“Why doesn’t he like me?” she sat on the front stoop, her dad sitting next to her with his elbows on his knees, clasping his hands while he listened to her bemoan the cute boy in her class. “I mean, Cindy said that he said that I was cute, but why didn’t he ask me out to the dance instead of Ashley?”
Dad slipped his hand across her back and pulled her for a side hug. “Oh baby, things aren’t always so simple.”
“What’s wrong with me that he doesn’t like me?”
Dad frowned at her. “Baby, it has nothing to do with something being wrong or right with you. It’s not about wrong or right with who you are.”
“Then what’s it about?” she frowned. “Something has to be wrong with me or else he’d like me! He likes Ashley and she’s a total b- she’s mean.”
Dad smirked. “He doesn’t see how awesome you are. Do you want a guy to like you who can’t see how awesome you are?”
She looked toward him out of the corner of her eye. “Awesome? Have you seen this face? I breakout every week.”
“Have you seen this face?” dad pointed at his scruffy face. “Your mom doesn’t always like who grizzly I get, but she loves me anyway.”
“But you two are already married!”
“Whoa, wait a second. That wasn’t just some kind of instantaneous event. That took us seeing inside of each other what we knew was right for a healthy relationship.”
“How did you know?”
“Well, for me, it started with how cute your mom was.”
“But that’s a starting point, and there were plenty of cute girls I knew at work and at school that I didn’t date and there was nothing wrong with them.”
“So why mom?”
“Well, there’s a big difference between there’s something wrong with a woman in general, and whether a woman is just wrong for me, specifically. There were lots of women who I couldn’t date because it just wouldn’t have been right.”
“Like … immoral?”
“No!” dad chuckled. “Wrong in the sense of how we fit together. Now, tell me what about Adam is so great that you think he’s right for you?”
“Well! He’s cute, dad! And he’s funny! And the other girls always think he’s so cute! And he’s on the football team, and he even has his own car and his smile! Oh, his smile!”
Dad nodded. “So, he likes to read books like you do?“
She blinked. “I, I don’t know.”
“How about church, does he believe as strongly as you do?”
“I, I don’t think so.”
“Does he like the outdoors? Would he enjoy going out to ride horses with you over at the ranch?”
“Oh, no, dad. He’s a total city boy.”
“So … what do you like about him?”
“He’s- he’s cute!”
“Is that going to last forever, sweetheart? He’s cute. So what. What if he got in an accident and you had to spend the rest of your life with an ugly man who hated the outdoors, didn’t believe in God and whose smartest hobby was watching the game?”
She blinked, looking into her thoughts.
Dad pat her back and pointed at the car sitting on the far side of the driveway that he’d been restoring for the better part of two years. “You see ol’ Betsy over there?”
“Yeah,” she nodded.
“Is she roadworthy yet?”
“Not yet,” she shook her head. “You still gotta finish rebuilding the transmission and then we gotta install the seats and then we got to find a vintage glass maker to custom make the front and rear windshields.”
“That’s right. So, she’s not ready for the road yet, right?”
“Right,” she frowned, looking toward her dad.
“Say she were roadworthy right this moment. Could you drive her?”
“Yeah!” she smiled.
“Mhm,” Dad leaned back on the steps with his elbows.
“I’d LOVE to get behind that wheel!” she smiled.
“I’d love to, too. But I have years of experience handling such a powerful engine. You can barely handle the minivan here in the suburbs.”
“Yeah, but by the time the car is ready, I’ll be ready for her!” she smiled.
Dad nodded. “Yup. And who decides when you’re ready for Betsy? You, or me?”
She waited a long moment before drooping her head. “You.”
Dad smirked. “Now take a second and think. That car isn’t ready for you. You aren’t ready for that car. Both of you are progressing, but neither are ready for the other. I choose when you’re ready and when Betsy is ready. Think about what we just talked about. Tell me what you see.”
She looked at him, then at Betsy and stared at the car and into her thoughts. Dad stuck out his feet and crossed his ankles, enjoying the gentle humid breeze of the coming thunderstorm.
“So … the car is like a boyfriend?” she looked over her shoulder at him.
Dad nodded. “Yup. That car is like your future husband. You are no more ready for him than he is for you. If you were to get that car today completely ready and you weren’t, you’d crash it. If you were to get in that car when you were ready, yourself, and that car wasn’t, it’d crash you. Is that what you want?”
“No! I want to feel that power under the hood! I want to go on road trips! I want others to want Betsy as much as I do, but only I’ll get to have her!”
Dad laughed. “Is it any different with the right man? Bob’s smart car across the street ain’t right for you, and you ain’t right for it, but it’s not a bad car and you’re not a bad girl. You’re a muscle car girl. A classic that requires finesse and appreciation. Just because a car’s pretty doesn’t mean it’s the kind you need. And a good car needs a good driver. Bob with his smart car would probably be a terrible classic car driver — he wouldn’t appreciate what you see in it. Do you see what I’m saying?”
“But, who doesn’t love a car like Betsy? I mean, everyone does, right?”
Dad shrugged. “You easily see what’s so great about Betsy, and you appreciate it for what it is. It’s not just some pretty car, you’re putting in the time because it’s a car that sings to who you are. That boy at school? He’s a pretty modern sports car who no more appreciates the driver in you than you would appreciate in a pretty plastic sports car.”
She looked at him, then at Betsy, imagining herself driving it, loving it, taking care of it, and then what being with a boy who didn’t appreciate her would be like. She looked back over her shoulder at him. “It’d be terrible.”
“You’re right. But if I choose when that car is ready for the road and I also choose when you’re ready for the car, what does that tell you about relationships and God?”
“It means … that God chooses. He’ll choose when I’m ready for the right boy.”
“And … he’ll decide when the right boy is ready for me.”
Dad watched her.
She sat back and leaned her head against his chest. “But he’s so cute!”
Dad chuckled. “Yeah baby, and there are millions of cute ones out there. But trust me.” He pointed toward Betsy. “The good ones are worth waiting for, and when you see them, it’ll be so much more than how cute they are. It’ll be everything about them that clicks. It won’t be a perfect relationship — everything requires work — but they’ll be worth the work! Not merely to have a boyfriend or to be in a relationship, but because that relationship will be meaningful.”
She sighed, then sat up, looking at her feet, then at the car. “So … wait. Wait for the right car, and the right time?”
“Life’s a journey, darlin,” he patted her back. “Make sure the person you travel down that road with makes every miles worth it.”
“Like you and mom?” she turned her head.
Dad nodded. “Oh yeah. I waited, I watched, and I passed by a lot, because I knew it was better to find the right girl than the now girl, no matter how cute. I need the right fit, not just a cute puzzle piece.”
She turned and hugged him again. He just smiled and pat her book.
“Oh, and that one guy out there? He’ll make this guy look uuuu-gly.”
She started laughing.
“C’mon, let’s go pick up some parts for Betsy before the rainstorm hits.”
“Okay!” she smiled as they got up to head out.