Hast thou not seen
How thy desires e’er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?
~Praise to the Lord the Almighty
I arrived five minutes earlier than the agreed five o’clock. It was Sunday, and the Makati restaurant famed for its shrimp dishes was populated mostly by Caucasians craving a taste of home (the restaurant is American themed and inspired by an American movie). I settled for the booth by the aisle, farthest from the entrance and nearest the rest room, a choice that would later prove inspired. From where I sat, I would be able to see her walk in. That would give me enough time to take a deep breath and prepare to give her the roses I had bought earlier.
And then Daphne arrived, extra-lovely in a black-and-white outfit.
“She’s wearing a skirt—that’s a good sign,” I thought to myself. “But black isn’t such a happy color… Uh oh.” For a strange moment the gloom of a funeral clouded my mind. But Daphne’s sunbeam smile instantly dispelled all my irrationally morbid thoughts. She eased into the booth with nonchalant grace. My heart began its pounding, and I wished that the ambulance my friends said they had prepared for me was really on standby.
“Happy birthday!” she greeted cheerily. I gave her the roses and hoped she didn’t notice the trembling hand. “I love flowers,” she beamed, and then mumbled something about a gift in her car and a cute complaint about why she’s getting roses when it wasn’t her birthday but mine. I said something in reply which I can’t now remember but I am quite sure was lame.
Daphne and I knew that that night was more than a birthday dinner celebrating my 32nd year. It was an evening of possibilities, when two stories, two journeys, two “broken roads” could intersect.
One week before that night, I had invited Daphne to dinner on my birthday. She found the invitation odd as she and all my friends know that I usually spend my birthdays on a personal retreat—no parties, no celebrations; just my journal, and my Bible, and hermit me tucked away wherever I could find some solitude and a hot tub.
This year was different. After a heart-to-heart talk with two of my closest buddies, which served as tipping point for years’ worth of musing, praying, dillydallying, I had decided I was through spending birthdays—and my life!—alone. I had decided to finally tell Daphne that five years since my confession of love to her, and all the bittersweet details in between, I was a failure. I had failed to forget about her. I had failed to love someone else (despite several attempts). I had failed to find the cure to the heart disease that she unknowingly infected me with.
To be a failure is one thing; to be an idiot is another. Finally I realized that I would be the dumbest, stupidest idiot-failure if I passed the chance to tell her that to me she is the most special girl, and that I would love for her to join me on a journey to discern if the Lord is leading us to marriage. (Yes, that part I had to memorize so that I could at least say something coherent.)
I wish I had been as eloquent in speech that night in the Makati restaurant. But all I could muster was a fumbling, sweating, clumsy version of me who could not even read the menu properly. After an eternity of futilely flipping through the giant menu, I finally said, “Dap, can you order for us? I can’t seem to read! Promise, I’ll take care of the rest of the evening. Just please take care of this one thing?” The lovely lady laughed, but not mockingly. It was a gracious laughter that broke the ice and prevented a medical emergency involving a six-footer suddenly losing consciousness.
The week leading to that evening was seasoned with details and events that assured me of God’s unmistakable part in the unfolding of this story. Whichever way this evening would take, I had an overwhelming sense of peace. I was single-minded about the purpose of all this: God’s glory revealed in both our lives. Over a meal of shrimps, pasta, bread (her absolute favorite thing), salad, and bottomless iced tea, we opened our hearts to each other.
Several days before, after she accepted my invitation, I had already hinted on my intentions for the evening during various chat sessions online, so Daphne knew what was coming. But I didn’t. After telling her again of my long journey and my intentions, she asked if she could tell her side of the story. My bladder was more nervous than I was (and the bottomless iced tea didn’t help) so I had to interrupt her story every now and then to go to the men’s room, where I also looked at the man in the mirror and issued him a stern warning against fainting, having spasms, or showing any outward manifestation of stress that required medical attention, for that would be horribly uncool and disastrous.
What I heard that night from Daphne blew me away, I had to fight back tears. I couldn’t believe my ears. She had been praying for me? Wow. God had been nurturing a love for me in her heart? Wow. She had been waiting and hoping, which had at times proven frustrating? Wo..Ouch. Daphne shared what the Lord had been doing in her heart and life leading to that evening. She was providing her own pieces to the puzzle after I had laid down mine. As I listened to her respond to me, in my heart I worshiped the One who is lovingly weaving the light and dark threads of ours lives together.
“And just so we’re clear, I’m saying ‘yes’ to your invitation to journey with you to see if the Lord leads us to marriage.” Until that moment, I didn’t know what happiness meant. I wanted to dance, shout, cry, do cart wheels. But I only managed a really, really huge smile that could have torn the skin on the corners of my mouth. I must have looked silly, I didn’t and don’t care. I don’t remember eating, but I do remember a sense of fullness, of something right and wonderful happening. After a few hours, the waitress came with the check and I announced to her that I now have a girlfriend. “Congratulations po!” she excitedly offered, while my new girlfriend tried to hide herself under the table.
As we left the restaurant I had a crazy urge to approach strangers and introduce to them my girlfriend. I did so with a security guard and got a pinch and a slap on the arm (from the girlfriend, not the guard.) Nothing fatal. I felt invincible.
To this day, I lament that my words are wanting to truly express the joy and the great feeling of being blessed by amazing grace that evening. And, oh how that blessing has begotten blessing upon blessing! At the start of year 2010, I prayed to God earnestly for grace to love Him more, so much more; to know Him and to let that knowledge of Him fan my affection and devotion. On my birthday He seemed to answer, “You want to love Me more? Start by loving this precious daughter of Mine.”
10 March 2010
Daphne, my love,
I woke up this morning and felt my heart could burst! Literally. I guess this is joy. And I am humbled by its presence in my life. You are a great part of this new-found joy. The Joy-Giver has blessed me with you, with joy. Amazing!
When I speak of joy, I do not only mean emotional joy. It’s physical: I can sense something deep down in my chest–my heart feels full and its beating becomes irregular. I have to take a deep breath to create normalcy in my chest. I have never felt anything like this before! The things you do to me! In your love, I feel both powerless and empowered.
There are so many things to learn, to experience, to describe. I do not feel alone anymore. I praise the Lord with all my heart (and I am close to tears now–again!) for His eternal wisdom. Only He can turn mourning into dancing, banish the night and call forth a new day, heal completely like we’ve never been hurt and yet keep the lessons.
The joy of loving you and being loved by you (such a gift!) will be a constant call to worship our One True Lover.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” (Lam. 3:22)
I love you with unspeakable joy!
Victor Hugo was onto something when he wrote, “To love another is to see the face of God.” I love you, Daphne Guerra.