It was a quiet weekend in late Fall, and I was 45 years old. I found myself on the path to singleness after being separated for two and a half years. David, our 11-year-old son, had gone to spend the weekend with his Dad. I was in the quietness of the room in which my old fashioned computer, by today’s standards, lived. I heard the swish-ding of the dial-up network to get online to research angels for my Adult Sunday School class on Sunday. The speed that I connected to was only 1200, as were those s.l.o.w. days of entering the information superhighway, which was relatively new to our culture on an everyday basis.
I had my hot cup of tea as I began my search of how the heavenly messengers were among us. The house was tranquil, my dog Misty was asleep on the floor beside me, and I became acutely aware that my life was in a contentedly unhappy state. Of course, I have always had the deep abiding joy of God in my heart and received unbelievable great pleasure from my son and his pre-teen antics, which kept laughter in our home. My church affiliation filled me, and I found myself fulfilled by using my gifts willingly and gratefully. My career was in healthcare, which I loved. I worked with a company doing medical consulting, establishing medical practices from the ground up for new physicians, and installing and training computer systems in medical offices. My blessings were abundant with great friends and my dear Mother, who only lived about 20 minutes away. My life was busy.
On this particular Friday night, I felt a little hollow and as if I were looking for things for which to fill my time this weekend, but only half-heartedly. On Sunday, my Sunday School class will be discussing Angels among us, and I needed to find more information on that to lead the discussion effectively.
“Lord, I’m floundering at the moment and feeling empty. My feelings are of being unhappily content, and I want to feel your fullness deep in my Spirit as I study to do what you asked of me in leading this class. Strangely foreign to me, I’m feeling a profound loneliness that only you can fill. Please replace the empty chasm I’m feeling with joy and excitement.”
I refreshed my tea after my little pity party and got to business searching how Angels and Messengers of God are active and alive among us to bring us messages, help us in time of need, and often are the hands and feet of God himself. This subject is so exciting and fascinating.
Suddenly, I got a message on my computer screen in the form of an ad saying ‘would you like a Christian email friend’? “An email friend is EXACTLY what I need,” I thought to myself. I took a few minutes and followed the link to a site where I put in some information about my likes and dislikes, hobbies, how old I was, the general vicinity in which I lived. It was necessary information, and what could it hurt? Now back to my Angel project.
God answered my prayer that Friday night, and we had a rather joyful and lively conversation about the Messengers about us in Sunday School on Sunday. David came home on Sunday night happy about his weekend, and we’re ready to start another week of work and school. Misty was even in better spirits with David being home. As we settled into the evening, I wonder if I could find that site where I entered my information for an email friend?
After dialing up into the internet on a somewhat unstable platform with not very good internet service and speed, I started to rummage around the different sites where I was the other night to find information for my Sunday School Class. “There it is!” I said out loud to myself. After putting in my login and password, I started to explore the site I had signed up for the other night. Low and behold, there was a message on the main page that I had an email! Woot! Woot!
I went to the email page, and I had 2! One was from the site, welcoming me and explaining that it is their policy that they do not give out any personal information to anyone. I could trust that my statements were secure. All emails that I would receive with anyone would go to their site, and I could retrieve and respond to them there.
The other email was to me from someone who had read my information and wrote to introduce himself. The writer was a Methodist Minister from Maine (where’s that??) who was serving three churches in Down East Maine. That’s pretty far away from Pittsburgh, so it’s safe. I didn’t have to worry about anyone showing up at my door that I didn’t know. He told me that he was on the path to singleness, as was I. There was enough distance between us that I felt safe.
Over the next few weeks, I began to hurry home from work to jump onto that site to see if there was another correspondence from the mysterious Minister from Maine, USA. There were exchanges once or twice a day. We would email each other prayer requests. I would receive help and input for my Sunday School Class that I was leading. He started to send me his manuscript of his Sermon for the upcoming Sunday, and I would give feedback and ask questions for clarity.
We became Spiritual friends. After a while, we began to talk about things in our personal lives through this email. I spoke about some challenging instances in the life of a pre-teen son and how to handle them. The mysterious Minister from Maine was a father of three children, and he gave suggestions from experience. I told him of a lawnmower issue that David and I were having, and he gave some excellent advice for that, along with a little pesky garbage disposal issue that was giving me some grief.
Over the weeks, we became personal friends. While I was cautious by never giving out any personal information about myself, like telephone numbers or real email addresses, I started to look forward to hearing from this mysterious Minister from Maine. We began to pray together through email back and forth through this site.
There was never a ‘red flag’ that went up for me. There was never any contradiction to what was said in previous email conversations, no blatant untruths of any kind, and no apparent alerts that there was any than honorable intentions. I was still very cautious. My mother was concerned that he could be an ax murderer.
Eventually, I gave him my real email address, and he gave me his. We regularly emailed throughout the days, and frequently I would even hear from him on my work email. I would still hurry home to see if there was an email waiting on my home computer screen from him.
We both found out about a platform called ICQ, which was a very antiquated version of our texts or messages that we know today. He had a problem loading it onto his wobbly old Apple computer, but late on Christmas Eve of that year, we were finally able to connect through this medium. We could see the character strikes as we each typed on the split-screen, even with the backup and erase feature. ICQ messaging was now our new way of communicating in real-time and not have to wait for sending and receiving email. We chatted about anything and everything until the wee hours of the morning.
The mysterious Methodist minister from Maine and I began to meet most mornings at 5:15 on our computers, we would have a prayer together often as we drank our coffee, and then we would each set out on our exercise schedule. He was a runner, and I would exercise bike or walk for an hour. At 6:15, we’d meet back on the computer, and we’d chat for a few minutes until it was time to get ready for work and get David off to school. We’d again meet in the late evenings after we each finished our work, chores, family time, activities, or meetings. Then, we could catch up on the happenings of our days.
My heart began to stir at the thought of this man, although I never laid eyes on him. I had never heard his voice and hadn’t even seen a picture of him until this point. But yet, there was something about this mysterious Methodist minister from Maine that caused my heart to leap a bit. His written word was so tender, uplifting, encouraging. He would read about some of my struggles, and he would offer suggestions. Sometimes he would merely affirm the way I was feeling. My eyes would read of trials and joys of leading three churches, of stories about his children, of car troubles, of just daily happenings. I laughed the day that, while on his run, a man got out of his car and started to chase my mysterious Methodist minister from Maine in his bedroom slippers! We laughed every day together because of things that would happen.
After a few weeks, he went on a vacation to visit his siblings, and none had computers at home. He planned to move around and spend time with each of his siblings in the area. I was sure he was having a wonderful time because he had told me all about his brothers and sisters and how supportive they were to him, and how they would laugh, and he was the practical jokester. I missed him. There were no emails, and my computer didn’t say out loud “John is online” whenever he would sign on to ICQ. There was no way to communicate with him while he was away for that very long week.
When John returned to Maine, he emailed me and told me that he was home. He was still patient with my hesitancy to divulge my telephone number, so he gave me his. With us being in the age without cell phones and caller ID, I called him. As the phone was dialing, I excitedly awaited hearing his voice for the first time. ‘Hello?’ came next. Strong, robust, definitely a public speaker. We talked for a long time and shared many stories of the last week, which felt like a year. We laughed and laughed until my cheeks hurt. I heard stories of his visit with siblings and his travels through airports. He was a considerate listener, definitely listened with the intent to understand and not to reply. He didn’t interrupt. Time went too fast, and we had so much more to share. I gave him my telephone number, and he said he would call the next time. We ended our first phone conversation in prayer with each other.
We had begun the telephone stage of our friendship. This mysterious Methodist Minister from Maine and I had become spiritual friends, personal friends, and now telephone friends. Whenever something happened during my day, he was the first person I wanted to tell. If there was a challenge in my day, he was the one with whom I wanted to talk. When there was an urgent prayer request, I contacted him. We talked about how each of us shared the same emotions, yet we had never seen each other face to face or even shared a picture of each other. He had already become a significant person in my heart and my life. I felt like I was sixteen!
Over the next several months, we exchanged pictures by mail, and we continued to pray together, talk by phone for hours (at night after the rates went down), share prayer concerns. He continued to email me his Sermon manuscripts, which became a big part of our phone conversations, and he would give me input into my upcoming Sunday School Class each week.
We talked by phone one evening in mid-May, and he asked what I was doing for Memorial Day. I said that I had no plans, and he invited me to fly to Maine. A couple from one of his churches opened their home to me, and I could stay with them. I spoke with them by phone before we met to establish a relationship. The overly cautious person inside of me turned into one of great expectation and excitement. I said I would come for the long weekend.
We continued talking morning and night, and soon the day arrived that I would be flying to Maine. We spoke in the morning about how he had to drive almost two hours to Bangor to meet my flight, and he was going to have his car serviced while there. Simple, everyday stuff. I told him I would stop off at the hospital before my flight to see a good friend of mine whose husband was recently in a horrible accident, and I didn’t want to leave town without seeing her. We prayed for safe travel for both of us.
As the plane was flying to Maine, I looked at the clouds below me, and I never see that sight without thinking of the vastness of God’s love, yet He cares about every little detail of our lives, even numbers the hairs on our head. Landing at the small airport in Bangor, Maine, I thanked God for safe travel and asked him to bless this meeting that He had orchestrated.
After months of emailing, praying together, talking on the phone, we were about to meet face to face. I descended the airplane’s steps onto the tarmac and walked across to the door of the airport. I took a deep breath, walked through the door, and there I met the man who already owned my heart. The light and twinkle in his eyes was palpable. He was tall, dark-haired, extremely handsome with dimples, but the exterior was all bonus. I already knew his heart to be compassionate, kind, patient, open, encouraging, thoughtful, and loving. But seeing him face to face for the first time was a joyous moment in my life that I’ll never forget. He opened his arms wide open, and I stepped inside of them for the first time.
This was not the first time that I had fallen in love with someone I never met. I grew up learning about this man by the name of Jesus. Through the years, I heard stories of his character by revealing his love for people. His compassionate and loving heart made mine stir to be like His. I grew to want to be like Him in my everyday life by how I wanted to love others just the way they were. My love for Him grew as He said, “Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I chose you for a special work.” Jeremiah 1:5 He also said, ‘I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans for a future and a hope’. Jeremiah 29:11
This man, Jesus, and I have never had an audible conversation. To this day, I haven’t heard his voice through my ears. However, I have felt Him speaking to me in my heart, through what others say or what I read. “I have loved you with an everlasting love. With unfailing love, I have drawn you to myself.” Jeremiah 31:3 “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” Hebrews 13:5. He is the One that I give my burdens to (after sometimes holding onto them too long), the One who is in control of my life (when I finally let go), the One who directs my footsteps on this journey of life and helps me back on the path when I stray. He is the One that meets me right where I am with his Grace and forgiveness.
Sandy Patti, an American Christian Music artist sings a beautiful song ‘We Shall Behold Him” that is about and anticipating seeing Jesus face-to-face.
Face to face after all of this time, “On that day, our eyes will finally correlate with the vision of our hearts. Our dimed sight will become entirely clear. We will see His face. (Revelation 22:4)
By God’s amazing grace, blessings, and orchestrating circumstances in our lives, John and I will celebrate our 21st marriage anniversary this year. When I said ‘yes’ to John, I also answered a ‘come and follow me’ call from God to move to Maine and become a Minister’s wife. My humanness caused me to be anxious about that because I didn’t play the piano, can’t carry a tune in a bucket, or make casserole’s very well for church suppers (supp-ah’s, as they’re called in Maine). However, God used me just the way I am, with all of my flaws.
I also have been blessed beyond belief to have a wonderful extended family. Combined, we have four adult children with their spouses and girlfriend. Our family has welcomed ten grandchildren into the world during our time together. I gained two brothers and five sisters and spouses.
We have had the privilege of being in relationship with many people in our churches that we served together that I love deeply. Our journeys met those with terminal illnesses, joyous weddings, and births, life situations that were just hard, and we walked those journeys with them. We grew together in our faith and were lovingly supported by all of them through sickness and health alike.
Being retired now, and living in Pennsylvania, we have found that we never retire from following or serving God. This last year has taught us a lot about the ways in which we connect with others through technology, just as we learned over twenty years ago. We have settled into our retirement with a host of new friends and church family with which we walk on our journey.
The excitement that I felt when I first saw John face to face is truly still thrilling to me every day. However, we all wait with anticipation for the moment when God decides to take us home to that mansion that He has prepared for all of us, though we know not the time or place. John 14 promises us, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may also be.” May we be constantly ready for that meeting in our hearts and souls to meet Jesus face to face, and to be rejoined with those loved ones who are waiting for us. And what a day of rejoicing that will be!
May peace and blessings be with you today and always.