As I write it is the first day of October. Thirty-five years ago today I rode in the back seat of some very large car that probably ended with the suffix “AM” to a church building somewhere within a couple of hours of Henderson, Tennessee. I do not remember where exactly we worshipped or what the lesson was about . I do remember that the car was driven by Mike Turbeville and his date, Randi Weatherington, sat across from him. And I remember that I sat across from Glenn Colley, for the very first of many times over the next 35 years. I hope there are lots more to come.
There was so much about that first date that was typical, almost prophetic of the life we’ve loved now for three and a half decades. First, as usual, I was confused. I had stood in line on the previous day in Gano Cafeteria at Freed-Hardeman University in my Saturday overalls. Since they were only allowed in Gano on Saturdays, they were, along with my Phi Kappa Jersey, the regular Saturday uniform. I read my mail as I waited in that line. Line-waiting in Gano was a far bigger social event in those days than speed dating is now. In fact, it WAS speed dating. I bet if you polled married people today who met in the seventies or eighties at Freed Hardeman, you would find that just about one hundred percent of them met or spent a lot of courting hours in the Gano line. But that was back in the day when there were only two Gano lines–two very long Gano lines that often wound their way down the stairs and into the student center. On that particular Saturday, though, it was mostly just me and the mail until I got within inches of that plexiglas wall that hid the actual food part of the line from the rest of the cafeteria. I had all but turned that corner, when Glenn Colley (a smaller, more fiery red-haired, but lots-more-OF-the-red-haired version) sauntered up to that particular corner and hand-in-pockets said, “Hey wait, Cindy Holder.”
By now I am having to lean way back and kind of hold up the line to even see Glenn Colley. “Hmmm?”
“Well, some of us are going out with ‘Impact” tomorrow to do the services and classes at a church out in _______. Would you like to go with us?”
And then my classic answer…the question I’ve been asking ever since…”What’s my role?”
He answered without skipping a beat: “Well, you will be with me.”
Impact was a program in which boys and girls from Freed would go out to area churches and conduct the services and teach the classes. Often girls were a part of the program, teaching the children’s classes. So I had just naturally assumed…
But there, leaning way back around that retaining wall,now, I needed to give an answer…a different kind of answer than I had thought. My quick and decisive “Yes…okay…what time and where will you pick me up?” was the beginning of a lifetime of figuring out my role.
Second, just like today, I was too busy. I went back to my room, room 108 in Scott Hall, more than a little excited about tomorrow. Upon getting back there I just naturally starting spitting out the news to my roommate, Kerrie. Midway though the exuberant retelling of the details of that very romantic Gano encounter, I remembered that sweet Kerrie had set me up with a friend of hers from Harding. Her boyfriend from Harding was bringing a friend to campus and I was the blind date for…what was his name, again?. That date was about to happen in just three hours and, well, it was a little rude for me to get so excited about moving on to someone else before I even met the guy. So I calmed down for Kerrie and tried to be excited about What’s-His-Name.
Third, It was the precursor to many, many “church dates”. I’m very glad that we get to celebrate the same thing every Lord’s Day. And I’m very glad it’s something much bigger than our first date. I find great joy in knowing that our first time together was around the throne of God; the same place where we will spend eternity together. We share many precious memories, from delivery rooms to dorm rooms, from wedding ceremonies to funeral times. In all of my wistful recollections, it’s sweet to think of how He has always been at the center of them; in fact He has been the giver of all of my nostalgic treasures.
Fourth, I realize now, that even on that day, I began the journey of coming to depend on Glenn for spiritual leadership. Though, I can recall little of the day (I had no idea, at the time, of its significance), I can recall that we discussed the spiritual problems of some of our mutual friends on the way home. I do not know if Mike and Randi thought it odd that we were talking about other people rather than getting to know each other. (In fact, I do not think I thought one thing about what Mike and Randi were thinking or discussing or even knew that they were up there in the front seat. It doesn’t matter much since the front seat couple went on to become separate halves of some other couple. I still know Mike and his precious wife of about thirty five years. I do not know what happened to Randi. It was the couple in the back seat, though, that was destined to walk down the aisle together as man and wife a year-and-a-half later.) The time flew by and when we arrived back at campus, we, in our naivety, had solved the problems of our classmates. I remember thinking that this man was wise beyond his years. I would probably be seeking him out for advice on another occasion or two. Little did I know…
Finally, on that day, a series of unexpected blessings began coming my way at the hands of Glenn Colley. They are still coming. It was a great October morning together around God’s throne. I think there was a picnic at this congregation and I think we had fried chicken. That afternoon, I went back to the dorm room thinking, “Well, that was fun.” But I was not at all committed to the idea that there would be a second date or a second mortgage, or a second child named Hannah one day. Whoosh, I really still did not have a clue about the answer to that question, “What’s my role?”. I was so confused about the answer to that question that I accepted a date with a different boy for the very next weekend. Imagine that! There I was–the mother of Caleb and Hannah Colley–going to a devo with some other guy the next Friday night! Brother Colley really should have expounded a little more when I asked that question about my role.
So what IS my role? Sometimes I still get a bit confused. But I’m starting to understand it’s just to follow. It’s to be the cheerleader, listener, hand-holder, pillow-talker, cocoa-bringer, and sermon-sounder of my man of God. I’m glad. I remember when he popped the question about a year and a half later. I went back to that same dorm room and thanked God that I would never have to worry about standing alone for righteousness again. I thanked Him that I would not have to feel embarrassed to go ask someone for counsel about spiritual things that I should already know. I remember praising Him for giving me my very own wise man who would protect me from spiritual danger. I still praise Him for that. I hope I have 35 more years to ask anew the question, because I love hearing the answer “Well, you will be with me.”