Love Story is one of Martin’s favorite movies and he recently told me to put it in my Netflix queue so we could watch it together. It came in the mail this weekend but we put off watching it twice because it has a sad ending. Neither one of us felt like crying and he said, “Maybe we should watch a movie where we don’t know the ending cause this one we know what we’re in for.” Endings can be happy or sad, tragic, uplifting, or depressing and we can try to avoid them but they are inevitable.
Today Martin came on Skype with a face that looked very serious and told me it had been a sad day. I didn’t know what he would say next. Many things rushed through my mind. He got choked up and told me that his pastor made the decision to move his family back to the states and is leaving the church in Exeter. Their last Sunday will be my birthday weekend while I’m in England and he and his family have tickets to fly home the very same day I am flying home on October 10. As he shared with me these details and more of the church’s reaction the tears welled up in his eyes and dripped off his cheeks. I started crying too because I know that this man, Martin’s pastor, has been like a Christian lifeline to him in a very secular world. He came along side Martin as a friend and a spiritual advisor, met with him on several occasions and encouraged Martin in the Lord. He was the only one other than me. And we are both leaving him on the same day.
Martin said he had been spoiled by the teaching and friendship he received from this man but I told him he wasn’t spoiled because he never took it for granted or felt like it was owed to him. What he was, was blessed by it. It is an end of something though and I think it will turn out to be the ending of Martin’s beginning in his walk with Jesus. This will be a marker that transitions Martin into a new, deeper, and more mature walk in his faith because it will be up to him now more than ever to keep it growing on his own. Going from milk that babies are fed to chewing on the meat that he has prepared for himself (Hebrews 5:14).
It was so brave of Martin to accept Jesus into his life and dedicate himself to following Him. He wasn’t brought up in the church, has no actively Christian friends but has always felt like something was missing in his life until he found it in the teachings of the Bible. He was mocked openly by some. He was challenged by others. He stood his ground at work on some issues that raised some eyebrows but he never wavered in his commitment. None of us are perfect of course and he as we all have stumbling blocks and areas where we need to step things up but I’ve been so very proud of him.
It was Martin who brought up God that first night I met him. It was one of the first things he talked about. He had been attending a church with a neighbor. He’d been on a trip to Turkey where he met some very nice Muslims and was captivated by the seriousness with which some of them took their faith. He wanted a deeper and closer relationship with God and wanted to know more about the God in the Bible. And Karen and I looked at each other and Karen said, “Well I’ve been in the ministry since I was 17 years old and Livvy works for a Christian ministry too.” I went on to explain the kind of work I do and Martin’s jaw almost dropped right open. He couldn’t believe he had met two Christians. I literally saw him get excited. He couldn’t talk enough about it. That is how it all started at the dinner table that night. With the Lord. And I got to share my faith for really the first time with a stranger who wanted desperately to know more about it. He soaked it up. And I got to see him accept the Lord in his life. What a tremendous honor to be used like that. I remember saying if that result alone was all we got for our meeting it would have been enough for me. Little did I know we were to fall in love. Wow.
Once Martin made his commitment after hearing and learning more about the Gospel and what it meant to be a Christian he went home to find a church where he could grow, but it was tough going. Then I thought to look online for a church like the one I go to and found one two miles away from where he was living. I looked up the name of the pastor and found him on Facebook and messaged him telling him the story about Martin being a new believer and would he reach out to him. Martin went to a Bible study that very night on a Wednesday and I remember Martin saying that he instantly felt right at home.
Martin blossomed under his teaching. We’ve had dinner over their house each time I’ve visited England, and we were planning on asking him to marry us over there and were trying to work out how it could happen given all the rules. But they have 5 children and 80% of their support came from the church who sponsored them and from friends and family in America. Only about 20% came from offerings at the church. They just can’t make it financially. It is so sad. He was doing such a good work.
So this ending is sad for us. But it allows us to reflect and be grateful that God put this American pastor from California two miles away from Martin’s home so that Martin could grow just when he needed it. His sister and brother and niece all went to church for the first time in decades because of Martin inviting them along and hopefully seeds have been planted in them that will cause them to want to trust God as their Lord someday.
God knows what He is doing not giving us the endings of the story He has for each of us. It’s like Martin said, we don’t really like to watch the movies when we already know the endings. I’m sure we would invest ourselves differently if we knew and probably miss out on many opportunities to learn, grow, and experience life. Sometimes when we think something is an ending it is just a pause in the story. I reminded Martin that he is headed to California too to live someday and told him, “You never know someday he might be sitting on the side of your deathbed praying for his lifelong friend.” And Martin smiled and said, “Maybe I will get the chance to serve along side him now in California.” Who knows what God has in store.
We never know how things will end. We never know. And I’m packing up the Love Story movie for the mail tomorrow without watching it. We’ve had enough tears for one day.