The Passionate Preacher and Me: A Love Story
Riding the lightning. That’s what the paramedics call it when they press the defibrillator paddles to your chest. The ER nurses whisked me away to a waiting room where I couldn’t watch my husband lie lifeless and limp on that table. I’ll never forget that hazy Sunday morning when Roger slumped to the floor and whispered, “Julie, I don’t think I’m going to make it.”
My lover had struggled with heart arrhythmias since childhood when a cardiac surgeon slit open his heart only to discover that he had misdiagnosed this little boy and there was no hole in his heart. After multiple procedures and hospital stays, Roger’s heart went into V-Tac, a fatal rhythm that could take his life. I sat in the sparse, tiny waiting room, sobbing and praying. God comforted me deeply in those moments and I remembered how our love story began.
I have always been directionally challenged. That’s a nice way of saying I’m perpetually lost. I often stood in the mall parking lot, frantically dialing my husband’s cell and screamed, “Somebody stole my car!” Roger, my knight in shining armor, calmly replied, “Okay, Honey, which store did you enter first? Were you walking by the shoes or the bedspreads?” I never thought to take note of such details.
The day I first met Roger was a directional debacle. I careened down Texas farm roads 263 and 627 for more than an hour. Even the cows chomping their cud by the roadside watched me meander back and forth trying to locate the country church where he was preaching. I was an 18-year-old freshman music major at Baylor University. My dorm director recruited me to play and sing at this little white church in the boondocks. These were the days before the nice GPS lady corrected my course with the words, “Recomputing, recomputing...”
Roger, still wet behind the ears, was resourceful enough to lead the congregation in some a capella singing until I arrived. The folks were boisterously belting “How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours” Church-of-Christ style when I burst through the back door of the sanctuary. Roger seated the congregation and motioned for me to come forward. I made a beeline for the piano bench to sing and play the offertory, and sheepishly slinked to the front pew when I finished.
The preacher boy was nonplussed by my late arrival. He stepped up to the lectern and delivered one of the most powerful sermons I’d ever heard. I hung on every word. Then it happened. Somewhere between Ephesians 2 and 3 God spoke to me. I had a vision of Roger and me standing at the altar saying our wedding vows. No kidding! It was love at first sermon!
Roger confessed to me later that God did not speak to him about marrying me until Sunday evening while we were scarfing pizza. He said he took one gander at my legs and that settled it. I was the “one” for him. Somehow my revelation from God sounded much more spiritual than his. But in the space of 24 hours, we both knew we would one day tie the knot.
Loving one person was uncharted territory for me. In high school, I dated any guy who wore pants. I wasn’t picky. Fidelity wasn’t my strong suit. Everything changed when I met my man. We not only shared a common affection and admiration, we shared a holy calling.
Roger and I started pastoring our first church when he was 20 and I was 18. We have been partners in life and in ministry ever since.
Roger, painfully shy, took three months to actually ask me out on an “official date,” but he hit a home run. After 36 years of marriage, I believe he knows how to love the Ephesians 5 way: as Christ loved the church.
So I would like to share my husband’s secrets for really, really loving a woman. If you are a husband, I hope this will encourage you. If you are looking the man of your dreams, I hope these qualities will appear on your “wish list” (prayer list, really!).
WARNING: POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS FROM READING THESE QUALITIES.
Depression: Ladies, you may assume that there are no guys out there that are really this wonderful. Nothing could be further from the truth. These four biblical principles will turn any man into Prince Charming with a little practice and patience.
Disbelief: Nobody’s marriage is perfect, especially ours. We’ve had our share of screw-ups, squabbles, obstacles and disagreements. (Roger and I will NEVER agree on eschatology. I have every intention of saying “I told you so” when we rise with Jesus to meet Him in the air…)
Shortness of breath, frequent sweating and dizziness: Resulting from falling hopelessly, helplessly, passionately in love.
What qualities did I see in Roger?
UNSELFISHNESS. Ephesians 5:22: "Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church — a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ's love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives ... this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband." NIV
Jesus laid down His life for His bride. Roger has laid down his life for me consistently every moment of every day. I remember strolling with my sweetie on the campus sidewalk and he insisted on walking on the outside by the street. When I asked him why he insisted, he said, “In case a car were to veer off the road, I’d want to push you out of the way so you’d be safe.” Sir Walter Raleigh, take that! Chivalry is not dead. Roger still opens my doors and pulls out my chair like a gentleman. He takes care of the house repairs and finances and even fills my car with gas. I am spoiled rotten. Roger regularly watches chick flicks with me and our two daughters instead of reclining on the couch to get a gander at the football game. Daily, quietly, my hubby treats me like a princess. I don’t deserve such kindness, but his lavish love makes me want to reciprocate and serve him gladly.
COMFORT. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
My father told my soon-to-be husband that there would be days I would cry for no apparent reason. Dad said, “Don’t try to fix her, reason with her, or tell her all the reasons why she shouldn’t feel that way. Simply sit her on your lap, hold her close and listen when she needs to talk.” Jesus said, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” A hurting person needs empathy and comfort, grace and patience. Roger knows how to comfort me as no one else can.
ENCOURAGEMENT. 1 Corinthians 13: 3-6: Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.” The Message.
Every day, several times a day, Roger has told me how beautiful I was to him. He knew I didn’t feel pretty, so he made it his goal to reassure me day after day. His encouragement in my abilities propelled me to embark on careers and ministries I would never have attempted without his unwavering confidence and support. As my pastor, Roger has encouraged me to grow spiritually. I know God more deeply because of his teaching and prayers.
FIDELITY. Song of Solomon 8:6-7: “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm: for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.” NIV
I have never, for one instant, worried about whether my husband would be faithful to me. And it wasn’t because he was ugly as mud. He was featured on GQ Magazine. He was a hottie. Roger informed Rhonda, his church secretary, that if a female counselee said anything inappropriate, he would call her into the counseling session. Roger never took a babysitter home alone in his car. His conduct was above reproach. Roger also let his daughters and his congregation know how much he adored me. I felt secure in his love.
Roger survived cardiac arrest that fateful Sunday. He still has a weak heart, but it’s strong in his love for God and for me.
I know it sounds like my hubby is perfect. When you love someone for a long time, the faults seem to fade and the relationship can be ever sweeter. Perhaps finding someone to love you with Jesus’ love seems impossible. But God has the right person and plan for your life. And when you love your partner in life like Christ loved the church, it’s like a little taste of heaven.