Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)In the backseat of a '63 Chevy Nova, on a sweltering Alabama summer afternoon, my mother fingered the lace edge of her Sunday dress. Sweat trickled down her back and the skin on the back of her legs stuck to the leather seat. In the front, her father was banging the dashboard and yelling at her mother.
"I don't care what you say, Ruby. I will never believe that horse crap. There is no such thing as a loving God."
Ruby, who would become my Granny, took a deep, calming breath.
"Donald, nothing I say ever will make you believe. Only the Spirit of God Himself will take those scales from your eyes."
Less than one year later, my alcoholic Papa met Jesus at a revival. He went on to follow a calling into ministry and became a traveling pastor and Bible scholar. Papa went home to be with our Savior in 1984, and all I remember of him is kindness. My mother, however, remembers who he was before he became a Christian.
I grew up in church and by the time I came of age, I knew I shouldn't date unbelievers. I knew it in a common-sense knowledge kind of way, but I had a wayward heart that tended to rebellion. When it came to falling in love, I left my common sense at home.
Following my heart led me through some painful years, but God never left my side. One day, I'll tell you all about it. Some of those things come back to haunt me from time to time and I'm sure one day they'll come nipping at me heels, begging me to write about them.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. (Psalm 139:7-8)
I met Eric during a dark time in my life. I looked up from sweeping the floors in the coffee shop one morning, and there he was. His breath came out like fog in the cold air as he opened the door into the cafe, rubbing his thick bear hands together for warmth as he approached my register.
"Large peppermint cappuccino," he ordered. My thumb grazed his as I took his debit card from him. I glanced at his name on the card, then back to his warm green eyes. He smiled, broad and shyly. My heart flew away in that moment, off to follow him through his days in my imagination.
Then my morning shifts became precious. I was eager for that moment when he'd pull his Honda Civic up to the curb outside. My morning companion, an African immigrant named Jackie, caught us glancing at each other and she began to tease me as the six o'clock hour drew near each morning.
"Ah, you are waiting by the window for your big man," she'd say, her accent lovely. I'd blush. "Ah ha, I knew it. You can't keep a secret from Jackie."
Eric and I were married about a year and a half later. We said our vows in a traditional ceremony, in a garden underneath a trellis covered by honeysuckle vines. His uncle, a Baptist preacher like my grandfather, prayed a blessing over our marriage and presented us, man and wife, to a modest assembly of twenty or thirty witnesses.
It wasn't until I was pregnant with Seth that I realized Eric didn't believe the same things about God. We weren't churchgoers in those years, and we didn't talk about religion. But God was working on me: He was whispering in my ear and I grew hungry for His word again in a way that I hadn't for more than ten years.
Here, almost five years later, God has returned my heart to flesh and restored my faith. I couldn't begin here to share all the grace He's shown me in the past few years: the miracles He's woven into my story and the life He's given to my spirit. It will take a long time to write this story out and I can only tell it a little bit at the time.
Eric still isn't a believer. I love him so deeply it hurts, but we can't find common ground when it comes to faith. Yet my Father tells me, when I rest my soul in His presence, I love him even more than you do, My precious daughter. I am working the stone of his heart into clay in My own way.
I know Eric is meant for me. I have to believe that my husband will be saved one day. I long for that day with an ache that I can't put into words. God is refining me through this season, teaching me to depend fully on Him for comfort. I have to draw near to the Lord and trust Him to work our story out in a way that will exalt Him only.
I'm astounded at God's grace for my life: that even when my ears weren't turned to the the sound of God's voice, He led me directly into His will for my life. He was there with me when I had walked far from the right path and He's with me even now as I navigate the thorny trail back into His purpose for me.
I've learned that God's will is not waiting on things to be "right" in our house. All I am guaranteed is this moment and my ministry lives in how I live my life today. There is no perfect circumstance for living the life I've been called to live, and my testimony doesn't depend on someone else's approval to take flight and become a beacon of grace for hurting people.
Praise God for our sisters and brothers that give up their earthly possessions to be missionaries in distant lands. Sometimes though, the people that need Jesus the most are the people nearest to you. Sisters, is there anyone around you now that desperately needs to see God's love through you? Let's not wait for another time to live the life He's called us to. The mission field is under your feet right now.
Image notes: all images used under Creative Commons license. The photographs originally used in this post have been changed. Sources: 1 | 2