It was like elective surgery with little joy. One year before the COVID carnage erupted, I sauntered into the shell of my stomping ground. The road, which began with a gentle climb, had an out-of-place feel – much like an aftermath of a Mexican divorce. The narrow-gauge single railway line that hugged this avenue was uprooted. Dirt and an alien noise dominated a once familiar landscape – a pipeline project appeared like it would take ages to complete.
The neat, straight thoroughfare then took on a sharp curve that could be mistaken for a dead end. The shophouses adjacent to it dated back to the early 1950s; they were still intact – except for the heavy cosmetic surgery on their facades. The trades I knew of were long gone, but my curiosity outweighed any hint of unhappiness.
The unkempt corner store, which once sold household necessities, was history. In its place was a flower shop, nothing close to a clone of many I have encountered. More of a boutique setting. I am not one for flowers, but the unique flavor set the tone for a systematic appraisal ahead of a swift departure.
I anticipated a five-minute walk around, but could it take almost an eternity? The person running the show kept me glued to a conversation concerning her corporate vision. Far from being a bore, her narrative cut against the grain of typical presentations, which were mostly rehearsed. From then, I felt comfortable with the idea of further drop-ins!
There were indeed further visitations. Friendship was merely my objective; another gem in my circle of companions would do great for a then outgoing and gregarious me! It never crossed my mind about her seeing things differently. I appreciated her get-up-and-go stance, noteworthy for a lady nearing fifty that was recently divorced. She looked ten years younger and, at closer examination, displayed the movements of someone with extensive catwalk experience. Yet she was more on the unassuming side, what I reckon would be a quality for a long-term friendship. Was she thinking along the same lines? Shockingly not the case! It was one of those drop-ins that concluded with the unthinkable. She presented me with a rose, the kind for Gatsby events. I simply responded with a “thanks, but I just cannot accept it.”
After nearly five minutes of gentle nudging, she gave up. I walked away as if there was no emotion, but sometimes a delayed response could surface like a tummy ache. Somehow, the Lord was busy at work at this juncture. I really did not get the picture until after my pulmonary embolism two years later. As I lay in a hospital bed, I then pieced together the potential gravity of the situation. I could easily have keeled over if not for His grace and mercy!
Unlike that which is commonplace as I write, 2019 had little to inspire any lion-hearted watchman on the wall. MAGA was the dominant theme, if not a buzzword. The date-setters and sensation-tainted storytellers were out in force. The incessant stream of highly questionable dreams and visions was taking a heavy toll on watch people like me. Endless days of scouring for something of prophetic significance drained much of my energy. Would it cause me to throw in the towel and bury myself in a needless romance?
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
The Lord worked in a way that I never could imagine. His angle of attack is one we least consider, let alone anticipate.
Believe it or not? He uses our idiosyncrasies for the purpose of showcasing His infinite power and resources. In my case, He made full use of my conduit, which was meant to soothe the frustration generated by the slew of speculation and sensationalism contrary to Scriptural truths. Football or soccer, as most know this popular sport! Did this pastime have the potency of medication in an ER?
I am certainly not one of those who place bets on the outcome of soccer matches. I simply view it from the lens of an eleven-year-old – a hero and a villain. In my reference, it was Liverpool versus Manchester United. The former took on the role of good fellas, and the latter were bogeymen. Manchester United did not win any trophies for the season ending in the summer of 2019. But Liverpool had a shot at the Champions League – the prestigious European Cup. Around the time I spurned the rose, Liverpool was trailing by three goals on the away leg to Barcelona. They needed four goals (none to be conceded) to enter the Champions League final. A long shot indeed, but the Lord was using this moment to shape me up for much greater things.
Way before I could become a predictable storyline for a paperback romance, the much-needed shot in the arm came in a least-expected fashion. I crossed paths with an elderly English man during an evening stroll. He had his dog in a pram, and we chatted about what would be the future of the neighborhood shopping mall. Time flew, and this was when he abruptly decided to head for home. He then alluded to an all-English Champions League final. He was a Tottenham Hotspur supporter and was not going to miss the semifinal match against Ajax. If they won, it would be Liverpool versus Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final. They sure did. Sinus rhythm at last!
So elated was I that a tongue-in-cheek option was exercised to the fullest. I politely gatecrashed her barbecue at the flower shop. She was glad that I showed up; there was an overwhelming female majority – only a middle-aged Italian plus half a dozen women at the impromptu dance floor. They tried hard to drag me to dance with her, but I firmly resisted, citing my staunch bachelorhood. One of them yelled something like, “we gonna un-bachelor you!”
It was the first time in my life savoring the succulence of a tantalizing Filipino barbecue, more for my eyes and ears as nightfall descended. I could comprehend what was in store if she became a part of my life. From the way conversations flowed, it was all very earthly – whether it was from her loved ones or her buddies. I was silent not solely because of the sumptuous spread, but the Holy Spirit was revealing the truth to me. I took a stand, not through my abilities but through His infinite grace and mercy, even in my weakness. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Liverpool did clinch their sixth Champions League title; a two-goal victory over Tottenham Hotspur sealed the win. This booster shot in the arm gave cause for yet another tongue-in-cheek. I strolled into her shop with my Anfield jersey; there was no need for a lengthy explanation. She got the overall picture amidst visible disdain; it was evident in a woman who seldom frowns.
I can only remember this experience with fondness; it was an integral part of a major turning point where my eternal destiny mattered. No questions asked! A month later, I started writing for Rapture Ready and still do, even as everything points to that twinkling of an eye moment.
Our God wins and always does so.
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