Monday, January 18, 2010

I am Thankful for Freewill

The call to preach was not the only thing I wrestled with God about in 1971, 72, and 73.

I was a very socially backward teenager. After I was filled with the Spirit I struggled with the New Testament references to remaining single in order to better serve the Lord. I eventually concluded I was not gifted to live the single life. As I entered college in 1971 I prayed about starting to date but I felt impressed I was not to date or seek a relationship in my freshman year.

Preparing to enter Lee in 1972 I sought God again about what I considered a real problem in my life. Once more I felt strongly impressed that I was to put my social life on hold. I did accept a Saddie Hawkins date request with a friend (I had made a commitment to myself to go with the first co-ed to ask me, or not go at all.) In the spring I asked another friend out for dessert because she seemed to be going through a difficult time. In neither case was I interested in pursuing a relationship.

As I entered my junior year I felt like God impressed me that I would discover my wife that year. So I entered the fall of 1973 looking for the person I would spend the rest of my life with. I had a strong conviction that dating was a major problem in American Christianity. Breakups left people with deep hurt and animosity that dishonored Christ. I had known too many young people who dated someone they knew they shouldn’t marry only to fall in love and get married, usually ending in divorce. Without having dated, I had a strong conviction to never date beyond the point I knew the person was someone I should not marry. My assumption was that one or two dates should typically suffice to determine if someone was spiritually compatible with me.

I met Cheryl on the first day of classes that fall. We hit it off very quickly and spent a lot of time “studying” together – we did study and get to know each other in the process. We went on a group ministry trip together over fall break and when we got back to campus I asked her out on our first date, a Nancy Harmon concert on November 1. For the next six months I struggled with God about His plans for our relationship. I fell in love but I wanted God to tell me she was the one I was supposed to marry. God was silent. He wouldn’t lead me in either direction. I tried to keep a check on my heart until God would speak, but He wouldn’t. I had no reason to end the relationship and no assurances I should go forward.

Other than my relationship with God, this was the most important decision of my life and God wasn’t helping. Why? In the spring I had to have an answer or go crazy. God made it clear I had to decide. In the process, I gained an insight, a relationship as monumental as marriage required a total commitment to one’s spouse. God did not design us to marry someone simply because He wanted us to; the very nature of the relationship required that the primary reason to marry someone was that we wanted to. God was not going to tell me who to marry; He would protect me from marrying the wrong person if I was committed to know and do His will. Free will and faith had to work together.

In this I learned that freedom of choice is not just a gift to the individual; it is a gift to humanity. Its purpose is not individual happiness or self-actualization. Free will ensures the veracity of human relationships and constitutes the bases of true covenant. Love is a choice. Restoration of the image of God in humanity requires persons to mutually choose to be joined together as one. In this we find wholeness and fulfillment in life.

As I stood at the door waiting to walk into the sanctuary and marry Cheryl I prayed again, “Lord if it’s not your will for me to marry Cheryl show it to me or her now. I love her and I want to marry her but I want your will for both of us more.” We said “I do” a few minutes later and I have never questioned whether it was God’s will. Neither have I doubted that it was my will to marry her. God is a witness and participant in our marriage. He gave me the free will to choose and he required me exercise that gift. I’m thankful He did.

Cleveland, Tennessee
January 18, 2010
JDJ

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am thankful that you exercised your free will. I am also thankful that God brought you into my life. What an amazing journey it has been and I look forward to the years ahead.
Cheryl

Phil Hoover, Chicago said...

And a NANCY HARMON concert is what did it! LOL

I have always loved Nancy's music and ministry, but I love you and Cheryl even more than that!