I remember my first impression of him quite vividly.
He was washing dishes in the kitchen at Mountain View Nursing Home. He was a volunteer, as was I; only I was the “new kid”. I wasn’t particularly drawn to him – quite the opposite, actually. He had a great big beard, and as a Mennonite girl, beards were just kind of gross.
He wasn’t my type, either – this Ben guy – as I found out a few days later. We were camping in the Back Forty. The conversation around the fire that night revolved around the Bible and church. And wow! Not only did he think “outside the box”, but boy – was he ever opinionated!
Months passed. My opinion of Ben didn’t really change – at least I didn’t think so. I didn’t see him as “husband material” for a looooonnnngg time. I had long convinced myself that no good man would want me. After all, I was just a Mennonite girl with a bunch of issues; He was a Beachy guy who was much wiser than his years.
That explains all the “open mouth – insert foot” moments.
Somehow, we ended up on Night Duty together three times. Anyone who has worked night shift knows that tongues get rather loose at odd hours. One night while at the nurses station, we got on the subject of kissing. Ben told us girls the joke about “going through the briar patch to get to the picnic.” Without thinking, I blurted out. “Disgusting! I don’t like briar patches!” Suddenly, I “got” the joke and realized what I had said. But it was too late. Everyone laughed and I hid my red face behind the paperwork I was doing.
On a different occasion, we had a discussion around the lunch table about when Jesus would come back. I made the remark that there is no chance of me getting married, since my mom was sure Jesus would come back before she got married. “So where does that put me?” I half groaned.
Ben nearly snorted on his food. “What makes you think that? Jesus might not return for another thousand years!”
“But He could come back tomorrow!” I argued.
“I’ll tell you what. When you get married, I’m going to stand up at your open mic and say, ‘See Ann? I told you!’”
To which I retorted, “What makes you think you’ll be invited to my wedding?” (Later, he told me: “I thought to myself ‘If I have my way, I’ll be the groom at your wedding!’”)
He was the first guy I trusted. I remember the night I excitedly told my best friend I had rode the elevator with Ben – all by myself. It was a big deal! I had never trusted a man that far.
I saw how he cared for the residents. Seeing a man show love to those who couldn’t give him anything in return made a huge impression on me. He had a compassionate heart and my broken heart noticed that.
No, I didn’t “like” him, I told myself. Not in that way. I wasn’t his type.
But I did pray for a good wife for him. I bet God laughed. I didn’t know I was praying for myself.
Nearly 10 months after I walked in the door at Mountain View Nursing Home, Ben’s term of service was up and he was returning home. I remember how I felt as I worked those last shifts with him. I was going to miss him. I’d never missed a guy before. It felt…well, funny.
The sad day arrived. He came up to the Home as I was feeding lunch to the residents. He slowly made his rounds to all the staff. When I told him, “Good-bye”, I also mentioned that if he ever came back to visit with a big bushy beard and a shaved head (something he wanted to do) that I wouldn’t talk to him the entire weekend. Not that I thought he’d care…
Ben did come back – quite often actually. And he did so without a big bushy beard. One night he dropped in just before curfew. I made up a good excuse to go back to the mailroom “to say Hi!” It ended up being more than just a “Hi!” I was asked by one of the good friends who watched the whole thing play out: “That was so sweet of him to ask how everything is going for you. Ann, are you sure he doesn’t like you?”
I dismissed her questions with a carefree “I’m sure!” For in my mind, there was no way I was good enough for him.
One night, my dormie caught me staring at a photo of the guys at MVNH. “Ann! What are you doing?” she squeaked.
“Oh, I…well…I was just looking at these pictures,” I stammered around sheepishly.
“Come on, who were you really looking at?” she asked.
“Umm…Ben. He’s got the kindest eyes in the whole world.”
A few months after Ben left, an older man whose wife was a resident approached me with a queer question: “Did Ben ask you out yet?”
“No,” I stammered, with a very confused look on my face. Then I turned tail and fled to the bathroom. I stood in front of the mirror and laughed. Ben? Me? What a joke!
But it kept happening. This dear old man kept asking me the same question every couple of weeks. And I kept giving him the same answer.
It was awkward when Ben came to visit. Instead of being very carefree in relating to him as I was before, I began pulling away. I was scared of commitment – scared to hope that there was even a chance he liked me.
It was around this time that I realized something – I didn’t just “like” Ben, I loved him.
I was terrified.
One part of me wanted him to ask me out, and the other part of me wanted to run far away. God began nudging me with a question: “Are you going to trust me?”
I fought God’s voice for a couple of weeks. I remember the day I surrendered to God’s will. I was in the air on a plane, curled up by a widow seat. I don’t remember the book I was reading, but I remember telling God, amidst tears, that I choose to trust Him.
Less than two weeks later, it happened.
It was my last night at MVNH. I was nearly asleep when I got a text. “New text from Ben Detweiler,” the screen read. I gasped. He was asking to meet with me in the morning. Suddenly, I was shaking. I stared at the text for a full 7 minutes before I texted back, “Sure. What time and where?”
I couldn’t imagine what he wanted.
Maybe he wanted to clear up all the rumors. “Yes, I’m sure that’s what it is,” I decided. But I couldn’t sleep. And Ben didn’t text back. (Little did I know, that he was asleep. Yes, asleep! I have no idea how anyone can fall asleep in seven minutes, let alone when the future of your life stands on the line!)
I jumped as my dormie’s phone crashed to the ground. Instantly, I bolted out of bed. My eyes were big and round as I shoved the perplexing text message into her sleepy face. “Rosemary, what in the world do you think he wants?”
“He’s going to ask you to date him!” was her quick reply. “Oh Ann, I told you he liked you!”
But I wasn’t convinced.
The hours went by. One o’clock.
By this time, I was absolutely sure he didn’t like me. Why else would he wait so long to text me back? Finally, at 3:15 in the morning, my phone vibrated. “Meet me in the Back Forty at 8.”
“Okay,” I texted back. But I still couldn’t sleep. And I was hungry.
So, at 4:30 in the morning, I got up and ate a bowl of cereal – and drank a few glasses of chocolate milk.
As soon as I thought my dad would be awake, I called him. I told him about the texts. I wanted to ask him what I should say if Ben were to ask me out…just in case.
“Should I tell him to call you?” I asked.
“Sure,” my dad answered. “That’s fine.”
Eight o’clock found me walking back the trail to the Back Forty. But Ben was no where to be seen. I proceeded to sit down on the bench and wait for him. Pretty soon I heard some movement in the brush and saw him come out into the clearing. He’d taken the back way so no one would see him. He sat down on the bench opposite of me, and proceeded to tell me what he wanted.
Yes, he’d heard the rumors. And yes, it was true. He wanted to start a relationship with me. He’d already talked to my dad.
My mouth dropped to the ground. “But…but I called my dad this morning and he acted like he didn’t know a thing about why you’d be texting me!”
Then, I said what every good Mennonite girl says when a guy asks her out: “I’ll think about it and pray about it for a week.”
Only, it wasn’t a week. Four days later, I called him up and told him I would love to be his girlfriend.
And the rest is history. 😉