Two years ago, I found myself in Oklahoma City (a place no one was more surprised than me that I had chosen to move to) fed up with the state of things. I could sense there was a crossroad loaming up ahead and I wasn’t sure what it meant. I enjoyed living in Oklahoma, thankful for things like controlling your heat which was a novelty after living in New York City apartments for ten years, being called ma’am and not having to write “one thousand” before the rest of the amount for my rent check.
Yet there was a flip side. Oklahoma in some ways is like the 1960’s. I had about had it with people asking me why I had decided to never get married.
I was 29 at the time.
It had been a helluva month in other ways. Among other things, I’d had nearly seven hundred in unexpected expenses show up. So one day, keeping my bank account in mind, I dutifully printed off a coupon for what should have been a budget oil change at Jiffy Lube.
Boy, was I wrong.
Jiffy Lube was quite a friendly bunch (although I did become slightly on guard when the young guy checking me in heard my Irish name and began unbuttoning his work shirt to show me his Irish family crest he had tattooed on his upper chest). After exclaiming over the miles on my ten year old car (196,000+ here is looking at you), I was politely escorted into the office to wait while they worked on my car.
As I sat, mouth breathing so as not to inhale the smell of gas and oil that seemed to saturate the air, an older gentleman limping and using a cane came and sat diagonally across from me. As we exchanged friendly nods in greeting, the mechanic walked out into the office carrying something in his hand.
“Do you know what this is?” the mechanic asked me.
I took it in for a moment. “A bird’s nest?” I guessed.
“No, your air filter.”
And it just went downhill from there.
As I watched the estimate for my car climb from the expected twenty with a coupon to over a hundred, I could tell the mechanic could read the tension tightening my face. He very kindly explained to me he could give me 30% off but under no circumstances could he, in good conscience, just shake off my air filter and return it to my car like I suggested. Sighing heavily, I agreed to have it replaced. He left to complete the job and the older gentleman smiled at me in commiseration.
“You made the right choice you know,” he said kindly. He told me how he had waited to replace something on his car and ultimately it ended up costing him four hundred.
“Wish I had those four hundred for groceries,” he said wistfully. “But you know, God is good and He provides.” I nodded in agreement and he reinforced his point, quoting some Scripture to back it up.
We chit chatted about in-consequent things and from what he did and didn’t say, I could tell the man did not have much. I handed him my card and told him if he ever knew of anyone who needed something to give me a call as I worked for a company offering social services.
“Oh, thank you for your kindness ma’am. God always does provide like I said,” he smiled and launched into a bit of sermon–esque monologue on God’s goodness and faithfulness.
“You know your Bible well,” I commented to him while the New York trained part of me sent its radar up, wondering if I was about to have a religious fanatic break loose.
“Oh yes, I do,” He replied, smiling. “I used to be minster when I was younger.”
Before I could respond, the mechanic walked back in.
“Mrs. Flynn, we’ve your bill ready for you,” he called out, turning to look at me.
I benignly smiled. “Miss,” I replied.
He looked flummoxed.
As I gathered my purse and walked to the register, he had recovered enough to ask a question I can only assume he may have meant as a compliment.
“Why aren’t you married, girl?”
“Well, there are a few reasons,” I replied as politely as I could. “1. I was smart enough to not marry any of my exes 2. I haven’t met the right person yet and isn’t that the best reason to not be? (I heard the older gentleman laugh softly in agreement behind me) and 3. Respectfully- where I come from, nobody but nobody gets married as young as you people do.”
As the mechanics eyes widened and he laughed, the gentleman behind me spoke up,
“Good for you. Those are perfect reasons to not be married. As you know and as the Bible says in Psalm 37:4 ‘take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart’.
I turned around to face the man, startled. He sat, suddenly looking as together as I had seen him thus far, looking right at me with a half smile on his face as if he realized the impact of his words. His smile widened and he repeated the verse again. The mechanic pushed my receipt towards me and as I turned around to sign it, I felt a bit flustered.
Over the past couple of months as those crossroads seemed to have drawn closer and I’d had a few soul searches, this verse kept returning to my mind again and again and it spoke deeply to my heart about where I was at and what I need to do. To have this man, on a day and week which had not been the best for me, quote it to me and in the context in which he did, really hit me.
I finished signing my receipt, thanked the mechanic, said goodbye to the older man reminding him to use my card if he had a need and walked outside towards my car. As I opened the driver door, I heard the garage’s office door swing open.
“Miss,” I looked up and the older gentleman was standing, somewhat awkwardly, near my car.
“Yes?” I smiled politely.
He moved his cane forward and leaned on it heavily as if his left leg hurt but the smile stayed on his face. His next words hit me like a ton of bricks and stayed with me as encouragement as I looked ahead to the future. I don’t think his word choice was accidental and I believe people are sent into your life as messengers when you need clarity most. Little did I know, that crossroad I sensed was one that brought me some of the best professional opportunities of my life, rich friendships when I needed them most and the man I am now engaged to marry.
“I can tell you’re someone who’s been following what it is God wants you to be doing with your life and I just wanted to say…”
Here he paused and, straightening himself up, looked me right in the eye.
“Keep the faith, sister.”