It took me a few minutes to remember why I was waking up in the back seat of the Torino at a truck stop. And then I remembered how close I was to Donna, “so close and yet so far…” is sadly what I probably said.
I jumped out of the car and into the chilly Missouri morning. It actually felt warmer outside the car than it did inside but it was still very cool. I went in and used the washroom. I had the whole place to myself so I went right for the middle urinal. I don’t think that’s important but still worth sharing.
I jumped back in the car and headed into downtown Rolla, a plan forming in my little brain as I drove. I took stock of the situation.
My fiancé was somewhere in the city and I had no idea where.
She would soon be getting back in a van and driving to St. Louis expecting to meet me there.
I had no way of contacting Orville in St. Louis (these were the days when cell phones were the same size and roughly the same weight as an iron and very few people had them) and honestly I wouldn’t have wanted to if I could.
I didn’t know anyone in Rolla except a security guard and a receptionist at the hospital who might have me arrested if I went back there.
And then it hit me…churches. The group would have contacted a church in our ‘brotherhood’ of churches. I always wondered why we think of the church as feminine (the bride of Christ) but we talked about a brotherhood of churches, tran-gender issues I guess.
So I hit a phone booth (they were still booths back then) and found the phone book. Went to the yellow pages under “Church” and ripped out the whole section of listings. May God and AT&T forgive me.
I started driving around from church to church to church trying to find someone who could tell me where the group had stayed over night.
No one was home.
Please remember, this is a TRUE story. I’m NOT making this up. DEFINITELY not this part anyway.
I went to the last church on my handful of yellow pages. I knocked.
I went around to other doors, tried to see if they were unlocked, knocked and then pounded.
You may be thinking of 200 things I could’ve done or you would’ve done. I’m not saying I’m a genius; this is just what I really did.
I went back up to the front door of the church. It sat on a corner lot at a four-way stop intersection. No traffic, no walkers, I don’t even remember hearing birds. I was alone.
I knew that the morning was getting late the same way you know that the Mexican food you ate about an hour ago is about to violently exit your body and you’d better find a place to go ‘cause it was leaving ready or not. I felt the pressure growing.
If they hadn’t already loaded up and taken off for St. Louis, they soon would be.
I stood there at the door and knocked some more.
Then I pounded on the door with my forehead.
Then I stood there, leaning against the door with my forehead pressed against the unmoving, uncaring wood and I prayed.
It was something deep and profound like, “O God, O God…”
I audibly heard my name. No lie.
But it came from behind me. I pulled my forehead off the door and turned around to see Donna jumping out of a car at the intersection and running toward me.
“Wha…?” I could not understand what I was seeing in any way but for the first time in my life I broke out in this spontaneous praise and worship that would’ve made a Pentecostal blush and a snake handling Baptist feel pagan.
She slammed into me and hugged me and I sort of collapsed onto her. A million questions. A couple answers.
“We were getting in the van to leave,” she said, “and I realized I forgot my Bible at my billets so they took me back to get it and we were headed back to the van when I saw you there at the door. I couldn’t believe it was you! What are you doing here?”
And I told her. And she married me anyway in the summer of 1984.
And yes, we made out.
Call it God or call it coincidence but I do know that I’ve had a lot more coincidences like that since I’ve started following God.
Once upon a time…