“Hi, Tami. It’s me, Bruce*. I’m calling to invite you to my wedding.”
“Your wedding? I’m a little confused. Am I coming to Colorado?” I asked.
“Um, ah, no. It’s not our wedding. It’s mine. You see, I met this girl at a Bible study. We started hanging out together, and – well – she’s pregnant. We’re getting married next month,” he said.
What else he said after that, I do not know. My world shattered, along with my heart.
This fellow was the lifeguard that laughed while I was struggling to make it to the pool’s edge after my high dive accident at Bible camp. He’d asked for my phone number before the end of the week. We began dating shortly after that.
What wonderful times we had. He would pick me up before school, and we’d drive out by the river. Instead of “necking,” though, he would read from the Bible, we’d talk about God, then pray together.
He often showered me with sweet, thoughtful gifts and flowers, and his nickname for me was, “Beautiful.”
Talk about a “storybook romance.” Who wouldn’t love a guy like that?
Now, my dreams of “happily ever after” were gone.
My parents must not have been home when I received that call. I screamed and hollered, and trashed my room.
“HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?”
My anger turned to rage and I ranted at the God who would give me such a wonderful gift – and then yank it away. “You could have changed my parents’ minds and let us get married. Why didn’t You?”
I hated my parents. Yes, I was only sixteen. So what? Why did they refuse to let us get married before he left for boot camp? This was all their fault.
Spent and defeated, I slumped to the floor. This had been too good to be true. I’d known it all along. Who could really love me? After all, I was such a loser. It really wasn’t that big a surprise. Deep down, I’d expected something like this from the start. I’d been found out.
The next time a fellow asked me to marry him, I said “yes” and set the date for just a couple of months out. Every day I was afraid that he would also call and cancel.
The wedding day arrived, and we were still intact, so we got married.
As happens with newlyweds (especially those who don’t know each other very well – we’d only met three months prior), there were many adjustments to be made. I was unprepared for marriage, and my expectations were great. The bar had been set high by Bruce. No one would ever be able to compare.
After fights, when I was alone, I would cry out, “Bruce, how could you do this to me? Don’t you know what I’m going through?”
At other times I would rail against God, “How could You do this to me? Why did you take Bruce away from me? Life could have been so much better. Am I that horrible a person?”
About two months after I was married, Bruce called to say that his marriage was over. Did I want to go out?
“No can do, buddy. I’m married now.”
Then my marriage ended – and I called him. Of course, by then he was remarried.
Then I remarried. Six years into this marriage, he called, his second marriage failed and he was available.
We talked for almost three hours. Would I go to dinner with him?
“You could bring your husband. I really want to see you.”
(To say “yes” would be dangerous, I was too vulnerable and I knew it.)
Four years later, I was divorced again and living on my own with my four children. I put a lot of time and effort into dolling up our townhouse – lots of lace and frills. I loved it. In my mind, I was convinced that Bruce was also free, and that this was our big chance to begin life together. I imagined the two of us cuddled up on the couch. My kids would love him, I was sure of that. Kids everywhere loved the guy.
I’d found this promise in God’s Word: “I know the plans that I have for you, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I was sure that this was the time when God would make good on His promise. He would set right His horrible mistake for keeping Bruce from me. Life was finally going to be good.
My home was finished, everything in its place, and it was time to make the phone call. I didn’t have his current phone number, so I contacted a mutual friend. I knew they’d kept in touch, and she would know how to reach him.
Since she and I hadn’t spoken in years, I felt it would be rude to call just to ask for his number. We chatted for quite a while, catching up on one another’s lives.
Our conversation turned to romance, and she tossed out this comment:
“I was devastated when I heard that Bruce killed himself.”
Everything went black and I struggled to maintain consciousness.
All my hopes, all my dreams, shattered once again – this time it was permanent. There would be no “next time.”
I hated God more than ever. What came next was very ugly. I rebelled in every way imaginable. It took more than 10 years for me to come to the end of myself and finally realized how desperately I needed God – and how deep His love was for me.
In His great kindness, the Lord began to bring to remembrance things about Bruce that I’d overlooked while we were dating: his immaturity, his struggle with bi-polar disorder, the times he’d put my life in danger while in a rage. Sure, he always apologized sweetly afterward, and we’d “kiss and make up.” It wasn’t all flowers and fluff. There’d been many evidences that he was mentally unstable. In my “love,” I’d overlooked them.
It took a long time for me to appreciate that God, in His infinite mercy and kindness, had spared me. He did not want me to be the one who lived with the guilt of a husband who’d taken his own life; to be the mother who had to explain to his children why he didn’t love them enough to live.
Our last conversation together, when he was so desperate to see me again, had been his desire to say “good-bye.” Within the month, he was dead. I was spared the guilt of not recognizing the signs and doing something to “save him from himself.”
From this, I’ve learned that when God says “no,” He has a good reason. Because I can’t see beyond today, and don’t know others’ hearts, I lack understanding. After this episode, however, it is much easier to trust God’s ways and His wisdom.
God’s plans for me were for good, and not for evil. Thanks to Him, I have a future and a hope…
…and a wonderful husband of 17 years who loves and cares for me.
Thank You, Lord!