My Gram has this saying about specific moments of her life that I have a whole new appreciation for lately. To understand, I’d like to share with you one of my all-time favorite stories.
When mg Gram was in her early twenties, she met a handsome, charming sailor with $45 in his pocket. They went on three dates in two weeks. On the third date, he took her to meet his family. Afterwards, he asked her if she’d like to go get a blood test. It’s funny to me to hear her recount this story to me because, in her later years, she is meek, quiet, and gentle. But as a young woman, she responded with a playful kind of feisty I find adorable. She said to him, “What would I want to get blood test for?!” She said he smiled and explained, to get married. I’m fairly certain her response was, hilariously, “Well, sure.”
They went for their marriage license, which she explains is a good 15 minutes from her family’s home – which, typical of a small, Appalachian town, the clerk would have known. She needed a parent’s signature for her to get married, so they took the form out to the car, forged my great-grandmother’s signature, and within five minutes, went back in with the completed form. Without fail, she blushes a little bit, and laughs playful as she recounts this part. In her 80’s, she’d never commit such blatant deceit. But she smiles, because even if the clerk knew, they were approved for marriage anyhow.
They left and went to a department store to buy her a new dress to get married in, selecting a sweet, little, blue peplum number with a dainty, velvet, floral print on it. Cashing out, they shared with the cashier that, as soon as they found a minister, they were going to get married. As fate would have it, the cashier’s husband was a minister, and he was in the back office! So, she changed into her new dress, they headed to the back of the store, and right then and there, on a random September afternoon, they were married.
Nearly 70 years later, that handsome sailor is still her husband. After only a two week courtship, they’ve shared a lifetime of love and happiness and faithfulness. They spent the few years separated by deployments, but once my grandfather found steady work in Ohio, he sent for my Gram, and they planted their roots in the same place they still are this very day. They lost one daughter mere hours after birth, but had two healthy sons in the years that followed. They hosted each of my Gram’s siblings as they moved north to work for Ford and the steel mills, and they personally cared for each of her siblings that fell ill, and sadly, passed on before she was ready to say goodbye. They served at church until their health prevented them from being able to commit reliably, lived modestly but contently, working for every luxury two kids from coal country could ever dream of. It’s been a life they both look back on with pride.
But, when my Gram tells this story, she makes one strong admission: it was a foolish thing that she did.
Marrying a man she had basically just met was reckless, and it could have ended badly. There are a million ways it could have gone so much differently than the happy life she’s been fortunate to live with him these last many years. Every time she talks about it, she says:
“Yeah, God took care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself.”
I was having a conversation recently with a few people, and we were discussing the options of a young, potentially single woman with two children. “Who would even want all that baggage?” got brought up. This makes me laugh, even now, weeks later, because here I am, a young(ish) mother of two with TONS of baggage, and yet, I have a wonderful husband who loves me fiercely, and loves my children as if they were his own. He’s a better husband and father figure then I even ever imagined finding in this world – and that’s saying a lot.
But, as they recognized and praised him, citing him as a source of hope for good fortune to come the way of this young woman, my Gram’s saying rested heavy on my heart.
God took care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself.
I wasn’t in a good place when I met my husband. I was married to my first husband, and even though we’d known each other for a few years in passing, we’d really only been forming a friendship for a few months. Our pursuit of one another in any sort of a romantic way ultimately only lasted about two and a half, maybe three weeks, before I took the huge leap to confess I’d been in this developing relationship and wanted to leave. It was a reckless, messy, scandalous start for us.
There are a million and one ways this could have gone so much worse than it has. Especially in our circumstances, with such an unsavory thing like an affair as our romantic launching point, I’ve fielded my fair share of warnings made out of assumptions about his character and level of commitment. And yet, he stepped up immediately, providing for me and my children, committing himself not only to me, but to my children and my family – even if he wasn’t immediately accepted. He has proven himself in so many ways, and the blessing that he is is not lost on me.
Despite what so many had to say about him, about me, and about what our relationship would be, not one of them are true nearly two years later.
Looking back, where I was spiritually and emotionally – so broken, unfulfilled, and yeah, a little desperate – who knows what kind of bullshit a scum bag could have sold me to get me to do the same exact thing. I’ve said so many times that God knows the weapons the enemy is forming against us, and not that He ever facilitates our sin, but I think He’s capable of using those same tools to bring us back.
The Word says that right? That weapons formed against us shall not prevail? (Isaiah 54:17). That, what is meant for evil, God will use for good? (Genesis 50:20).
I don’t know. Maybe it’s a stretch. But God is big. Like, BIG. Bigger than we even know or imagine. I think it’s possible.
I think it’s possible He works, not only to redeem our mistakes after they’re made, but also works before we make them and while we’re making them. He’s always working.
He’s always taking care of us, even when we can’t take care of ourselves.