It’s my 65th birthday eve. I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic today so even though I normally write a Bible study blog, I’m thinking I want to just talk about life.
When you’re having a “later in life” birthday, you have, of course, a lot more life to look back on, but you also look at life very differently than you did in younger years. 40’s and under you’re a lot more focused on what is ahead. Even at 65, I am focused on “ahead” because I know that God always has a plan for my life or I wouldn’t be here. But on this birthday eve I’m also looking back at some of the events that have been significant destiny markers in my life.
A few weeks ago in his Sunday message from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:13-14 about the “narrow way,” my pastor husband, Tom, briefly alluded to a time in his life when he was making the most significant decision a person will ever make in life – “I’ve heard about Jesus now and what He can do in my life. What am I going to do with that information?” To make a decision to completely surrender his life to become a follower, a disciple of Jesus Christ, was not a decision he was going to make lightly, or as he said, out of emotion or manipulation, but rather a once in life, forever commitment.
He was in the Navy on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam and had been introduced to the authentic Christian life through some guys he worked with. They had challenged him to read the Bible and it was changing his life. But he had more than a few reasons to be contemplating this life decision – one of those being there was a good chance he was going to NOT be a “fiancé” to Georgiann Moore if he made a decision to be a follower of Jesus. What???
This is a hard thing for me to write to think of the condition of my heart in those days but I always like to remind my husband that he was a lot responsible for that condition. Yes, it was really all his fault! Kidding, of course, but he had become a significant influence in my life – I found myself doing things I never thought I would do thanks to the “Tom factor.” Yeah, he was not the guy you want your daughter hanging out with.
Among other things, he had suggested before he left for Vietnam that we not make any big decisions while we were apart – such as about what religion we would follow. (Was this prophetic??) Silly me . I said, “Deal.”
In the meantime as the “Jesus Movement” was making the cover of Time Magazine, I had become quite the skeptic of any religion and actually argued against Christianity (the “crutch” I called it) when my precious college roommate, Melissa Dew May” chose to follow Jesus. Let’s be honest and say I asked her (told her sternly) to not be my roommate anymore but she wouldn’t listen and was sweeter to me than ever. FRUSTRATING to a non-believer it was!
When Tom had told me in a letter the summer of 1971 that he was talking to some Christians about their beliefs, I had a stern warning for him –“ DON’T LISTEN TO THEM! They will brainwash you!” (This is so embarrassing!) Later I told him I DID NOT want to be married to a Jesus freak. Yes, I did that. He knew that I meant it.
So it was with those thoughts he was making this decision – will I choose to follow Jesus even if my girlfriend breaks up with me? Well, Jesus won (thank God) and he became a full-on, devoted Jesus freak regardless of my reaction – my greatest nightmare!
I say that word, “freak,” with great tenderness because he loved God with all his heart from that day forward. The Bible calls that being “born again.” It’s the start of a new life in Christ. That’s just too weird for many, including me at that time, to understand. Yes, to me he had become someone I wouldn’t want to be with.
After about a month following his conversion experience, Tom took the step of faith to write me a letter to tell me what had happened to him. I remember sitting on the side of my bed in my dorm room reading that letter in utter shock, followed by hurt, followed by pretty intense anger. I felt betrayed. What about our “deal?” What a jerk!
The utter devotion I had had for this sailor boy whom I had not seen for 7 months and wrote to EVERY day, twice a day was abruptly ended. I was ready to get even. I fired a not-friendly letter back to him letting him know we were no longer engaged, and by the end of that weekend I had a new boyfriend. (Seriously, this is so embarrassing).
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was in the thick of an intense spiritual battle. My life was at a fork in the road as Tom’s had been that would determine not only what my life direction would be, but more importantly my eternal destiny.
What’s pretty amazing is that although I was fighting against Tom and against God, my Heavenly Father was at work to save me even when I didn’t want to be saved or even know I needed it. Faithful people were praying for me – Tom’s friends on the ship and my sweet Melissa Dew. While I thought I was a good person who didn’t need this “crutch” to make it through life, I was walking in spiritual darkness.
So how is it that Tom and I have been married for 45 years and most of those years have been spent in ministry? There must be a miracle in there somewhere – and there was.
Briefly speaking, a couple of weeks after the big “break up” Tom’s ship came into port and he was able to call me early one Saturday morning. I hadn’t heard his voice for over a month and my heart melted. “Oh, I can’t give this guy up even though he is a Jesus freak. When we get back together and get married, he’ll forget about all this Jesus stuff.” That was my plan!
We got married but my “plan” did not work out so good. It was the honeymoon to be forgotten and a few weeks into marriage I was lying in bed at night wondering how I could get out. “Unequally yoked” is not easy for the believer or the non believer.
But God! He was not going to give up on me and friends were still praying. (Maybe even Tom!) I got a phone call that the other Jesus freak in my life, Melissa Dew May, who wanted to come and visit us in California for her spring break. “Great,” I thought – “me and TWO Jesus freaks.” Tom and Dew had a great time talking about Jesus. I was the stranger in the room who was not fitting in well. Fun.
But what a “coincidence!” There was this revival going on that week at the church Tom was dragging me to every Sunday where the black congregation there was so sweet and loving I dreaded going.
Tom had to work the first night of the revival so I let Melissa talk me into going with her – a night I will never forget. A precious black pastor from Chicago shared the Gospel from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-11. I had never heard words like he spoke that night explaining that “blessed” (happy) are the poor in spirit (humble), the meek, the merciful, and the peacemakers.
The way he explained it, I knew that I wanted to be that kind of person. But wait. I can never be that! I need Jesus in my life! I gave my heart to Jesus that night and I knew it was a forever commitment. It wasn’t about escaping hell, although that came with the package. It was about having the life change I was longing for but could never have apart from Jesus. I remember feeling the love of God for me – that He would die for me. How could I not have understood this before?
But did I rush home and excitedly share with Tom what had happened to me? NO! I found it very difficult to say, “You were right,” after all the arguments we had had about the subject. There was just one problem – I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face! Without a word, he knew something had happened to me.
Yes, “something” had happened to me. I was lost, but now I am found.
So, now 45 years later, I’m having a birthday and reflecting about life – about those days of decision and inner conflict. If not for the grace of God, where would I be? I shudder to think.
My “life verse” is Romans 5:8 and maybe after reading this blog you will understand why. It says, “BUT GOD demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” “Us” includes me. I not only did not deserve God’s love, I arrogantly disregarded it. He loved me anyway and that’s amazing!
“Us” also includes you, my reader friend. Perhaps you have not made that life-changing decision to be a follower of Jesus – to receive His sacrifice on the cross as payment for your sins. Maybe like me, you don’t get it – but you can. It just takes a simple prayer, “Jesus, please save me.” The Bible says He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9) Not that you will be perfect, but you will be forgiven!
So, while celebrating my 65th tomorrow, I will be remembering to thank God for all He has done in my life, my marriage and family and life in ministry. I’m following Jesus and there’s no turning back. If someone calls me a Jesus freak I will smile and remember how at one time I just didn’t get it either – but then I did.
Thanks for reading!
PS – This is a pic from those brand new, early days of new life in Christ – two kids who have no idea all that God has before them!