I had just come home for the summer, after my first full year of college. I had learned by sad, sorry experience that there are guys who just want to use you, who don't know what "commitment" means, who just want a good time, and who dump you for no other reason than that they are done with you and want to move on. I was through "looking." I had never heard of the courtship ideals that are currently sweeping through today's youth culture, but I knew there had to be a better way.
I never really wanted to go to college. All the focus of my childhood dreams and aspirations centered on my longing to be a stay-at-home wife and mother. Those desires only intensified during my college years. I was in training for a career in teaching, when all I really wanted was to be the mistress of my own home, serving God along side a man whose one desire would be to serve God in full-time ministry. During my first three semesters of college, I tried--and was burned by--the dating scene. I decided that college, for me, was no place to find a husband. Granted, many good marriages have had their beginnings in some college or university, but that wasn't the way mine was going to start.
So one Sunday afternoon, there I sat on the floor of my bedroom, making a list of all the characteristics I was looking for in a husband. When I was finished, I put the spiral-bound steno pad away in a box and went for a walk. To this day I think I could tell you which hill I was climbing as I prayed, "Lord, I'm through looking for a husband. You bring to me the one You want me to have."
I continued to walk and pray until I reached the grounds of Camp Maranatha, the church camp in western Pennsylvania where I had spent all my summers from the time I was eleven years old, either as a camper or a kitchen worker. I loved that place! It was seven miles from my house, but I walked or rode my bike there often. On this particular Sunday afternoon, I walked into the caretakers' house to visit. The family living there were members of our church. They were from Ohio, and had a friend from Ohio visiting with them that afternoon. I walked into their living room, and the first person I saw was this friend of their's, named Tom Newton. Immediately, my first thought was, "No, Lord. Not him."
Tom Newton grew up in Ohio, in what he calls a totally pagan home. (I've told him he can't call it that anymore, since paganism today refers to a form of neo-witchcraft.) His was a family that not only knew not God, but were totally antagonistic toward even the idea of ever knowing God. The Newton name was well known in that area -- the whole lot of them were blasphemous drunkards and proud of it. Tom's chief goal in life was to be a rock star, so off he went to the WonderWorld of Los Angeles with dreams of making it big. He and his best friend aspired to be none other than the next Black Sabbath, with all their fame, fortune, and immorality.
You can read Tom's testimony here. God put a stop to all that, saved Tom out of all that muck and mire, set his feet upon the Rock of Christ, and established his goings. Now he was back in Ohio, co-owner of a Christian book store called "The Old-Time Gospel Bookstore," single, and longing for a wife. But there was something wrong here. God called upon him to do a certain thing which he determined never to do. Like Jonah of old, he turned from God and went in the opposite direction. He departed from the faith and wrote himself off as an infidel who had committed the unpardonable sin. Plunged into deep spiritual depression, he went through life hopelessly, wanting to die, yet being afraid to die.
You can't live that way very long without it showing on your countenance. Tom did not look good at all. This is what I somehow sensed when I saw him on my friends' couch that Sunday afternoon, and this is why I wanted nothing to do with him. Besides, he was too old--29, and I was 19.
So when I said, "No, Lord. Not him," I think He said, "Just you wait. I'm not finished with him yet. You go away for another year, and leave him to Me." Of course, God didn't say that out loud. I don't think I would have listened if He had. There were too many other fish in the sea.
Anyway, I went back to college that fall, and Tom went back to whatever. But he kept coming back to his friends' house, and attending my church, where my dad was the pastor. I was plodding impatiently along in college in Tennessee and later Indiana while my mom had Tom and his friends over for Sunday dinners. While I was struggling with pretending to be a good student when all I wanted was to get away from schooling altogether, my dad was patiently working with Tom, slowly bringing him out of his depression, never dreaming that he was counseling the man who would one day be the father of nine of his grandchildren.
More in the next post.