It was early in my life that I learned about Valentine’s Day. I think we cut out big ole hearts during Sunday School in Mrs McKenzie’s and Mrs Frazier’s class. We probably put a “I love you Mom” message on it and went about our merry way, covered in Elmer’s Glue and glitter. We might even have put on our little white Children’s Choir Robes with the big red bows on the front and stood in front of the congregation and looked down at the floor while the preacher’s wife tried to get us to sing some beautiful song about love. I don’t remember. Could’ve been.
But the time I remember “putting the hay in the loft” about this love issue was in 1st Grade. Miss Mays had never been married, and so she ruled the class like we were her adopted kids, and we were supposed to be all in our straight rows, smiling at the appropriate moment after the late bell rang. I had done my research. I looked the class all over, trying to figure out which little girl I would marry. Some were taller than me, that put them off my list. Others were a little too prissy, and I felt like they’d want my money. So, I searched and searched, and out of a class of about 31 little boys and girls, about half being little girls, and being careful not to take the love interest of any of my friends, I finally narrowed it down to one. This nameless little girl (she’s still living and doesn’t deserve the notoriety, so I’m not naming her), became the object of my affection. I had even gone all out and visited the good bubblegum machine at the barber shop. Out had come a beautiful ring with a little green stone. It was perfect. I kind of hated to give it away, it was that nice. A whole nickel had been expended, and that was big spending for me in 1970.
So I talked to her and told her that I had decided we’d probably end up getting married after we get all through school. (What an opening line). She nodded in agreement. I think she caught a glimpse of that ring. I went ahead and gave it to her. She was all smiles. I couldn’t be prouder. This decision being made, I could get on with my studies and figure out what I would need to do for a living so we wouldn’t starve to death when the young’uns came on. This was the beginning of the school day.
Sometime during that day, Miss Mays, the school teacher, the authoritarian, domineering, paddle-waving teacher who had never been married, interviewed the chosen little gal, and found out the ins and outs of this grand scheme. She wanted to know where she got the green stoned ring. This little girl had the gift of gab at the time and told everything she knew. After the Ice Cream Recess (the one after lunch, the one nobody in the class could hardly wait for), I was summonsed to the desk of the mighty teacher. I felt like I was singing in the choir. I looked down at the floor and nervously answered her questions.
Soon the engagement was pronounced annulled, and I was back to square one.
This hampered my social development for decades.
But all is well. Soon after seminary, I was walking into the “Bob’s Barbeque and Country Store” in Belfast, Virginia, and a sweet middle-aged lady called me aside and looked at me and asked: “Brad, would you like to meet someone?” I wasn’t sure what she meant, so I said yes just to be polite. I was told about this young lady who worked at the nearby community college. I was at once interested and pleased that the lady talking to me thought I might be a catch for someone. After all, I had just spent seven years in college and seminary, studying New Testament Greek and contextual theology and even a little Hebrew and the Old Testament Book of Job, so my self concept was a little nerdy.
I was told to wait a time with patience until she could be notified, and afterwards we would be meeting. On the way to my mother’s house the next few days for Thanksgiving, I remember praying a very specific prayer, telling God how much I needed a spouse and what qualities I preferred in one. I hadn’t seen this young lady yet, and didn’t know much, only that she was very faithful in her church and had come from a little place in Tazewell County named “Bandy.”
When we met, I was taking some things to our Christmas Project for poor kids, and needed to pick several items up at the college that had been in the matchmaker’s car. When I asked my now wife for a date, she dropped her jaw in recognition that I was indeed the person she had been told about, but since she was working she hadn’t remembered the meeting was happening that day. She only would tell me she would pray about it. So I went about my way and called her on Christmas Day to check on her.
She had been praying that if it was the Lord’s will we should date, that I would contact her by phone. So it opened a door when I actually did that. Soon we started dating. In time we got married, and have been together now some 21 years. I hate to admit, but my first grade teacher knew her stuff. This one is God’s gift for me, and my best friend and companion and prayer partner. I couldn’t think of a better Valentine.