When I was in the Army I began going out with a girl I shouldn't have been going out with. Not that she was particularly wicked or anything. In fact, I met her at church.
The chapel at the post where I was stationed in Germany held a German-American service around Christmastime, I think it was. We sang "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" in two languages and a German pastor and an American chaplain both spoke with translators. After the service there was a reception I attended, and she -- let's call her Heidi -- was there.
I remember she had an English accent, which I though strange coming from a German, but she explained that most Germans learn English from the English, which, when she explained it, seemed ridiculously obvious.
I went out with Heidi several times, and she asked why Americans never bothered to learn German, so I promised I would, and, with minimal success, I kept my promise.
"Kommen Sie heir!" I commanded one of the animals at the Nuremburg Zoo.
She thought it hilarious that I addressed the kangaroo -- or whatever it was -- so formally. Roughly translated, it meant something just a bit less respectful than, "Come here, sir."
One evening I showed up with a blue hat, blue sweater, blue jacket, blue jeans and blue socks. The only thing that wasn't blue were my shoes.
"Heute Ich bin blau," I told her, intending to say, "Today I'm blue." But again I was a comedian. All the words were right, but what it meant was, "Today I'm drunk."
Anyway, despite the language barrier, it didn't take me long to realize that Heidi's Christianity was essentially a social or family matter, and not a real love of Jesus.
But by this time I was hooked, and despite my nagging consience (and a few Christian friends who made some tentative remarks about the affair), I insisted on seeing her, though I can't say I was really enjoying it.
I wanted to see her become a Christian, but she didn't seem interested, which was depressing, and I couldn't really tell how she felt about me, which was depressing and confusing.
In this state of mind I was walking across the post one day, heading back to the barracks.
I remember this part vividly. On the left was a long one-story brick building used for storage, the post library and a few other offices. All along the sides were metal cups with rings for tying up horses, left over from when the post was a German Army base.
On the right was the two-story post commisary, sort of a grocery store for those soldiers who had brought their families over to Germany. And beside the commisary was the parking area for an infantry batallion's vehicles.
As I walked along, I was feeling rotten and silently arguing with God because I knew he didn't want the relationship to continue.
Finally I just got fed up.
"Just go away and quit bothering me!" I told God.
I instantly regretted my words.
Everything around me seemed as if it was pulling back and abandoning me. The commisary and the motor pool were fleeing away.
Perhaps you have been on a park merry-go-round when you were a child when you spun around too fast for too long, and then stepped off and watched sickly as the world made crazy loops around you.
It was something like that, but different. I had sort of a dizzy feeling, but the world didn't spin, it just seemed to pull back.
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" I said, genuinely frightened. "Please come back and bother me."
And the world returned to normal, and I returned to feeling guilty.
In retrospect it seems I should have said, "Lord, I'll stop seeing her immediately!" but I couldn't do it.
Thankfully, though I am weak, He is strong.
My relationship with Hiedi -- such as it was -- started petering out when we went for pizza one night with some of her friends. I didn't much care for her friends, and particularly for one young man who seemed considerably more chummy with her than I was.
It was similar to, if not quite as bad as, an experience I had later in college when I asked out a girl I barely knew. (I don't learn much, do I?) While we were having lunch her boyfriend showed up and sat down with her across from me. During some stilted conversation he said he was studying marine biology. Then she leaned up against him and sighed, "And I'm his first whale."
Though my relationship with Heidi ended, at least I learned something out of it: "Herr Ober! Noch ein Kaffee bitte."
Copyright 1996, Brad Haugaard.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
– Romans 3:23