Over the past several months, I’ve shared several memories that were critical of the experience at our first church, but there were some joyous times in those years as well.
I accepted Jesus as my Savior in 1983 at the age of 27. What a joy it was to know all my sins had been forgiven through faith in Christ. Do you remember the day you accepted Christ? It felt kind of like I had been in prison, on death row, and the governor had given me a pardon, but even better. Not only did Jesus pay my sin debt for me but then He beckoned me to walk with Him throughout eternity as Lord and Friend! What can possibly compare to that?
Immediately after accepting Christ I leafed through the yellow pages (remember those?) and found an independent Bible church in my area. Between constantly reading God’s Word (with a new understanding and appreciation), attending church services Sunday AM, Sunday PM, and Wednesday PM, and listening to previous sermon cassettes (remember those?) my life had become Jesus 24/7. There’s nothing quite like the zeal of a new convert to Christ.
Did I mention what my unsaved wife thought about all of this? My wife watched all of these goings on with a very jaundiced eye. What had I gotten myself into now? She thought I had gotten mixed up in a cult. My wife was raised Roman Catholic as I had been but she wasn’t gung ho about her religion by any stretch. I began sharing the Gospel with her as much as possible but the harder I pushed the more she resisted. And she definitely resented the new love of my life and the time and energy I was devoting to Him.
This went on for several months and our marriage was definitely headed for trouble. How could such a good thing like accepting Christ lead to such heartache? Why wouldn’t my wife just accept Christ? Why didn’t she understand? I prayed and prayed but things only got worse. In desperation I made an appointment with the pastor. I explained my situation and he gave me some godly advice. He told me to keep praying, be the best husband I could be, and leave the rest to the Lord. He said not to even mention Jesus to my wife. I drove home wondering how the pastor’s counsel could possibly work. It seemed counter-intuitive. My wife’s unbelief was a “problem” that I needed to fix but now I was being told to get out of the way and let God take control? I grudgingly heeded the pastor’s advice and totally gave the situation over to the Lord. I put my energy into loving my wife the way the Lord wanted me to and kept completely quiet about Jesus. After several months I could see the Lord was working on my wife and that her heart was softening. When she started coming to me with questions about God I tried to remain cool and composed.
My wife finally accepted Christ. Oh, happy day! I readily admit it was all the Lord’s doing. I was just getting in the way. We’ve had some trials in our marriage over the years. What couple hasn’t? It didn’t help when I walked away from the Lord for an extended time. We even divorced for a year fifteen years ago. But the Lord got us back together and He also graciously accepted me back. My wife and I now read the Lord’s Word and pray together almost daily. What a miracle! I sit next to my wife at church and silently tell the Lord how grateful I am.
I know things don’t always work out for everyone the way they have for my wife and I. Sometimes a married person accepts Christ but their spouse never does. Sometimes a believing married couple separate permanently. Although my wife accepted Christ, our two sons have not. Whatever your circumstances, I think back to the advice the pastor gave me: give it all to God. The frustration, the pain, the regrets. The Lord desires that we live our lives with our focus on Him and not be chained to the past or allow ourselves to be conquered by our current circumstances.
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” – Philippians 3:14-16