by Bob Lupton God doesn’t speak to me very often. Not audibly anyway. Certainly I have experienced the nudges and promptings of the Spirit. That’s not so infrequent. But seldom, only a handful of times in my sixty-eight year lifespan, has the divine Voice been so clear and forceful that I would confidently claim that God spoke to me.
The last time I heard a clear Voice was five years ago shortly after Peggy and I got married. We had decided to begin each day with a devotional time together, something new and quite exciting to Peggy. She is a cradle Catholic, raised and schooled in the doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. Her faith is deep but quite personal and private. I, on the other hand, am a preacher’s kid, Bible school graduate, and beneficiary of decades of animated preaching, energizing Bible studies and countless volumes of Christian books. Quite naturally I took the lead in our morning devotionals. Peggy was quiet at first but in no time at all was engaging in stimulating discussion. It was a rewarding way to begin our days.
I thought it might be good to study some of Saint Paul’s writings together. By looking directly into the scriptures Peggy might see for herself some of the questionable teachings in her church’s theology. I tried to let the scriptures do the work on their own but found it hard to resist making corrective applications. The priesthood of all believers, confession of sins one to another, justification by faith alone – the temptation was irresistible for me to point out that these pillars of Protestant reformed doctrine all had solid scriptural foundations. It was all very disturbing to Peggy. She wanted to see it in her bible. So we started reading from the authorized Catholic version. Same thing, no significant difference. But rather than being enlightened by our study, she became increasingly distressed. Her religious training had not equipped her to argue theology but rather to merely accept it, whereas I cut my teeth on religious debate. My tradition is “protest”-ant, after all. So while I was enjoying challenging her beliefs, she was becoming more and more disconcerted.
That’s when God spoke to me. The Voice broke into a particularly upsetting morning discussion. “Leave her alone! Stop tearing down her faith. That’s how she relates to me. Encourage her.” It was as clear as a bell, almost audible. It came with such clarity and force that I stopped mid-sentence in my line of reason and closed the bible. This would mark the end of my covert strategy to convert my new wife to my Protestant beliefs.
The following morning we began reading a daily-bread-type devotional book – pablum that emphasized such basics as thoughtfulness, kindness, servanthood, forgiveness and other such practical lifestyle helps. Peggy’s countenance brightened. Our discussions turned positive. One morning the reading was about “loving your wife as Christ loved the church and laid down His life for her.” I had read that scripture many times but for some reason this time it stuck with me throughout the day, and the next. It occurred to me that one of the most loving acts I could do for Peggy was to attend church with her. I knew it brought her joy to have me sitting beside her in worship. I had agreed to go with her on occasion but the Catholic mass did little to satisfy my spiritual appetite. The music was dreary, the sermons uninspiring and the rituals unfamiliar. But the message from that little devotional book kept re-playing in my spirit – “…as Christ loved the church…laid down His life for her…” Could I, should I, lay down my religious preferences as an act of obedience, as an expression of love for my wife?
Most Sundays now find me sitting alongside Peggy in her church. She often squeezes my hand during worship and smiles. I try to get something out of the service though there is not very much that ignites my soul. What I do feel, however, is the smile of God. And that may be the best worship of all.