She had been through a lot, most of which I am not at liberty to reveal. People are a mess and all of us are damaged goods to some degree. She had grown up in church, and despite some detours, had made her way back and was serving faithfully. I was a brand plucked out of the fiery gutter with the mindset to match. I had been saved 4 or 5 years, I guess, and had been on the street all that time.
She was an upbeat ,optimistic social butterfly. I was a cranky, confrontational misanthrope. How in the world did we wind up together?
Neither one of us had ever been in a relationship that honored Jesus Christ. We had both read some books on that sort of thing, and so we decided to enter into a courtship. We were spending time together in order to scope each other out for marriage. If marriage ever seemed non-viable we agreed to both cut our losses and walk away. We prayed, we fasted. We decided not to do any kissing, mostly because I really wanted to. We met with my pastor, and hers. I investigated her because frankly, I had been burned before and wanted no part of it again. I would say caustic hurtful things, and she would cry. I took the approach that a woman that could be run off by a little harshness probably needed to be run off. Looking back, I want to kick my own butt for how I handled some things. How in the world did she survive the courtship?
I laid down the law, so to speak. I had a definite idea how we were going to live, where we were going to live. If she wasn't interested in X, Y, and Z, then let's stop wasting each others time. I let her know in no uncertain terms that she was marrying a street preacher who intended to breath his last in the accomplishment of that purpose. Rather than sell her on me, or impress her, I tried to prepare her for what I felt would be a rough life because after all, life is rough, so quit your crying and let's go another round. How in the world did she put up with that?
In return she also needed to understand that she was getting a man who would be totally dedicated to her and our eventual children. No matter how hard it got, no matter if I had to work 6 jobs, I would never leave. We had both been left, by both parents and paramours. She needed to understand that, whatever some other guy had or had not done, that what she was getting was different. If she was interested, then stick around, and if not, then 'see ya around'. Maybe the challenge intrigued her, I'm not sure.
I proposed to her in the auditorium of the church just after the sweetheart banquet. I had bought a silver jewelry box and filled it with candy hearts, and because I couldn't ask her ring size without tipping my hand, I bought her a turtle ring out of a gumball machine. She claims I admitted to being nervous, but since I don't get nervous, she's obviously mistaken.
We were married almost exactly a year later, and seven months later, our first child was on the way. I remember her last day of work, which was a real act of faith since she earned way more money than I did. God opened a door to move back to Georgia, and we took it. We grabbed her dad, threw everything we owned into a moving truck and headed to the East Coast. She had taken quite a gamble, and was leaving everything behind to follow her admittedly unstable husband. How in the world did she find the courage?
We lived in a dumpy little place and I worked 2 and 3 jobs. We joined up at a little church and I resumed street work in the same town where I had graduated high school as a lost man. I lost my job with baby #2 on the way. I worked for well over a year at a place where there wasn't enough money to pay all the bills and we juggled as best we could. Through it all, God was faithful.
I found a job and we bought a little cracker-box of a house that was falling apart around our ears. Baby #3 was on her way. I changed jobs a couple of times, and in no time at all, baby #4 was coming. A door opened up for us to move out of the cracker-box to a place with room for us and our kids. How in the world did she survive 4 C-sections?
She has home schooled my 4 children. She has nursed multiple sick kids while sick herself, She has washed clothes, and changed diapers. She has planned and executed birthday parties with very little input from her husband. She has had every fluid the human body makes spilled on her, from pretty much every orifice. She has put up with my moodiness, my crankiness, my paranoia. She has endured my tendency towards combativeness. She has laid aside most of her own ambitions to support me in mine. She has worked a hundred street corners with me, passing out gospel tracts. She has stood in the pouring rain in Fernandina while I preached She has tried to keep my kids out of the merciless sun in Deland Fl while I preached. She has slept in a tent on a farm in Memphis while I went and preached. She has been both mommy and daddy while I went to the Philippines to preach. She has endured my over-reactions. When my ministry seemed like it was imploding, she stood by me and defended me. She has given so much for the ministry, and most of the time, her sacrifice has gone unappreciated by me.
She has somehow endured almost 14 years of being married to the most incorrigible rascal I've ever known. She has shared a life with the chiefest of sinners; a walking stack of issues and glitches, and for the most part she has done it with grace and patience.
We have an anniversary coming up, and this anniversary comes, for us, in the midst of great storms and trials and uncertainty. In so many ways, we are , once again, at a point of life where we've never been before. I'm lousy at thank you's. So right now, in front of the whole internet thingy, I want to let you know that I love you and I appreciate you.
|'A lesser woman would have crumbled'|