I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to give my life totally to God. My parents were missionaries, first in Greece, then among the Greek immigrants in Australia. So I heard about God from my youngest days. According to my parents, I was saved when I was three, almost four years old. As time went on, I couldn’t really recall that experience. So many times as a child, I would go forward when I heard the altar call, just in case I hadn’t truly been saved yet.
After I graduated from high school, I went to Bible School, determined to be a missionary or go into some sort of “full time” Christian work. I wanted to give my whole life to God and how else could I do it? While in Bible School I met my husband who also desired to serve God. We were married during his senior year in Bible School. We weren’t sure exactly which direction to head in, but my husband started applying to different churches in northern New England for a job as an assistant pastor or youth pastor. By now, I was expecting our first child.
My husband is a wonderful man, quiet and sensitive, but not a talker. He doesn’t have a strong, outgoing personality. Unfortunately, this proved to be a drawback as he applied for jobs. He also didn’t have a lot of confidence in himself. This was unlike the pastors who were interviewing him. They seemed to have such confidence and were dynamic speakers. He seemed to fall short of their expectations. Finally, my father, who was now a pastor of a small church in New Hampshire, offered him a job as assistant pastor in his church. Since nothing else had turned up, we decided to take my father’s kindhearted offer.
We moved to New Hampshire and soon after we had our first son. Things were looking up. We settled into a small farmhouse that someone in the church owned and let us live in free of rent. My husband wouldn’t be receiving any salary from the church, so he got a part-time job doing construction work. We didn’t have much money, but we didn’t mind living simply. At least we were serving God, which was our heart’s desire.
My husband and I took on the job of working with the youth, taking them on outings and having Bible studies with them. We also taught Sunday School and sometimes my husband would lead the Sunday evening service. We should have been encouraged, but we weren’t. Things were falling apart.
For one thing, we were having problems with our marriage. I wanted with all my heart to be the submissive wife described in the Bible, but I failed many times, being strong in my opinions about things. And my husband wanted to love me as Christ loved the church, but found himself instead reacting to me and getting upset. We read many Christian books about marriage and even attended seminars about it, thinking that surely this would help. We would be determined to be different, but after a few weeks we would be back to our old ways again. Why were we failing? Why couldn’t we be like so many other Christian couples we knew who seemed to be doing fine?
Also, my husband didn’t seem cut out to be a pastor. He wasn’t gifted in public speaking and lacked charisma. So could we serve God full time? About this time my husband was laid off from his construction job and the people who had let us live in their house needed it back, so we had nowhere to live and no job. We started living with friends in an extra cottage they had. We were still feeling like failures. Was there no place for us to give our lives to God and serve him with all our hearts?
My husband finally found a job in the nearby city of Concord, working third shift as a nurse’s aide in the state hospital. It was hard work, but he liked being able to help people like that. We decided to stop working in my father’s church and move to Concord. My husband was accepted for the R.N. program at the local hospital. Maybe, finally, we had found where we could fit in. If my husband could make it through nursing school and get a degree as an R.N., we might be able to use that to go to the mission field somewhere. Many mission groups needed people with experience in the medical profession. There might still be hope that we could serve God full time, as we had always desired.
Before Bible School, my husband had been in the military, so with his V.A. benefits we were able to pay for his schooling and were accepted in a low-income housing project. Not the best place to live, but hopefully it wouldn’t be for long. By now I was pregnant again.
But things weren’t really going as well as it sounds. We were still having problems with our marriage. If only there was someone with wisdom who could help us. One of our friends suggested that we go to a Christian counselor for help, so, in desperation, we did. He put my husband on medication, thinking that would solve our problems. It didn’t. We were going to a good Bible-believing church and I thought maybe if I could get more fellowship, go to a women’s Bible study, it would help. I tried, but there was really no opportunity to talk about the deep things that were going on in my life.
Nursing school went well for awhile, but the intense pressure of studying for hours each day to make good grades, making sure our bills were paid, having time for me and the children (we had another son by now) was too much. My husband would get up early in the morning, praying and reading the Bible for hours before he went to school, wanting a closer relationship with God, wanting grace for the situation we were in, but still falling short. So he decided to take a leave of absence from school. Again, we had failed. When he went and talked to our pastor about it, he encouraged him to go back to nursing school again, because God couldn’t use failures. He wanted people who were successful to preach the gospel. So where did that leave us? Despite our problems, we still wanted to give our lives to God and serve him full time, but there was no place, no way for us to do this. We were too weak. My husband felt so worthless that he considered killing himself.
Until we could decide what to do next, my husband got a temporary job as a nurse’s aid in the hospital where he had gone to school. It was humbling, to say the least. He continued to spend hours daily seeking God, searching the Bible, knowing there must be answers for our life. Shortly after this, we were visiting friends for a weekend and they told us about this group of people they knew nearby who were starting to live together. They were a community of believers who loved God with all their hearts. All it took was one visit to convince my husband that this is what he had been searching for with all his heart for such a long time. To me, the thought of living with so many other people in such close proximity was disturbing. I was used to my privacy.
But we moved in, my husband delighted and me dragging my tail. Was this really where God wanted us to live? As the days went by, I couldn’t help but notice something. It was the love that the people in the Community had for one another and for us. These people were real people, not afraid to share the deep things of their hearts with each other, even their weaknesses and failings. But they continued to love one another, receiving hope that they could change. I started to realize that there was hope for us also, hope that we could give our lives fully to our God and serve Him with a whole heart for the rest of our lives. This is what we had so longed for — a place where we could die to our old selves and live only for Him who died and rose again on our behalf.1
And so began our new life. Seventeen years later, we are still learning and growing. We still fail, but we are not failures. We live with a whole community of people who wake up in the morning and give their bodies as a living sacrifice, day after day, giving their whole hearts to serving their God. I am thankful.
~ Tikvah (My name means hope.)