Romance is the beginning of learning that something fated to succeed fails without understanding why. I, a recently divorced Baptist minister was dating a girl named Bonnie and it seemed like magic was happening. She was a buxom blonde who loved to kiss and play around in ways that I never knew existed all the while claiming to be a devout Christian woman. One example among many: she let me know that she did not wear underwear. She met my family I met hers and it just seemed that after a year that maybe we would tie the knot. She was not a woman that experienced break ups. She called the shots. She told me to find a woman to date. It was issued as a challenge. She had to be sure that our love was real.
I tired of her harping and on one occasion was taken aback by behavior that made fun of her teen age daughter. It was on the same day I would meet her family for the first time. She played a joke on by having me put a note on her car that indicated a man was looking at her and her girlfriend from afar in a longing way.. I did not like this flight of fancy and let her know about it, even as I confessed to her daughter what had happened. So I took her up on it. To me it was not at all funny and was an occasion to meet up with Sharon through the same dating sight that put Bonnie and I together.
I met up with a woman by the name of Sharon at a Bob Evans restaurant. I had decided that I would not be pushed inadvertently into a relationship that could become toxic if I did not check to see if there was another woman that I could have a romance with. I had been divorced three years before and had dated several woman before Bonnie. I was moved by Sharon's story about how she got in a relationship with a Baptist minister who was terminally ill. He died a year after their wedding and it was from there that she came to know what love was.
Unknown to her I was a Baptist minister and it was as if this man Michael was talking to me and wanting me to marry this woman from Erie, Pennsylvania. This was in the context of being with a brash woman arrogant who was sexually alive and flamboyant about what she had to offer a man. It did not take much for her to get my juices flowing. Yet Sharon was the new girl on the block. She made it clear that she was not going to compete with the Bonnie. I dumped Bonnie soon after, and she told me unbelievingly that no man ever broke up with her. Why?
Fast forward to the present day eight years after Sharon and I were married. I decided to take her back to her home town where she might recover from memory and depression issues. It was a difficult decision. I would be leaving my kids and grandkids and ceding a desire to go back to the place where my brothers and sisters were, so that I could look out for my wife. I knew no one except Sharon who was quite confused by the time we left Kansas city. Several people I trusted said I should divorce her. I knew I could not do that.
We went to Erie for the sake of her three pets to a place named Harborcreek Senior adult apartments. She said it was the only place she could find that would house her three pets. At one point in the midst of my church hunting she suggested I go to a Baptist church she and her widowed husband attended. I walked on to the grounds and was invited to enter the church by a groundskeeper by the name of Paul. The pastor and his wife just happened to be there on a weekday. The church was American Baptist. I was too. Along the way I got an encouraging hug from the pastor's wife. I felt like I found a home.
The church had an after school program. That was an important part of my ministerial identity, in Kansas City. I had been a model pastor for the things our church were doing in a music and arts program. They worked with music. Music for me was the essence of worship. I sang on a worship team my first Sunday and one of the songs was my favorite. The church took me to Chautaqua, a retreat center where I happened upon Tony Campolo an American Baptist social activist, someone I admired from afar since my college days. He was scheduled to meet at the Baptist house. Due to scheduling he had a question and answer time and afterwards was available to shake hands. It was surreal. It was as if I was awakening from a dream. It was a whirlwind of connection after only being in Erie a few weeks.
I would have never guessed all this could happen. I was asked to sing my first cantata at the age of 61 during Easter. I was taken aback that Michael Sullivan had attended this church and here I was in a church where he ministered determined to stay married his widowed wife. It was romance. I guess that is the best I know to describe it. I learned about love by loving someone who was going through a tough time. God was in it and I was glad for an opportunity to share the tale.