I hardly ever think about it.
But today I woke realizing that it was the anniversary. Thirty-seven years ago I walked down the aisle in a fog and a homemade dress I hated to marry a man I didn’t know or love. Waiting at the front with my five attendants was a gregarious and charming ministry student.
I was terrified of him because he was harsh and intimidating. I agreed to marry him because he wore me down repeating, “You can ignore me all you like. You can run. You can even hide. But sooner or later you’re going to be my wife because God said so.”
For added confirmation, the pastor supplying our pre-marital counseling chortled in his jovial Norwegian accent, “I hardly think we have much to cover here. It’s clear to me God put you together and called you to ministry.” (Is it just me or does an accent seem more believable?)
I was a shell-shocked (PTSD was coined later) chamilion-like young woman with no identity so I complied and entered into the script that awaited my performance. My reasoning was rather messed up and went something like this: If God tells people to go to African countries where they will eat bugs and sleep on dirt for His sake, can’t he tell a messed up young woman to marry for the same reason?
No matter my internal reluctance, I pressed on, though I wasn’t the elated bride planning her big day. For me it was little more than a function to coordinate and the sad thing was, I didn’t know the difference.
My groom said years later, “You just looked like the kind of woman a pastor would need as a wife.”
When we met he had been a Christian just under two years. He’d come out of addiction on three sides, was reared in a home with seven step-fathers, had a fearful salvation experience, displayed life manageability issues, felt called to the ministry and was a musician in a Christian band.
I was a child sexual abuse survivor, raised in an un-nurturing alcoholic home and was the poster child for codependency, though in those days it was recognized as having a servant’s heart. Similarly, my “come to Jesus” was fear of eternal damnation. To complicate matters further, I had been raped the year we got married. I feared God more than loved Him and I sought safety in doing His work.
In the late seventies and early eighties, God was moving supernaturally among the lost and drug addicted youth of our generation. The prevailing idea that old things had passed away and behold all things had become new gave so many of us assurance that we could take our broken messed up selves and successfully step out to serve Jesus!
And some did.
Nine years after ‘til death us do part we had three children (in 2 1/2 years), had moved 11 times, had planted a church, had lost said church due to moral failure and relapse, had endured three separations and finally divorced.
Here’s the heart of what I want to share with you today:
God is more interested in who we are in Him than what we can do for Him and He’s committed to revealing that, especially to bruised hearts.
Both of us thought God wanted our servitude but both of us were too broken to realize that God wanted us. He wanted us to know and experience the boundless, immeasurable love He has for us and that nothing could or would separate us from that Love.
What neither of us knew then, but praise God we know now, is that until we experience the Love of God for ourselves, we are really just imposters attempting to share His love with others.
Last summer we sat poolside at the birthday party of one of our grandchildren and fellowshipped like old friends loved by God. In the ensuing years since our never-thought-it-would-be-said-of-me divorce, God’s love pulled him from the brink of certain death by addiction and pulled me from the brink of certain death by insanity.
The world says only a fool would love as He loves:
As the Shulamite said in Solomon’s Song of Songs,
Rightly do they love you. (1:4)