I didn’t know I was on my way back to church – and back to God – as I made the hour drive to Karen’s house. I thought I was just going on a date, meeting the woman who I had gotten to know over about eight hours of phone conversations after we were given each others’ numbers by a mutual friend. I really wasn’t looking for a relationship, not with a woman or with God. Neither had worked out very well in the past.
I had checked out the showtimes of movies I wanted to see at the closest movie theater. Not that Karen and I were planning to go to the movies – that was my backup plan, in case I gave in to my hesitation and decided to bypass her house. It was about 50-50 when I had left home where I would end up.
When I pulled up in front of the row that included her townhouse, I was still noncommittal. I didn’t pull into one of the spaces in front of her particular home, but parked down the street a ways. My first in-person conversation with her was as I walked up to her door. She told me I had to move my car, the spaces were assigned. I think she said “Hello” first, but I’m not sure. It was a strange beginning. But it was enough for me to know that she was as beautiful as she had seemed on the phone.
Also unusual was my first conversation with her son, who was turning four the next week. After being introduced, he said, “You want a beer? Everybody else has one.” I had never dated anyone with a kid. If this was how it was going to be, it was going to be okay!
Karen had just gotten back from church. Church! Another reason for my hesitation. I was an atheist, or at least an agnostic, after all.
She wasn’t quite ready to go out. While she changed, she asked me to change a light bulb above her stairs. I don’t know if that was some kind of test, but I passed in spite of my fear of heights.
I didn’t pass the next test. Her son asked me for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. My experience was with older kids – working as a Juvenile Probation Officer hadn’t given me many opportunities to fix PB&J sandwiches the way a 3-year old would like. My pride was wounded when he rejected the sandwich. “Not enough stuff.”
Despite my hesitation to commit and the subpar sandwich, that turned out to be the first of many trips to Karen’s house. It quickly became clear that if I wanted to date her, I would have to go to church with her. It seemed well worth the waste of an hour a week – but not wasted because it would be more time with her. Plus she told me they had a softball team I could play on.
In time, I realized I loved Karen and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. Seven months after my first drive to her house, I asked her to marry me. She said “yes!” And I asked her son if that was okay. I guess he’d gotten over the sandwich because he said “yes” as well.
And somewhere in those seven months of going to church, hearing the stuff about Jesus in God’s Word as it was preached and sung and prayed, I realized . . . I believed that stuff.
As surprised that I was to be getting married, I was even more surprised to be joining the church.
Sixteen years ago today, Karen and I were married by Pastor John, the pastor of that church.
And we began our life together in that townhouse to which I had made that hesitant drive one year before.
I was home.
The next Sunday, I officially joined the church.
I was home.