to know whom it was from. I went office to office trying to find out who was being so thoughtful. I finally asked the receptionist and she said, “I don't know, but I thought Russ was in your office earlier.”
She was right. I left for a later lunch and stopped at the bookstore to buy a thank you card. While there, I checked the winner’s list for a concert the following night. Not only was I a winner, but my roommate also won a couple of tickets. We gave one to a friend of ours and I slipped my phone number and an invitation into the thank you note for Russ.
Later that evening there was a message on my phone. He would definitely like to go to the concert with us.
The next night was the most casual first date I think I ever had. Since I wasn't focused on any prize, I just enjoyed the night. The tickets included a pre-concert dinner with Michael W. Smith who was gracious enough to take a photo with us. Another winner brought her Polaroid camera (be kind, this was 1988) and offered to give us a picture.
The night wasn't magical and I wasn't on my best behavior (in fact one incident happened, he revealed later. that made him think I was a bit stubborn.) But the date worked out well because I can tell him I didn't hide it from him.
As of this writing it has been 25 years since that night. The plaque has been with us through numerous moves. The trials of life, marriage and faith we have endured over a quarter of a century have lasted because of one thing, the foundation we have is our faith.
When you build your life on a rock solid, immovable foundation, no matter how hard the winds blow or the rain beats against the window of your life, there is always a sturdy place to rebuild.
The way I see it, happily ever after is only part of the story. It is all the in-betweens. It's learning what it takes to “rise with wings as eagles.”
“But they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isa.40:31