At lunch yesterday, some good friends asked, “How did you two meet?”
I deferred to my beautiful bride of now forty two years, and Karen said, “We met at church,” which, of course, she would say, because “church” was as important as home to her then as it is now.
“But Mark can tell the story better,” Karen added.
I don’t know that I can “tell the story better,” but I can describe the miracle with a little more detail.
The short version is that six months before we first met, Karen would rightly have had nothing to do with me . . . and, for that matter, I’d have wanted nothing to do with her.
She was a beautiful young woman who had “given her heart to Jesus” as a girl and was waiting for a man who loved Jesus Christ as much as she did.
Six months before we met, I was a young man who had heard about Jesus Christ all my life, had even believed in him as a boy, but then had wandered so far from the love of my home, my church, my life, even, as to become unrecognizable . . . a stranger to all, even to myself.
But then I had mistakenly asked “God,” who ironically I thought that I was, to lead me to do His Will, thinking that such a prayer would be like rubbing a genie’s lamp to get all of the world’s treasures and pleasures that I could ever want, but, instead, I was waylaid by the real-life and risen Jesus Christ, the One I call “my possibly imaginary Friend,” who knocked me down and then made me an Offer that I couldn’t refuse.
So the day that I met Karen, I had been already “saved” by Jesus Christ, cleaned up by Him, back at home from a far country, and now in the same town where she and I had grown up without knowing about or having had any interest in each other even if we’d ever seen one another before which we never had until that first time.
That Sunday, I was just looking for a good church.
In fact, I was driving to a large church in our town that I’d seen advertised on a billboard along the freeway which just happened to be located right across the street from the small church in which Karen had been raised and where she now sang in the church’s choir.
Had I driven the usual shortest way to that large church that day, Karen and I would have never met. But that particular Sunday morning and for no particular reason, I took the longer way to that big church.
Before I got there, I noticed a small church right across the street from the big church with the name “Faith Evangelical Free Church,” and liking the sound of each of those words, I turned into the small church’s parking lot with the thought, “Maybe they might need me as much as I need them.”
Getting out of my car, I was greeted right there in the parking lot by an old man who worked in a Christian bookstore called “Quo Vadis” located by the same college from where the year before I had dropped out but eventually went back to and also graduated.
The old man asked me if I was new, and when I told him that I was looking for a good church, he gave me a big bear hug and told me, “YOU are loved!”
The old man led me inside the church that was getting ready to begin, and he introduced me to a man and his wife who taught a Sunday School class that I later attended and who moved over to make room for me in the pew in which their family was sitting.
But before I sat down, I glanced up at the choir already standing in their place behind the pulpit on the raised platform that also held the communion table, and I noticed the most beautiful young woman in the choir shyly turning away after our eyes had briefly met for a split second.
As I sat down among my new church family, I thought to myself, “Is THIS a great church or what!”
And THAT is how Karen and I met for the first time.
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