This column is
a regular part of this journal, but I asked Cynthia to let me say a
few words in this issue because we have had so much mail about her
writing in previous issues. Those of you who have been longtime
readers of this periodical know that my wife of 49 years passed away
in May 2008.
Phyllis Clayton was not only the manager of this ministry and the
producer of this bulletin, but she was my rock — the one thing in my
life that gave me stability and uncompromising support. There were
many people close to me who wondered how I would survive without
her, and there were times when I did not think I would myself.
While I was struggling in major ways with my wife’s death, a set of
circumstances took place that brought a widow into my life. She had
been through a variety of bad experiences that left her feeling beat
up and clinging to her faith as the foundation of her hope to build
a future based on some kind of ministry.
She was very pretty, very bright, and ten years younger than I am.
When I met Cynthia I was attracted primarily to her spirituality. We
communicated by e-mail on a brother-sister level, but gradually
began to see that we shared a great deal in common. My loneliness
and need for love and companionship caused me to wish for some way I
could make her fall in love with me. An unattractive, bald,
overweight, 71-year-old man coming off a good 49-year-old marriage
is not exactly a “catch” for any woman, especially when his life is
immersed in a consuming ministry.
There are two passages in 1 Corinthians that affected both Cynthia
and me as we looked at our relationship. The first was chapter 10 verse 13 where we
are told that no temptation we have is unique to us, and that God
promises his children that a way of escape would be provided. The
solutions I was entertaining as I worked through the trauma of the
death of my wife were not good solutions. The circumstances that
brought Cynthia into my life were so unusual that both of us felt
God had a hand in it and a purpose in our being together. Both of us
had to decide if we would recognize marriage to one another as God’s
“way of escape.”
An equally important scripture was 1 Corinthians 7:39 where Paul
writes that if a woman’s “husband dies, she is free to marry anyone
she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord” (NIV). I wondered how
Cynthia could possibly love me with all of my “baggage.” Cynthia’s
response is that to love someone is to love who they are inside. We
all have “baggage” in later life, but God’s love is made complete in
us (1 John 4:12 –17). He helps us
to love each other more deeply and completely as time goes on.
I have worried about how she could handle the drastic changes our
marriage brought — including Michigan winters, a small
mission-field-type congregation of the church, and living in a house
Phyllis and I built together. I have been amazed that she can handle
Phyllis’ shadow and constant reminders of Phyllis’ role in this
ministry without being offended. It is only because of her being a
Christian that this has been possible and that this new and rapid
marriage has been able to work and work incredibly well. She does
not blink when the name of my previous wife appears in discussions
about the past, or when I tear up in a memory, or when I talk about
an experience in which Phyllis was involved. Her Christian strength
and resolve enables her to walk as no worldly woman could. God’s
promise and his instruction concerning love the second time around
is a great evidence of His hand in life and His love and concern for
us, even when death strikes.
Photo: Patty Gibson and Roland Earnst
Contents Does God Exist?, JanFeb12.