All the Kens and Barbies sat around the table. (Note: technically, it’s now supposed to be “Blaine and Barbie,” but I still have a soft spot for good old Ken.) Amid glistening smiles and Coppertone tans, the fragrance of Polo, with a hint of Skin So Soft (yes, this was the good ol’ nineties!) wafted through the café booth. I nibbled at my burrito as the conversation around me finally arrived at its ultimate destination.
“So, Kevin,” Barbie No. 1 flirted across the table, “tell us who you’re seeing now.”
Kevin, the son of a state senator, was used to having eyes upon him. Being a Tom Cruise look-alike has a way of boosting the ego. As he crunched a chip between perfect teeth, an “I thought you’d never ask” smirk found its way across his face.
As all of us camp counselors leaned in, eyes bulging with expectancy, Kevin finally revealed the secret in a low monotone: “Her name is…Sandra!”
This only added to the excitement and wonder, because no one had any idea who Sandra was.
“Is she a babe?” crooned the resident Brad Pitt, alias Mike from Wyoming.
Say no more! Swift as the bionicman, Kevin whipped out his wallet. Moments later we all observed a photograph of the “hottest girl on the planet,” as Kevin so proudly referred to her.
“Niiice!” came the rumble of approval from Brad Pitt and Matt Damon (Wayne from Denver).
“I think she has a huge nose!” grumbled one of the girls under her breath.
I continued to pick at my burrito.
Barbie No. 2, sitting beside Top Gun, was next in the heartthrob inquisition. She displayed a photo of her boyfriend to cheers of “You go, girl!” from the Barbies and disapproving rumbles about his skinny neck from the Kens, Brads,Matts, and Toms.
After a week of having to exhibit saintlike behavior to all the little campers and being superspiritual while around the camp leaders, it was time to let our hair down—time to let the real passions of life come out. I mean, in your late teens and early twenties, you can sing only so many spiritual camp songs before you need an infusion of good old-fashioned romance.
One year earlier, talks like this had really litmy fire. I used to love to brag about my love life at camp and exaggerate about my “sexy new girlfriend” in a way that would make all the guys jealous and all the girls insecure. You could say just about anything and get away with it; no one was going home with you to check out your story.
I used to crave these love chats, but something about Eric Ludy had changed—something big. Something that made me want to slide under the table when all those inquisitive eyes turned my way.
I’ll never forget the moment. There I was, my fork poking at the jalapeño stranded on the corner of my plate and my mind screaming over and over, Please don’t ask me…please don’t ask me.
“So, Eric, tell us about your exciting love life!”
All the periwinkle, emerald, and dark brown eyes were twinkling at me with expectation. I gulped.
“Uhhhh,” I mumbled. My palms were sweaty. My tongue was dry and thick, like I had a felt eraser in my mouth.
Finally, I found my voice. “Uhh, I uhh, actually, uh, I am waiting on God.”
But to be honest, it didn’t really come out as clearly as I just wrote it.The last part of my sentence mumbled under my breath, sounding something like, “Ima waying on Gaw.”
I hoped a brief answer would encourage them to move on to Elle Macpherson (a.k.a. Kayla from Utah) seated next to me, poised and ready with a photo of her hunk. The plan backfired. They became even more interested.
“Uh, I think we missed that, Ludy,” Tom Cruise sarcastically challenged. “Was that a girl’s name or some kind of Chinese food?”
After the laughs subsided, I began again, this time a little more clearly.
“I know this may sound strange, you guys, but I’ve decided that I won’t give my heart to another girl until God shows me it’s my wife.”
I have often wished I could have been more eloquent, that I could have made my resolve sound a little more appealing to my audience, now staring at me with mouths ajar. But I guess God wanted me to know that I was following a different path, that I was not to seek the approval of the Kens and Barbies of this world but simply to honor and love Him.
It was a lonely moment. Silence filled our corner of the restaurant, and all eyes focused on the jalapeño I was ruthlessly stabbing to death.
“That’s…interesting!” Barbie No. 1 awkwardly noted, her eyes large with disbelief.
Wayne from Denver was not quite as subtle in his disapproval. “Oh, give me a break!” he exploded in disgust. “How in the world do you expect to find someone, Ludy, if you’re not out there looking?” His words incited a chorus of yeahs and exactlys from around the booth.
After a moment of reflective silence, I took a deep breath and stated, “I believe that if God wants me to be married”—another deep breath—“He will pick her out for me.”
A dark cloud settled over the entire group and rained down bewilderment in the form of pursed lips and rolled eyes. I glanced up from my tortured jalapeño to discover a long bony index finger pointing at me, about twelve inches from my nose. Kevin used that finger like Clint Eastwood used a gun. He didn’t shoot to maim—he shot to kill.
His bronzed face had turned red with annoyance, and his lips were quivering with indignation, like a lava pool ready to explode. After three long seconds, he finally erupted.
“I totally disagree with you!” he fumed, his index finger still targeting my right nostril. “God doesn’t want us hanging around nagging Him about something like that!”
A few “amens” from the crowd textured his passionate sermon. He continued. “I believe God wants us to pick,” he preached, “and then He blesses our choice!” He paused and then came to a climactic finish: “It’s sappy Christianity like yours that gives us Christians the image of helpless orphans! It is absolutely ridiculous to think that God would care that much about your love life!”
The finger held fast for another few long seconds, then slowly dropped as if to say, You show any sign of life, and I’ll shoot again!
I was the ultimate bummer to their titillating conversation. If ever you want to drain the juice right out of romance, just bring God into the picture. I had committed the unpardonable camp counselor sin, and all the eyes around the table were letting me know it.
Growing up, I had always gotten along with everybody. I knew how to be liked by the crowd and not offend anyone. I was careful to say the right thing in order to avoid disagreements. Eric Ludy had never been known for his backbone…well, except maybe in championing the Denver Broncos. But when it came to things that really mattered, I was just plain spineless. This was one of the first times in my life I can remember actually standing up for something I believed in (that wasn’t orange and blue).
Ironically, I didn’t even know exactly what I was talking about. Just twelve months before, I, too, would have “totally disagreed” with what I had just said. But over the past year, God had been challenging me to apply my Christianity to every area of my life. Was it ridiculous to think God would be interested enough in my love life to direct me to the girl He wanted me to spend my life with?
I shifted in my seat, stabbed my jalapeño one last time, and spoke.
“All I know,” I said, “is that every time I’ve tried to find someone myself, I realize in the long run that I have horrible taste.”
All eyes were wide with amazement as I concluded, “Kevin, if God had ten women line up in front of me and said, ‘Eric, you pick,’ I would fall flat on my face before Him and say, ‘God, you know me better than I know myself…You pick! ’ ”
I’ll bet no one present other thanmyself remembers that scene.To them it was probably just the ramblings of a lunatic named Ludy. But for me it was a defining moment. It was almost as if God was saying, “How seriously are you going to trust Me, Eric?”
So there it was, in front of the babes and the big egos, that God challenged me to officially trust Him with the “pen” of my life. I had held onto that pen for twenty years, and now, over a chicken burrito and a mangled jalapeño, I handed it over to the great Author to allow Him to work His wonders.
I’ve never regretted it for a moment.