While at college, I had several opportunities to speak at different churches in central Louisiana as well as a few in Arkansas and Texas. To save money, I would normally drive to the church on Sunday morning and then return after lunch that afternoon. Frequently this would make for a very long Sunday.
I was looking at about a 5 hour drive one Sunday morning which meant I had to leave the college no later than 4:30 to make it to church on time. Fortunately, my girlfriend lived only about an hour from the church. She hadn’t been home in several weeks so I suggested that she go to church with me that morning and then we would go back to her parent’s house for lunch. She thought this was a great idea and even offered to fix me lunch.
I forgot about how many small Louisiana towns we had to go through to get to the church so we made it there with only about 10 minutes to spare. The rush to meet the deacons and find out some details about how their service ran disturbed my usual “Sunday rhythm”.
My mind was still racing as I stood up to preach. I just kept feeling like I had forgotten something in my normal Sunday routine as a guest speaker. I had gone to the restroom, greeted the right people, knew what time service was supposed to end and how the service normally closed.
After the service was over, I thanked the people for having me, got my love offering from the deacon in charge, gathered my stuff, got in the car, and drove off. I was replaying the service in my head like I always did when my thoughts turned to lunch. Then I remembered that my girlfriend had promised to make lunch for me.
I turned to the passenger seat and said, “Deb, wh …”
Somehow, I had forgotten my girlfriend at the church. I made a U-turn and wondered how fast I could make it back to the church.
This was in the day before cell phones so there was no way to call and let her know that I was coming back to get her. Had she called her parents for a ride? Did somebody at the church offer to take her home? Was she still at the church waiting? If she was at the church, was she there by herself?
As I pulled into the parking lot of the church, I saw my girlfriend sitting on the steps all alone. The look on her face told me she was a little upset and I searched for something to say that would cheer her up.
She got in the car and did not say a word as we drove off. The silence was killing me. I was almost scared to turn and look her in the eye.
When we got to the point where I realized I had forgotten her at church, I pulled over. “Deb,” I said “they should put a monument here. This place will be famous someday.” She smiled a little and I continued, “This is where I realized you were not in the car.”
The smile disappeared from her face.
We drove a little further before I got the courage to speak again. “Deb, do you know how I realized you were not in the car? I had just turned to ask you what you were making me for lunch. Isn’t that kind of funny?”
More silence followed.
We were about 10 miles from her parent’s house when Deb spoke for the first time. “Dear, there is a restaurant a couple of blocks away. I think we should stop there for lunch. I know you can afford it because one of the nice men at church said you got $40 cash for your love offering. Lunch should only cost about $20 (remember this was the mid 70’s!). Then we will go see my parents for a little while before we go back to the college. I don’t want my dad to kill you so I won’t tell him that you FORGOT ME AT CHURCH!”
I didn’t see Deb around the college for the next two days. On the third day she sat down across from me in the cafeteria. With many of our friends around us, she retold the events of the previous Sunday.
Her final words were, “I need a more dependable man. Bye … what was your name again?”