Then and Now

UNHAPPY

Sometimes it is good to reflect on the past to be reminded of God’s great grace.

Here we were then.
Here we were then.

Sharon and I just celebrated our 55th wedding anniversary…wow, that went by fast. We didn’t start out very well, however, as I was not yet a Christian.

Here is a letter that Sharon wrote her mother that first year of our marriage:

Dear Mom,

I’m sorry I haven’t written sooner.  I’ve thought about you and Dad so often but am usually so tired after I get the baby to bed that I can hardly stay awake long enough to write a letter.  It seems to be Laina’s fussy time between 5 and 8:30am.  I end up holding her most of the time.  She’s waking up every three hours again.

I’ve been able to do a lot of thinking these last two weeks alone and have come to some important decisions.  I’ve really been mixed up and at loose ends until tonight.  I’ve had such a deep longing for a closer walk with God.  I knew my life has been so empty and that I was growing father away each day from the happiness I had known being surrendered to Him.  I just long for the peace and contentment I know can be mine.  I’ve changed this last year and I know Christ must be terribly disappointed in me.  My moments of happiness are so few that I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to be really happy.

I know I’ve passed up God’s intended plan for me but I’m praying somehow that God will still work in my life again and also in my marriage.  I’m so sorry too for disappointing you and Daddy.  You don’t know how hurt I’ve been so often when I think of the hopes you had for me and how I’ve failed you.  I couldn’t have asked for more wonderful parents.  If only I could live these last 2 years over again.  Now I realize the sorrows of sin.  Not particularly for myself but for my precious little baby.  How I want her to grow up loving God and finding her joy in serving Him.

Mother, I think of you so often.  I’m so concerned over Linus and how much more concern you must feel for Daddy.  We must never fail them but continue praying that someday they will give their hearts and lives to Christ.  I don’t feel there’s much time so we must be faithful.  I’m also praying for Marilyn and Patty too.  God has really placed a burden in my heart for all of you.

I hope you’re feeling better.  Be sure and let me know if anything changes and you have to go to the hospital.  Well I must go to sleep.  It won’t be long before Laina wakes up again.

Goodbye dear mother.  I’ll be praying for you, as I know you are for me.

Love, Sharon

THE BEGINNING

So wrote Sharon to her mother during her first year of our marriage.  I was not a Christian though I professed to be one when I found out that she was.  I was attracted to Sharon when we met and decided to do whatever it takes to win her over, including pulling the wool over her eyes. Soon we were married.

We were happy for the first several weeks and then my immaturity and our differences took over.  We argued about everything. I was threatened by everyone from Sharon’s past. I suspected that her parents didn’t like me, so I didn’t like them.  They didn’t like me because of the way I treated their daughter and the unhappiness she experienced and expressed such as the letter above.

Because of Sharon’ s unhappiness she turned back to God.  That threatened me even more.  I considered myself an agnostic but didn’t like anyone inferring that I wasn’t a Christian.  More so, in my self-centerdness, I didn’t want anyone to be more important to Sharon than me. I didn’t want her to go to church, read the Bible, or listen to the Christian radio station she started listening to.

Our marriage became increasingly unhappy.  We began talking about divorce and were separated on several occasions.  The only reason she didn’t quit our marriage was her desire to honor God.  I wanted to make my marriage work but didn’t know how to make it better.  The more I tried (insisted on my way) the worse things became.

THE TURNING POINT

After three years of an unhappy marriage, something happened.  I had a dream that the world was coming to an end.  I could see myself in the dream.  I was in an empty house on an empty planet.  Looking back, that that dream represented the emptiness of my life.  When I awoke I told Sharon that I believed in God and I believed in Christ—although I didn’t know what that meant.

Two months later I was studying for a test with a friend who had only recently become a Christian.  As he told me how he had come into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I began to realize that this was what was missing in my life and marriage.  The following day I attended a meeting where I understood for the first time who Jesus was/is and what he did in dying for me.  I understood that he had risen from the dead and was alive so that I could know him.  Shortly afterward I opened my life to Christ.

I began to understand what love was, as I experienced God’s love for me.  I began to understand that my life had an ultimate purpose, and upon graduation turned down several engineering job offers to go into ministry.

Needless to say, God answered Sharon’s prayers that her father and I would “give their lives and hearts to Christ.”  Six months after I received Christ, I spoke with my father-in-law about how I had become a Christian and that God was changing me.  My father-in-law replied, “If God can change Linus, God can change anyone.”  He too received Christ.

THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW

As I came into a relationship with God, my relationship with Sharon, and my relationship with her family changed.  God honored Sharon’s prayer and commitment to be faithful, even though I made it difficult for her to do so.

Laina, sharing the story of redemption in Jesus
Laina, sharing the story of redemption in Jesus

She couldn’t live “the last 2 years over again” but God brought new life into a dying relationship.  Not only did we launch into ministry but one day her “precious little baby”, Laina, would grow up loving God and finding joy in serving him too. We also had five more precious little babies.

MORE THEN AND NOW

Speaking of then and now, at the back end of the Traction retreat that I was just a part of, Sharon met me and we made our way to Holland (with friend Jamie) where I spoke at two of the churches we were part of launching. While there, we met with long time Dutch friend Lieko Helmus and his wife Rinske.

Lieko interpreting, Ralph McCall speaking and me in the background.
Lieko interpreting, Ralph McCall speaking (that’s me in the background then (1971).

I first met Lieko when he interpreted our 1973 half-time program where we presented Christ on national Dutch TV. Little did I know at that time that Sharon and I would one day be living in Holland planting churches.

Lieko played an important part of that chapter of our lives too as we were told by the Amsterdam foreign police that we would have to leave the country. This meant that the church we came to plant was in jeopardy. Lieko rallied Dutch Christians to support our stay, and obtained a lawyer to advocate for us. As a result we were able to live in Holland for the next five years, long enough to establish the Crossroads Amsterdam.

Lieko and me now.
Lieko and me now.
Part of the one of the Crossroads services now.
Part of the one of the Crossroads services now.

 

Sharon and I rejoice in the grace and goodness of God. We are thankful that He answers prayers and hears the longings of our hearts.

We give thanks for you too for journeying with us as we continue to seek to bring Him honor.

More to come by His grace and goodness,

Linus and Sharon

P.S. Next up in November: speaking and training in four cities in Brazil.


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