The joy of being re-united under new and (I thought) providential circumstances with Betty was short-lived. Although I was convinced by what had happened during the previous months that God meant for us to be a couple, Betty was not convinced of that. Everyone was convinced - her mom and dad, uncle, Pastor, sister, me, but the most important person was not. Soon Betty was dating other guys, non-believers.
I was re-stationed at Ft. Meade MD with NSA and my old beat-up ’62 Olds F-85 struggled to cover the miles to Scranton at every opportunity. I was trying desperately to keep the relationship going. But all my sermonizing, arguments and guilt trips were fruitless. At least a “Dear John” would have been quicker, less painful. I was devastated. Why had God taken me this far only to change course? The script had been playing out so perfectly.
I did not know then what I know now, that God never closes one door without opening another. At Fort Meade, God arranged it so that the girl at the desk directly facing me was a Christian. (These “coincidences” just weren’t stopping!) She was wise beyond her age. I found a caring group of Christians at the Bethel Assembly of God (http://www.bethelassembly.org) church in nearby Savage, MD who nurtured me back to emotional health.
One Sunday there was a special guest musical duet at worship. Dorothy Frizzelle and her daughter Sharon sang a gospel hymn or two and then walked down the aisle next to me to the back of the church. Hmmmm, kinda cute. Our eyes connected briefly but no falling head over heels, just mostly the usual one glance. My friends at Bethel church knew her from school. She attended a near-by Church of God (Cleveland, TN) Pentecostal church. Not long after that, I was invited to a party at Sharon’s house. (I had to be invited; I was so bashful I never would have asked to go along.) There, I chatted some and a little romantic interest was sparked. Not long after that I learned at Bethel church that the youth group was going to have a group wiener roast party. Soon afterwards, while driving past a phone booth at Waterloo Rd and Rte 108, on a whim, I looked up the Frizzelle home, called, and asked Sharon if she would like to accompany me to the youth social. I don’t know where I got the nerve! This was the second-best decision of my entire life. She accepted. Soon we were dating regularly and I became a fixture at the Frizzelle house. Ten months later in August of 1969 we were married and I cannot overstate how blessed I have been by this woman. She became the light of my life, my counselor, my best friend, my lover, another of those miracles from God.
Over the years we grew together in faith, in love and in common commitment to Jesus Christ. We were blessed with two wonderful children. I finished my college education, this time with much better grades and went on to seminary. I became a youth minister, and associate pastor, and lastly a pastor.
Over the years I have seen my siblings one by one come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our rebellious (like her old man) daughter also came to faith. In 2001 our daughter gave us our first grandchild, a baby girl . In 2005, our son gave us our second grandchild, a baby boy. And with these two bundles of energy and love, granddad can’t be happier. Our son struggles with many of the same issues as me when I was younger. But God is good and He keeps on moving within the hearts of my family members.
The road in the decades that followed was sometimes bumpy. The alcoholism that runs in my family returned to me and began to erode my witness, self-esteem, spirituality and health. Eventually I learned it was an addiction and with the help of A.A. constant guilt over the incongruence of alcohol abuse and Christianity helped me win that battle and have been clean and free since 1992.
Then there was the clinical depression I was diagnosed with. Left-over garbage from my younger days, my therapist told me. It took time, patience, and an emotional crash that put me in the emergency room, but again, my church, wife, family and my faith pulled me through.
Now, most recently, I am facing a new “bump.” At 57, I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and my oncologists are doing everything possible to give me quality of living. But the inevitable can only be postponed for a little while they say. I am a realist, but I am a believer too. So if God chooses to give me more days during which to glorify Him here, I will gladly accept that. But I face the future with exciting anticipation too, that my welcome into heaven will be sooner than expected. Like one cancer victim described it: “Either way, I win.”
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