As she gets into her slightly rusty little car, Gracie tries valiantly to put the whole mess out of her mind. With the words - “Ann’s waiting for me.” - a smile grows until it covers the sadness on her face.
The two girls met when they were 15; each watching their siblings. They hit it off that day and 19 years later… here they were - friends through thick and thin. Gracie supposed this may be one of those thin times. Somehow the thin and thick times seemed to alternate between them; so when one was hurting the other was right there to help – even if that help was just a tearful silence when no words needed to be said.
She knew Ann would have perspective. She had been through her own dark waters and as a result, the depth of her relationship with her God was something Gracie could not yet understand. Out of everyone Gracie could think of, Ann would have the guts to speak wisdom into this mess. Not to mention, encourage her to stick to her vows – whether or not it was the comfortable and easy thing to do. Gracie wasn’t sure what she wanted anymore.
The half hour drive to Ann's gave her plenty of thinking time. She resists the urge to get out her cell phone and chat with her mom while she drove. As the road stretches on and the tires pound out their rhythm, “Why?” tap dances around in her brain. Why did it take this kind of drastic measure to get his attention? Why did she have to be the one to do it? Why couldn’t someone who had her husband’s ear remind him that his marriage came before his ministry? That, in fact, it was his marriage that validated his ministry.
She was to be his helper and rate before his other obligations. She was intensely proud of him and his accomplishments. Gracie loved to see the little church growing and reaching out spurred on by how God spoke through her husband. Why did it feel lately that God wasn’t in this anymore? The doing of ministry has become a duty not a joy. She could hardly admit this even in the quiet of her car. It felt traitorous somehow. It was her job to support her husband. There were plenty of others who said what they liked however they liked without thought for the recipient.
She turned her mind from the depth of those dark questions and allowed it to walk down sweeter memories. The day they met. Ahh! What a day! She was working at the campus café serving the students and employees their coffee and whatnot. He’d been in line openly staring at her, making her friends giggle and whisper. Oblivious to his stares, she waved goodbyes to her friends.
As she turned to the next customer, she discovered the strangest looking guy she’d ever seen. He had large bug eyed goggles on his face accented by a bright orange jumpsuit hauling a large black bag and 5 gallon bucket that was stamped with the universal poison sign. “Alrighty then. Whatever floats your boat”, she said to herself.
To him, she asked, “What can I get for you?” All he could get out was uh and a few stammers. Then he got ahold of himself and told her that he wasn’t there for food, but on a job assignment from Phys Plant. Evidently, he needed to do the monthly insect population reduction procedure. Gracie laughed to herself now. Thinking how silly he was to come to the cash register to broadcast their insect population issue. He told her later how her brown eyes mesmerized him not to mention her long brown hair. He wasn’t so bad once he took off the goggles and orange suit! Her heart skipped a beat as she remembered how in their first conversation she tried desperately to keep on point, but her mind kept wandering as she looked in those deep blue eyes of his.
Gracie smiled. Peter talked and talked. He’d asked her a million and one questions. She remembered feeling like she was the most important person in his world. He wanted to understand her, get her opinion, learn the way her mind works, share his world with her… bottom line: he loved her.
She couldn’t deny that she still loved him either.
Sweet memories! How did they get so far away from there?! Ministry had sucked the life out of their marriage. How do they get back their close friendship with all the water under the bridge - water which, to Gracie, seemed to be more like the Mississippi River than a little trickle.
As she disconnected her auto-pilot driving, she realized that she was almost at Ann’s, her oasis. She was barely out of the car before her dear friend had run out and given her a hug. Gracie felt a small glimmer of hope that maybe this wasn’t as bad as she thought.
Just maybe, she and Peter might get through this – together.