It all started with the first Sarah (now she is mostly a plot device, so don't dwell on her too much). Our hero had a bit of a thing for her, as fifteen year old boys tend to do. So he started hanging around her whenever he could. She wasn't particularly interested in him, but she didn't exactly know what to do with him either, so she invited him to her church. Not to the real services, but just to the wednesday night youth group.
Now our hero happily went along with her, week after week. Over time our hero gradually began to find a place there, and slowly changed his view from agnostic into that of someone who sort of believed in all that "God Stuff".
Time passed by as time tends to do. The first Sarah faded from the picture over time (although our hero did cry at her wedding years later, but he always cried at weddings), after all she isn't the one this story is about.
Our hero crossed over into the realm of believers on a tuesday night during a youth revival service when he came down to the altar and accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. Now you may or may not believe in all that, but our hero did, and he still does to this day.
One of those small amounts of time passed. One of those uncertain lengths of time that obscure themselves, as they tie together two events that just didn't seem to be related at the time. But after this uncertain amount of time (which is certainly more than a couple of days, but couldn't be anywhere near a year), our hero decided to go to the Christian bookstore, as he had never been there, and he had heard they had some good cds. Now over the years this store moved, and then eventually closed, that is neither here nor there now, but it could be important later.
While our hero was in the store he bought a cd. Which one he bought seemed of little importance at the time, and proved to be of little importance later. I think it was a DC Talk cd, but we will never know, as not even our hero can remember exactly what it was. The cd itself might not be important enough to remember, but the girl behind the counter was.
She didn't wear a nametag, but she did wear a smile a mile wide (now she lost that smile years later, but we are getting ahead of ourselves here). Our hero liked her the moment he saw her, red hair, freckles, pretty, but not a knockout by any means, probably carrying around 5 or 10 pounds more than she ideally should, but not enough for it to mean anything. Our hero liked her at once. He didn't talk to her other than to buy his cd. In fact our hero can't exactly recall if he ever spoke to her back in those early days other than the hi's, and such involved with a bookstore transaction.
Our hero might not remember what words were ever said, but there are a couple of things that he can remember. As he walked out of that store he prayed, he prayed one of his very first prayers as a new believer and he asked God if he could possibly have a girl like that one day. He can also remember mentioning her to a friend who knew who she was, told him her name, and mentioned that she was "nice". Her name was Sarah, coincidentally the same name as the girl mentioned earlier, whom you are supposed to have forgotten.
Now our hero never was the type to pick up strange girls in bookstores even if they do seem to be fine young Christian women. So it was going to have to take a move on God's part here for anything to ever happen between these two. But, if God was going to do anything then it was obviously going to be on his own time though, since years went by without much anything happening.
The first few years went slowly, our hero would see Sarah from time to time, and she would see him, never seeming to remember him. In fact our hero is unsure to this day if Sarah can remember him from those early days, as she never answered that question when it was asked.
When our hero turned 19 he joined the Army. This began a long period where our hero was deliberately turning his back on God, despite the fact that he joined as a Chaplain's Assistant and worked in one of the Army chapels.
Now here is a fact that any older person can attest to, time moves faster as you get older, as it did for our hero. He kept his back turned to the Lord, he still believed, he just didn't want to. He lied, he cheated, he sometimes stole, and he slept around whenever he could, which still wasn't very often since he isn't the type of guy who picks up strange girls in bookstores. Somewhere in all of this he met another red haired girl, fell in love with her and tried to marry her, but came out with nothing but a few letters and a person he found himself unable to forgive, but that is another story.
In the fullness of time things changed, he stopped ignoring God and started fighting him, which quickly changed to a longing to be back in his good graces. Of course now our hero was saddled with a pack a day cigarette habit, and a mouth that could make any sailor proud.
It took years for our hero to get anywhere near his old church. He was afraid, not afraid of God, but of the people, he knew he had let God down with the way he was living his life, but he didn't want to let those people he loved from the church down.
Time went by, many of our hero's close friends finished up their own rebellious periods and rejoined that church that our hero longed for. They began to try to get the hero to tag along, but he didn't want to let anyone down, and he still had a major issue in the air between himself and God in the form of someone he refused to forgive (a certain someone who was a former member of that church who lies had kept him from marrying that little red haired girl that he loved so dearly).
As time went by our hero's friend began describing a girl to our hero, a girl that he would certainly like. They could only provide a couple of details for him, she had red hair, her name was Sarah and she was "nice". Now if you have ever seen a movie where everything rushes at the character and then he has a bit of a flashback? This is what would happen here if this were a movie. Everything rushes in and our hero remembers his friend from 9 years previous saying "her name is Sarah, isn't she nice?".
Our hero went to a sunday night bible study at the house of a friend. Sarah showed up 30 seconds before it actually got started. Our hero was relieved in some weird sort of way to see that she was the same Sarah he thought she would be. He felt kind of like he already knew her, when he didn't really. She was mostly quiet, but when she did speak it was something worth hearing. He hung on her every word, and was thoroughly smitten by the end of the evening. She gave him some advice on an issue he raised during dicussion time.
That issue happened to be the person that our hero simply couldn't forgive. Ask our hero exactly what Sarah said about it, and he wouldn't even begin to be able to tell you, but while she was speaking he managed to forgive that person, get over the girl he couldn't marry, and close that gulf with God, all in the span of a few seconds, while gaining a healthy interest in this not so new "new" red haired girl.
Time went by as it always did, but in slow motion. What began as a healthy interest quickly blossomed into full fledged love. He could still barely speak to her at first, but finally he broke through that by doing something stupid to attract her attention. It worked, he realized he was able to live through that event easily, and he simply stopped being afraid of her.
The only problem is that Sarah wasn't exactly the same girl at twenty five that she was at sixteen. She still worked at the bookstore. She looked mostly the same, a bit older, actually a few pounds thinner than ideal now, but otherwise the same girl in a physical sense. She still had the sameglow surrounding her, but the smile was mostly gone, and underneath it all was a sort of sadness. Before she seemed so open and accessible, but now she seemed closed off, and everything seemed to be at this surface sort of level and she wouldn't let anyone in.
Time continued to march on. Our hero usually sat with Sarah at church but only if he went and sat with her, she wouldn't select the seat next to him. But if they both attended a social gathering, or went to a restaurant then Sarah would always select the seat across from or next to our hero. That was the only sign she ever gave about her feelings for the longest time.
Then all of a sudden, or at least it seemed like all of a sudden to our hero, Sarah had to go off to Texas and Australia for six months to care for the child of some Evangelist (bookstore went out of business, so somehow she had to do this). Our hero really doesn't want to give anymore details about what she was doing, lest someone put 7 and 45 together.
Well, our hero figured that while Sarah was in Texas that he could finally get close to her via email and letters. Well, Sarah stymied that idea quite readily by regularly taking a week to reply to emails and invariably writing one paragraph emails in response to 4 page ones. Yet even in this there were some hints, as she would write all on her own if ignored for a few days.
Eventually she came back. Things were different between them. They seemed like more of a couple, and people certainly talked about them as if they were a couple, but they had never been on a date alone, never kissed, never held hands, and hardly ever spoke to each other on the phone. By this point our hero had fully revealed his feelings to Sarah, but she refused to reveal hers.
Our hero would ask her questions about how she felt, and she would dodge the question. He would tell her that she could end all of this right now, just tell me you don't like me that way. She wouldn't say anything. He would ask her if she wanted him to continue pursuing her, and she would just reply, "do whatever you want". If he asked her on a date then she would dodge the date, but would sometimes ask him on dates of her own (never alone though, always group things, but things he wouldn't have otherwise been in on).
Our hero would get very frustrated with this, enough so that he would "give up" on Sarah time and time again. He would "give up" on her enough to develop the inklings of an interest in someone else (usually choosing the same bookish girl who was all too young for him, but at least was single). Sarah would always notice this, and immediately somehow for at least one encounter be so upbeat and act so completely interested that our hero would fall in love with her all over again.
As all this continued our hero found out more and more about Sarah . He found out lots of little details, like how she had a lot of stuff going on that no one knew about. How she was a volunteer at the hospital, about how she was a public speaker for two different organizations and was apparently very important in one of them. He began to form a guess as to what her underlying sadness was. Apparently she had lost a brother to a car accident in her late teens, and she never was quite the same since. Death was one of the issues she was a public speaker on, despite the fact that she had to "go into the black hole and bring it all back again" every single time she spoke on it. He found out about how she had been going to college 7 or 8 years now without a degree (but being really close to several of them). He found out how she knew sign language, could read lips, and how she couldn't sing to save her life. He found out how she had never really had a boyfriend, and had barely ever really even dated anyone. He found out all of these things and he loved every one of them, and loved her more for each one.
This all continued and continued. Our hero who began this story at 15 was now about to turn 27 and still had no idea where it was going with this girl he loved, how she felt about him, or what to do about her.
It was a monday night and they were in the parking lot talking by her car. Sarah had just dodged another date, and our hero did something different than usual. He said "Sarah, come over here and sit down, we need to talk." She protested, but came along.
Within minutes it all came pouring out of her, and out of him as well. He managed to verbalize things he had only been able to write in the past. He managed to tell he how much he loved her face to face, with his own voice rather than with words. He got to watch her own downward averted eyes, and see the battle raging within her.
Finally the dam inside her broke, and he realized that is really was mutual, that she loved him too, but she was fighting something.
She wanted to love him, she wanted to marry him and have his children, that is exactly what she was fighting. She told him as much, but not using the exact same words, altough she did speak a lot about marriage despite the fact our hero had never mentioned the subject to her. She even went as far as to say that for a long time she assumed that they would be getting married (or to use her words, "were going down the same road").
But, she had a problem. As much as she wanted that apparently she was "called". Our hero never quite was sure if she was "called" or wanted to be "called", Sarah was crying to much and talking in too many circles for him to exactly be sure about it. But either was, apparently Sarah was going off to Africa or someplace similar, and our hero couldn't go with her because he didn't have the same call.
"You are right Sarah, I don't have that call, I only have one call, that is to be a husband and father. And you know what Sarah, it really doesn't matter to me where that takes me. It can be here, it can be in a little hut in some village. I knew when I fell in love with you that you were likely to run off all around the world and I decided that I was willing to follow you anywhere."
Sarah smiled and cried even more at this, but then went into mumbling about how she would need someone who wasn't just a follower.
"I feel like I could be a Mother Theresa or a Jane Haining. Do you know who she is? (He didn't). I really want a family, but I am willing to give that up for this".
He couldn't persuade her that she could have both. She eventually got even more upset at something and ran to the car and drove away. He quickly called her and made a short telephone plea which he ended by indicating that he would see her soon.
Our hero walked away from this encounter a changed man. His 7 year battle with smoking ended silently and effortlessly that night. Somehow so many of his other internal problems and battles resolved themselves. He still had no idea what to do about Sarah, but inside he was already beginning to believe that she might be right, or even if she is wrong, that she was going to make the wrong decision about this one.
Somehow things went back to normal between Sarah and our hero, at least for a while.
It was a sunday morning when someone pointed out to our hero the fact that Sarah was sceduled to do "special music" that morning. Since Sarah can neither sing nor play an instrument, it only meant one thing, that she was going to be doing that odd sort of interpretive sign language dancing thing that her mom does once a year or so.
That got him thinking about Sarah . Two songs into the church service he was down at the altar crying out to Lord about her. He came not asking anything, but simply as a weeping child looking for comfort in the arms of one who loves him. He found that comfort, and got up from a tear stained altar twenty minutes later and sat down just in time to watch Sarah do her "special music".
After the church service he went and spoke to Sarah and told him that he brought it all to God and that he was finally able to accept the fact that she was going to go off and do something and that he probably wasn't going to go with her. She averted her eyes, as she always did, and then said the wrong thing as she always did. But he knew she heard him, understood, and that it was probably harder for her.
He knew that he would someday find another, and that the worst for him would be some temporary emotional turmoil now, and maybe once in a while looking at his children and trying to imagine how they might have looked with a different mother.
But for her, it is very likely that one day, perhaps more than one day, perhaps every day, she will lay awake in her bed in some far away jungle and mourn the husband, children, and the life she never had.
He loved her enough that he prayed she could find comfort if those times came, and then he tried to move on.