When Tricia Lott Williford’s And Life Comes Back was released in 2014, I reached out to her as a fellow widow and author, and she graciously responded. Her next book Let’s Pretend We’re Normal resonated with me as I struggled to cobble together something that resembled a “normal” family with the pieces left behind after a husband and father’s death.
As much as I’m ashamed to admit it, once Tricia found love again and remarried, I stopped reading her books. It was too painful to see yet another widow remarry, while I remained alone. I wanted to love again. David had wanted that for me. This wasn’t the first time I’d envied another widow or widower. I once unfollowed a friend on Facebook for a good year after he remarried, because his beaming face in the wedding photo that served as his profile picture caused sharp pains of envy every time I saw it. I felt guilty about my envy of Tricia and my friend. How dare I begrudge someone a second chance at love!
Because of that guilt-induced discomfort, when Tricia put out a call for people to be on the launch team for her new book, I offered to participate, even though I wasn’t sure what the book was about. When the bubble mailer arrived in mail, I’d let it sit on the floor near my recliner.
For nearly two weeks.
Until that endless Saturday as I waited for Sunday, and my second date with a man I couldn’t stop thinking about, a man who had agreed to pray with me at the beginning of our next date. There was no getting anything done that day. I’d tossed and turned the night before. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t think straight for thoughts of Nick.
I decided to read Tricia’s book. Tearing open the mailer, I pulled out This Book is For You: Loving God’s Words in Your Actual Life, and began reading. I found it interesting that the introduction addressed some of what Nick and I had been discussing during our first date. A lump formed in my throat and tears stung my eyes when I got to page 38.
Nick and I had talked about these things on our first date:
How my husband David and I had almost lost one another in raising eight children.
How we’d found each other again during his cancer in 2006. Just in time. Six years later David died.
It was so hard and so sad for so long for both of us.
God is near to the brokenhearted.
By page 90, I was sobbing. Tricia had written about all of the faith topics Nick and I’d discussed during our first date: Jeremiah 29:11, the verse on my wall I’d pointed out to Nick. A dependence on devotionals. I’d told Nick how much I depended on devotionals and offered him one of my favorites. How to live in the Word of the Bible. This book wasn’t just for me. It was for both of us!
READ IT TO HIM. Once again, a clear directive I couldn’t make sense of. I was to read a book to my date? Who even does that? READ IT TO HIM. I couldn’t get around it. I was being asked to read to another adult, something I’d never done or imagined doing. I was a bit apprehensive about the idea. First, against all common sense, I’d invited a strange man to my house. Now I was to propose reading a book to him? What would he think?
Nick arrived, bearing flowers. We held hands for the first time as we prayed together. He asked what I’d like to do that afternoon. Then this wonderful, amazing man didn’t even blink an eye when I replied I’d like to read to him, and explained why. We got through the lengthy introduction that first day of reading, an introduction that included these words:
“You are holding this book in your hands. That means that I am inviting you, but far more important, God is inviting you. He has chosen you. Not because my particular book is a divine tool of any kind but because God can use anything he wants- from divine texts to absolute drivel- to get your attention. And if these first pages have pricked your heart, if you feel even remotely interested in falling in love with God’s words in God’s book, then I daresay God is getting your attention.” (page 5)
God was definitely getting our attention. Not just through the book, but in the nine hours of conversation that followed that day. The ease in which we talked, the sparks that flew. More dates that included prayer and extremely deep conversations. Nick and I began questioning the intensity of our feelings for each other. Can this be real? Because commonsense would tell us us that it couldn’t be. It didn’t make sense.
Until it did.
Cecil Murphey, 88-years-old, is my spiritual advisor, mentor, and friend. I shared our unlikely friendship in the March 2021 Reader’s Digest magazine, in a story on unlikely friendships.
Cec smiled through my entire saga of this new relationship, my strong feelings, my fears. How I didn’t trust my feelings. Privy to my struggle with loneliness, Cec has been praying for me to find a Godly man for several years now.
“Why are you surprised, Mary?” he asked. “This is exactly how love happens when God is in it from the start. Trust your feelings. They are a gift from God.”
I wasn’t sure I could trust my feelings. But I do trust God.
I have shared photos of this page in my 2018 journal during my expressive writing for healing workshops, demonstrating how I covered up writing that was too private for my comfort. Twice during the summer of 2018 God had asked me to pray for a man I did not yet know. One of those prayers was dated July 25, 2018, the other August 22, 2018. I’d resisted when God told me to pray for a man I would someday love because it seemed so presumptuous, but I finally obeyed, so the prompt could have been days before those dates.
I sat down next to Nick on the couch during one of our dates. “There’s a prayer in here I want to show you,” I began. “It was so private, I covered it up. I haven’t looked at it since, but every once in awhile in the last few years I have wondered where that man was God asked me to pray for so many years ago. Where the man was that he promised me.”
I uncovered the prayer and began reading to Nick, words still too private to share on a blog, except these few:
“I’m praying that God brings us together in a way that we will see Him in it. I have seen Him in everything these past years. If we are meant to be together, He will be in that too. I pray that you already have a relationship with Him, that you are surrounded by family and friends who love you.“
“I knew the man was going through something, that God would ask me to pray for him that summer.”
Nick’s eyes widened when he noted the dates. His voice thick with emotion, he said “My wife died in April 2018. Her birthday was in August. That summer was the worst summer of my life. Do you think that man was me?”
“I wouldn’t have shown you if I didn’t think so,” my answer was a whisper, but he heard it. He took my hand in his.
Commonsense says you can’t fall in love in mere days.
But we don’t serve a common God. Our God is awesome and amazing. He delights in his children. He hurts when they hurt. He asks a woman to pray for a man she does not yet know because that man needs prayer that summer. He promises her love in 2018 and delivers it in 2021 in a way that she will recognize it. God writes a love story that this man, and this woman, watch unfold, in awe and amazement.