I Fell in Love with Mr. Lawrence
I grew up in a Catholic family and I went to a Catholic school / high school. By the age of 17, I had dated a few fellows. The guys I dated were sweet and kind (mostly), but no matter how much I thought these young gentlemen were nice I just didn’t feel that I was meant to be with any of them for the rest of my life. It all felt wrong. I wasn’t sure why it felt wrong, it just did! Sure I could marry one of those guys who were nice and kind to me, but I felt God was calling me to something more! So I began to look into a religious life.
It was my senior year in high school and my Catholic high school had a few requirements before graduation. In early October I was required to go to a retreat. While I was at the retreat I told the liberal nun who was in charge that I wanted to be a nun. She began to tell me that I needed to do more soul searching and that I may realize that I was wrong. I was a heart broken confused teen! I felt like God left me on the doorstep with no way to see in the dark. For a few weeks I prayed! I prayed and prayed and prayed!! Finally, just as I was about to give up, I noticed that my bookmark-stuffed Saint’s book, which was laying beside me on my bed, had slid onto the floor and landed on it’s pages. A single prayer card had fallen out. I picked up the card. It was an old one that I had for many years. My mother had found it in one of the horse-hair plastered walls of our Civil War era farmhouse, which my dad had remodeled. My mother had given it to me many years earlier, but I never really looked at it very closely. Today, it caught my eye. It was a holy card of St. Gerard, the patron saint of mothers. I opened the saint book to look up this unfamiliar saint, and I found his feast day was Oct. 16, which was that very day! I was stunned!
I realized that God was trying to tell me that I was to get married and be a mother! But I was shaken by the thought of marriage since I just didn’t feel comfortable with any of the guys I knew. I told God, I trusted Him, but that he would have to help me find a good guy to marry! In truth I thought God would take years to pull that *AWESOME* guy out of his “miracle hat”! But God does things at his own speed: sometimes fast and sometimes slow! This time I’d say it was fast!
My high school also required service hours for graduation. My aunt directed me to my much older cousin, Sr.Paula Mary, who was our parish’s Director of Religious Education. Sr. Paula Mary was also the 8th grade RE teacher. She asked if I would be her teaching assistant. So I started helping Wednesday evenings as a teacher’s assistant. She was a sweet nun with more years behind her than ahead, and she taught me so much about life. I enjoyed helping her with her class. It was only after a few months of helping that my service hours were complete, but I continued to help for the rest of the school year anyway.
In January, Sr. Paula asked if I would teach the high school class for the evening. She said “Mr. Lawrence” was sick and couldn’t make it. Well, I can tell you I was not thrilled about this idea. Keep in mind I was only a senior in high school myself so I was going to be teaching kids that were only a few years younger!! But I could see she really needed some help, so I took on the temporary position as High School RE Teacher! Now, I had never met “Mr. Lawrence” and had no idea what I was walking into. So when the class of 3 kids came in I asked them where they were in the book. They all seemed confused!! They told me Mr. Lawrence never used the book! WHAT!!! My mind was going crazy! What RE teacher doesn’t use a book!!!! Well, I improvised and did what I could to teach a random chapter in their religion book.
Needless to say, my view of “Mr. Lawrence” was not one of any value.
A few months later I was walking down a flight of steps and passed a bearded fellow who I figured to be in his late 20’s maybe 30’s. He smiled nicely and he seemed so sweet. Figuring he was way too old for me, I put him out of my mind. A week or two later Sr. Paula introduced me to “Mr. Lawrence”, who just happened to be the bearded man I saw in the stairway!! I finally met the high school RE teacher who didn’t know how to use a book!!!
Sister Paula is a wonderful lady!! I think she was up to a few tricks, because she seemed to take every opportunity to put “Mr. Lawrence” and I together! And she made it a point to inform me that “Mr. Lawrence” was 22 years old, and only 4 1/2 years older than me. It was obvious Sr. Paula was trying to get us together, and after she joked with “Mr. Lawrence” about his girlfriend he made it very clear to Sr. Paula and I that he was 100% available.
A few months later Sr. Paula, put “Mr. Lawrence” on the spot and asked him to take me to my senior prom!! She is one bold nun!!! He turned 5 shades of red and asked me if he could take me the movies instead. And so our relationship began, and this time everything felt right! It truly felt like love and “Mr. Lawrence” seemed like the kinda guy I could spend the rest of my life with!
“Mr. Lawrence”, Jon, is now my best friend. He’s not just sweet and kind, he’s my other half. He makes me feel complete and he makes me feel like I’m worth something. If I need help he’s there to help, even if that means doing laundry or dishes. He’s always there to make me laugh on a bad day, and he brings such a joyous feeling to our house. Our 15 years of marriage have been very full, I discovered I was pregnant just 8 weeks after we were married. We now have 9 kids whom we homeschool. Jon, has been working with me every step of the way. He tells me every day that he loves me (even if I act shy about it). I can see his love in all he does! He has tried to provide myself and our kids with only the best. Without complaint he goes to work and when he comes home he works at repairing our fixer-upper house. We are not rich in money, but we are rich in love! He is my best-friend and I thank God for him every day!
Searching for Mrs. Lawrence
(Jon’s Side of the Love Story)
Like all good love stories, this one begins with a single young Catholic man full of attitude and empty of hope. This fellow in many ways was an average 20 something kid. He stopped going to church when he got to college. He thought he could do whatever he wanted and it would turn out okay. Cocky. Insensitive. Selfish. A real “catch” for any young faithful Catholic girl! And even though he thought he was “the man”, there was one thing he was at least humble enough to admit that he needed: a good woman. In the garden of Eden, God had said it was not good for man to be alone and this guy (who didn’t know his Bible yet) instinctively knew that all too well. Yet date after date, he could never find one to come back for seconds and his youthful hope vanished.
As tragic as his dating story was, his life path would fall victim to his own pride. In college, he was a Math major and a fairly decent one, too. He loved the beauty that Mathematics had. The rules, the harmony, the peace. But taking it for granted, he left college early in pursuit of a faster path to fortune. But like all too goods to be true, it fell apart rapidly. One of the surest signs that you are on the wrong path is when everything turns bad quickly. But pride doesn’t admit mistake. It doesn’t stop and ask for directions. It keeps going. There’s no going back. Onward and upwards. Full steam ahead. In the cake of life, it’s a recipe for disaster. Pride doesn’t just come before the fall. It’s normally there for the whole trip. And you pay the tolls.
So after ruining his career choices and squandering his life options (sounds like a prodigal son, doesn’t it), this sap ended up flat on his back, angry, and alone. While he had once been poised to seize academic opportunity, he was now positioned to finally admit he made mistakes and ask for help. The dark and despair of life can either destroy you or make you open to God. Grace would have it’s day with this one but the battle was far from over.
Realizing that one is wrong and asking for forgiveness doesn’t undo bad choices. God respects the bad choices as much as he does good ones. So this sap had to play the ball where it lied. He made the bed, now he had to sleep in it. He dug the hole now he had to get himself out. No matter how you metaphor it, he was where he put himself. Accepting his new lot in life, he took whatever job he could to help work off his college debt and the debt he built up with his parents. And it did work. He rapidly paid off his creditors and found stability. But attachment to sin would not go away that easy. Self Centeredness is a subtle idol. It’s not obvious like addiction to cigarettes. But it will certainly keep you from being with God. Scripture says that you cannot serve two masters. There can be only one. And I sensed that mine was keeping God from sending me what my heart most desired. A woman.
If I was in the wrong frame of mine and not committed to the right course, I would not be able to properly handle being with the right young woman. I would wreck that relationship just like I messed up everything else. Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Or choose to change. Something had to give. Self Centeredness got the boot. I gave my life over to the Blessed Mother. I told her that I had nothing to lose. If giving her everything didn’t work, I could always take up where I left off and be no worse off. A small price to pay.
Up to this point, I had started going to church again. One day, our pastor suggested that the people of the parish should do more. I thought that was a good idea so I prayed about it. In short order, my mom asked me to help her teach her religious education class. Grrrrrrrrrrr. I thought I was praying for other people…okay, put your body where your prayer was. I signed up to help. In three short weeks, they needed someone to take over teaching the high school class and I was the only one who could do it. Double Grrrrrrrr. This was not going as planned. Mental note to self: be careful what you pray for! Trying to be faithful and still thinking that I could do anything, I agreed.
After a few months, it was unbelievable! Bad that is. I was frustrated and burnt out. I hated the kids. Hated myself for taking the position. Lots of pain and suffering. Thankfully I got horribly sick and missed class one week! Ah, there is a God and he is merciful! They got some poor unsuspecting teacher’s assistant to take over for me but I didn’t care. It was around this time that I gave my life (such as it was) to Mary and I started noticing this very beautiful young lady at Sunday morning Mass and Saturday morning Mass, too. Wow. Cute and devout. What a combo! My mom thought she was too young for me but I still kept my eye on her. I noticed her at Religious Education, too. She did look young enough to be a student but she didn’t act that way. Mature and sweet, she was very charming. I eventually came to realize that she was the helper for the nun who was my old six grade teacher way back when I was in school. She seemed old back then, too. But I guess the saintly ones always do. And if there was one thing I didn’t think she would ever do it was help me get a girl. Ah, but grace has it’s way.
In time, the helper, the nun, and the sap where walking down the hallway together after class (sounds like the beginning of a joke). The helper mentioned in passing that she wasn’t going to her senior prom that year because her date cancelled. I being the great guy that I was, tried to be helpful and say just the right thing to this really cute girl. “Ah, don’t worry. I didn’t go to my prom either. No biggie.” Not very sensitive but I was shooting from the hip. The nun, with a twinkle in her eye, acted on behalf of heaven and said, “I got an idea, why don’t you take her to the prom?” Wow. Five years out of high school with zero desire to go back and I now was being asked to do something again that I didn’t feel like doing. I stammered a little bit and the nun gave me a temporary reprieve. “Don’t tell her right now. Make her wait.” Whew. The girl was cute but I wasn’t ready to invest in a tux and hang out with some high school kids for a night. But destiny wouldn’t let me off the hook that easy.
One of my female co-workers thought it was a great idea for me to take her to the prom. I pulled out every lame excuse I could but then she hit me with the something I couldn’t defend against. “Don’t you want her looking back on this time and remember you as the one who was with her?” Wow. I was dead in the water and sinking fast. I ran up the white flag and surrendered. Stick a fork in me, I’m done. I took her to the prom…and had a great time! Fifteen years and nine kids later, she’s as cute as ever and no less devout! Thanks, Blessed Mother!