In Romans 1, Paul writes that in the Gospel the “righteousness of God is revealed.” The Gospel reveals how to bring us into relationship with God, into living in alignment with His ways, and it gives us the power to do so. Despite this good news of the gospel, men, in their unrighteousness, suppressed the truth. Although they knew God, they did not honor God. They ignored His greatness, His truth, His goodness, His holiness, generosity, glory, His power, His presence. They determined to live life by their own standards.
That described me – living by my own standards. This was in spite of the fact that I grew up in what you might think was a nearly perfect Christian home. I loved and respected my parents and went away to college thinking they had never quarreled. But my faith was shallow. I had head knowledge, but no real sense of God’s presence, or of living before Him. I was strong-willed, and in college I turned away from all I’d been raised with.
After graduation I moved home and began teaching. But on weekends I continued to live however I chose. I later learned that at one point during this period, my father sat on the couch and tearfully said to my mom, “I think we’ve lost her.” But God had other plans. Ezekiel 34:11 says, “For thus says the Lord, I, I Myself, will search for my sheep and will seek them out.” He began to seek me out.
“God, through ways we have not known, will lead His own.” And He used Ray, who is now my husband. I didn’t view him as marriage material at first. But Ray was a southern gentleman with good manners and he loved to please me. It was hard to resist, and we began dating seriously. And then God used Ray’s two-year-old son, Benji, to get me back into church. Ezekiel 34:13 says, “And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them . . . and bring them to their own land, and I will feed them . . .” God did this with me. We began attending church so Benji could go to Sunday School. God was feeding me and putting His word into me, even though I didn’t even realize it. And He was feeding Ray. During this time Ray became a Christian. Now there was nothing to hold me back from marrying him. Six months later we were engaged, and a year after that, we married.
Life was good. Or rather, God was good to us. Looking back, I can only think how He showed His goodness time and again. And it was during this time that God was good in an unexpected way. My dad was diagnosed with a rare leukemia at age 47. I certainly hadn’t planned that, and I was devastated. For the first time I started to seriously think about God. But real heart change was not yet happening. For me at this point, the Gospel was a way to heaven and not much more. I, and my plans and purposes for my life were my idols.
Part of my plan was to have a baby by the time I turned 30. Ashley was born two weeks before that birthday. This was when God’s feeding began in earnest.
I went on maternity leave and began to listen to Moody radio. I watched my dad accept what God was sending into his life with an unwavering trust in Him and His ways. God was softening my heart, and I was observing and listening in ways I never would have. Verse 14 in Ezekiel 34 says, “I will feed them with good pasture . . .” Again, God orchestrated circumstances to bring this about. My sister moved back to our hometown with her husband to raise support for the mission field. She and I began to read Christian classics together – books by Andrew Murray, FB Meyer, Fenelon, Thomas a Kempis, Brother Lawrence, John Owen. I went back to work and started a Bible study with other teachers. Then our second daughter was born, and I decided to retire.
Ray really didn’t have much to do with that decision. By now he had gotten another promotion and was so in demand at work that the household was run entirely by me. Ray didn’t seem to mind; he worked long hours and came home exhausted. I became increasingly resentful at his lack of involvement in the responsibilities of the home and with me. I was more interested in being loved than in loving, in being served than in serving. I don’t think I even knew that concept. I remember my mom saying often, “Relationships are more important.” But instead I complained a lot and our relationship became strained and cool.
In spite of this, we both loved our family of now three daughters and had an image to uphold in the church. Ray was the chairman of the mission committee and worked in Awana. I was leading Bible Studies. And besides, I was Omar Brubaker’s daughter! My dad (whose cancer was in a remission-like stage) was now a professor at Moody. My mom was the director of a church nursery school. She was an artist and had illustrated many Christian children’s books. One sister was on the mission field, and another had married a young Trinity professor, soon-to-become pastor. Marital difficulties just didn’t occur in my family.
Meanwhile I knew Ray was becoming increasingly distant and involved in his job’s responsibilities. But I thought I could manage everything – just as I had done all our lives. Serious problems were not part of my plan. And I knew it was serious when he came home one day and announced that he had taken a year-long assignment in New Jersey – without even talking to me about it. He would go alone, living in NJ during the week and flying home each weekend. And there was nothing I could do about it. I remember where I was standing in my kitchen shortly after that, feeling helpless and thinking, “so this is what it means to trust God.” I was at the end of my control over anything. If things were going to change, God had to do it.
Through a long year of waiting and learning to trust, God continued to work in me. His Word became so real and dear. When I couldn’t talk to Ray, or he wouldn’t listen, I gave voice to my heartbreak with the Psalms. I read and reread the Old Testament, clinging to the promises of restoration and hope. I began to pray, “Lord, show me who I am.” He was certainly faithful to answer. When I thought I couldn’t go on, He reminded me, “But I will be with you” (Judges 6:16).
I learned to “strengthen myself in the Lord,” and at the end of that year, I had come to the point where I could say, “God, if nothing changes, I will be OK with just You.” A few days later, I read these words in Haggai: “From this day onward . . . I will bless you.”
And He did. Verse 16 of Ezekiel 34 says: “I will seek that which was lost and bring back that which has strayed, and I will bandage the hurt and the crippled. . .” Our marriage began to mend.
I still pray “Lord, show me who I am.” (I recommend it to all of you.) I am learning to prize union with Christ above all else. And a favorite poem is this one:
“Calmly we look behind us, on joys and sorrows past; We know that all is mercy now and shall be well at last; Calmly we look before us – we fear not future ill, Enough for safety and for peace, if Thou art with us still.”
Psalm 52:8 “But . . I trust in and confidently rely on the loving-kindness and mercy of God forever.”