The way things COULD have gone but for the grace of God
Today I want to share with you what COULD have happened...without the grace of God - and the discernment of the Holy Spirit.
When I was in college, I was dating someone who seemed like a wonderful guy. My friends really liked him a whole lot especially because he seemed so wonderful compared to a guy who had asked me to marry him (who I really did love), and then dumped me in a rather cruel way. Well, compared to him (a guy my friends nicknamed "the viper in a pretty box"...) this guy seemed like the next best thing to Jesus Christ himself. I would come back to the dorm and a dozen roses would often be waiting for me. When I went to get in the car, if I tried to open my door he would shout, "DON'T TOUCH THAT DOOR!" and race to open it. He would be late to his own classes to walk me to mine. He was attractive...he smelled delicious (always important to me). He hung on every word I said. He was so gentle and kind. He was called to pastor. My friends said, (and I quote), "Deanna, if you let this one go, you're crazy."
Well, we had been dating a few months and I could tell he really was falling for me but I wasn't quite yet there - in fact, I didn't really feel in love with him, just very interested to keep dating him and see if any deep feelings developed. Quite honestly I was still getting over my previous flame that had been so cruelly extinguished.
One night I was ministering in Allentown, PA on behalf of the school and it was an overnight thing. I stayed at the pastor's home and ministered there on Sunday. Saturday night as I was getting ready to go to bed, the Holy Spirit said to me, "Break up with Sam (not his real name) and don't pursue a relationship with him anymore." That really made no sense to me. I said, "why, God? He's so nice. Especially after dealing with this horrible pain of someone I love breaking up with me. He seems like everything I'm longing for. What harm could this be? We're just getting to know each other. I'm not even at the serious stage yet..." But the Holy Spirit would not take no for an answer. I was up tossing and turning half the night wondering how I was going to break this news to Sam that I was just cutting our relationship off, just like that. Worse yet, a lot of people do this kind of stuff in Bible College and they blame it on God. (And a lot of it is really not God, it's their own stupidity.) However, this was not stupidity, this was genuinely God speaking to me.
I came back to school just dreading the conversation I would have with Sam. When I got back, he met me at the dorm and literally ran to me and scooped me up and swung me around. "I missed you so much!" he said. Then before he could go on I said, "Um, wait a minute...I need to talk to you." I didn't tell him it was God, I just blamed it on me and said, "I can't really explain it, I just can't date you anymore." He was so upset. He said, "please, just give this some more time..." and I said I couldn't and he said, "you'll never guess what I did today..." and he pulled out a paper and showed me that he had just gone that afternoon to the mall and put a downpayment on an engagement ring for me. I told him I was so incredibly flattered, however if he had proposed to me that day or even a month or two from then I didn't think I would be ready as I didn't feel the intense feelings he did yet, and I was still in the "getting to know you" phase.
It was a horrible break-up for him. He didn't get over it for a long time. When I started dating Larry later on, he hated Larry. I felt bad for him because quite honestly he was a nice guy and I prayed, "Lord, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, send him a wonderful girl." Well, about six months later he got one. She was an attractive, very talented girl, also at our school. (For the sake of anonymity, I'll call her Susie.) She looked absolutely nothing like me, but she possessed pretty much all the same giftings/talents that I had. It was amazing how much we were alike except that she had strawberry blonde hair (mine was dark brown at the time), and she had different facial features and stuff...but she sang, played piano, preached, loved teaching, etc. etc. So Sam and Susie dated and some time later got married. I was relieved, and very happy for the both of them. When they graduated I heard something about them going up to Northern New England where they were staff pastors at a church.
Fast forward a few years...Larry and I were married and staff pastoring together and one day I ran into a few minister friends who also went to school with us at Valley Forge. After initial greetings, we began catching up on old friends, where they were, what they were doing, who got married, who had kids, where people were pastoring, yada yada yada. Then someone piped up and said, "Oh, Deanna...surely you've heard about Sam and Susie..." and I said, "Noooooo....what's going on?" And they said, "they're divorced!" WHAT??!! I was shocked. They went on to tell me that it was due to Sam having an affair. I couldn't believe it. Surely it couldn't be true. To say this is the LEAST person I ever expected this out of is an understatement. I really believed surely somebody had the story mixed up. But I did a little investigating to find out if it was really true. I didn't want to believe it. I thought, "I'll find out and set the record straight."
Well, it was true. I found out that Susie came home one day to find Sam in bed with another woman. When confronted he basically poured out all this stuff about being "jealous of her ministry." He told her that she was intimidating...that he was uncomfortable with all her many giftings as compared to how he perceived himself. He said, "I'll never compare to you when it comes to ministry..." All these feelings were festering within him and he was secretly harboring a lot of resentment because of her success. I am not a psychologist but I often wonder if he didn't start with another woman to try to prove himself in some way more desirable or something, I dunno. Who knows? All I do know is this...he divorced Susie and from what I hear, he now doesn't even ATTEND church, nor profess Christ as his Savior.
I experienced all kinds of feelings like, "should I have ever prayed that he would find a great girl?" I felt very sorry for Susie. I wondered many times, did the Holy Spirit try to speak to her about it too? Maybe so, and maybe not. I'll never know.
But I do know this...if it were not for the prompting of the Holy Spirit and His relentless call to me, I could very well be married to Sam today...or divorced from him! I could have been the woman coming home to find the other woman!
I thank God everyday for His grace.
I thank Him that He helped me to make right choices when I wasn't mature enough to make them on my own.
I thank Him for sending me somebody who celebrates my talents and doesn't just tolerate them.
I thank Him for keeping me up half the night until I agreed to break up with Sam.