Tuesday morning, while sitting in one of my favorite booths, I read this: “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9, NAS) It took me back to a Sunday evening in Norman, Oklahoma, in 1978, when I was reading in my Bible and came across this same verse. Although that night, when I read it, the words I heard in my brain were not exactly the same as the words printed on the page of my Bible. Somehow they morphed into a different phrase as they passed through my eyes. The phrase that reverberated through my brain was, “Marry Cyndi.”
The statement wasn’t totally out-of-the-blue, as if it were about some girl I didn’t know except to see across the college campus. Cyndi and I had been dating for two years. Well, we attended different universities and lived several hundred miles apart, so our dating took place during summer breaks and Christmas holidays. We wrote a lot of letters and made expensive long-distance phone calls. And to be honest, I’m pretty sure Cyndi had been thinking about marrying me for a long time before I got around to thinking about it. Being a woman of action, she was ready.
(On a side note: while working on this Journal, I sent Cyndi a text: “When did you first start thinking about marrying me?” I was expecting, at the earliest, after our first summer together. She wrote back: “As a sophomore in the high school band while sitting in the percussion section.” Two observations: (1) I was stunned that I made her list of potentials so early, since I didn’t expect to be on anybody’s list in high school; and (2) Guys are always surprised at how early this topic comes up among women.)
Sitting in my apartment in Norman, a man of patient contemplation, I wasn’t finished thinking about marriage yet. I still had more analysis to do, more options to weigh, more data to consider, more courage to ramp up; and I might have done exactly that for another couple of years except for that Sunday evening message when God told me: “Trust the plans you have in your mind because I have been directing your steps all along.”
After than night I never doubted the decision again. I still had to ask Cyndi (we hadn’t talked about it - at all - up to that point), and that was a frightening thought for me. I wasn’t scared that she would say “no,” but I was nervous about making a lifelong commitment when I knew so little about life-long things. The big-pictureness of it all scared me.
Sunday morning in our young adult Bible study class (I was there as a teacher, not as a young adult) we talked about how simple daily decisions might matter for decades.
I mentioned to them that that very morning we sang/played “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” in the 8:30 AM retro-worship service. The hymn was written in 1529. Martin Luther was simply expressing his faith through music, yet we are still singing it 482 years later. Of course he had no idea it would last so long … if he had known, it probably would have paralyzed him and he might’ve been unable to write any songs at all, much less inspiring ones.
How we live, how we tell our story of God’s grace, might matter for a very long time.
I also told a story from last week when I went with my Mom and Dad to tour a garden home in the Manor Park Village. They’re considering a move to Midland, and we wanted to see if this was a space they could live in. Our host, owner of the garden home, was a delightful 95-year-old woman who showed us her living room and bed room and closets and bathroom and kitchen, all without fear. But when she offhandedly mentioned that she’d once lived in Kermit, Texas, I saw both of my parents stop in their tracks. They started throwing out names of people they both knew, and quickly determined that our host sang in the choir when my Dad was the music minister at Grace Temple Baptist Church, around 1963. What a cool and unexpected reunion.
Once again I was reminded that how we live our life might matter, still, even 50 years later.
In the margin of my Daily Bible, next to Proverbs 16:9, I once drew a small heart with an arrow through it, to remind me of the importance of the verse. (Based on the ink color, I did the drawing in 1999.) And Tuesday morning when I saw it again I was reminded once more how the grace of God can span decades. I was glad I’d drawn the picture. I need constant reminders in my life, especially about important spiritual events. Otherwise I’ll talk myself out of believing it was God’s direct intervention. That heart-with-arrow is an Ebenezer mark for me, and reminds me that it matters how I live.
In this case, it has mattered for 33 years.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
To learn about Berry’s books, “Running With God,” go to www.runningwithgodonline.com , or “Retreating With God,” go to www.retreatingwithgod.com ,… Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson … Contact Berry directly: firstname.lastname@example.org … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: www.journalentries.org