“Come to Sunday School! No way. I just want to sit in the back of the church. I didn’t want to come anyway. No, I will not do the Sunday School!” It has been over thirty years, and I’m certainly not sure the words are correct, but I do know that the sentiment is. I did not want to go to Sunday school. I agreed to go to a big Methodist church so I could get lost, not be found. I knew from experience that small groups like Sunday school led to other things. They led to involvement, something I desperately wanted to avoid. We had been to church just once, and already I could see where this was going. I tried to sit in the back and not even make eye contact with anyone, but Julia was more outgoing than I had ever seen her, and she was talking to almost everybody. I just wanted to quickly get to the nursery and get the kids, get out of there and go home. Too late, we were caught. A couple was talking to Julia smiling and making nice. I just wanted out, but I was trapped. The woman and Julia hit it off right away. They were about the same height, which was strange since Julia said she was 5’0’, but she was really shorter. Anyway I had to smile and make small talk, which I hated. Then the invitation happened. “We would love to have you visit our Sunday School class next Sunday.” Instead of being nom committal like I was, Julia said, “We would love to”. I was furiously seething under my breath but I calmed down when I remembered was on call and would probably be flying anyway. So that was our first encounter with John and Biddie Steed. I’m sure that they never had any idea about how mad I was that day until I told them later.
Well I lost the battle, and eventually we started attending the “Open Door” Sunday school class. It really was a good class with lots of great couples. John was the teacher, and he was pretty good. If I had to go to Sunday school, it could have been worse. Church was interesting too. I was hoping for a large dead church. What we walked into was a strong evangelical church where the preacher preached salvation. This church was more like a Baptist church than a Methodist. I had been totally set up by the Holy Spirit and didn’t even know it. We even had a visit form te pastor right after we first visited. I was impressed and amazed. It seems that my heart was melting a little bit. But there was still a long way to go. The church was different than the Baptist church in one way. The emphasis was more on the Good News of Jesus Christ rather than the punishment of Hell. Things were starting to have an impact in different ways.
I thought that Julia and I had a good marriage. We didn’t throw things at each other, and no one ever got violet when we fought. But we did fight, a lot. Most of it was on unmet expectations that each of us had for the other. Most of the times they ended quickly, but sometimes they could last for days. Many times I would love to go on a trip, just to get out of the house. I’m sure if Julia were to tell you, she was glad for me to go to. If you looked form the outside in, you might have thought everything was OK. According to the world, we were doing great. We had been married almost ten years and for the most part things were OK. But we were seeing marriages in our Sunday school that were radically different from ours. Sometimes it really made me nervous. These husbands were actually paying attention to their wives, and holding hands when they walked. They brought them flowers foe no reason. The wives were even worse. It was like they were making “goo-goo” eyes to them in public. In some ways it was almost disgusting. But in other ways it was intriguing. What did they have that we didn’t? Were we missing out on something? Well it didn’t take long to find out that all of them had been to a weekend called “Marriage Encounter”. It was a weekend away that had been started by the Catholic church and adopted by the Methodist and other denominations. Almost every couple in our Sunday school except us had been to this weekend, so the pressure for us to attend was being put on. Once again I wanted no part of this or any other “marriage” training. I wasn’t going to go. But as the habit had become, I lost this battle as well. Why was I losing all these battles? Looking back, I can certainly see the work of Holy Spirit in my life then. I really think He would work to soften my heart just a little so there would be a crack in my armor and then I would give in. It seems like I, no we were being sit up. Papa wanted what we had promised. He wanted our lives. So anyway, Julia and I agreed to go on an encounter weekend. We were both nervous and ready to walk out at the drop of a hat. But we went and I am so glad that we did. That weekend changed my life, and changed our marriage both for the good. In fact, for me it was one of the most “life changing” events I ever attended. But that story will have to wait for another night.