MY WIFE AND I MARRIED over thirty years ago. It all, literally, started with green beans.
We began seminary in Texas the same semester, and never met until that eventful day in the Buddy’s Winn-Dixie grocery store. I’m known to get hyper-vigilant sometimes when it comes to spending money. Generally speaking, I don’t like to do it except to invest in life essentials (like Macs, iPhones, and hi-intensity LED flashlights). One of my first tasks upon moving to Fort Worth was to visit all nearby grocery stores to create a “best price” spreadsheet. With clipboard in hand, I surveyed five stores and discovered which had the cheapest prices on items such as chicken, spaghetti noodles, green beans, and bananas.
Buddy’s, on Seminary Drive, carried the lowest prices on store-brand canned goods. So my roommate and I drove there to purchase the cheapest items. As we turned down the canned vegetable aisle, my cart magically pulled me toward another cart. The “driver” was the cutest girl I’d ever seen. Our carts bumped, sparks flew, and I fell in love.
I didn’t want to overdo my attraction to this beautiful woman, so we chitchatted at first. After about 6.2 seconds of small talk, I asked for her address. She reluctantly gave it to me. I later discovered it was the wrong one. The rest is history.
In the last three decades in marriage and ministry, together, we have faced many difficult challenges. Without Christ, our challenges would have split us up. Our journey has led us to the church where I now serve as Senior Pastor. My wife, Sherryl, serves on staff as a counselor, oversees our assimilation ministries, and is on our teaching team.
Our personal lives have included these challenges:
- A daughter who rebelled against us for five years. We even had her arrested twice. She eventually returned to her faith and family. In addition, she and I co-wrote a book about our journey.
- Another daughter in whom the doctors discovered a brain tumor when she was one year old. Since then, she has endured five brain surgeries. And, to this day, we continue to believe God for her healing.
- When my wife was pregnant with our third child, we started a church in Atlanta. I was so “successful” that, in six months, I grew our church from an initial attendance of 51 to 17! I was not a very nice person to be around during those days.
I list these experiences not to elicit sympathy, but to show that although we’ve faced some incredible challenges, God’s grace has sustained us. As difficult as these experiences were, I’ve come to realize that other subtle (yet deadly) ministry “killers” lurk in every church. They are often just beneath the surface. They remind me of termites. I lived many years in the South, where banks require a “termite letter” before they’ll approve a home mortgage. To get such a letter, the seller must contract an exterminator to examine the home for possible infestation. Sometimes the exterminator can visibly determine damage, if soft wood surrounds windows or siding, or if he sees termite trails. Often, however, he must drill small holes into the walls to inspect for unseen damage.