Forty-one years ago, I was a naive 19-year-old just beginning life's journey. I don't like to brag, but I was the poster child for naivete. I had a few ideas about life, but too few to make me a contributing member of human society. What I knew about life could fit nicely in my trouser pocket with plenty of room for a country boy's pocketknife.
One thing I didn't know is that a naive country boy is a target for a young lady looking to settle down. It's a good thing I didn't know these things, because it's better in some areas of life to be caught off guard. If you always have your guard up, you're never going to see some of life's more interesting sights.
Exactly 41 years ago this month, I was introduced to a very nice young lady. She smiled at me, and I smiled back. Being a courteous, naive young man, I didn't know smiling back had a different meaning to the one receiving than to the one giving. Ah, sweet innocence. How I miss it.
We attended the same Bible College and were therefore in constant contact.
Looking back on the whole affair, our relationship changed one day when she slipped me a note as we passed in the hall, headed for separate classes. The only note I'd ever received before then had come from my mother; her's had contained a list of things she wanted me to do "or else." Now I was getting a note from this young lady.
I smiled when she handed it to me, but I was more frightened inside than I'd ever been. A note - what in the world did she want me to do? What had I done that she needed to communicate to me in such a covert manner?
My fears were allayed when I opened the note and discovered it was a "love note."
For anybody who has received such communication in the past, you'll quite readily understand that this completely changed our relationship. This was before e-mail, texting, cell phones and Facebook. Back in "the day," we did our communicating in-person-like - face-to-face. The only exception was the notorious love note, of which I was being introduced.
Getting my first "love note" was rather enlightening. I'd just seen this young lady in the hall, and before that we'd eaten lunch together, and before that we'd seen each other in chapel. However, the note she handed me, this infamous love note, said she, and I quote, "missed me."
I turned the note over to see if there was an explanation on back, but it was blank. I was a little concerned about her when, underneath her name, she put a series of X's and O's. Whether this was some secret code I was supposed to know or whether she'd just run out of words was beyond my experience.
As I thought about the note, I wondered, "when in the world did she have time to miss me?" What was it she missed? It certainly wasn't my charm, because I hadn't developed that attribute until recently.
Now I was in a quandary. What do I do? Do I approach her after class and apologize for being missed? Do I sit her down and explain that between seeing each other we had been in different classes in different rooms? What do I do with this bit of information? I thought the better part of valor was to pretend I understood what she was talking about.
It wasn't long before I realized she expected me to reciprocate and write her a love note. I really didn't know what to say. If I wrote a note similar to hers and said, "I miss you," I would've been lying. I knew where she was. I knew I'd see her again after class.
It took a while to realize that the purpose of love notes had nothing to do with exchanging information. In fact, no love note carries with it any sensitive information at all. To this day, I'm still not sure what a love note is.
I began my writing career and although I'd hoped to start writing nonfiction, I was writing fictitious notes that had no meaning whatsoever. I began writing little love notes to her saying, "I miss you, too." I felt a little guilty and somewhat silly, but she looked forward to my "missing" her. I'm still a little embarrassed to say it took some time for me to figure out the X's and the O's.
Now, when I hear someone say "X marks the spot," a different picture comes to mind.
Upon thought, I discovered that God was the first one to write a love note. "Jehovah appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee" (Jeremiah 31:3 KJV).
Everything in my life began with God's marvelous love note to me.
The Rev. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family of God Fellowship, PO Box 831313, Ocala, FL 34483. He lives with his wife, Martha, in Silver Springs Shores. Call him at 352-687-4240 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The church web site is www.whatafellowship.com.