My wonderful friend encouraged me not to worry, because God was just going to drop a man into our small inner-city church.
I had been lamenting how I would never find a husband. Already in my mid-twenties, I recalled that my only dating experience had been in high school. My sassy response to her was, “What is God to going to do? Just drop a man into the service, and he stands up and says, ‘Yo, Amber, I’m here!’” (reminiscent of Rocky Balboa’s callout, “Yo Adrian, it’s me, Rocky!”)
Fast-forward a few months to Easter Sunday, when our church was holding baptisms. I was going through a training program for church planting and also serving in youth ministry, so I was heavily involved in the service. After sponsoring one of the youth in baptism, I mentored him in praying at the altar for those who had need.
A young man who was visiting came forward for prayer. We encouraged men to pray for men, so I passed my godson to another leader to pray for this guy and walked away.
After service, the young adults were milling around waiting for the community Easter lunch. John, the guy who was visiting, boldly made it known that he didn’t have anything to do all week. So if ANYONE was doing ANYTHING, please call him. My roommate and I both had the gift of hospitality, so we immediately invited him to lunch with us.
John was nice enough, but after the meal I was ready to be done and go back to my nice life with my friends, maybe to see him again on Sunday. Later that evening, some friends decided to get together and go to IHOP. (Yes, we still were hungry.) My friend told me she had called and invited this guy. “WHAT?” I yelled at her though the phone. I was a little worn out and not ready to be hospitable and nice anymore.
Yet, what could be done? The invitation was already out there.
John had graduated mid-year from college and had not found a job yet, so he had LOTS of time on his hands to volunteer and get involved in our little church. He started showing up at all the things I was involved in. He was also going through the healing of some emotional wounds—needs that I really understood. That pulled us together for many long conversations. By the end of the summer, we had become friends.
He was a clean-cut, all-American boy, so the assumption was that he would eventually date my roomie. She was a salt-of-the-earth, all-American girl, but she was not interested. During the course of time, John shared with me that he might be interested in another girl in our circle. Great! She was closer to his age and all. But again, she was not interested.
My pastor really got to know John because John was living in his basement. One day at breakfast my pastor suggested that John might be the one for me. What? No way. He’s five years younger than me and a new Christian. I’m a leader in the church. We would be unequally yoked, right? I had a list of reasons to prove he was not the right one for me. However, as I walked away, the thought stayed with me. Pastor had never said anything like that to me in all the years I had been in his flock. So I prayed … and I started to think, well, maybe.
One night I finally got up the courage to tell John that I might have feelings for him. I sat there on my pastor’s back porch, crying as I confessed to this younger man that I had feelings for him, all the while knowing this announcement might ruin the best friendship I had at the moment.
A long pause. Then he looked at me and said he didn’t feel the same way. Stab to the heart. I left completely deflated. See, I thought, I knew this was stupid.
The next few months were back-and-forth confusion.
I started going on blind dates to see if he was really interested or not. It only took one before John and I were a committed item. Was it my testing or something else? Truth be told, God had arranged a meeting with a young leader at a ministry event who spoke life and encouragement into John, telling him that we would make a great team.
Three months later, John returned from a missions trip with our pastor. When I picked him up at the airport, he acted strange, insisting that we drive home alone (remember, he lived in the pastor’s basement apartment).
He started to explain how one starry night on the beaches of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, God had spoken to him.
And on the way to the airport in San Juan, John had bought an engagement ring.
That’s right: Our engagement story occurred in our pastor’s garage by the interior light of a Toyota 4Runner.
It wasn’t until after we were married that I could finally see the intricate details God put into our story. You see, John is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. While touring the city we stopped at those iconic stairs, and I remembered the words of my friend. God truly had brought my “Rocky.” Yo, Amber, I’m here.