I received over 100 responses to my last blog about my attempt to enter the dating world at 50!  Many of you wrote that you thought I was courageous, but most of you warned me to be cautious.  I want you all to know that I took notes on all of your comments and used those notes to help me when I met with Nicole — my matchmaker at It’s Just Lunch! We met on Monday for Nicole to get to know me a little better and for me to tell Nicole what kind of date I am looking for.  All of your comments were extremely helpful.

A few of you sent me links to the Better Business Bureau with reports of dissatisfaction about the dating service itself.  I read those complaints carefully.  It does seem that dating is a difficult business in which to guarantee complete satisfaction.   One complaint stuck with me: “Almost every man they matched me with was negative and had a bad habit, like smoking.”  I filed all of the complaints away in my internal filing cabinet so that I could most accurately describe my ideal date to my matchmaker — Positive, No bad habits.

A few of you were surprised that I could come up with the money for such a luxury.  It does cost $1,600!  I can humbly disclose that someone has helped me with the cost.  I’m not sure if they really believe in this service or if they don’t see any other way for me to find a date, but the high price of this service (if I go on one date a month, each date will cost over $250!) helped form another requirement — worth spending at least $100 to get to know (I’m hoping for more than one date a month).

Of course my mom and dad have been involved in the process.  For years my mom has gently dropped suggestions about ways that I might meet a man, so she was initially excited about this idea.  But as the potential date draws nearer, I think both of my parents are a little worried.  Over lunch a few weeks ago my dad interjected into the conversation, “You know, Sharon, you’re going to need to tell him on the first date that you don’t drink and you don’t want to have sex.”  Thanks, dad.  A few more essential qualities — an understanding of alcoholism, a similar sexual ethic.

I went to my first meeting at It’s Just Lunch with all of these suggestions swimming around in my brain.  When I first got there I was seated in a cozy room with hopeful platitudes on the wall — Live, Laugh, Love and The Journey Starts Today! As I started to fill out the two-page questionnaire it felt a little reminiscent of checking into rehab — handing over deeply personal information (I drink too much/I like live music) to a professional (counselor/matchmaker) to hope that some miracle will happen!

After filling out the questionnaire acknowledging my likes and dislikes Nicole and I sat down to chat.  When she got to the question, “Sharon, tell me a few specifics you are looking for in a date?”, I was ready.

“He needs to be positive and not have any bad habits — like smoking, but he should be able to understand that I’ve gotten into trouble with some bad habits, so I don’t drink.  And, well, I hope he understands how much this is costing me (well, not really me, but a friend of mine), and not just monetarily, but this really takes a lot out of me, so I hope that he will be worth it.  And my dad is kind of worried about sex . . . ”  All of the sudden I was overwhelmed with all of the possible things that could go wrong.  What was I thinking!  This was crazy.  I was spending all of this money and would probably end up with a chain-smoking, angry, sex maniac.  I was already thinking about my complaint to the Better Business Bureau! I looked at Nicole and realized that she was merely wondering about whether I could meet for lunch or dinner and whether I could meet downtown or in Cherry Creek.  I stopped talking and in that split second I thought about my friend, Judy, and her story of sparklers and surrender.

About a year ago I awoke to a series of popping sounds.  I sat up, startled by the loud noises in what seemed to be the middle of the night (it was really only about 10:30 p.m.).  I looked toward the front of my house and saw a flash of lights.  I pulled on a sweatshirt and made my way down the stairs and through the front door.  As I peered out the door, it took a few moments for my brain to compute what I saw.  Standing in my driveway were a client of mine and her husband.  Judy is in her mid-sixties, and her husband, Bill, is seventy-eight years old.  When I realized that they were standing in my driveway waving sparklers, I started to laugh.  I rushed out to meet them.  “What in the world are you doing?”  I asked.

“I’m celebrating,” Judy explained.  It’s our wedding anniversary, and I have surrendered to the Story.”

And then I understood.  Judy is a women of heroic proportions, living a story that she would have never chosen.  She came to me for counseling about six months earlier when her husband of over forty years was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  Judy and I spent many hours together, talking about her grief, confusion, anger, and suffering.  She asked the inevitable question that all sufferers ask: Why?  I didn’t have the answer, but together we wondered if the story behind her story — behind every story — could be Love?  When Judy and Bill lit sparklers in my driveway, it was her way of announcing that she was choosing to surrender to the inexplicable truth that behind her story of pain and confusion was a love story.  We had talked about the faith required to believe that God was not looking down from heaven saying, “Good.  Let her hurt.  That will teach her.”  He was trying to teach her about love.

As I looked at Nicole, trying to find the right words to gently “guide” (control) my matchmaker into finding the perfect date for me, I knew I needed to remember Judy’s story.  Relationships set us up to experience pain.  When we love someone — even when we just date someone — we risk a lot.  In the midst of all this potential pain and difficulty, we are at risk for something far more deadly and dangerous than being hurt: the temptation to harden our hearts and determine that we won’t be hurt again.  We won’t risk again, begin again, date again, hope again, believe again.  All relationships are about one thing; they are invitations to the love story, the story that remains when all human realities shift, change, and even fail: we are beloved of God.  When we surrender to that story, we embrace Him, and His embrace of us becomes more real than any relationships.

I took a deep breath, smiled at my matchmaker, and said, “I can’t wait to see who you match me with for my first date!”  Nicole explained that one of her associates would be calling soon to tell me about my first match.  Yesterday that phone call came.  I answered the phone and the woman on the other end of the call said, “Sharon, I have some really good news for you.  We’ve found your first match.”

Yikes.  What was I thinking?

“Our problem with desire is that we want too little.” C.S. Lewis – The Weight of Glory