Chapter One: My Single Dream
Like any other young single woman, I had my “list” of characteristics for my future spouse. In slight departure from my girl-friends, my list had no requirements for physical appearance (he didn’t have to be handsome), no requirements for personality (he didn’t have to be funny), and no requirements for being romantic (he didn’t have to bring me flowers or write poetry). In fact, there was only one major desire on this list: he had to be a pastor. In the invisible parenthesis after this “one” characteristic were that he must be a Sovereign Grace boy, he must want to church plant, and he must lead like my Dad. My mother asked me once if I cared whether or not he would actually cherish me. In my naivete I truly thought that this was unnecessary because the manly leader-type I was looking for would probably not be real mushy-gushy. You married ladies are probably laughing, and you single ladies are probably horrified.
With the “musts” was one “must not”. He must not be from Chesapeake. Now this needs a bit of explanation. First, there were no guys that seemed likely candidates for a spouse. The single men in our church were older…much older. The only one my age (and he was actually younger) was Jason Reyes, and he was out of the question (obviously more to come on this topic). Second, I wanted to go somewhere else. I had been in Maryland all my life, and sang wholeheartedly with Belle of Beauty and the Beast, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can tell.” I began to collect pictures and figurines of knights in shining armor, dreaming of being whisked away to somewhere other than here!
Chapter Two: The death of a vision
Somewhere during college I thought I found the guy who fit my list. When things didn’t work out (he was not interested), I was devastated, not by him, but by death of a dream I had for being a pastor’s wife. My mother walked me through this season of my life with much compassion and wisdom. After I graduated from college, I believed that I would either be married, or be a missionary somewhere. Instead, I was working at a Christian bookstore, and substitute teaching at a middle school. It was so confusing, and I remember many nights sitting on my bed with my mom just talking and crying and praying. I thought that if I honored God by not “dating” He would come through for me, and in my mind, He didn’t. When I think back on my legalistic arrogance, thinking that my performance would result in God being obligated to bless me…I truly marvel at His mercy and patience. At the very core of my dreams for ministry, was not love for His glory, or even love for others…but love for my glory.
We joined Sovereign Grace in 1985. I was fifteen, and from that point on the leaders of the movement had a movie-star like quality in my teenage mind. I glamorized the lives of the pastors and church planters. Seeing my Dad up close only convinced me more that I wanted to marry a pastor, like him. My mother was a compelling case for ministry as well. I wanted to do the hospitality like she did. I wanted women to look to me for wisdom and counsel, just like they did for her. It all seemed so wonderful because my parents have always loved ministry. Even when it was difficult, they never complained. So when I hit what felt like old maidhood a the ripe old age of twenty three, and there was nobody on the horizon, I was very depressed.
I wish I could tell you that I reached a point where I became content with being single. I never did. By God’s grace, I was able to serve in the local church in a variety of ways including leading a teenage girls’ Bible study, playing keyboards on Sunday morning, and teaching at our church school. These things were very fulfilling, and I am so grateful for those unique years when I could really pour myself into the church. God also provided an accountability group that was very instrumental in helping me to be consistent in several of the spiritual disciplines. It was a season of growing in genuine love for the church. And slowly, I stopped dreaming of marrying a pastor. Whether that was a great spiritual accomplishment, or the work of my desire to be married, I can’t say. All I know is that I eventually changed my list to be a man who loved God, loved the church, and could lead me. But whatever His means, God helped me to lay aside the ideal of marrying a pastor.
Chapter three: The Boy Next Door
Jason didn’t literally live next door, but for a while he lived right down the street, and for years he lived in my neighborhood. We met when he was fifteen, and I was sixteen. A few “aw, isn’t that sweet” things are that he still remembers what I was wearing the first time he saw me. He also kept ribbons that fell out of a hair comb I wore for my sister’s wedding (we still hadn’t really spoken to each other). I found them after we were married in a box with every letter I ever wrote to him. The short story about our early relationship is that we dated on and off for two years with much teenage drama. It was love or hate and nothing in between. Even though this was before anyone kissed dating goodbye, I still knew that the relationship was wrong, and had much guilt over it. We finally broke up for good, with the help of my parents, and I committed to not enter another dating relationship until marriage was an option. It took me years to get over Jason.
Without going into unnecessary detail (why change now, Laurie, you’re asking), Jason at one point, a couple years after our last break up asked me if I ever thought someday in the future I could see us being married. An odd question that had something to do with the fact that my attention had recently, after years, turned to another guy. But still, a shocking question, to which I answered, “God told me you were not the one.” He was very upset. He always thought we would get married (I never knew he thought this). When I went inside, I cried and cried. After I told my mother about it she said, “Laurie, you don’t know if God told you that or not. Why would you say it that way?” I was shocked. I thought my parents would be with me on the “no more Jason” bandwagon. But they were with me on the “no more men until it’s the right time” bandwagon. Well, that conversation helped Jason to be completely free from me emotionally. Soon after he went to Knoxville.
Chapter Four: Birth of a Vision
You gals in Knoxville, if you’ve hung in here that long, were part of a crucial element in the story. In Knoxville, Jason joined Cornerstone Church, and began serving there in a way that he hadn’t at Chesapeake. He really grew spiritually in this new environment and was thriving with godly friends, and regular meetings with one of the pastors. Once in a while Jason would call me from Tennessee and we would have great conversations. It was the only time we functioned as “just friends”. I will say, however, that I was never indifferent enough to feel no pang of jealousy when he mentioned a girl he was interested in. Still, it was as neutral as we ever have been toward each other, and very strange to not love or hate as our custom was in the past.
When Jason came home, I noticed his love for the church had grown. He served at Chesapeake with the youth (along with my dad and brother, Jimmy). He played drums on our worship team. But still, he was eager to get back to Knoxville. God had different plans. His money ran out, and he had to spend a year working as a car salesman here in Maryland. God used this season in many ways in Jason’s life, but that’s a different story. During the year Jason was working to save money for UT, I became close friends with his sister Emily. I spent much time at the Reyes house with her. It’s funny to think back on how Jason would barely acknowledge me at his house. His parents were great. In fact, for all of the years Jason and I knew each other, his mother held to the conviction that I was going to be his wife. She never wavered in this…she’s the only one who never wavered.
Chapter Five: The Invisible Hand of Providence
Jason was all set to go back to Knoxville when at the last minute, God intervened and his loan fell through. Miraculously, Towson University accepted his very late application to the education department. He was disappointed, but couldn’t deny God’s hand in the whole thing. Unbeknownst to me, my dad had been praying that God would bring my husband around before the end of the year. Jason’s mom was praying that God would change our hearts toward each other.
The Reyes’ were coming over for Thanksgiving in 1994. (This was seven years after Jason and I first met.) All I remember is that Jason, Jimmy, Emily and I were playing cards and Jason was flirting with me. I kept thinking, “hey…It’s me…Laurie…what are you doing?” Still, I liked it. Something in my heart started to change towards this guy that I thought God told me I would never marry. No, he wasn’t a pastor, but he loved the Lord, he loved the church, and he was a leader. Besides, I knew him. I knew everything about him :good, bad, ugly. I watched him grow up right next to me, and rather than a prince sweeping me off of my feet to a far away land, I found comfort and charm in being with my old friend, the boy next door. In December, just in time to honor my dad’s prayer, Jason took a huge risk and asked me if I would enter into courtship (I don’t think we called it that) with him. He said he was nervous because of what I said years before, but took the risk anyway. His side of the story was that since that September when God closed the doors to go to back to Knoxville, God opened his eyes to see what was here in Maryland. It was like God put on a pair of glasses, and he could see qualities in me that he wanted in a wife. I wasn’t the southern belle he was hoping for (I am the quintessential northeast girl), but ironically, I was born in Kentucky. Good enough.
Chapter Six: Dream Come True
From that first discussion about our relationship, we knew we would marry one another. On Valentines Day, just two months later, Jason proposed to me. We were married in August of ’95. It all felt so normal, and almost matter of fact. It wasn’t the whirlwind, or fireworks, or drama that I expected. But something about it was sweeter, and even more romantic in hindsight.
Now, if you have hung in here this long and you’re still reading, you are thinking, “Hey, you got what you wanted. You are a pastor’s wife.” When I married Jason, he was going to be an elementary school teacher. Now granted, he chose this major so that if he ever wanted to be on a church planting team, he could find work anywhere. Still, neither of us thought he would be a pastor.
Jason finished his last year of school during the first year of marriage. I remember the time came for him to make a huge decision to either take one of three teaching positions offered to him, or work at the church school at Chesapeake. The church job didn’t pay well, but we had a special government home-loan that adjusted to our income level, so it was possible to live on the low salary. He prayed, sought counsel, prayed more, and decided to work for the church as a middle school teacher. We were helping the pastor over the youth at the time as well.
Over the course of a few years it became evident to the pastors that Jason had a call on his life for pastoral ministry. He began to oversee the youth ministry, and continue teaching in the school. Then through a series of events, needs arose that eventually led to his being the pastor of married life ministry (now called “adult life”). He was ordained in 2002, and continues to grow as a pastor under my dad’s leadership.
Truly the testimony of our marriage has been that God has given me what I did not deserve. He has given me more than I thought to dream of. Yes my husband is a pastor, and there is significant blessing in our lives because of this. But one thing I didn’t think to hope for was being cherished. I am the most spoiled wife I know. There isn’t a moment when I don’t feel absolutely loved and cherished by this man. He is a joy to serve. He is easy to follow. Now, rather than dreaming of being a pastor’s wife, I’m pursuing what other women, regardless of their husband’s profession pursue, being a Proverbs 31 woman, and a Titus 2 lady. I want to be worthy of this man. Even more, I want to walk in a manner that’s worthy of the gospel.
Many times when we are sitting in bed at night, reading or talking, I will say, “Can you believe we married each other…and we have four kids in the other rooms sleeping?!” I look at my handsome man (who truly gets better looking with age) and think, “I am married to my dream man!”