Ornament of Grace

Ornament of Grace
June 9, 2017

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

It has been many years since we’ve been back. Admittedly, until the opportunity came along to travel to that part of the country, it had been awhile since I’d thought much about those days! I was so young, back then! I went off to Bible college when I was only seventeen years old! At that age, making a decision of that sort meant I would be moving out of my parents’ home and into a dorm room with 3 other girls, all of whom I’d never even met! Oh, and did I mention that the Bible college I was headed to was nearly a thousand miles away? There was no chance of coming home on weekends or most holidays. When I said goodbye to my parents, I knew I would not be seeing them again until Christmas break.

Arriving at the school with my older sister, who was a second year student, we were greeted by a bustling, crowded campus! I was soon immersed in the confusion and cacophony of college life! As an incoming freshman, I needed to get registered and find out where my classes were located, get moved and settled into dorm life, find a good church, get a job, and hopefully, in the process, start making some new friends! Talk about emotional overload! It was both exciting and a bit terrifying, all at the same time! As I think back on that part of my young life, I realize there were many things that could easily have gone wrong. Even though my sister and I were serious about serving the Lord, and our parents trusted us to be responsible, we were still young and naïve.

It’s true that it usually takes the perspective of years to be able to see the “big picture” in one’s life. Looking back now, I see much more clearly how God protected me and purposefully directed my steps. Some of these steps I had the opportunity to retrace recently, as my husband and I went back to the town and visited the college where our relationship began. We had a lot fun that day, as we took “A Stroll Down Memory Lane.” Whether in the school cafeteria, on the little bridge over the coulee, or standing under one of the many huge oak trees on campus, we enjoyed our time together, recalling special moments in special places. This was the time when the lives of the preacher’s son from Texas and the preacher’s daughter from Minnesota, intersected! To us it almost seemed like a “happy accident,” but from our Heavenly Father’s perspective, we can now see the Divine Design of it all! At the time, you can be sure that neither one of us had any idea what God had in store for our future. Back then, we were just two kids, having fun talking and joking around together! As far as I was concerned, it was a time of friends having fun with friends, and that’s all. I can’t speak for him, but I know for me, marriage was the last thing on my mind! Did I say that I was young and naïve?

As we drove around the city on our “Memory Lane” tour, long buried thoughts immediately began to wash over me, as we passed by the church we both attended back in the day. “I want to go in and look around,” I remember telling my husband. To be completely accurate, it was at Baptist Temple, where our “story” officially began, or so I’m told. Let me explain…

It was a warm Sunday afternoon. Tryouts for a college age singing group, The King’s Choralaires, were being held in the church auditorium. I came with my sister, hoping to become a member of the group to which she had belonged the previous school year. While waiting for my turn to sing, a young man made a point of coming up to me and introducing himself. The way he tells the story is that he noticed me across the room and thought to himself, “That’s the kind of girl I’d like to marry one day!” Unfortunately, the account of our meeting is, to this day, based solely upon his recollection, since I apparently went away from our brief encounter uninterested and/or unimpressed, because I remember literally nothing about it! On our recent “Stroll Down Memory Lane,” we recreated the scene with me sitting in the exact pew of our first meeting, but alas, even that did nothing to bring the memory of it back to my mind!

The church we attended was quite large, and at the Bible college, there were approximately 1,000 students in our freshmen class! Despite these statistics, it was notable how often our paths incidentally crossed during the course of a day or a week. Whether it was on church visitation, where he would often end up being asked to chauffeur a group of girls, (One of whom made far too many cracks about the “unique” features of his car, causing laughter, more quips and good natured “insults” to be chimed into the conversation…but never mind. All of that is a whole other “story” of its own!) or that we both became a part of the aforementioned singing group, we seemed to make mutual friends, and have similar interests.

We didn’t have much free time in those days. Besides studying and attending class, working our way through college was a huge responsibility for both of us. We never entertained the thought of our parents paying our way! Not that they wouldn’t have wanted to. It’s just that we both knew it was never an option they could afford. Since I paid my tuition by the month, I well remember worrying about whether I’d be able to stay in school from one month to the next.

Sunday nights after church became the highlight of our social life. Since Sunday evening was the the only night of the week the school cafeteria did not serve meals, it became routine for my girlfriend and me to walk several blocks off campus to the nearest MacDonald’s to take advantage of their weekend special: 25 cent hamburgers! Somewhere along the line- and it happened so naturally and in such a casual, non-threatening way- this weekly outing of ours became a “threesome!” You see, early on, as our paths crossed, I had picked up on the vibes that this guy liked me. I really had no negative feelings about him, personally, it was just that I didn’t want a boyfriend. I never voiced any of this to him, but to his credit, his astute perception picked up on my feelings. (Had this not occurred, well, I doubt you would be reading about any of this…) Immediately, he contented himself to stay in the background, respectfully waiting for an opportunity to help me, watch out for me, offer a word of encouragement, or in some small way, demonstrate that he was my friend. How did he know that was what I really wanted, and needed? Once again, I see God’s Hand in it all!

Making this switch ended up being the reason we finally became close friends. Along with our other friends, now we could all hang out together without any pressure or feelings of obligation. Without even realizing it at first, I was now free to observe how he treated everyone, and not just me, the girl he wanted to impress! Almost accidentally, the things I learned about him from then on, became some of my most valuable pieces of information and later the catalyst that eventually brought us together! As we prepared for our trip down “Memory Lane” a few weeks ago, we talked about all these things and then wondered aloud…. Was that same McDonald’s we went to a zillion times, even still there? Later, as we drove by it, we were thrilled! I’m sure the employees and patrons wondered why we were so excited, when we walked in the door on that rainy afternoon! We didn’t care what they thought. We had pictures to take- at McDonald’s– and memories to relive!

We took lots of pictures on our little tour. There was one particular place that was especially sentimental to my husband. He wanted me to stand outside beside the brick wall near the Mail Room. Remember, these were the days before computers, cell phones, texting and email. The dormitories had one phone, to be shared by 30 people on each floor. When you made a call you had 3 or maybe 4 minutes each, to talk. If you were calling long distance, you paid $3/minute. Now you can see why he had such nostalgic feelings about the Mail Room where he could go and find a letter from me in his own personal mail box. This was especially important to him during his Senior year, when I remained in Minnesota for a semester, working and saving money so we could afford to be married the next summer. Until the week before our wedding, we did not know if we could even have a Honeymoon, because we had no money. The Lord provided, and a friend gave us money as a gift, so we could take a wedding trip!

Why do I share these personal memories with you, and what can you glean from reading about them? What can I learn from looking back over the years? I see many, many times when I was totally unaware of all that God was doing in my life. Things seemed difficult, burdensome, and even frightening, at times. The future was unknown. I didn’t even necessarily know why I was at Bible college, except that my parents and I were confident it was the Lord’s will! We had no idea how our lives would unfold, except that we knew the Lord was in control.

We all experience such times in life. Often, it is difficult to see the “big picture,” and seeing or understanding it may well be impossible, especially when we are so consumed with the “nitty-gritty” of daily life. The great encouragement is that if we know Christ as Saviour, it will become clear, in time. We must never forget that we have a Heavenly Father Who cares for us and gives us this promise, in Psalm 37:23: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.”

It’s not about whether we’ve had an “ideal” past or a “perfect” life! This is not reality for anyone. God loves each of us the same, and He loves every one of us in spite of ourselves. None of us deserve such love! Believe that! Fear is the tool of the enemy! All of God’s people can be confident that He has planned for them a bright future! The key is simply to determine to listen, obey, and allow Him to lead and direct our life!

We just need to get our eyes off ourselves, and on the Lord! He has the power to bring you through every challenge, every trial, and every difficulty possible in mortal life. He is a Good, Righteous, and Loving God.

Way back then, I had no idea what good things the Lord had in store for my life. All I knew was that His Word is true, and I was willing to submit to it. This promise is true for everyone: Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. “