I spotted a red dress in a shop window the other day. I had an instant flashback to that winter in 1967 when I had that lovely dress made for me: a clingy, soft wool in garnet red. I hoped to catch the eye of a certain divinity student who would graduate the next June, and while we had had a few dates, I really hadnít much time left to ďseal the deal.Ē This red dress should do it, I thought.
Well, it did. By February of 1969 I was a young pastorís wife, facing the myriad bugaboos and blessings that dealing with a congregation presents. Those I could deal with; I was, after all, a pastorís daughter.
The big issue was not gossipy young moms arguing over whose child would star in the Easter pageant, nor the late nights waiting for my husband to come home after emergency counseling sessions.
My big challenge: my new, precious husband, a dedicated child of God who loved the Lord, was battling spiritual demons which threatened not only our marriage, but his ministry. I knew he loved me, as much as he was able. But that love was tainted; he had other loves, hidden idols which took his affections from His Lord and his wife.
From time to time we lived in victory. And time went by. During the first, rather stormy year, I wore that garnet red dress a time or two, hoping to rekindle both my hope and my husbandís interest. Hope flared, but his interest didnít.
We went on, doing the work of the Lord. After a few years our daughter was born. Temporarily our marriage smoothed out. He adored his daughter; I adored him for that. She grew strong and healthy, in mind, body and spirit. I canít say the same for her father.
The busyness of our lives caused the years to rush and tumble like a river eager to reunite with the sea. Before I knew it our daughter was graduating from high school. My husbandís ministry was stale; he didnít like it any more. His congregation dwindled to a faithful handful. He was discouraged and moody, understandably. He finally quit the ministry, mostly because he lost his congregation.
By the time our daughter had moved out of the house, he had begun having what I can only call angry tantrums. His abusive ravings began frightening me, more than I could let him know. He seemed to thrive on my fear. The garnet red I remembered from that wonderful dress was now reflected in the angry face of the man I still loved with all my heart.
And finally I got serious with God. I said: ďLord, I love that man you gave me. But I canít continue trying to help him. I need you. And I want youónothing else. I donít care if I no longer have that man or my marriage. If I donít have you, Lord, I want nothing. Take me, all of me, and do with it whatever you will. Take that man, all of him, and do with him whatever you will. I will only praise you.Ē
To my great surprise, my marriage fell apart! Everything came to a headóthat wonderful, struggling, embattled Christian man threw me out! But I meant what I had said to God.
Family and friends surrounded me. Our daughter and her new husband, both believers, wrapped their arms around me and we prayed for my husband, her father.
And went on with our lives.
Today, living alone with my cat, in close contact with my family and friends, Iím happier than Iíve ever been. Do I still love that man? Oh yes. But I realize that God loves him more than I ever can.
That red dress? Iím having another one made. Itíll fit me differently than the first oneóIím older, gravity is winning over my girlish figure, and ďclingyĒ isnít a style flattering to me now. Iíve already been told that Iím the apple of Godís eye, so Iíll enjoy the memory of the man whose eye I once caught with hope in my own, and trust God to work everything out for my good, and His glory.
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