Sean said... "How has Love changed your life?":
For the first 29 years, 2 months, and 16 days of my life, I simply didn’t know who God was. I had no idea who Jesus Christ was, nor did I know what it meant when people told me He died for my sins. To me, Christ was the equivalent of a fictional character from some book, written by some weird guy holed up in some remote attic somewhere. Sad to say, but true.
I grew up in a home where religion and spirituality were basically non-existent. My father is Jewish. He grew up in a Jewish home. His father was Jewish, his father’s father was Jewish, he had a bar mitzvah with he turned thirteen, and he went to Hebrew school. However, this background never translated to a spiritual fervor in adulthood, regardless of faith. Basically, my father became a non-practicing Jew in his adult life.
My mother, on the other hand, grew up in church and was saved as a little girl. Her mother taught Sunday School to children, and her father worked for the Billy Graham Crusades. In fact, my mother was saved at a Billy Graham Crusade, walking the aisle during the singing of “Just As I Am.” Despite that, her spiritual walk never really materialized in adulthood either.
To me, it is amazing the power a spiritual leader can have on a family, both positively or negatively. Not that my father was a bad guy. He wasn’t. He spent an inordinate amount of time with me and my brother growing up. He attended all my ballgames, worked with me on school work, and interacted with me in many, many ways that my friends’ parents never did. He taught me about honesty, integrity, and hard work. In nearly every sense of the word, he was a great role model as a father.
However, none of that had any foundation in God or Christ or anything spiritual. This influence, or lack thereof, permeated our entire family. We were good people, but we were good people with no real purpose or reason.
I truly believe this lack of spirituality and the lack of commonality between my parents in their spiritual lives is the reason they got divorced back when I was about 13 years old. They just did not possess that ROCK of support. God wasn’t the backbone of their marriage. In fact, God wasn’t even a part of their marriage, as far as I know.
Unfortunately, my marriage held to the same pattern when my wife, Tracy, and I first came together.
Like was the case with my mother, Tracy was saved as a little girl. She grew up in a small church in rural South Carolina and grew very accustomed to the routines and rituals of that congregation. They sang the same hymns every week, recited the same scripture passages, and sat in the same seats and same pews. Every Sunday was a mirror image of the one before it and the one after. It was all very comfortable and nice; however, I believe it led to a spiritual complacency in my wife that allowed her to be more easily affected by my total lack of spiritualism and faith.
I was the spiritual leader of our household. Sadly, I led us to a life of non-faith, non-religion, non-church, and your basic spiritual non-existence. God wasn’t something I understood, and He certainly wasn’t something I needed or wanted.
Over time, this became a burden on our marriage that neither of us even recognized or felt. In our minds, we were just fine. We had each other, we were in love, we were best friends, and all was well.
Through this mindset, as most married couples do, we began to think about having a family. We wanted to have two, three, or four children, and also as most married couples do, we thought it would be simple. Like, PRESTO, we wanted a family, and BAM, we’d have a family. Well, it wasn’t quite that easy.
We tried for four years to get pregnant, to no avail, and common thought is that if you try for a 12-month consecutive period with no success, then you are considered infertile. So, after four years of trying and no success, this too became a tremendous burden on us individually, collectively, and our marriage in general.
Every month, the anticipation would build, the excitement would rise, and the hope would settle in our hearts; however, every month, the disappointment would ring down like a death sentence. In our minds, we began to blame ourselves and each other, and over time, this broke down our intimacy and our bond. There was something wrong with us, had to be, why else would we not be able to have children?
Little did we know that God had other plans for us, plans that took a drastic turn for the worse in the spring of 2000. The burdens of our lives together, coupled with our lack of spiritual foundation, led us into a life of sin that slowly escalated to a point of destruction. It got to the point where we didn’t want to be married to each other, but to me, all that mattered was that my wife didn’t want to be married to me.
That realization rocked me to the core. My entire life had been founded on accomplishment, achievement, pride, and self-service. I didn’t understand failure or rejection, and losing the most important thing in my life at the time was devastating.
God, however, without my even knowing it, was slowly working His wonderful plan. He had surrounded me with a few individuals that would play key roles in my coming to know Him. At the time though, they were just friends who were there to lend a listening ear, a supporting word, and a much-needed comfort in a time of desperation.
I was beginning to seek out answers to questions about faith, purpose, and salvation. I was longing for something, anything. I finally got to the point where I had nowhere else I could turn. Everything I tried on my own came up short, all of my efforts came up empty. I was struggling against an immoveable force, and eventually I gave in.
On Easter Sunday in 2000, I visited a church I had only been to one other time in my life. I went with my step-mother, her husband, and my brother. The weird thing is that I don’t remember anything about the sermon, I don’t remember the hymns we sang, and I don’t remember even being overly affected at all. In fact, looking back, I recall feeling absolutely no better off leaving that place than I had felt entering that morning.
Thankfully, God doesn’t deal too much in feelings and emotions. He deals with the realities of our spirits, broken or otherwise, and as I walked to my car in the church parking lot that morning, God’s loving fingers were wrapping themselves tightly around my aching heart.
I got in my car, and I had no desire whatsoever to go home. My wife was there, we weren’t getting along, and I just wanted to be alone. So, I drove aimlessly until I ended up at the old elementary school. The parking lot was abandoned and empty, and I pulled in and sat in my idling car.
I’m not sure how or why it occurred, and I’m not sure what triggered my heart, but I began talking out loud in my car, talking to God, pleading with God, asking for an answer, a reason, anything to ease the pain. Before I knew it, tears were streaming down my cheeks, a wrenching had overtaken my gut, and I longed for peace.
I remember sitting there in my car, gripping the steering wheel with all my might, and I closed my eyes and started praying.
I don’t know how I knew what to say and I don’t know where the words came from, but sitting there in my lonely car, at that lonely school, I asked Jesus Christ to wipe away my sin, to lift me up before my God, to save me from the depths of despair.
And, thankfully, he lovingly took me in.
Ironically, it was shortly thereafter that Tracy and I actually split up. I filed for divorce despite not wanting it, and we began the process of moving toward a new life no longer together.It was very weird at that time. I was dealing with the pain, anguish, and sadness of a pending divorce that I didn’t want, but at the same time, I was beginning a new life in Christ. All the joy, happiness, love, and hope surrounding me was in stark contrast to the emotions of my personal life. Needless to say, I was learning to trust, while also dealing with having had my trust broken in marriage.
The next few weeks were trying, with a lot of ups and downs, and without getting too much into the dirty details of my pending divorce, I’d like to recount one brief anecdote that to me exemplifies the way God had His hand firmly wrapped around my life at the time.
For anybody who has ever experienced a forthcoming divorce, you know there is inevitably that meeting of the two parties to split up the couple’s belongings. One afternoon in the late spring, Tracy and I had ours at our house, which she had already moved out of. We were sitting at our dining room table when the doorbell rang. I volunteered to answer it.
When I opened the door, two gentlemen were standing there with cheery grins on their faces. They seemed pleasant and harmless enough and quickly explained that they were from the church I had visited on Easter Sunday. We talked about the church, and at some point, the conversation led me to explain that my wife and I were in the process of getting a divorce and that we were actually inside splitting up our belongings.
Instantly, a look of concern came over their faces. “Is there a chance for reconciliation?” one of them asked.
I remember very clearly chuckling out loud. It wasn’t funny. In fact, it hurt badly for me to answer that question, but the possibility of a reconciliation at that moment, especially considering the circumstances of that afternoon, seemed almost comical.
“You never know,” the man responded. “God can heal marriages, and He does not want divorce between any two people.”
The mood had grown very somber, and I believe they sensed my sadness because they then asked if they could pray with me, which I openly welcomed.
We bowed our heads standing there on my front porch, and I’ll never forget the man’s words.
“Dear Lord,” he said, “we ask that you work a miracle. Heal this marriage. We believe you can, we know you can, and we know you do not want this marriage to end. Please, Lord, perform a miracle in this family.”
I remember thinking while he was praying that it was impossible, that there was no chance, and even if there was, I wasn’t sure if I wanted it anyway. My wife and I were done. She had made her choice, and I had made mine. It was over. I knew it, and she knew it, even if the nice gentlemen standing before me didn’t.
Thankfully, God once again had other plans for us.
Less than two months later, He performed that miracle, and on July 17, 2000, Tracy and I reconciled. I have absolutely no doubts that it was God’s doing, His immeasurable grace, blessing, and love, and His ultimate plan.
The icing on the cake came less than two months after that. After four years of trying to have a baby and months and months of disappointment and sadness, God blessed us with the miracle of pregnancy. Tracy was pregnant with our first child.
I often look at Andrew, our son, and see him as a living symbol of God’s amazing grace. Without God, His plan, and His love, Tracy and I would be long since divorced, childless, and probably miserable in our longing to have back what God had originally destined for us.
We recently had our second child, a beautiful daughter, named Sara. She too represents to me the awesomeness of God’s mercy. It is amazing to me that God chose not only to repair our marriage and bless us with a child, but also bless us with a second child.