It was hot, oh my, was it hot. This was a different type of hot than the one I was familiar with. This was the hot dry merciless heat of a desert. The wind had a sense of mystery that served to accentuate the intensity of the heat. I was aware of the weather and aware of my nervousness as I walked the pebble path.
My classes were finished for the day, and I was making my way to a personal appointment in a small bungalow on the property of Arrowhead Springs. I was going to meet with Vonette, the wife of Bill Bright.
This was hot, dry Southern California, and I was at the headquarters of Campus Crusade for Christ, deeply immersed in training to join this organization. Yet, too often I found my heart drifting back to hot and humid Mississippi. I was deeply in love, and I sorely missed the one I loved. He was working as a youth director in a small church in a small southern town, and was walking hot pebble paths of a different nature.
As I walked, I wondered, “What would she be like? I had heard her speak, but that was at a distance, with an audience and behind a podium. What would it be like to be with her, one-on- one, in her home? I was newly graduated from university, and I had taken a giant leap of faith to join this organization she and her husband cofounded. She was the wife of a great spiritual leader, and I was confident I would benefit from asking her the largest of question on my heart.
Looking back, I can’t believe the naiveté that propelled me forward. What was I thinking? To this day, I am embarrassed to think I asked for a private appointment with a woman I had never met, a very busy woman with endless demands on her schedule. But I was driven by love, and that seems to be the best explanation.
For this appointment, I had chosen a short-sleeved cotton dress with a round collar Peter Pan style collar. I can still see the black, orange, white, and green tiny floral print. The wide elastic waist made it comfortable. That dress was too short, way too short. Blame it on the 70's. Good thing this was California. Who cares what I was wearing? It just goes to show the entire experience is still etched in my mind like engraving on glass.
I was tentative about telling my roommates where I was going. I was both embarrassed at my brazenness, and fearful one of them would ask to join me. After all, this was Mrs. Bill Bright!
Way too soon I reached the top of the path and started downward. The tile-roofed bungalow they called home came into view, and I crossed the courtyard and rang the doorbell. While I waited, a lizard scurried past; at least one detail was like Mississippi. Mrs. Bright welcomed me and me and invited me to sit in her lovely living room. I waited in an aqua velvet chair while she went to the kitchen to get two glasses of a cold beverage. This moment alone gave me occasion to admire the gifts from around the world already given to this amazing couple. I was nervous.
As she rejoined me in the matching pair of chairs, I could tell this meeting was important to my hostess. I could also tell I needed to get to the point. Both were true.
I swallowed a gulp and launched. “I want to talk to you. I came, Vonette, because I want to ask you a question about this young man in my life. We love each other, and I wanted to get your input. So, my question is this, “What can I do to best prepare myself for my relationship with him?”
There you have it. Gripped with love, I had no better sense than to bring this dreamy question to this leading woman in the evangelical world, this question of my aching, longing, love-smitten heart.
Later in leaving, I met Bill Bright in the courtyard coming home from a busy day. With enthusiasm he asked, “Oh, you were here to meet with Vonette? Were you meeting with her about The Great Commission Prayer Crusade?” If ever I wanted to lie to Bill Bright it was the first time we met face-to-face, right there in front of his home.
“Ah, no…. I was here to talk about this young man. I did not even have the courage to say boyfriend.
Back to the living room and my alone appointment with Vonette~
So, that is my question. "What can I do to prepare myself for my relationship with him?"
Without blinking she asked, “Honey, are you engaged?”, as if that would make a difference in her answer. I was embarrassed. Sheepishly I responded, “Noooo.” Dear me, why didn’t I think of that before I arranged this private meeting? Being engaged would have made this make much more sense.
Instead I said, “No we are not engaged. (pause) But there is the very real possibility that we have a future together.” (I surely didn’t tell Larry I said that to her!)
Looking back to that hot day at Arrowhead Springs in 1972, I am so glad Vonette knew what I needed, not what I wanted. Her Spirit-Anointed answer seemed way too simple, and far too short. I secretly longed for romantic suggestions. I came hoping for a curriculum, a list of books to read, a guaranteed formula for becoming the woman I thought I needed to become. I anticipated way more than I received, at least that it what it seemed.
Sitting in her pale, pastel-colored living room she answered, and there was nothing pale about her advice. I remember it to this moment, and marvel at the lasting impact of her words.
“Honey, you just get to know Jesus. That is the best thing you can do in your relationship with this young man.”
Vonette, tomorrow I will join thousands around the world who gather online to commemorate your life and your love for our Savior. I expect to be reinvigorated to help fulfill the Great Commission. I anticipate tears, laughter, and nostalgia as we consider the legacy you are leaving.
I will be in a crowd, surrounded by faithful staff members of this organization that you and Bill co-founded. And, I will be sitting beside that same young man I came to talk to you about. Now my husband of 43 years, your words still accompany the life we live and the supernatural marriage relationship God has given us.
“Honey, you just get to know Jesus.”
What was true then is 1000 % true today. The one best thing I can do for my relationship with Larry – get to know and keep getting to know Jesus.
One hot afternoon. One young woman. One short sentence. One lifetime lesson. Thank you, Vonette. I love you, and I will miss you. Your words have born lasting fruit. I commit to continue sharing them with other young naive women who yearn to live life to the fullest alongside world- changers as we help to fulfill the Great Commission.
Goodbye. I love you.