Should I re-title these as “The Awkward Ways That God Brings Two People Together”?
Back to the coffee shop. And the personal agenda of my friend Barney.
“I was wondering if you’d be willing to help out with the youth group this year.”
I wish you could have seen my face. That was what he wanted to talk about? Conning me into a volunteer position for church stuff? You couldn’t just ask me that in an email? I wondered all summer what this mysterious conversation you needed to have with me was all about. No way, pal. Been there, done that. I loved counseling at camp, but the youth group was another beast to tame. I had served on staff at church for almost two years as the Junior High Coordinator and I was waving a white flag by the time it was all said and done. It had been a great learning experience, but it also served as a loud and clear sign that my gifts and passions did not lie within leading a big group of middle schoolers. Some people are cut out for that stuff. God wanted me to do something else. Message received. Not for little Ali.
“I appreciate you asking, but no.” I expected his reply to me be, “Well, you don’t have to answer now, just think about it, pray about it, let me know later on…” All the pastor phrases that guilt you into serving God’s kingdom in ways that you may or may not feel called to or even be gifted in. But he didn’t.
“That’s okay, I understand, I just wanted to throw it out there in case you were interested! So, how’s your summer been going?”
That was it? No guilt trip? No need for a detailed and/or spiritual explanation? I slowly began to realize I was off the hook.
“It’s been going well…” and we talked and laughed for the next two hours. We even began to talk about our past, our past relationships and some of the hurdles we’ve faced in life thus far. It was surprisingly refreshing and easy to talk to him. After all, the last time we really had a heart to heart we were mere acquaintances becoming friends at Camp Bethany, teaming up to do Wal-Mart shopping before campers got there, talking to a few campers together about their rough home lives and praying with them. Even on a laundry day one during one of those five weeks of summer camp, Anne Stoffer and I needed to throw in some extra laundry of ours quickly as did Barney. So that was the day our shirts and shorts got washed with Barney’s underwear. Little did I know it wouldn’t be the last time I washed my clothes with Barney’s underwear.
It was time to go. It was still raining, so he offered to drive me back to my dorm. I accepted, we said goodbye to Jillian and hopped in his taupe colored Mazda. Now, side note: when you like the same music as someone, there always seems to be more of a connection there. I had been listening to the album Parachutes (Coldplay) for a good month at the time, rediscovering it in my own music collection. I had been listening to the song “Sparks” in particular, over and over. What song was the middle of playing when he started his car? “Sparks”. Parachutes was in his CD player. I took notice of this and he dropped me off at Clark. It was a good day.
The weekend came and the nervous e-mails came back. He didn’t want to pressure me to hang out again, and in a way I was thankful for the easy out, if I needed one. I run from confrontation and awkward conflict like it’s my job. I wanted him to call me and just ask. We all want to save face though and preserve our dignity, I can get that. Truthfully, I would have done the same thing, it would be tough to be the guy and be the one expected to pursue a relationship or the possibility of one. I’m glad I’m a girl. And Jason has expressed to me that he is glad I’m a girl as well. It’s a win, win.
“I had a wonderful time hanging out with you the other day. Such a good time, in fact, that I was wondering if you’d like to do dinner and a movie sometime.” That was the key point of the e-mail. “Sometime” was actually the next day, September 4th. We ate lunch at TGIFriday’s and saw a matinee of “The Brothers Grimm”. During that afternoon I learned about his fear of silence in conversation and he learned of my extreme love of french fries, of which I noticed he wasn’t going to eat all of his at TGIF’s and I asked “Could I have those?”, as I ate the remainder of his fries right off his plate. I am so classy. We actually had really good conversation and something about that time together made me see him differently. I went into it thinking, he’s my friend, I’ll get a free meal, but I know this won’t go anywhere so I don’t want to lead him on if being more than friends is even on his mind…you know the kind of carried away thinking girls tend to do as they analyze every word and the tone of the words and body language and so forth. It’s exhausting. I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore. Drama. I came out of that “date” thinking, maybe I could give this a chance, he’s really interesting and funny, and he loves the Lord, has a job and car…you know, all the things that were must-have’s on my list. He dropped me off at my dorm again and we said goodbye, and we didn’t make plans to see each other again, but we didn’t have to. Communication started flowing more naturally, and he would call me or instant message me and the awkward e-mails kind of fell to the wayside. Thank God.
I was still unsure about making more out of this than just going on casual dates. I was content at keeping it at that and nothing more. My roommates Cait and Carly teased me lovingly, but they also knew him as well or better than I did and said seriously, “You should really give him a chance, Ali!” “But it’s Barney.” I would say. “I can’t be in a real relationship with Barney.” Nothing against him, he just wasn’t the guy I saw myself with for the long haul. I had no desire to be a pastor’s wife. I saw myself with the tall, dark military type. I didn’t want to waste his or my time when I knew it wouldn’t pan out. But I just kept hearing the phrase “leap of faith” over and over. What? Take a leap of faith, date him for a little while, realize I don’t like him more than just being friend, like I knew I would realize break up with him? Leap of faith, leap of faith.
So one night I was in a reminiscent kind of mood and was looking through old camp stuff. I found handmade cards from campers and my co-full time staff and began to read some of them. We all wrote each other encouraging notes from time to time and it was a nice reminder of the bonds we had all formed that summer. One was from Jamie, one from Anne, one from Barney, one from- wait, Barney, hmm what did he write me? It was a red half sheet of construction paper folded in half and it said “Allison” on the the front. Inside it read: “Ali, Ruth was in a strange land with strange people. The Bible states she was a Moabitess woman. She was polytheistic! One God was a strange idea. God worked through her mother-in-law and Ruth started to follow Israel’s God. Ruth’s goodness shined through. In Ruth 1:16 she tells Naomi, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or turn my back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.’ Ruth, out of goodness, took a leap of faith!” Gulp. There it was. “You do the same thing and I love serving with you! Your step into camp counseling was the will of God for you. It’s very evident. God bless you always! – Barney.”
How could I ignore this?