“Pastor Rob, a man arrived requesting to talk with a minister,” my secretary announced one early Monday afternoon.
I met Ted (not his real name) in the waiting room. He was clean cut and in his mid-thirties. I had just spent two hours helping sixteen people with food and other types of assistance. “This shouldn’t take long,” I thought as we walked back to my office.
Ted sat down and came right to the point, “My wife threw me out of the house. I’ve been living in my truck for the past three days, and it’s all my fault.”
Some people believe that everything is their fault, even when they are undisputedly innocent. I thought he was one of them. “Well Ted, it’s unusual that one person carries all the blame—”
Interrupting firmly, “I pressed a loaded gun against my wife’s head and threatened to kill her.”
His unequivocal admission of guilt was rare. I paused before agreeing with him, “You are right. It is all your fault. Your act was reprehensible.”
“I’ve been attending this church off-and-on with my wife for a few years, but it is only now that I want to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior,” he added fervently.
We carefully discussed his situation. I was concerned that he was merely trying to get right with his wife instead of genuinely desiring to get right with God. We talked for quite a while. I asked a number of probing questions aimed at determining the genuineness of his motivations. Satisfied, I then verified his understanding of what repentance of sin and making Christ Lord of his life meant. Again satisfied, we prayed. Without my prodding, he specifically stated the actions that had ruined his life and marriage. He went on to accept Jesus’ sacrifice as payment for his sins, he received forgiveness for his sins, and he dedicated his life to following Christ.
A change was apparent in him. The light of the presence of the Holy Spirit was now evident in his countenance.
He assumed that his marriage was damaged beyond repair and that part of his new life in Christ involved the legalities of dissolving the vows they had made in holy matrimony. Normally, I would have agreed with him—this man shouldn’t get anywhere near his wife ever again. The church needed to minister to her in this crisis as well. If she hadn’t already done so, she could press charges and/or get a restraining order against him. I also needed to check any legal responsibility I had to report Ted’s action, or I would be guilty in the law’s eyes.
While praying, however, I was convinced that God not only wanted to redeem this man, but somehow, miraculously, also his marriage. That was an impossible stretch from his current situation. Then again, when God does the impossible it is called a miracle. I had to act on His leading, or I would be guilty in God’s eyes.
“Ted, right now it seems incomprehensible, but I believe God wants to heal your marriage.”
“Are you crazy?” he stated wide-eyed.
“Look, you are smack up against the grace of God,” I explained slamming the back of my right hand against the inside of my left.
“What does that mean?”
“It means, either God will miraculously intervene in your marriage, or He won’t. It’s that simple. This situation will not change unless, by His mercy and grace, God acts. You are up against God’s grace.
“Your marriage situation is hopeless by all accounts. Therefore, we need to know,” I continued, “if He is working in it. This Wednesday night we have a Praise and Prayer service, during that time we worship and pray for healing. You need to call your wife—”
“Are you crazy? She won’t talk to me!” He insisted loudly, but respectfully. “Every time I call her she just hangs up!”
“As I was saying, to find out if God is working in your heart and hers, you need to call your wife and invite her to that service. If she shows up, then we will know that God is at work in her heart and in your marriage. If she doesn’t, then I am wrong and your marriage is over.”
“She won’t talk to me! She’ll just hang up!” He insisted more loudly.
“Ted, call her,” I insisted, “Either she talks to you or she doesn’t. Either God is in this or He isn’t. I believe He is. Do you want to find out, or not?”
He squirmed in his chair. The scope of this meeting had eclipsed his original intent. “She is not going to like this! Okay, I’ll call her. But she’ll just hang up on me, you know!” His agreeing to call her was the first hurdle.
Later that day, he phoned reporting, “I can’t believe it. I called and she didn’t hang up. I told her what I did in going to the church and invited her to Wednesday night’s service. She yelled at me about a lot of things and said she wouldn’t go, but she didn’t hang up!”
“That’s great. Don’t contact her again. Now we just wait to see what God does,” I instructed him.
The next day, one very angry woman called me, “Are you OUT OF YOUR MIND?! I’ll NEVER love that man again! I’m NOT going Wednesday night! I never want to see him again! You’re CRAZY to think that I would! He’s PRETENDED to accept Christ before. You’ve been FOOLED. This time is no different than any other time. He’ll never change!” She was loud, adamant, and angry.
Calmly, I said, “I had a long talk with Ted. I believe he is genuine. In fact, I haven’t seen a man so genuinely broken by his own actions in a very long time. Will you at least consider going Wednesday?”
“You’re NUTS! Do you know what this man did to me? To even suggest that I would love him again is LUDICROUS and IRRESPONSIBLE! I won’t consider it! I never want to see him again! HOW DARE YOU!”
Again, calmly, “I understand. What he did was despicable. You have every right to feel as you do and you have every right to decide how you will respond legally and otherwise. Consider, however, that I see a man who appears to have genuinely confessed his sins, accepted Christ’s forgiveness, and submitted his life to His Lordship. Ted believes his marriage is unrecoverable. He takes full responsibility and won’t blame you for any action you take against him. As I told him, the future of this marriage is up against the grace of God; either God will act to redeem it, or He will not.” I paused. “I only ask that you consider coming Wednesday night.”
With more conviction and volume, she repeated her previous statements—I held the phone safely away from my ear. I’ve never been yelled at like that before, or since.
Ted arrived early for the service. “Do you think she’ll come tonight?” He asked.
“No idea.” I answered. “If she does, then you know that God is working in her heart, just as He worked in yours.”
We watched the people stream in for the service.
And then …
“Look, I see her!” Ted exclaimed. He walked away to meet the one who, years ago, he had vowed to love and to cherish. I smiled agreeably, thanking God for His goodness—it doesn’t’ usually turn out so well.
The Lord seemed to have them well-in-hand, so I turned to find others who needed prayer that night.
I don’t know exactly what transpired between them that Wednesday—they never followed up with me. I did see them at church on Sunday, however. They sat and walked so closely to one another that a piece of paper couldn’t have slid between them. They looked deeply into each other’s eyes, leaned together whenever speaking, and giggled like newlyweds. That’s the way they were whenever I saw them afterward.
God’s grace and mercy redeemed Ted and his marriage. There are lots of things Ted and his wife could have done, things that most others would have done, but they chose to respond to the grace of God working in their hearts. If it meant the healing of marriages, I wouldn’t mind getting yelled at like that more often.