When I met him, I was eighteen years old sitting with my mother in a television studio watching her favorite Christian program being broadcast live. I had just graduated from high school and was not sure what direction my life was going to take.
I was raised Lutheran and went to Lutheran schools. For nine years I not only attended church and Sunday school, but I was required to take religion classes at school and attend chapel weekly. By the tenth grade, however, not long after my first communion, my mother gave up making me go to church.
During my senior year, though, I was invited to a different kind of church. Their passionate worship and preaching moved me to tears. I would later learn that their teachings were false, but their enthusiasm for the Bible got me going to church and reading the Bible of my own free will for the first time in my life.
Weeks later, hand pressed against the hand of an evangelist on the TV screen, my mother prayed her own way into this new kind of Christianity. That is how I ended up at the TV station that summer evening.
The young man was riding a boom and busy running the camera, so he sent his brother to ask for my number. Weeks later he picked me up for our first date. We sped off in his red Corvette to meet a group of his friends for dinner.
He came from a prominent Christian family. He was charismatic. He was funny. And he was cruel. He delighted in mocking of the weaknesses of others. One thing I had learned from reading my Bible was that Christians were supposed to be kind (1 Cor. 13.4, Gal. 5.22). That evening I went from attracted to troubled. When I got home I told my mother about my concerns, and she got on the phone for a conference call with two of her new church friends.
This relationship, they prophesied, was from God. This young man and I, they declared, would marry and have a national ministry. They told me, in other words, to disregard what the Scripture said, and listen to them. I did. I let myself fall in love.
That phone call became, for me, the portal to a secret world where I strained to hear the voice of God and where people who heard voices that I couldn’t charted the course for my life. A year or so later, when that young man had an affair with his best friend’s wife, and left me in the wake of his perfidy, that secret world became a world of fear and distrust, as God became, to me, a cruel joker.
Yet deep beneath my fear of that secret world remained the memory that, through the Scriptures, the Spirit of God had warned me that love is kind. God was not a trickster. He had spoken, and, through the Scriptures, He continues to speak.