God’s love story for us isn’t just a Hallmark movie – it’s better. He only asks that we hand the pen to Him.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated in our family for several reasons. My wife and I share cards and she makes the family a special gourmet breakfast… because it is also my birthday. My favorite Valentine’s celebration was our church’s Valentine Banquet in 1996. We had our highest attendance at that banquet for one simple reason. The church family was going to meet my fiancée Jodie Friesen for the very first time. It was a joyous time in our lives and also for the church as they were meeting someone who was literally the answer to hundreds of prayers. Jodie and I were engaged in January at Skylon Tower at Niagara Falls. But the engagement, the answered prayers, and the joyous celebration with the church was almost NOT to be. Why? Because of “The Lost Letter.”
A couple of years had passed since I had become a single dad. My first wife passed away of cancer. Those years had some unique challenges for me. You see, I have DCS (Domestically Challenged Syndrome). Before my wife passed away, my neighbors brought a meal every Monday night. I honestly didn’t know that Lasagna could be made 10 different ways – all delicious. After being widowed the church family graciously brought many meals to us as well. Matt and Jeremy were only 8 and 4 when their mom entered heaven.
In addition to running a household as a single dad, being a pastor, and coordinating a massive building program at church, I was struggling with deep loneliness. Not only did I love my first wife, but I loved being married. During those years a number of well-intentioned matchmakers attempted to “set up” both Jodie and me with different people. Not one of those introductions seemed to be God’s will for our lives. A church planter from our church met Jodie at Camp YES in Ontario and told her my story. They asked if they could pass on her address to their pastor. Jodie said she would pray about it. God gave her a perfect peace about passing her name and address on to me. I called her father, Pastor John Friesen, and asked permission if I could write his daughter. It wasn’t until October that I finally sent my first letter to Jodie. To my wonderful surprise she wrote back. For the next three months letters flowed consistently back and forth from Pennsylvania to Canada.
During those months of letter writing (pre-email days), the Lord began growing a friendship between us. We shared the activities of our days, our thoughts, and yes our dreams to serve the Lord for the rest of our lives. It just seemed natural to invite her to come for a visit and for her to invite me for a visit. I suggested two dates for my first trip to see her in Canada – December 18th and December 26th. I anxiously awaited her response.
I was puzzled. You see when I would send a letter, I would receive a reply in exactly 10 days. Not only was international writing slow, but Canada did not have mail service on Saturdays. A little disappointed and a little perplexed I wrote again – and did not mention any dates. I received a reply, but no mention of visiting Jodie in Canada.
Like every other member of Adam’s fallen race, I too am plagued with jumping to conclusions – false conclusions. I assumed that Jodie’s father was fine with the idea of his oldest daughter writing someone from out of the country, but nothing more than that. After all, of her 46 aunts and uncles and 100+ cousins, no one had moved from their beloved homeland.
I had come to a crossroads regarding my future. I had been on several dates at the recommendation of pastors and missionaries – most of them were out of state. Now I have been writing someone who I truly desired to meet and I am thinking that it will never be. I was sure that Jodie would not go against her father’s wishes, nor would I ask her to do so. That night I got on my knees and made yet another surrender to God. I prayed something like this: “Dear Lord, you know my heart is growing towards Jodie. I ask that you do what I cannot do to take the next step. But if not…. I surrender to Your perfect will even if that means remaining single until my boys graduate from high school. I will give up dating and focus on the boys and growing your church.” It was a difficult prayer of surrender because it was “not my will.”
The next day as I pondered my prayer of surrender, I came to the conclusion that it would be futile to continue to write Jodie if there was no future for us. But then I wondered what Jodie’s father was really thinking… “Did he not want his daughter to leave his church and country? Did he not want his daughter to marry someone who had already been married? Did he not want his daughter to become a step-mom of two boys?” I decided to call Pastor Friesen and find out if there was a reason he did not want me to come for a visit. I found their house number through information and made the call. Shortly into the conversation he asked me, “Do you think God is in this?” My immediate response was “Absolutely.” He said, “Would you like to come for a visit?” I joyfully responded that I would love to. Then he said, “Would you like to say ‘Hi’ to Jodie?”
Would I like to talk to Jodie?
My heart began to pound as I waited for Jodie to come to the phone. With a bit of a Canadian accent she said, “Hello, Scott!” We have a wall plaque hanging in our bedroom that reads, “You had me at Hello.”
On December 26 I made my first trip to Canada. Followed by a second trip to be engaged. Then came that joyous Valentine’s banquet. That day Jodie met the boys, my parents, our staff, and church family.
On that first trip to Canada I discovered that my letter had been lost in the mail. Jodie did not receive it until December 18th. She felt so bad that she had not responded to that letter. But somewhere between Pennsylvania and Canada, an angel was dispatched from heaven to hide that letter for two weeks. I call it “The Lost Letter.” In the Sovereignty of God, I had one more test before the Lord would let me meet Jodie – the test was full surrender. I came to the conclusion that God was more than enough to dispel my loneliness. He was not going to let me take the next step without full surrender to His perfect will.
We all have discovered that the Lord brings into our path many “lost letter” tests. Many of them will not be easy, but they are exactly what God wants us to go through. And so the next time you find yourself in the middle of a “lost letter test” and life is not going the way “you want it to go” just remember that God really is in control of your life (Romans 8:28), and as you pray a “not my will, but thine be done” you can sit back and experience His perfect peace as you trust Him, Isaiah 26:3. God wants us to seek Him first and be content in Him, Matthew 6:33. Everything He gives us is grace – and that is more than enough! And so Valentine’s Day is extra special in our family as it reminds us of how He used a quiet miracle of a “lost letter” to bring us together 24 years ago.