THE STRAINED PROPOSAL
Ken Richardson was in a fine state of resistance. He argued with the Most High.
Just last Sunday he had decided to make a trip to Fort Collins and try once more to propose to Laurie Bridgewater. Surely this was what God had been directing him to do over the past months of searching. Now, here was God’s unmistakable voice, “Ask Carrie to marry you, Ken.” Ken, do you love me? If you love me keep my commandments. Ask Carrie to marry you.”
“God,” said Ken. “That’s a misquote of scripture. The verse is, “Peter, do you love me? Feed my sheep.” Still the impression bore down steadily in Ken’s mind and heart, “Ken, do you love me? Ask Caroline to marry you.”
“God! What are you doing?” said Ken out loud to the open beams of his ceiling. “I have just made up my mind, WITH YOUR GUIDANCE, to ask for the hand of Laurie Bridgewater. Are YOU changing YOUR mind?” Still, inexorably, in his head, came the answer, “Ask Caroline to marry you.” “Good Lord,” expostulated Ken, and he meant both words, “How could this be coming from my imagination? I have never thought of Caroline romantically. How could this possibly be some sort of suppressed, deeply subconscious desire of mine, surfacing in the emotional stresses of grief and loss?”
“Ask Caroline to marry you,” came the voice, strongly, once again. In exasperation Ken looked around in the pre-dawn light, for something, anything, he didn’t know what. His eye fell on a little plastic bear shaped bottle of honey his sister had sent from her Midwestern farm. “Okay God,” he said recklessly, “Here’s what I will do. I will take little honey bear here, stick him in my pocket and drop by Caroline’s on my way to the library. If Caroline takes the honey, and thanks me with heartfelt gratitude as usual, I will know all is well, I have followed the scripture to remember a widow and an orphan and I will go smiling on my way to class. If, however, she says they were absolutely out of honey and sugar, I will take it as a sign from you to ask her to marry me.” He stumbled over the last few words, couldn’t quite get them out. None-the-less, once the words were said, once he had committed, a great peace came over him. He regained his composure and his ever-present sense of direction and purpose. He showered with the attitude of a successful businessman preparing for a day of sales.
“Monday, Monday,” he hummed to himself as he shaved and dressed. Forty-five minutes later he mounted the steps to the little one bedroom apartment and knocked. When Caroline opened the door, the aroma of freshly cooked oats wafted out.
“Good morning,” he greeted her. “My sister just sent me this honey from her farm in Minnesota. I thought you might like it and that little Abigail would enjoy the bottle. As he said this, he nodded into the room where he noticed Abigail was sitting expectantly in her high chair. He looked back at Caroline. Tears were streaming down her face. “The food pantry is not open until Wednesday,“ she said. “Abby and I have enough oatmeal, but nothing sweet, no sugar or jelly or syrup, to dress it up.”
“Forget the food pantry,” he said. “I believe God has a wonderful plan for your life. I’ll be back this afternoon to share a bit more with you.”
Carrie stared at his retreating back in wonderment. His words sounded less than coherent to her. Forget the food pantry? The food pantry was one of the wonderful ways God had been providing for her. Nonetheless, here she was, standing with a full bottle of honey, a request she had barely breathed. Coherent or not; this she understood: God had provided, quite ingeniously and unexpectedly, a detail as small as sweetening for oatmeal for her and her child. Her heart filled with gratitude toward a higher power; a God of provision that would meet her every need, however small. Yes, she certainly did believe God had a wonderful plan for her life; but, at this moment, she was in one of those dark, hard places where it was difficult to decipher exactly what God’s plan might be.