When my sister first suggested that I go out with her youth leader at church, I laughed. This guy was really involved at our church. He volunteered for the youth group, he sang at the contemporary service every Saturday night, and he played the trombone for church services every Christmas and Easter. I didn’t think he’d be the right man for me.
A few years went by. I dated some other men; they didn’t last. I turned 31, and hated dating.
Even though I lived over an hour away, I kept going to my parents’ church. The youth leader was looking better and better to me. Plus, he was still single. I kept trying to ask him out after church on Sunday, but I either couldn’t get up the nerve or he had to run to teach Sunday school. (Honestly, he was a Sunday school teacher? Did I really want to date someone this good?) But still, I began to develop quite a crush on “church boy,” as my friends called him. Mom got tired of me talking about him and not doing anything, so she stepped in. She got his email address from a mutual friend. I asked him out for coffee after Sunday school; he replied, Let’s go out for breakfast, and gave me his phone number.
I called him, wondering what I would say. I didn’t even have a chance to worry about that; we chatted easily for an hour. Breakfast went even better; we both knew we would see each other again.
As I got to know him, I realized he wasn’t the man I thought he was. I assumed he would listen to the contemporary Christian station; it wasn’t even a preset on his car radio. I discovered his absolutely favorite band was Def Leppard, and he listened to bands I had never heard of, like Queensryche and Shawblades. He was always singing along to the radio and getting me to sing along, too. He worked at a machine shop; he swore like a truck driver…but not around me. He could be friends with anyone. He talked to the little old ladies at church, and he hung out with the guys from the shop. He was completely different than I thought he would be, and I fell in love pretty quickly.
Fortunately for me, he believed in going slow. He hugged me on the first date, kissed me on the cheek for the second, and didn’t go for the lips until the third date. I was in no hurry; I had a secret.
My secret made me panic about intimate contact with a man. I once panicked when one of my dates got a little too close to lifting my shirt. I had anxiety attacks about revealing my secret to someone I was dating. How could I know when it was the right time? This wasn’t something I could just blurt out on the first date.
With Ed, it turned out to be when we were camping together. It was dark; it was romantic; I was terribly nervous. I trusted him. “I had breast cancer,” I said.
“I know,” he said.