The doctor's news wreaked havoc with
our careful financial plans.
Before the wedding, we laid careful financial plans for getting through seminary. I was to work part-time wherever I could find a job, and Mary was to work full-time for Southwestern Bell. Since her graduation from Bible school, she had been working for Pennsylvania Bell and the company had offered to transfer her to Texas. So money would be no problem at all--with two salaries and low tuition at the school, we were confident that we could make it easily.
We had heard of the money struggles other married seminary students were having, but we were not going to have them. A shortage of money would never adversely affect our relationship. In fact, we planned to help some of our poorer friends with their bills.
Mary started work two days after our arrival in Dallas, and although I worked at several different low-paying temporary jobs through the summer, it was nearly four months before I found permanent part-time work. But after I was hired by the John E. Mitchell Company, a firm in Dallas owned by Christians who were sympathetic to the unique circumstances of seminary students, we were set. Or so we thought.
We were barely six months into our marriage when Mary went to the doctor for a minor ailment. She recounts the events of that day:
"I casually mentioned to the doctor in passing that my menstrual period was two weeks late. His examination revealed that I was pregnant. In the next few minutes I covered the whole gamut of emotions--surprise, happiness, perplexity, apprehension, fear. This was not in our plans. I would have to quit work. How would we pay our bills? What would Richard say? We thought we were being careful. Richard had even written a paper on birth control for a college sociology class on the family. His teacher had given him a B- and had written on his paper, 'Not practical.' He turned out to be prophetic.
"I left the office hurriedly since I was already late to meet Richard, who was to pick me up in front of the building. He pulled up as I reached the street, and before I opened the door of the car, I put my head through the open window and said, 'Guess what! I'm going to have a baby.' His first words were, 'You can't do that. You were going to help put me through school.' For a minute I thought he was going to drive off and leave me. I wanted to say, 'Hey, you were as much responsible for this as I was,' but I decided that standing in the middle of Live Oak Street was not the best place to argue about my pregnancy. It didn't take us long to get started after we arrived home, however."
Instead of accepting the truth that a sovereign God had this child in His eternal plan for our lives, we began to blame each other for what we viewed at the time to be a dreadful mistake. "If you had been more regular in using your diaphragm, this would never have happened." "Yes, but if you didn't want sex so much, I wouldn't have had to use it." There was so much more that was said, but all of it was designed to place responsibility for the situation on the other person. That too was becoming a way of life for us.
Mary knew that I was not very happy about the prospect of having a baby, and to admit any blame herself would have been to invite my displeasure with her. So she blamed me. And it was difficult for me to accept the blame for something I didn't think was all my fault. So to keep from getting blamed, I tried to lay the guilt back on her. Besides, it was usually important for me to win. Losing implied that I was not a very worthwhile person. I felt as though I had to insist that it was her fault.
It never occurred to me that fixing blame is a no-win exercise for everybody involved. It is a futile waste of time. It never solves the problem. It just keeps on intensifying the emotional level of the argument and driving people farther apart, destroying whatever closeness and intimacy may have existed. We both needed to know that it doesn't matter who is to blame. It doesn't matter who wins and who loses. All that matters is how we can strengthen our relationship with each other, and what God wants us to do next in this situation.
If we had thought about His sovereign control of all things, and His faithfulness in supplying every need, there would have been nothing for which to blame each other. Instead we would have been rejoicing together in anticipating this child, and looking forward to how God would supply our needs.
So many marital problems could be avoided if Christian couples would recognize the hand of God in every situation of life. The psalmist said, "Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places" (Psalm 135:6). And He never makes a mistake. "As for God, His way is perfect" (Psalm 18:30). He could have overruled our faulty birth control methods if He so chose, but He didn't. He had purposes and plans of which we were not yet aware, and all He wanted us to do was trust Him and rest in His infinite wisdom. We wouldn't have gotten upset with one another if we had acknowledged that God was in control of everything. We knew that truth with our minds, but we had not yet learned how to put it into action in daily living.
But one thing was certain: The medical bills for the baby's birth would be no problem at all. He/she was due July 25, 1955, and our hospitalization insurance maternity benefits would become effective on July 15. We had ten days to spare. First babies seldom come early, so God's scheduling seemed to be perfect. Except that Mary started labor about 2:00 A.M. on July 10. I told her to go back to sleep because the baby couldn't come for five more days. She insisted that the little tyke had decided not to wait five more days. By 9:30 A.M. we were the parents of a healthy baby boy whom we named Stephen John. We were pleased with the baby but unhappy with God's timing.
We learned, however, that while God does not always meet our needs as we think He should, He always meets them. When the bill came in for both the hospital and the doctor, it totaled only $6. We couldn't believe our eyes. We later discovered that five years earlier, when Mary's mother had a hysterectomy and canceled her maternity benefits, the insurance company had mistakenly put those benefits on Mary's policy, unbeknown to us. They were willing to pay us for their mistake.
But even that unusual event did not convince us that God would supply all our needs. Mary had to quit her job and now we had to live on my part-time salary. We let our lack of money get us uptight and we fussed with each other constantly about money. Yet the Lord kept right on supplying all our needs. One semester I went to the seminary accounting office to explain why I couldn't pay my bill and to seek an extension. They pulled my records from the file and told me that I didn't owe anything. An anonymous donor had covered it for me. To this day I have no idea who that was.
And that unwanted baby proved to be a great joy to us. Steve came to know and love our Savior, and today serves Him as a missionary in the country of Ethiopia. He and his delightful wife, Marcia, have presented us with our first grandchildren. We would have forfeited one of the great joys of our lives if God had allowed us to have our own way. His ways are truly perfect! And we are still learning that there is no need to argue, no need to blame. We can accept every circumstance from His gracious hand and trust Him to do what is best.
Acknowledge that blaming one another is a no-win situation, that God is in control of your circumstances and will help you through them. Now suggest some ways in which that confidence can affect your attitudes and actions toward each other.