Warm Men, Cool Church

wilson and carol

If you read me, and I certainly hope you do, you already know I confess to being a girly-girl. I can’t throw a ball and really… why should I? I love the smell of lipstick, the feel of cashmere, and the sounds of a cooing baby. I cannot answer any Jeopardy sports questions-ever. I know the name of 1 team; the NY Mets. I want them to win every game they will ever play now and forever, not because I know their stats or the rules of baseball, but because I’m from Queens. Girly-girls are loyal. 

However, even though my close friends are female, I’m not a man-hater. I like men so much, I’m married to one and gave birth to another. Decades ago, when I realized it would be more fun to kiss an actual man than crush on a virtual movie star, I headed for Manhattan’s bar scene. Before you get all judgy, it was a very different time. An eighteen-year-old woman* could meet dozens of young men throughout her single-hood without fear of danger or compromise. I was often driven home by ‘boys’ I had met that night. They took me to my door, kissed my cheek and promised to call me. Some did. Some didn’t. (That’s still a reality today.)

It’s not an activity I’d recommend in our millennial world filled with HIV and herpes, friends with benefits and sex with strangers. If I, like Alice Pleasance in Alice Again** could be young and single again, I’d head for Living Faith Community Church. (of course, your choice of house of worship will do just as well.)

In the real world, after attending LFCC for a few months, I took my full attention off the message and scoped the filled seats around me. My first cultural shock was men who came to church in ripped jeans, tees and baseball hats. After a lifetime of visiting churches solely for weddings and funerals, I thought it was de rigueur to dress up. Lyricist Chris Tomlin sums it up best, “like a bride waiting for her groom, we’ll be a church ready for you.”

What kind of ‘grooms’ were these? And then the girly-girl in me took over, cute guys! Was this the best kept secret in how-to-meet-a-man history or what? And why isn’t my beautiful niece man-shopping in church? 

Another sweep over the crowd showed me dozens of young women (better dressed) who already knew that while bars and dating sites casted wide nets, their church offered God’s love and men who shared their faith. (total win-win.)

Over time, I’d witness a young man from one side of the sanctuary move to a seat next to a woman on the other side. They’d chat over fellowship coffee. In what seemed like a blink, Pastor Ro would announce their engagement-in another blink- their wedding. And in what seemed like 2 shakes of a baby rattle, they’d enter on a Sunday pushing a stroller--sleep deprived but just as happy as the day they sat side by side.

Which brings me to my friend Wilson.

I was finishing my first novel, when I began attending a new community group. It wasn’t easy for me to travel alone for evening CG bible study. But, with so much to learn, I prayed my 12-year-old Nissan would get me there and back without breaking down and kept sneakers in the back seat, just in case I’d have to out-run a rapist-murderer who noticed me and my dead car.

Juggling my keys, a study guide and a home baked coffee cake in my arms, I attempted to ring the host-family’s doorbell. Everything but the coffee cake fell to the front step. Behind me, I felt a presence. Wilson Park is a big man, which immediately appealed to me. My father stood at six feet. My husband too and our son is 6’2. Wilson felt like family at our first meeting which began with him picking up my belongings and ringing the doorbell. 

While we’re both entertaining speakers, Wilson and I don’t necessarily like to stand out, but there we were in a stranger’s living room, the biggest man and whitest/oldest woman. A match made in heaven.

Within a few weeks, I affectionately nick-named him Big Man and still call him that today. He was front and center at my first NYC book talk and generously catered my tenth. Funny and with a genuine warmth, Wilson’s a delight to know.

Our friendship grew quickly at church and CG. I learned he was single. It was hard not to know since at the closing of each bible study when the leader would ask, “Does anyone have a prayer request?” Big Man had the same request each time. “I want to meet someone and get married.” We all prayed for Wilson. I included his prayer every morning and in quiet moments while I wrote my love stories, I’d re-pray for Big Man’s future wife to come soon.

The old secular heart in me never doubted his bride would come. Long ago Grandma Rose assured me that every pot has a lid. Later, when I reached 20, a friend pontificated, “Getting married is easy. Stand on a street corner and propose to every guy who walks by. One will say yes.”

My Christian heart knew the difference between getting a yes and finding a perfect fit. 

And that’s when I met Carol, Big Man’s girlfriend. They sat together at church. Then Pastor Ro announced their engagement and soon I was dancing at their wedding. Today, they have 2 children and next month there’ll be 3.

One day, after Big Man and Carol had officially been a couple, I teased him. “Can I stop praying for you to find someone now? There are raging wars and hungry children throughout the world that need my attention.” We shared a laugh and right then and there, I knew my next love story would include a man who waited his whole life to find the right fit. Wilson’s Korean name is Hoon Park. And Alice Pleasance in Alice Again is Hoon Park’s precious love.

This weekend, visit your house of worship, I promise you’ll leave with something precious.

* The legal drinking age was 18 in NY until 1985.

** Alice Again, a fantasy romance novel is my third book