With thousands of hours of talk, email and texting in the books, it was clear we had to start looking at the calendar to see what dates would be mutually ideal for me to fly to Boston to visit Sarah-Jane. In my mind, there was never any question that I would be the one to travel. Even though I would never do anything to bring her harm, naturally, I would never dream of putting her in a position of such vulnerability. She is a mother, daughter, sister, aunt and dear friend to a great many people. I couldn’t allow her to be in a position where that many people could be concerned for her safety, flying coast-to-coast to meet a man she and they have never met.
It didn’t dawn on me until just now, as I went back through my emails to see when I bought my plane ticket, that I did so on September 11. I’m glad I didn’t think of that at the time. That might have been a little ominous. Anyway, my flight would go through New York City, then catch a connecting flight to Boston on October 10, 2013. It was a done deal. The clock started counting down.
One month of waiting.
At first, there was great excitement. As the days counted down, the excitement grew. But there was also a measure of uncertainty.
Will it be awkward? Will she be attracted to me in person? Will the chemistry we have on the phone carry over in person?
Of course, she had similar questions about my interest in her. During that month of waiting, we had many conversations in which we had to remind each other, and maybe even ourselves, that there was nothing in the superficial realm that could or would change what was happening in our hearts. We prayed every single day, together and on our own. There have been a couple of high profile instances recently of people using the internet to misrepresent themselves to others for a variety of reasons. It is quite common. Yet, I had no reason to believe Sarah-Jane was anything other than what I knew of her. None. But weird stuff creeps in your mind when you’re on the cusp of a potentially life changing moment.
There are very few events in a lifetime when you can literally count down to a singular moment when you know your life will change forever. We each had an app on our phones that literally counted down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until my flight was scheduled to arrive in Boston. Each day, and sometimes several times per day, we would send one another screenshots of the countdown. Anticipation mounted. Focus on work, or anything else, got increasingly difficult. I likened it to the two week period that leads up to the Super Bowl. There just comes a point when you’re sick of all the talk and you just want the game to get going. It was that same type of frustrating anticipation, but multiplied by a million.
I opted to schedule a red eye flight. Due to business, I didn’t want to take too many work days off. Also this way, I could work all day, then catch a flight that night, and arrive the next morning with most of the day ahead of us to spend together. I didn’t want to burn a precious day flying. Fortunately, I had a very busy day with work. The hours raced by. When I got home, I had several last minute tasks to take care of before driving to the airport. This was intentional. Sitting around, I would be checking the clock every other minute. So I kept busy. Then, it was time to go.
Being a red eye, Sarah-Jane was already fast asleep. It was almost 3 AM in Rhode Island by the time I took off. I was able to get a few hours sleep on the plane, but my heart and mind were racing. My plane landed at JFK about 8 AM. I immediately texted her to let her know the first leg was completed safely. She enthusiastically responded with relief and excitement. I had a two hour layover. We talked on the phone for a while as I waited for my flight to Boston. Then, it was time to board.
The flight from NYC to Boston is only about 40 minutes. In all honesty, I have to admit that I was battling pessimism. I went from worrying about what she would think, to wondering what I would think. I knew I was attracted to her. I knew I loved her heart. Her humor. Her mind. There was nothing I could think of that was a mystery to me about her. But at the same time, there was a nagging doubt. Perhaps it was simply a safety mechanism trying to keep my hopes from getting too high so it wouldn’t be devastating if there weren’t sparks.
As I landed in Boston, I texted her. She was just arriving at the airport, as my flight arrived about 15 minutes early. I was in seat 1A, so I was able to be the very first person off the plane. Yes, I did that on purpose. I went through a door near my gate, went down one flight of stairs to baggage claim. I got there way before the luggage could be removed and transferred to the carousel. Meanwhile, she was texting me telling me she had finally found a parking spot and was trying to find her way to baggage claim. My heart was not racing as I had expected. Perhaps my pessimism was keeping me calm. I repeatedly looked in the direction from where I knew she’d be coming. Finally, I saw a figure coming from outside to the double doors to baggage claim.
With God as my witness, what I’m about to tell you is 100% true. The door to baggage claim from the parking lot was a good 75 feet away. But the instant I saw her, from that distance, I felt all sense of doubt completely disappear. Instantly. I felt an absolute peace.
It had nothing to do with her outer beauty, though I find her amazingly attractive. It was simply the peace of God that I was in the presence of “her”.
Years ago, I came to a significant place in my life. I had been asked a million times, “what are you looking for in a woman?” People have their little shopping list of qualities. That’s natural. But I got to the place where I simply gave up my list. God knows how He wired me. He knows not only what I like, but what I need. I just asked the Lord to help me recognize “her” when I meet her.
In talking with Sarah-Jane for the thousands of hours that led up to this moment, I knew she had every quality, and so much more, that I could ever dream of. She has qualities that I didn’t know I even needed or wanted.
In that moment, as she walked through those doors…I recognized her. Not from pictures.
But from my prayers.