Equally Yoked

Equally Yoked

by Sheryl Madden, Volunteer Storyteller

I had been raised in a church where my parents were a big deal. My dad was an elder and my mom taught Sunday school. So, on Sundays, they were the epitome of Christianity. But, during the week, my mom was an alcoholic and my dad was absent due to his job.

Every time our youth group went to some sort of evangelical conference, I would run to the stage for the altar call, knowing I needed a Savior. In my teenage rationale, I thought someone would actually save me from my daily life, rescue me from the verbal abuse that spewed out of my mom’s mouth or the sexual abuse I experienced from others. But, life went on as usual.

Finally, I stopped going to church and blamed God for messing up my life. He wasn’t holding up His end of the many bargains I made with Him, so really, who needed Him anyway? And even though I knew Jesus loved me (as the Bible tells me so), I hadn’t ever heard the term “equally yoked.” I knew nothing of 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? … What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”

The road to my husband finding Jesus was filled with sharp corners and speed bumps

In truth, religion never came up in our conversations before I tied the knot with Jerry. We met on a blind date in 1982 and seemed to get along quite well. I was smitten. Not doing things God’s way, I got pregnant and gave birth to our son in 1984. Of course, Jerry and I talked about getting married after the baby was born, and we did, but not in the timeframe I had imagined. Our relationship disintegrated and we walked away from each other, no strings attached, except for this child we shared.

Fast-forward to when our son was eight or nine years old. He began asking questions about his dad, wanting to get to know him, so we set up visitation. It had to be supervised, as they didn’t know one another at all, so I, begrudgingly, agreed to go along on these play dates. After a few months, I fell in love with Jerry all over again, and he with me, so we got hitched, with our child being best man in our wedding. I think God’s name may have been mentioned in the ceremony, but really, I didn’t pay that much attention to what was being said other than the I do’s.

Christ wooed me back to Himself in 2003. I was married to the man I loved, I was completely enamored with my two sons—one who was nineteen and the other was four (God’s sense of humor, apparently)—and I’d never been so lost in my life. I tried to fill that gaping hole in my heart with many things, but as I’m sure you know, none of them worked. I needed Jesus. In desperation, I gave Him another chance. He came through in a big way by healing my fears; by cleaning up my language and my life; by giving me new friends who were also believers. I finally figured out that loving Him and serving Him were the keys to contentment. He showed me He had never stopped loving me or caring for me. But now, I was unequally yoked.

The road to my husband finding Jesus was filled with sharp corners and speed bumps, and a few times we almost veered into the ditches that lie in wait for some unsuspecting driver. Hundreds of people had prayed for us, prayed for my husband’s eyes to be opened and his heart softened.

We’d been attending a few Bible studies together for a couple years. Jerry was hearing the truth weekly, from the book of Revelation, John, and the Psalms. He took a class at Northshore about discovering Jesus, and also attended Man Camp. He didn’t attend church during the Afterlife series earlier this year until the very last week, but I would play the sermons for him on the Northshore app.

That last Sunday, I insisted he join me, telling him it would be my Mother’s Day present. So, he tagged along. When the pastor asked people to stand who were recommitting or surrendering their lives to Jesus for the first time, my husband didn’t budge. I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to reach out my hand and ask Jerry to stand with me. Then he agreed. I was filled with tears of joy.

While there was much joy on earth when my husband surrendered his life to Jesus, the heavenly celebration had to be magnificent. According to Luke 15:7, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

It occurred to us recently that we have a new marriage now, even twenty-one years into it. We are new people, new creations in Christ, with new hearts, new lives, and new priorities. So, to celebrate that, we’ve re-tied this knot, and said new vows to one another, with God at the center of it all. The poster of Joshua 24:15 that’s been hanging in my office for years has finally come true, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Hallelujah!


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