Claudine and Duke were at a diner having lunch. The last time they saw each other was a couple of weeks ago at his younger brother, Alan’s funeral. Duke had called her last night to ask her to have lunch with him today. She was happy to see him.
“It’s good to see you, Duke,” she said. “How have you been?”
“I’m doing all right, I guess. I’m still trying to deal with Alan’s untimely death.”
She reached out and put her hand on his. “I know how hard it is when we lose someone we love. I went to see Doreen yesterday and she’s still having a really tough time coping. The kids are staying with their grandparents for a while.”
“Since the funeral I haven’t been to see Doreen and the kids.”
“I can’t face them right now.” A pause and then, he blurted out, “I can’t face them because I feel guilty.”
She stared at him, concerned now. “You feel guilty? Why?” she asked.
Instead of answering her question, he countered with, “God is love, right?”
“Then, why did He let Alan die and me live? Not once when we were kids, did I ever see him throw a tantrum. And he was the most religious guy I knew. He was always reading His Bible, active in church and involved in community service. I, on the other hand, am not a practicing Christian. I don’t go to church often and I hardly read the Bible. As far as community service is concerned, I give donations when I can. I don’t pray often. And to top it all, I had an affair with a married woman. Why did the God whom we say is love, let a godly man like Alan who served him all of his life and never did anything wrong, die, leaving a wife and two children behind and let me live? I should have been the one to die in that boating accident, not Alan.”
His words cut into her like a knife and she withdrew her hand from his, lowering her eyes so that he couldn’t see the anguish in them. The thought of losing him in that accident was unbearable. She was overcome with compassion for Alan’s family but she was thankful that Duke had survived. She was still thanking God for sparing his life. “Is this why you feel guilty?”
“Yes. I keep asking myself over and over why God didn’t take me instead of Alan. Why did He let me live?”
“It is because He loves you.”
“He loves me?” he exclaimed. “What about Alan? Didn’t He love him too?”
“Yes, He did.”
“Then explain to me why He chose to let me live when He could have saved Alan instead?”
“God doesn’t always do what we expect,” she said. “He had His reasons for sparing your life. Let me give you an illustration. Let’s say that you have two children. One is at home with you and the other is lost. Which child would you be more concerned about–the one who is safe or the one who is lost?”
“The lost child, of course.”
“So, if you are more concerned about the lost child, does this mean that you love that child more than the other?”
He shook his head. “No. I would do the same thing for the other child if he were lost too.”
“Exactly! It’s the same thing with Alan and you. God didn’t spare your life because He loved you more than Alan. Alan was already saved but God spared you in order to save you,”
“But, I’m a sinner.”
“We’re all sinners but the Bible teaches that God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
“How could God still love me after some of the things I’ve done and the way I’ve treated Him?”
“God is not like us. He loves us in spite of how we are. His love is unconditional. He doesn’t stop loving us when we do bad things or turn away from Him. He keeps reaching out to us like the shepherd who went to find the lost sheep, the woman who searched the house until she found the lost coin or the father who ran to meet his lost son when he saw him coming home because he was so overjoyed to see him. Jesus said that’s how God feels about the lost. He rejoices when He finds them.”
“So, what should I do now?” he asked.
“First, you need to thank God for sparing your life so that you have the opportunity to get to know him. This act of mercy and grace demonstrate the loving nature towards us. He doesn’t want you to die without making a conscious decision to know Him. In realizing that God saved in your life, I hope that you will see now His love for you and that He wants you to spend time with in a Father and son relationship.”
“One of my favorite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11 which says, ‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ God promised that when you call on Him and pray to Him, He will listen to you.”
“Thank you, Claudine,” he said quietly. “I really appreciate you being here and helping me to understand things that don’t make any sense to me.”
She smiled. “That’s what friends are for.”
They finished eating and after he paid the bill, he asked, “Are you seeing anyone?”
She shook her head. “No.” I want to be with you.
It would kill me if you were seeing someone. “Do you need a lift anywhere?”
“A ride to the subway would be great,” she said. “I’m going to the nursing home to visit my father.”
“How is he doing?”
“He’s doing all right. His mind is still very active and alert it’s just his body is worn out. I still haven’t gotten used to seeing him in a wheelchair.”
“Why is he in a wheelchair?”
“He suffers from intense episodes of Asthma.” She wrapped the scarf around her neck before pulling on her coat. She got up from the table and followed him out of the diner as he dragged on his jacket. She squinted as they stepped into the bright sunshine. It was a lovely day. They walked to where his car was parked and after he held the door open for her to get in, he slid behind the wheel. He turned on the radio and classical music played.
“I have a cousin who suffered from asthma since she was a child. I read somewhere that, Once you have asthma, you have it for life. You might not always be symptomatic. You might have it as a kid and grow out of it. But it may revisit at some point, usually when you have a stress in your life. Have you ever seen your father have one of his attacks?”
“Yes, more than once and each time it was very scary. It made me realize how we can take something as such as breathing normally for granted. But, my Dad is a trooper. He doesn’t let his bout with asthma get him down. He’s one of the most upbeat people I know and he always says that God is good to him, one breath at a time.”
“Your father is a very wise man. I like him.”
“He likes you too,” she said. “Whenever I visit him, he asks about you.”
“Please say hello to him for me.”
“I will. Maybe the next time I visit him you can come with me.”
“I’d like that.”
They reached the subway and he pulled over to the side of the road. He got out and walked around to open the door for her. As she got out, she stumbled and he moved quickly to steady her. His hands were on her waist and they were standing very close. She raised her eyes to look at him and he looked down at her. For several minutes they stood there looking at each other, their bodies inches apart. She wondered if he could hear how fast her heart was beating and he wondered what she would say if she knew how badly he wanted to kiss her at that moment. He released her and stepped aside for her to step on to the curb.
“Thanks for the ride,” she said quietly. “I’ll call you during the week.”
“Thanks again for having lunch with me and your advice. I really appreciate it.”
“You’re welcome, Duke.” She hesitated for a split second and then she reached up and kissed him on the cheek. He closed his eyes as he felt an intense longing surge through his body and it took all of his will power not to turn his head so that their lips touched. When she drew back, his eyes were dark and smoldering. She felt her body respond and turning, she quickly walked away. He watched her go before he got back into the car and drove off.
All the way to the nursing home, Claudine thought about that unguarded moment between Duke and her. For the first time since they have known each other, she saw clearly that he was attracted to her too. She saw the desire she felt shining in his eyes. Since they met, she had known that she loved him and had prayed that they would end up together. Was God beginning to answer her prayers?
Her father was in his room when she got to the nursing home and he grinned when he saw her. “Hello, sunshine.”
She smiled and went over to hug and kiss him. “Hello, Dad. How are you feeling?”
“I feel great. What about you. How are you doing?”
“I’m fine. I had lunch with Duke.”
“How’s that young man doing?” She told him about their conversation. “It sounds like he’s suffering from survivor’s guilt.”
“Yes. I told him that he has nothing to feel guilty about.”
“Where’s he now? Why didn’t you bring him with you?”
“He has stuff to do, I guess. However, I invited him to come with me the next time I visit.”
“Good. Take off your coat and sit down.”
She removed her coat and draped it over a chair and placed her scarf on top before settling down in a chair by the window. The room looked bright and cheerful with lots of natural light. “Have you gone for a walk as yet?” she asked. “It’s beautiful outside.”
He shook his head. “Not yet. I’m watching Premier League football. Manchester United and Arsenal are playing.”
Claudine shook her head, smiling. Her father was a football fanatic. He could sit there and watch it all day if it were possible. “All right, finish watching your game and then, you and I will go for a walk and sit outside in the garden for a while. A bit of fresh air will do you a lot of good.”
“Claudine, you’re worried about Duke, aren’t you?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“Don’t because God is going to sort him out and after He’s through sorting him out, you can tell him that you love him.”
She looked at him in astonishment. “But, how did you–?”
“Guess that you’re in love with Duke? It’s written all over your face every time you talk about him. These eyes don’t miss anything. I like Duke but he’s not the right man for you yet but he will be when God is through with him.” Shouting on the television caught his attention and he watched as they showed a replay of Manchester United scoring its second goal.
Claudine sat there, trying to make sense of what her father just told her. His words gave her hope. Duke was the man for her and when the time was right, they would be together with God’s blessing. Tears sprang to her eyes and she quickly blinked them back. Thank You, God for answering my prayers. And thank You for taking care of Duke.
For the rest of the afternoon, Duke couldn’t stop thinking about Claudine and what almost happened between them outside the subway station. And that night before he went to bed, he got down on his knees and prayed.
Lord, today when Claudine kissed me on the cheek, I wanted so much to show her how much I love her. I’ve loved her for eight years. I knew from the moment we met that she was the right woman for me although I knew that I wasn’t the right man for her. I’ve asked you to remove the love I have for her from my heart but it just keeps growing stronger. I tried to get her out of my system by having an affair with Heather who was separated from John at the time. I know what I did was wrong but I wasn’t thinking at the time. I was hurting because I couldn’t be with the woman I loved. It was sheer torture loving someone I couldn’t have because I was wrong for her. Even now it’s hard to be around her knowing that I could never be more than friends with her. Lord, please help me. Please help me to get over her.
He remained there beside the bed on his knees for a while longer, in the quietness of the room, waiting. Before you could be the right man for Claudine, you need have a right relationship with Me. The words filled him with hope. He could be with Claudine but first, he had to make things right with God. He had to put his relationship with God first.
The following morning he got an email from Claudine. It read, Hi, Duke,
I found two links that I thought may be very helpful to you. The first is about God’s Pursuit of Man and the second is about having a personal relationship with God. God longs to have a loving relationship with you. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” God promised in Jeremiah 29:13 that when you seek Him you will find Him when you search for Him with all your heart. I pray that when you come to know God, you will see how valued you are in His sight and the guilt you feel about surviving the boat accident will be resolved. I’ll be in touch. Blessings, Claudine.
He replied to her email and then clicked on the first link. Eagerly, he read it and by the time he was finished, he was in tears. After he opened and read the second link, he turned off the laptop and got ready for work. As he showered and got dressed, he would follow the six simple steps Alan once shared with him on how to build a relationship with God:
- Take the time to touch bases with God
- Invite Him to come close
- Make contact throughout your day
- Take action when you hear God’s voice
The next several weeks, he spent time reading the Bible, praying and reflecting. When Claudine invited him to go to church with her one Sunday, he readily accepted her invitation. From the moment he walked through the doors, he knew that this was the church he wanted to be a part of. The love and warmth of the parishioners filled his heart with such comfort and joy that it brought tears to his eyes. It wasn’t long before he got baptized. Doreen and the children were there. After the service, she hugged Duke and said, tearfully, “Alan would have been so proud.”
That evening, Claudine and he went out for dinner at one of his favorite restaurants.
“So how does it feel to be part of a church family?” she asked, smiling across the table at him.
He beamed. “It feels wonderful,” he said. “Now I understand why Alan loved the church community so much.”
“It was good to see Doreen and the kids.”
“She told me that Alan would have been proud.”
“Yes, he would have been. His brother was lost and now he’s found.”
He reached over and covered her hand. “I owe this all to you too,” he said quietly. “I’m who I am and where I am now because of you. Thank you for pushing me gently toward God.”
“You’re welcome. I’m so thankful that things have worked out the way they have.”
“There’s one more thing.” His expression was tense now. “I have something to tell you. It’s something that has been on my mind for a very long time but now is the right time to tell you.”
Frowning, she asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”
Taking a deep breath, he said, “I love you, Claudine. I’ve loved you since the first time we met but I never told you because I didn’t believe that I was the right man for you.”
Heart racing, Claudine looked him straight in the face and replied, “I love you too, Duke. I’ve loved since the first time I saw you. My Dad was right. That day when I visited him after you and I met for lunch, he said that you weren’t the right man for me yet but that when God was through with you, you will be.”
“Wow, that’s profound.”
“That had to be God revealing His plan to him to encourage me because I’d been praying and it seemed like God wasn’t answering or taking a long time to.”
“So, now that we know that we’re right for each other, I don’t want to waste any more time.” He reached into his pocket and produced a small black box. Then, he got up from the table and walked around to where she was and got down on one knee. He opened the box, took out the ring and asked, “Claudine Bradshaw, will you marry me?”
Laughing and conscious of eyes on them, she nodded. “Yes, I will marry you, Duke Addington.” Through tears, she saw him slip the exquisite ring with its single heart shaped diamond on her finger before he reached up and kissed her.
Amidst the applause, he rose to his feet and went back to his seat, grinning broadly. He raised his mock-tail and said, “To us.”
After dabbing her eyes with the napkin, she raised her glass. “To us. And to God be the glory.”