I can still remember my first real date. It was with this girl I met at summer camp. She had been visiting a cousin in Charleston,West Virginia, but she was from a place called Kissimmee, Florida. The first time she said it it sounded like an invitation. “Where are you from?” I asked, and she said, “Florida.” “Where in Florida?” I asked, and she said, “Kissimmee,” in a way that made it sound just like “Kiss me.”
I wanted to. I really did. But she was so young and I was so shy I just blushed and thought, “Maybe another time.”
So, when she wrote to me the next year and said she was coming back to visit her cousin I asked her if she’d like to go out. She said she would, which created a whole new set of challenges. I had just gotten my driver’s license a few months before and the only car we had that was nearly nice enough to take a girl out in was this old Fiat station wagon someone had given us. At one time it had been a nice, bright red, but years of sitting out in the sun had dulled it to a red that was almost the color of rust. Or maybe it was rust. Either way, I spent most of a summer day washing that car and waxing it until that rusty red paint job was shining bright. I got out the vacuum cleaner and an extension cord and sucked up all the dirt off the floorboards, I wiped down all the interior surfaces and washed the windows, and then I took a needle and a piece of brown thread and sewed up a rip in the driver’s seat until you could hardly see it at all.
And then I cleaned myself up and dressed in my best blue jeans and got in that car and drove all the way to Charleston—an hour away—to see that girl.
I’m pretty sure that engine had four cylinders in it, but on the way to Charleston I became convinced that only three of them were working, and if I got above 45 miles an hour that little car vibrated so badly I thought I would lose the fillings in my teeth. I had trouble finding that girl’s house in those days before GPS’s were invented, and when I brought her out to the car all she said was, “It sure is little.”
That didn’t sound like a compliment.
I took her out to dinner where we quickly discovered that we didn’t have much in common and mostly ended up staring at our plates. I brought her back home and can’t even remember if I tried to steal a kiss before I came around to her side of the car to let her out. It wasn’t all that I had imagined. It wasn’t even close. But look what that girl had done to me! How the very thought of seeing her again had kept me working all day to turn the sow’s ear of that old Fiat station wagon into a silk purse.
That story came to mind in this season of Advent and made me think that if I would do all that for some girl I hardly knew, how much more should I be willing to get myself shined up and ready for the coming of Christ?