The moment I sat at my computer to write this Enews, I started to tear up just staring at the blank page on the screen. It’s not every day you have a second chance at something so important as marriage, and it’s certainly not every day you have a chance to write about it, or to thank those who have helped you.
Eight years ago my world fell apart. The marriage I was in was in serious trouble. The ministry I had started from the ground up had almost burned me out. I found myself in a different city, working on a doctorate, but only half-heartedly. Most of my time was spent running a small business that paid the bills, but gave me very little purpose. I was undone. I felt like what Jeremiah says:
‘You say about this place, “It is a desolate waste, without people or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither people nor animals… Jer 33:10
As only God can do, he began to rebuild my heart. In the midst of the very low place I found myself, He began to speak love and peace to me. He gave me a heart to forgive, and in doing so, I understood my forgiveness in Christ more clearly.
Some of my circumstances did change, but not all of them. I was called to this wonderful church, but the marriage ended. Although I had biblical reasons to divorce, it was difficult to shed the feelings of failure. Still, God was there and He used many of the people in this body to encourage, restore, and renew my strength.
Fast forward to last year. The healing had begun to take deep roots in my heart. God had given our church a vision to do missions through building fish farms, so I got on a plane to Oregon to learn the process. A pastor friend, who was setting up the meetings for me, suggested one last meeting with a friend. She was a medical doctor, who worked for years as a research scientist, and was finally fulfilling her call to be a theologian. He said she was beautiful and a picture he texted me confirmed such praise. He told me she was leading the prayer ministry at their church in downtown Portland, while going to seminary, and spent a lot of time ministering to people. My friend said, “No pressure, but I think you should ask her out.”
I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
I could write pages about the supernatural ways God confirmed that Cristiane and I were called to marriage over the next several months of dating. Despite her beauty, Cristiane’s love for Christ and life of prayer captivated me from the moment we met. In a whirlwind of romance and calling, we were married May 2, as most of you know. This past Saturday, our church family surrounded us with much love as they put together a celebration following the blessing of our marriage. We were thrilled to celebrate with you.
This Jeremiah passage continues:
… there shall be heard again 11 the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord:
These verses were read at our wedding and at the blessing. God first spoke to Cristiane through these verses more than 15 years ago. In a very specific way, He reminded her of His promise of restoration on her own walk with Him the night we started our relationship – only 10 days after we first met! Ever since, the truth that God is indeed redeeming all things has impacted both of us. Verse 33:11 is an exclamation of praise and thanksgiving for the presence of God in our daily lives.
“‘Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
for the Lord is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!’
Cristiane and I want to thank all of you, including those who couldn’t be there on Saturday, for blessing us with such an overflow of love. I personally will be forever changed by the way this church has walked me through the “valley of the shadow of death” and seen me through to the other side. You are a church of grace, kindness, and fellowship.
I write our story not only as a thank you, but I would love our story to be an encouragement to those of you in the “dark night of the soul.” We all have been, or will be, at such a low place we don’t ever think we will see light again. These places of trial can turn us from Him, or we can run toward Him. In the end, it’s Him that can be:
My rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Ps 18:2