“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
It has been exactly twenty one years today since my husband and I went on our very first date. We met at a Young Life camp where we were both working one summer. We ate at my favorite pizza place, saw a movie and then got back to camp just in time to join in all the fun activities. It did not feel like a first date because we had common ground. We both were Christians and loved the ministry of Young Life. Over the course of the day, we found out that we had more in common. Getting to know each other became a priority over the next few weeks. I still had another month to work at camp and he returned to Texas to work for the local chapter of Young Life. Distance wasn’t that big of a deal, we kept in touch and continued to get to know each other through letters and long phone calls.
I was a recent college graduate and had not secured a job after camp was over. During one of our conversations, he told me that there was an opening in his town with this ministry. Only the Lord could have orchestrated the events that followed that placed us in the same city. It was exciting at first moving from North Carolina to Texas. The leaving behind of wonderful friends and family and moving was hard. The new quickly wore off and the reality of living alone for the first time ever was even harder. However, over time I found a place to belong, made friends to serve alongside. Then we got engaged and months later we were married on a beautiful fall day. It has been almost twenty years and seven kids later, but we are still dating each other and learn new things about each other all the time.
I had no idea what God had in store for us back then. My dreams of marriage and family pale in comparison to what our life has actually been. It has been difficult at times, but fuller than I could have ever imagined. We made a promise to each other, with God and to our friends and family that we would remain faithful to one another. We belong to each other and it is the Lord that keeps us bound tightly. I have wondered how in the world those who do not know and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and love of Jesus survive in marriage. He put us together and we intend to stay that way. It takes remembering who we belong too, what is inside of us and who we now are in Christ to daily love well in marriage. We live out of this love inside, not from a place of what was in our old selves before we accepted the offer of a relationship with Jesus. For me, my old nature of selfishness, pride and anger can raise it’s ugly head at times. For that there is grace and forgiveness.
You know, I have thought that my time was wasted when I dated other guys during high school and college. However, the truth is that it made meeting my husband that much better. I had no idea how unselfish, kind, honest, honorable and fun a young man could be. While not perfect, he is perfect for me and loves well. Out of all the girls in the world, he chose me. For that I am so thankful and I would choose him again and again.
This past week, with our oldest off at camp and returning today, we have talked often about our Young Life days. It is fun to remember and be grateful. She came home tired, but full of life. I will say she had a hard experience last year at camp, but Young Life was totally redeemed this week. We are actually very thankful for last years experience because it made this week that much better and she appreciated it that much more. Having a place to belong makes all the difference. She actually did have the best week of her life…so far. We have spent the day hearing highlights and fun stories. She came home a bit more confident than when she stepped on the bus. I am reminded of the rainbow that day and can say again, “…the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9).
The biggest take away for her from this week made my heart smile. To send a child that is already in love with the Lord to more of an outreach camp, I had to wonder what she would gain. There were lots of hopes and prayers for this week and I knew God would pursue her. What she told us that meant the most came from the talented music guy working at camp this month. He just happened to be at camp with us when Maggie wasn’t even a year old. I love that! Fast forward 16 years, and she is now sitting in the audience. He is a faithful God! He said, “God said you are Mine”. It was such a powerful reminder to her that she is chosen and made new. He died for her and she is dead to sin and has Christ living inside of her. She belongs to the family of God.
And just like in a marriage covenant, we are in a covenant of belonging to God. It is not always easy, but when we remember who lives inside of us, we have faith to press on. The knowledge of love our heart and mind is almost too much. How can we not do anything but respond with our lives? It is quite a romance. And just like my husband and I when we were getting to know each other, we spent time together, read each others letters and talked often. The same is available to us as we fall in love and remain in love with God. He is just waiting to say the same to you, “You are mine.”
*I woke up with Galatians 2:20 in my head and was excited to hear one of our pastors teach on this verse this morning.