It was a sultry summer night in 1987—the peak of tornado season in Oklahoma City. Although we were not experiencing a weather-related tornado, there was a storm of anguish in our home. After almost 20 years of marriage, my wife, Lyndall, and I were contemplating a divorce. Our hearts were breaking.
We turned on the television set, and a Billy Graham Crusade from Columbia, S.C., was on. Lyn watched for a while and then disappeared into our bedroom in tears. She shut the door behind her and left me to watch the Crusade alone.
I knew that Lyn had a lot to deal with. She had been abused physically, mentally and sexually as a child. She had left home at age 16 to search for love and meaning. I knew that working her way through college and earning two master’s degrees had not brought her satisfaction. She had been searching for God all her life, in spite of her parents, who had forbidden her to pray or attend church. Lyn had even lived through cancer and repeated attacks of pneumonia, but I was so self-centered that none of that mattered. It was all “me” and “my” and “mine.”
As I watched the Crusade, Hall of Fame basketball player “Pistol” Pete Maravich gave his testimony for Christ. After that, Mr. Graham told the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. When the priest and Levite saw their countryman beaten and robbed on the road to Jericho, they passed by on the other side. But when the Samaritan saw the Jew, he had compassion and helped him.
As I listened, I began to understand that real love is “love in action.” By the grace of God, I saw that I had not demonstrated love in action to my wife. The words of the sermon sank deeply into my soul. Silently, as tears filled my eyes, I knelt and prayed for forgiveness and asked Christ into my heart.
I went into our bedroom to ask Lyn to forgive me. To my horror, I found that she had overdosed on my heart medicine and was dying before my eyes. A letter on my pillow said, “Forgive me, Eddie, but life just hurts too much.” Frantic, I called an ambulance, and she was rushed to the hospital where they pumped her stomach and saved her life.
After two hours, the emergency room doctor told me that it was a miracle Lyn was still alive. Then it was touch-and-go for hours as I waited, watched and prayed until, finally, she was moved to intensive care. We had been married so many years that I felt like if she died, part of me would die, too.
Suddenly, the Bible verse my mother taught me on a cold Minnesota day many years ago came to my mind. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV). I wondered if it was too late for me to start over again with Lyn. I was a babe in Christ, but already I wanted to share the Good News with others, beginning with my wife.
When Lyn awakened, we prayed together, and she gave her life to Christ as well. In the coming years, Mr. Graham’s “Love in Action” message from the 1987 Crusade inspired us to fulfill Christ’s command in Matthew 25:35 to feed the hungry.
We take food, clothing and money to shelters for the homeless, and we also send books, packages and tracts to families in foreign lands as well as to our own family and friends. Even though I am losing my eyesight, Lyn and I have written a Christian novel: “Lucas, A Tale of the Christ,” and we are working on a second. We are closer to each other now than we ever dreamed we could be. We have given our lives to serving Christ through the written word.
We aren’t trying to buy our way into heaven by doing good works. First comes the love and from that, works. We start each day with a prayer that we may hold high the banner of Christ for the entire world to see and salute.
My motto for true success in life is “love in action” as I understood it for the first time that summer evening in 1987. Like a stone tossed into a pond, the ripples of that Crusade keep going out with the gracious love of Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Lord.