I used to think he was the man I would marry. My teenage crush. He was everything I wanted in a man. He was taller than me with blond hair and he loved the Lord with a passion that inspired me. I expected him to be a great pastor someday . . . and maybe I would be his wife.
But he never saw me as anything more than a friend. We both left for different colleges and lost touch.
It never stopped me from dreaming and hoping but eventually I met a guy and married him blind to the fact that he was not God’s best for me. At the time I felt like no one would want me. I had been led to believe that. So I took what I could get and paid the price for it.
So now, twenty-five years later, at the local coffee shop, I’m face to face with the man I had once dreamed about sleeping next to for those intervening years.
“Wow, how have you been? Whatcha been up to?” I look at the receding hairline and the deep lines carved into his forehead and around his eyes. He looks older than his actual age. He nods to an empty chair and I motion for him to sit.
“Married, got a job, wife died and now I’m a widower with two grown kids.”
“I’m sad to hear of your loss. That must have been hard.”
“It wasn’t a good marriage by any means. I’m glad it’s over. Breast cancer that reoccurred and spread. The last year was brutal.” He shuddered.
“Oh, okay. Did you go to seminary after high school? Where do you work?”
He shook his head, blue eyes dull. “I gave up on God years ago. I work in a factory.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry.”
“How about you?”
“Oh, well, I did go to seminary and worked for awhile in ministry but kind of got burned out and took to writing.”
“Yeah, I write inspirational fiction.”
“Oh, God is love and happily ever after type crap.”
I nod and then shake my head. I cringe at his dismal of my work. So much for my own dreams. “What brings you back to town?”
“I came to visit my buddy, Kurt. Remember him?”
“Yeah, I do.” Kurt was a sweet guy in high school. Big guy. Tried to date me and took me to the drive thru movie, Rocky. I spent the night swatting mosquitoes and avoiding him trying to put his arm around me. I think it took him a few hours the next day to clean off his windshield but he gave up on dating me and settled for friendship instead.
“Came to visit. Only problem is he keeps trying to get me to turn back to God.”
“And what’s wrong with that? It’s something you would have done had you stayed the course.”
He smiled and grunted. “Yeah, you’re probably right. So where are you at now? Married? I don’t see a wedding ring.”
I look down at the mother of pearl ring I wear. “I stopped wearing my ring years before he left me. I thought he loved God but it turned out to be an act. He knew about God but didn’t have a relationship with God. He left me for someone younger, thinner and prettier. A year later he dumped her too.”
“I’m sorry. You deserved better than that.”
“It’s sweet of you to say so.”
“Maybe you and I could do dinner sometime? I’m in town for the week and even after that I only live three hours south.”
My heart skipped a beat and I bit my lip. This was the kind of thing I had hoped for years ago. That mythical reunion of lost souls finding one another in love after too many years apart. But the years have, I hope, helped me grow in wisdom. “I appreciate the offer but I’m going to have to decline.”
“Got someone else on the hook?”
“No. There’s no one else, but Jesus.”
He stepped back as if I had slapped him. He looked away and then down to his feet. “Oh.”
“I got burned once, Paul, but I had been deceived. I’m not going to fall into that again knowing how you feel about my faith.”
“No buts. I would rather be alone and grounded in my faith, than in a relationship with you or anyone else that would make me choose.”
I watched his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed the truth of what I was saying.
“Well, then I guess it’s been nice seeing you.” He rose to his fee and turned to walk away.
“Yeah, Paul, it’s been nice.” And eye opening. I rise, slip my coat on, grab my purse and head to my car and home. Alone, but content, because sometimes a dead dream is better to walk away from than try to resurrect.