I felt like there was a golf ball, stuck in my throat.
My mouth seemed dry as a sandbox, and tasted about as appealing. My hands and face seemed as sweaty as a sauna. Each breath I took was rough as the edge of a band saw; my stomach was twisted into a simmering cauldron of misery.
I was about to ask Clara’s father if I could marry her.
Clara and I met three years ago and have been courting since then. From the day I met her, I’ve known she was The One. She’s a beautiful redhead, with eyes as blue as an afternoon sky. But, even if she wasn’t that beautiful, I’d want to marry her.
When I’m with her, I’m home.
It’s as simple as that.
Her father had to suspect it was coming. I mean… he’d seen us together. We’d talked to him and her Mom about our future plans, more than once. We both want to be missionaries, and, though I know Clara’s Mom and Dad will miss her, they agree it’s what she’s been called to do. I think Clara is a born missionary; everyone is attracted to the beauty within her; everyone wants to be around her infectious joy.
I do, too.
Maybe my nerves came from how important she’s become to me. Clara is an integral part of my future plans. When I see my future, she’s always by my side.
So, I waited, at the coffee shop, near Mr. Johnson’s office. As I breathed a prayer to overcome my apprehension, I tried to prepare myself to ask him for Clara’s hand, in marriage. Old fashioned? Maybe; but that’s the way I was raised, and I knew Clara was raised that way, too.
When he walked into the coffee shop, the mouth dryness intensified – and the sweating felt like it was coming from a sprinkler. That golf ball I’d swallowed now felt like a baseball. Mr. Johnson smiled and shook my hand. That helped a little. After all, he’s a great guy, and I know he likes me. I waited until he ordered a cup of coffee, and then…
"Mr. Johnson?" I started, almost in a whisper.
"What is it, Ben?" he answered. He scrutinized my face. "Are you OK? You look pale."
If anything, his concern made my feelings worse. I tried again: "Mr. Johnson, Clara and I have been seeing each other for three years now."
"Yes, Ben; you have. I thank God Clara has such a godly man in her life."
OK, … this was going well. I had to go for it, now. "Well, Mr. Johnson, you see… we both want to go into the mission field."
"I know that, Ben. You can’t have asked me here to tell me that. That’s old news."
I gulped. But, that baseball in my throat stayed there. It blocked the words… those precious words I had to say…
After a few incoherent attempts to talk again, Mr. Johnson laughed. "Honestly, Ben; why don’t you just ask me?"
He couldn’t know… could he? By then, I’d added blinking to my symptoms, and my shoulders were hunched as tightly as if my arms had been superglued to my torso.
"Ben, I’m pretty sure I know why you’re here. You want to marry Clara – don’t you?"
All my feelings immediately gathered themselves into that baseball, which hurtled itself into the middle of my next breath. That breath felt as if it were suspended on the edge of a gangplank … along with all of my future hopes. He’d said the words for me… which was a good thing, since I now felt incapable of speech. So… I nodded mutely, in agreement.
He smiled broadly. "Ben, I couldn’t be happier. I’ve been expecting this – and praying for you both. I’d be proud to have you as a son-in-law. In fact… call me Dad. "
I breathed; my shoulders deflating, with an audible sigh.
All the chaotic sensations subsided, like the tide at the seashore. The enormous golf ball was gone; I gulped a full glass of water and smiled like a crazy man as I babbled my thanks to him. What an amazing feeling of reprieve. “Dad” laughed and again expressed his happiness for both of us.
“Thank you, Jesus,” I breathed, gratefully.
But, then,“Dad” said, “So… when are you going to pop the question to Clara?”
And … there’s that golf ball, again.
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