"Isaac is coming! Isaac is on his way. You've waited long, but Isaac will come as God has promised. And the Lord says to get rid of the Ishmael." ~"Reverend T." Mississippi, Spring, 2006
"God, can I have her?"
From what he's told me, JD asked the question one day at work without really expecting an answer. Although both he and his mother had been praying for and about me for several weeks, he had grown accustomed to inscrutable silence on this particular subject. One of the things I have had to learn to trust about JD is that he genuinely hears from the Lord when he says he does; he makes it seem so easy--shutting himself in another room to pray and then coming back within ten minutes with a peace in his heart. I have a tendency to feel more like if I don't wrestle with God until daybreak, I have no business claiming to have heard His voice. Granted, most of the time I'm simply wrestling with my own doubts instead of being obedient.
However, despite JD's apparent ease at hearing from God, the Lord had remained silent on the subject of dating me; which was why on this particular day when He chose to answer JD's question, he had a hard time believing it.
"Can I have her, God?"
"Yes. But you're going to have to follow me with it."
The first thing God told him to do was give all of his savings to missions. Within a week of his obedience, someone who did not know him very well (and did not know of his offering) began commenting to me on how generous he was, bringing yet another facet of his personality that I found attractive to my attention.
He used to call me late at night from his parents' home when he would visit them. We would talk for hours. Physical fatigue would cause me to become less guarded and less analytical about what I was saying to him; I was also less insistent that we talk about him instead of me. JD could hear the change come in my voice, and would sometimes ask me if my walls were finally down. If I said they were, he would gently steer the conversation to asking about me--finding out my hopes and dreams, favorite things, failures, successes, heartbreaks, and joys. Half of the time, I would have a very limited or no memory of the conversation the next day. He learned a lot about me during those late-night chats, including my favorite movie ("The Princess Bride"--a love story about Buttercup and Westley).
He was armed with this knowledge and the conviction that God was leading him to pursue me when we had our first "we won't be more than friends" conversation in September. That week while he was out of town on business and we were not in communication, he found "The Princess Bride" on youtube and watched it in 10 minute installments, taking notes along the way.
The movie's plot involves a gap period in which Westley and Buttercup do not see each other for several years. When JD returned home, he wrote a story based on these notes about what happened to Westley during that gap period. He typed it with an old-fashioned font, printed it on legal paper, burned the edges of the paper and rolled the whole thing up as a scroll that he tied with string. I found it later that afternoon nestled among the plants outside my front door. My generous, God-fearing, strong, kind friend also had a thoughtful, tender side--and I just couldn't seem to pull away from him.
In the weeks that followed, I began finding other things waiting for me when I came home from work--lilies (my favorite flower), chocolate, other installments to the story.
One night, he and a friend were driving back from a road trip and he convinced his friend to stop by my apartment on the way home so that he could give me a potted parade rose. It had been a rough day, and the thing that meant the most to me about that night was the hug he gave with the rose. How I needed someone to lean on that night.
The night I realized my heart was starting to open to him was the last Wednesday night in October, 2009. A prophetic evangelist had come to minister to the house of prayer I attend, and we were having special meetings in homes every night that week. JD had started coming to the house of prayer meetings a few weeks prior, but had to be out of town on business again that week (planning to drive home on Wednesday). I told him about the special meeting Wednesday night, but did not think he would come to it because of a prior commitment to the church we both attended. However, he felt like he needed to be with our prayer group Wednesday night, and drove four hours to make it that night.
When he walked in, one of my mentors immediately stood up with a smile on her face and ran across the room to give him a hug. Suddenly, it felt like my life came into focus as I realized how much the friends I had learned to trust respected him. He wasn't some strange guy I couldn't push away despite almost rude behavior on my part (he seemed genuinely surprised later in conversations where I referenced how rude I thought I'd been to him); he was my equal. I fell asleep that night with a smile on my face, thankful for my friend and for the way he made me feel.
God allowed the final cord to my past to sever two days later. The "Isaac" I had laid on the altar two years prior had been sickly at best, but I thank God that he moved JD into my life as a support before I had to accept the "other way" that for so long I had believed was coming would never appear. My heart closed again to love and to trust.
That Sunday afternoon, JD showed up on my doorstep after church claiming to be the visitation committee because I hadn't been there that morning (my house of prayer had a ministry opportunity that afternoon and I had asked to be excused from my responsibilities that morning to prepare for the afternoon). He came in and we made awkward smalltalk until he finally said, "This is going to sound strange to you, but God told me to do it." He then asked for a bowl of water and a towel. When I brought them to him, he led me to sit on the couch.
Kneeling on the floor before me, he cradled my right foot in his hand and began to gently wash my feet. The tears began falling faster than I could wipe them away, but he simply nodded and said, "it's okay." His humble act of service touched a spot in my heart that had hurt for a long time. Together we did a quick cleanout of a box of memories that needed to be shredded and then left to join our house of prayer friends in ministry.
The flowers, chocolates, and Scripture verses on my doorstep began coming again. JD was ever empathetic to the process God through which God was leading me, but he was also convinced that--now that my heart was free--it was only logical we would begin dating soon; which is why when I sat him down near the end of November and told him (more forcefully than ever before) to "Back. Off." My ultimatum: We would either be friends or we would not speak again.
<--back to part 4 on to part 6-->
<--back to the beginning