We had a second chance to make it work. But one could argue our relationship was always a powder keg waiting to explode. The mishandling of a single match and kablooey! There was no obvious tension, but our conflict over church made for unstable danger beneath the surface. Leave it to me to bring the fuses.
My approach was to target and handle each potential disagreement with acute forcefulness. I identified the problems and incited debates. Part of me wanted to resolve matters as soon as possible. My ambition to win arguments fueled the better part. I displayed the leadership qualities of a concrete block tied to a man’s leg as he falls into a river from the bridge above.
She was an “Arminian” though she didn’t know it until I heated my branding iron and burned her with the label. First, I explained to her what she must believe. Then, I explained to her why she was wrong. She wasn’t ignorant of the gospel by any means. I just treated her like she was because she lacked the privilege of being as enlightened as myself.
As we danced near the edge of a cliff, my clumsy feet were determined to lead. I assaulted her church from every angle as we waltzed. Musical instruments in New Testament worship are not biblical. Step right. A/V productions are for the secular world. Step left. Church gatherings without a strict pattern of singing, praying, and preaching are needless entertainment. Spin. Telling people to “accept Christ” is contrary to salvation by grace. Dip. It’s a miracle she isn’t dancing with someone else these days.
There was a clear gap between us which I made wider with each topic of dispute. I blatantly ignored any common ground and relentlessly pushed the most controversial buttons. I sometimes stirred arguments where no disagreement existed.
By the merciful providence of God, our strained relationship kept its breath despite my best, though unintentional efforts to kill it. We survived the better part of a year when I received the call which I assumed would mark the beginning of the end for us.
I agreed to pastor a church seven hundred miles away. If I couldn’t destroy us, the physical distance would take care of it. Adding to our original problems, she’d now have to consider moving across the country if things were to work out between us. She was far more patient than I gave her credit for. Even after the move, she was willing to continue the intimidating climb that was our relationship.
It was a classic tale of Beauty and the Beast between us. I suppose you can guess who I was in the story. My disposition was hideous despite my attempts to dress it polite language. I considered myself the teacher so I never anticipated learning so much from her. I was a Pharisee with my Sabbath commandments tuned to a fine science while I carelessly omitted the weightier matters of the law.
For instance, I later realized her understanding of compassion surpassed my own. Her intimacy with the Lord was at a depth I had not reached. I knew the letter of God’s word. She knew the Spirit. She emulated Christ, and like Christ confronting a sinner, she made me to see my own reflection in a mirror. I found it appalling. Her kindness unveiled my brashness and eventually softened my rhetoric, though I remained undeterred from my mission to convert her.
To my surprise, we converted each other as the months passed. She learned from me and I learned from her. We supplied one another strength in our particular areas of weakness. Though she didn’t exactly change my mind about what I believed, she did change my heart which is what I needed the most.
In more ways than one, she reminded me how there’s no harmony in music when two identical notes are played. True harmony needs distinct notes that compliment each another. And so it was with us.
We found compromise is possible when two people are willing to work together rather than compete. It wasn’t so much that we each made concessions in our beliefs. It’s more like we grew together in an unexpected, beautiful way making us both better disciples of Jesus Christ in the end.
It wasn’t long before we were married.