Last night, from the back seat, my nine-year old said, "You're a lucky woman to have that man."
I laughed. That's what you do when a child says something fortyish. "Well, yes ... I am. But why do you think so?" I glanced back and saw that she was watching her dad out the window and shaking her head, as if in disbelief.
"Look at him," she said. So I did. Dave stood in front of our church fence tossing wood scraps over and onto our property. He'd spotted the wood when we cruised the theater parking lot behind the church. Teenagers, no doubt, had stacked the pieces so they could more easily climb our fence on their way to and from the theater.
"Dad carries all your wood and stuff."
I didn't point out that it wasn't my wood he was carrying. No need to correct her, because she's right. At home, he carries in firewood for me, and groceries; when we return from a trip, he brings in all the suitcases. Tera sees that. At church last Sunday, he wouldn't let me stack the extra folding chairs, even though it was killing me to see them scattered about. Tera watched him take a chair from my hand and stack it for me. "You don't need to be doing that," he said. She heard.
The girl's right--I'm a lucky woman. And to think I almost missed it ...
Dave and I met the first week of college. We felt an immediate attraction. From his end of things, there was no reason not to pursue that attraction. But I was fresh from a broken engagement--an engagement I ended just three weeks before my planned August wedding. I had good reason for giving my fiance back his ring. You'll just have to trust me on that, because this post is about something else. But after I did that, I had a long talk with myself. I looked back and realized that for five years, I hadn't had a break in my dating life. I'd gone from one boyfriend to another, and it made me wonder if I was capable of being single, if I could get by without a relationship. The bottom line, for me, was that I needed to know God could be enough for me.
I didn't immediately tell Dave my thoughts. I played pool with him in the college game room, and let him walk me to and from classes, and accepted his invitations to sit in Tony's Coffee Shop and sip espresso and listen to beanie-clad flutists play Beatles songs. But after a few weeks, I had to stop. "I can't see you anymore," I said.
He asked for a reason.
"I need to know I can be content to be the bride of Christ," I answered.
Dave had been raised in the church, but he hadn't yet realized that God wanted more than a Sunday morning nod from him. I may as well have been speaking a foreign language.
"I have no idea what you just said, but I respect your right to feel that way," he told me.
Our walks and coffee shop dates ended. He watched for me; I avoided him. But he kept a journal during that time, a journal he showed me years after we married. He poured his heart out on those pages. He'd be in his apartment and hear me coming up the stairs to mine, and he'd write about wondering where I'd been and with whom. He'd see me on campus laughing with someone, and later that night he'd write that he wished I had been laughing over something he said. And every night--for six months--he ended his entry with the same prayer: God, either change her heart or take away my desire for her.
At some point that spring, I decided I'd proved my point to myself. A friend set me up with one of his friends, an older man who was already settled in life. He owned a house in Seattle and a boat on which he spent most weekends. He was a trained vocalist and an incredible pianist. He overwhelmed me.
One night, he took me to dinner at his favorite downtown Seattle restaurant. (I have to insert here that my track record with fancy restaurants is bad. A man I met and dated just after becoming a Christian took me to such a restaurant one night. I figured that was as good a time as any to tell him I couldn't date him anymore because he wasn't a Christian--and I had just learned that I wasn't to be unequally yoked. When I told him, he informed me that he had brought me to that restaurant to ask me to marry him.)
So I'm sitting with Piano Man, listening to a strolling violinist, and my date begins describing for me the kind of life we could have if we married. He pointed out that we could live in the country, but enjoy the city on the weekends. He was laying a pretty good case, when all of a sudden, God answered Dave's prayer. Literally mid-bite, with a forkful of pheasant nearing my mouth, I thought, I wonder what Dave Woodward is doing right now?
I don't remember exactly how I extricated myself from that near-proposal, but I do remember racing back to campus, where I "stalked" Dave for a day or two. Because I don't hide my emotions very well, he noted my change of heart and took action. Within two months, we eloped.
That was almost twenty years ago. In that time, Dave has taught me, loved me, forgiven me, and held me through the most difficult moments of my life. He's the most perfect example of Christ I've laid eyes on--and the best pastor I've ever had. He's gentle, patient and pure-hearted. And there are many, many days when I look at him and think, How on earth did I end up with you?
The answer, of course, is that God's ways are higher than our own. His plans are beyond our comprehension. And often--more often than we're aware of--he gives us what we don't deserve.
The fact is, I'm not lucky at all. I'm blessed.