You can easily see why I was attracted to this beautiful young lady. This is a picture from the 1976 Georgia Tech Blueprint (Yearbook). She was among eight Tech beauties selected for this recognition. In my humble opinion she was the most beautiful girl in the world, so obviously the prettiest girl at Tech. While her beauty was breathtaking that was not why I asked her to marry me. I fell in love with her from our very first date.
We had met several months earlier but the timing wasn’t right. However, during the spring quarter of 1976 I took a tennis class for a PE credit (that I didn’t need). My purpose was additional opportunities to get on a court and play as courts were at a premium in those days. She took the course for her required freshman PE class, ostensibly to learn how to play tennis. Argue if you will, but she thought I had good looking legs. (Humbly I say it, she was correct.)
I offered to help her (she was not a great athlete nor was I a great tennis coach, but I did know how to take advantage of an obvious opportunity). She accepted the offer of a tennis date and off we went. Within a week I knew I would marry her. Not because she was beautiful, and not because I was in love with her (I most definitely was); but because it was clear to me that she was the one the Lord had chosen for me. All these years she hung on to the first letter I sent her in the campus mail.
When I read it again, I realized it had to be God in the works because the letter was – well never mind. It worked because God was in it. I was convinced through prayer that she was the one for me and I must say that God certainly knew what He was doing. It’s easy when you are married to forget the beginning and how God brought you together. I urge you to never make that mistake. “What God has joined together…” Death was the only thing that could separate us. We had eliminated the “D” word from our vocabulary and so were forced, so to speak, to make it work. With God’s help we did.
In that first letter I said, “It’s really funny but you know God has done 100% better than me at picking out someone for me.” I quoted Psalm 37:4 and Proverbs 3:5-6 in thanking God for bringing us together. I said, “He has given me the desires of my heart – you.” It was so true. Regarding the Proverbs passage, which was my life verse and became hers, I said, “This is the Christian’s whole philosophy of life and thus it is mine and yours. As long as we follow this advice from Solomon we will always know if we are right for each other.”
As we progressed through nearly forty-three years of marriage, whenever we stayed true to His Word, “In all your ways acknowledge Him,” we were well. Sometimes we strayed, all of us do from time to time. But because we were committed to the philosophy, “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding,” we were able to make it through every trial and difficulty that came our way.
There is a false concept that many Christians embrace and I must say it is not only wrong it can be dangerous to your spiritual health and maturity. The concept goes something like this, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” This is a great falsehood and one that can give you a false sense of security in your own abilities to manage your life. Victoria was certainly more than I could “handle” because I could not even handle myself.
The truth is that God will never give you more than He can handle. The idea is that you must “trust in the Lord,” and you must not “lean on your own understanding.” We started our marriage not knowing what we were doing or how to really love one another. Our pre-marriage counseling was pitifully weak, though I didn’t know it at the time. We had to become self-taught in many ways, but the goodness of the Lord was evident in the fact that He put some very godly people in our path to help guide us. He gave both of us a thirst for His Word and the Holy Spirit was our teacher.
We were sometimes slow to get it. Add to the mix two little boys (and eventually a third), throw in a call to preach with a requirement to leave a solid and good paying career as a Naval Officer, tack on some difficult health issues, and you have a ready-made “too much to handle” situation for certain. We were poor in the eyes of the world but rich in our blessings from God. We often failed but tried our best to “acknowledge Him in all our ways.” We prayed, we read the Word, we grew in grace, we tithed, and were, for the most part, quick to confess and repent when sin overcame us. The promise was real, “And He shall direct your paths.” He was always faithful to this promise to us.
He will be faithful to you as well, dear friend. Do not go your own way but learn to acknowledge Him in everything. Sell out to Jesus and He will surely guide you to your safe haven. He never promised the paths would always be smooth and easy. In fact, the Word is clear, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13). Suffering is a normal part of the Christian life.
Don’t assume that you have enough knowledge, wisdom, grit, strength, goodness or spirituality to go it on your own. You’ve had more on your plate than you could handle since you were a baby. You are not independent – you desperately need Jesus in your life. Here is His invitation to you, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
If you will cast your care upon the Lord and take up His yoke just look to Him. You will see that He is in the other side of the harness. He takes the load and bears the weight of your heartache, pain, grief, depression and despair. Truly, He becomes the joy and rejoicing of your soul. If you can discipline yourself to praise Him for everything, whether good, bad, or indifferent from the human point of view, you will discover that your problems have transferred from your hands to His. He is so much better at handling them than you are. In your trial you will be able to find rest for your soul. It will not be easy – it will be comforting. This is what I call the principle of praise. I commend it to you even though I admit I struggle with believing and practicing it consistently.
When I concluded that first letter to the love of my life, I said, “When I count my blessings you are second only to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. After all, without Him I’d be without you. I love you, Tom.” I will see her again. Jesus will see me through, He always has, He always will. He will see you through as well if you will only trust and obey. Praise be to His Name.