I felt a squeeze from my husband’s hand during prayer at the end of Easter service yesterday. With my head bowed, I opened my eyes to see him taking off his shoes and socks. In that moment I knew that God had answered my prayers.
When I first met my husband, you could say his heart was about as hard as a rock. Impenetrable. He had written off unconditional love and defended his position vehemently. We were just friends but I was determined to somehow show him what true love was and I knew that meant I needed to share God’s love with him because that is the only true perfect love. At the time he pressed so hard I was brought to tears. We had many conversations where he would ask a million questions that sent me pouring over Scripture for good answers. He challenged me almost relentlessly. He was surprised however that I did have answers. Ones that made sense – he’d asked others and was expecting the same victory he’d felt in the past. But my answers got him thinking hard about what was true.
My pastor once said, “You may be the only Bible someone will read.” Which meant live your faith and let Christ shine through your heart so that people will be attracted to that and then you can give all the credit to God. He also said, “Don’t be surprised at who ends up becoming a believer because the ones that protest the loudest are usually the closest.” As Shakespeare says, “methinks thou dost protest too much.”
But over time our friendship blossomed into love (he was so adorable and honest and open with me it was so very hard for me not to fall for the guy) and I encouraged him to attend church with me. For almost two years he came and listened. Our discussions grew softer in tone, his heart was changing. He was learning.
Missionary dating is what Christians call it. I was falling for a non-believer and the Bible clearly warns us not to be unequally yoked. For many reasons it is dangerous for a Christian and their walk with God to become intertwined with someone who does not share the same values and faith. I did not set out to fix Harry. I knew that was God’s job. All I wanted to do was show him love. I certainly knew the risks in doing so and I know this will make this entry longer but I think it’s a really important part of the story. So allow me to digress…
I was married to a Christian man for 18 years. He volunteered at the church on the worship team and sat quietly next to me each Sunday while he was having an affair. When our church family reached out to him he ignored them and their prayers. He didn’t want to hear what he should do because he knew what he wanted. He left his family. Then I fell in love with another man who on his first visit with me to church went forward, accepted Christ and after we were engaged was baptized. This man did anything and everything to KEEP me. Nothing he did was genuine. He was a pathological liar and turns out still married. I was devastated by two men who did not have a genuine faith. I didn’t trust a man who called himself Christian. They were liars. I did not want a man in my life who told me what I wanted to hear. I wanted one who was authentic because no matter what…THAT….I could trust. So I continued to see Harry even though he struggled and wrestled with God.
One day when he was leaving my house, he dropped to his knees with tears in his eyes and said, “God help me, I love you! I’m surrendering my heart to you.” And from that day forward he began to experience the kind of love I hoped to show him. He opened up his heart to me for the first time. We knew our souls were meant for each other and we worked toward marriage. As part of that our discussions on faith became much more agreeable. In our pre-marriage counseling the conversations between our pastor and Harry were painful. Harry refused to lie…he had nothing inside of him that loved God but he believed the gospel to be true. He accepted that truth but that was as far as he could go.
On our wedding night Harry had his first communion. We danced, laughed, ate, and it was the best night of my life. I will never forget how happy I was. I would call it nothing short of blissful. And now two years later that water of love has poured over us; molding and shaping us. Sometimes painfully so. Sometimes we felt as if we were on the shore getting pounded by the waves.
Almost everything in our life has changed over the course of two years and with that change has brought with it some heavy stress. We found a new church that was just steps away from our front door. A much different kind of church that focused much more on shepherding than proving truth. There is nothing slick about it…our small congregation is every race, age, income level, and many stories of redemption. It’s about 50 people meeting to hear God’s word each Sunday.
A few months ago, the struggle with Harry got very real. His emotional, mental, and spiritual health was at risk and I grew very afraid for him. I shared with my pastor’s wife my heart and some of the struggles Harry and I were facing and she committed to praying for us. I shared with a couple other close friends and they too committed to lift us up in prayer. Specifically, for Harry that he would be able to trust God in a deeper way. I didn’t tell Harry I was doing this because I didn’t want him to feel burdened by it. I knew that God loved him. I didn’t want to fix him but I knew God could…so I continued to show my husband LOVE. That’s all I could do was love him and pray for him. So I did.
On Easter, my daughter had to work, so I asked Harry if he would come to church with me. His habit was to go into work early and then meet me at church after the singing and greeting part were over. He doesn’t like to touch people and their friendliness made him cringe. He would come to hear the message and leave right away before people started talking to him. But on Easter he said, “Anything for you.” So we walked hand in hand into church.
I noticed after a couple of songs he was standing beside me in tears. I leaned over and asked if he was ok. And he said, “It’s hitting me hard today.” I began praying hard for God to melt his heart. At the break when people greet each other, he said, “Oh great my face is all red from crying.” And I said, “Go to the bathroom, it’s ok.” And he said, “Today its me, not you.” I didn’t really know what he meant but when our pastor’s wife came over to say hello, I asked her to pray for Harry because something was happening, I could feel it. The air was heavy. The Spirit was moving.
Our pastor preached a message from Acts 17:22-34. He spoke about how Paul, in Athens, told the philosophers about the one true God. Paul told them about a God who created everything with purpose, a God who was infinitely and completely holy and righteous and who didn’t need us to do anything for Him but who loved us so much he made a way for us to be holy and righteous too through Jesus’ death and resurrection. It was a powerful message of God’s love for every person on earth whether they believe it or not. Because God gave us every breath we take out of a hope that we will choose to love him back. It was a message about love and that hard heart that man husband had – the man I met four years ago whose heart was as impenetrable as a rock, was crushed into pieces.
The pastor prayed at the end of the message, saying if anyone wanted to come forward and be baptized, we can do it today. After peeling off his shoes and socks I watched in awe my husband practically run down the aisle to the altar. He embraced the pastor as they prayed and I fell to my knees in tears of joy. It was happening! It was really happening!
The rest was a blur that luckily I recorded on video. I stood there and watched my husband give his HEART to God. He bounced out of the baptismal and said, “I LOVE YOU!” and gave me the biggest wet hug I’ve ever received. The Pastor’s wife was sobbing with joy. The people in church were clapping and cheering and as Harry made his way back to the pew to retrieve his shoes I followed behind him watching him embrace almost everyone in his path. This man who hates to be touched was literally embracing people as they congratulated him on his decision.
The rest of the day was almost perfect. We drove an hour to meet my family for dinner and Harry held my hand at dinner and asked if he could pray. He told me that day, ” In some people, water can cascade over a rock yet never penetrate it. If you split it open it is dry. Christ has not penetrated their hearts. But sometimes the water can split your soul and open up your heart like a great canyon. That is my testimony. It wasn’t a drop of water that opened my heart. It was a stream and in time it opened up my heart and soul. Jesus Christ has split me open. I’m exposed to Him and the world. And just like the Colorado River, in time, you turn around and realize that God has made something beautiful.”
God answers prayers and He is faithful.
Jeremiah 29: 13 says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Harry didn’t trust love. It’s always been conditional in his life. But that day when he got down on his knees before me he let love in. Over these years he has seen that love is good and real. And he told me that he realized that if he could trust MY love for him, then why not try trusting God’s love for him too. When he said that I thanked God for showing me how to love my husband even in hard times.
Isaiah 55:11 says, “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” I thank God that Harry listened with ears to hear and heard the gospel over and over again. All those Sundays I thought nothing would ever “get into him” I was wrong and should have remembered this Scripture because everything from God has purpose.
Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” I’m so very thankful that in all of this Harry has been honest in where his heart was. He never just told me what I wanted to hear. He said as we were leaving the church to go home, “Nothing like this has ever happened to me and I wouldn’t have believed it was even possible before today. Whatever you call it…the Holy Spirit…moved me today and it’s real. I’m no longer in with one foot. I’m ALL IN.” Praise God for doing HIS work to move my husband.
And finally 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” I know God has been very patient with my husband. He said to me, “I don’t know why today was THE DAY, it just was.” I turned to him and said, “Harry, people have been praying for you. And I have never seen answered prayer so clearly as I have today. And because of that, because of what happened to you and the fact that I’ve been right there with you in all the steps you’ve taken along the way…THIS is the greatest day in my walk with Jesus.”
Praise God for his faithfulness! And Harry said back to me, “Thank you for not pushing me, thank you for just loving me.”
The God of the universe has power to melt hard hearts. He uses every means necessary…trial, suffering, people, the Word, love, and prayer! Jesus was foretold in Isaiah 61:1 that God would send someone to heal the broken-hearted. In Luke 4, Jesus claims to be that healer of hearts, the Great Physician who I’m convinced will continue to mold and shape my husband into his likeness and is the only one who could heal his heart into something beautiful.
I said to Harry, “This is a beautiful Easter day.” And he said, “I’ll never forget this day as long as I live. A great day to be born again!”