For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you both a hope and a future. ~ Jeremiah 29:11
When I met Mark I wasn’t looking for a relationship, in my mind that ship had sailed years ago. My friend, Jen, asked me to meet her for lunch, she had recently reconnected with an old high school classmate and they had gotten married. She wanted to tell me what God had done, and was continuing to do, in her life. Little did I know my life was about to change, but God knew.
Jen and I met a few days later and enjoyed our visit as we talked about the amazing journey God had her on. The man Jen had reconnected with was in prison for stealing a car some years earlier. God had a plan and He changed Bob's life. By the time Jen reconnected with him, he had become an ordained minister working on his master degree. As we talked her eyes suddenly grew as big as saucers, she slapped her hand on the table and exclaimed, “I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before!” Then she proceeded to tell me about this wonderful, amazing, Christian man she thought I should meet.
I just looked at her and smiled, I was already skeptical. I’d been hurt in the past by men who professed to be Christians but weren’t - in any sense of the word - besides I was happy, content, and comfortable in the life I was living. Then she said, “Just one thing, he’s a felon.”
I looked at her shocked at the suggestion, and laughed, but she wasn’t joking! I told her I’d think about it, but in my heart I had no intention of ever meeting this man. I was retired from a law enforcement agency. She worked for law enforcement, what in heaven’s name was she thinking?! Was she out of her mind?
Two days later she sent me a message that she had contacted Mark and he was interested in corresponding. Without hesitating I responded back with my email address. The only explanation I have is that God moved me. After I sent it to her I couldn’t believe I did it and almost told her not to forward it, and then I thought,
“He’s in southern California, I’m in Central California, no harm in just corresponding via email, and I’ll never actually meet him.” I had no idea that God was about to turn my life upside down!
Be still and know that I am God. ~ Psalm 46:10
Mark sent the first email a couple days later. As we corresponded by email he told me his story. He told me every bit of his past, how he grew up, how he had hurt everyone in his family and that he had burned those bridges. He told me how he was arrested for drugs, and under the then-new "three strikes" law received a prison sentence of 25 years to life. He also told me how God had gotten hold of him and how his life changed as he followed God. He became a licensed minister, and lead Bible studies in prison. The rebellious young man slowly matured into a true Christ follower.
And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.~ Philippians 4:19
Mark’s family kept in touch with him and saw him change over the years in prison; they prayed for him and let him know he wasn’t forgotten. In 2012 when the three strikes law was repealed, and he was released after 19 years in prison, his sister and her husband opened their home to him and helped him get on his feet. They set him up with a truck and gave him a job at their family business. God blessed Mark with an amazing support system; he had a place to live and a job, he adjusted to life on the outside well with the love and support of his family.
I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
~ Psalms 34:4
At first we emailed every day or so, then started talking on the phone every evening. By the time I actually met him face to face a few weeks later, I loved the heart of this man. I saw a kind, gentle, tenderhearted man who loved the Lord. I could have closed my eyes and mind to God’s leading, but I had spent a lifetime making decisions based on my own will, and it always turned out badly, I wanted to be open to what God’s plan was for me.
I knew God would guide me if I just had a willing heart to follow Him, so I spent a lot of time just sitting still, with my eyes closed talking to God, and meditating on His word. If we were going to pursue a relationship, it had to be from God. One of my favorite verses kept coming up in my reading, when I listened to messages on the radio, and even at church.
Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wife be to their own husbands in everything. ~ Ephesians 5:22-24
Four months after that first email Mark asked me to marry him, and we were married a month later. We sold my house and I relocated back to Southern California. We rented a condo and started adjusting to our life together.
To say the adjustment for me was difficult is a bit of an understatement. I had to adjust to Southern California living again, being married after living alone for many years, renting a condo after owning my own home, being part of a fairly large family, sharing my personal space, and downsizing my belongings.
Some of the hardest adjustments though were communicating my thoughts and feelings, and not making all the decisions myself. It was a matter of giving up control, and some days were harder than others and I just kept talking to God through it all. God brought us together, and the key to a good, solid, happy marriage is putting God first and following His word.
In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct you Path. ~ Proverbs 3:6
When we started on this journey I spent hours reading God’s word and praying.
I had asked God for wisdom and discernment throughout my correspondence with Mark, when I met him, and when I married him. I knew I just had to read and meditate on God’s word to know the direction He wanted me to go.
We both know that God brought us together, and He continues to bless as we go through life together. Our love grows stronger daily and now I cannot imagine my life without my husband; I don’t even want to think about that. I believe that God brought us together because we need each other.
Our marriage is like every marriage, imperfect, but I wouldn’t change a minute of it. As we grow together, we learn to love unconditionally, to forgive easily, to not hold grudges, to apologize quickly, to ask for forgiveness. I have never been loved so well, so completely and so unconditionally.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
~ Romans 8:37
Life is not perfect, so I don’t look for perfection, I look for joy and contentment in what God has given us. I look at my husband and I see a man who lost a huge chunk of his life due to his own bad choices, I see a man whom God loved enough to chasten, and I believe God had compassion on Mark and gave him a second chance.
I look at my husband I see my best friend, my confidant, my lover, my biggest cheerleader, my encourager, my protection, my everything. I know this love is a gift from God and I cherish it and will fiercely protect it.
We have never doubted that God brought us together, or that we are perfectly suited for each other. Our strengths and weaknesses are complemented and strengthened by the other. God saw our needs and heard the cries of our hearts, and I believe He prepared us for each other, and when the time was right He used my friend to fulfill His plan and bring us together. I am so very thankful that for once in my life I was not stubborn, and I followed God’s leading.
But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath. For He remembered that they were but flesh, a breath that passes away and does not come again. ~ Psalms 78:38-39
© 2017 Rebecca Baldwin
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