First Person: How understanding covenant restored our marriage commitment

Riddle me this: A divorced man and a divorced woman, Christians, get married while understanding for the first time the biblical definition of covenant marriage. It’s a second marriage for each of them, but neither has been married to anyone else. Who did they marry the second time? Well, the same person they married the first time — each other.

In a nutshell, this is the story of my marriage. After nearly eight years of separation and then divorce, God renewed our marriage. During that time and before, I was running from God’s call upon my life to full-time Christian vocation. My marriage became one of the many victims in the rearview mirror of my life. But God got my attention one day as I was looking out the windshield of the oilfield truck I was driving alone down Wolf Creek Pass on the Denver side of the Rocky Mountains.

The engine quit. No reason. Just quit. This is dangerous as big rigs require their engines to supply power to their air brakes. Without power, no brakes?at least to a point. Actually, the emergency brake will set when a big rig loses air pressure, and I was losing pressure at every hairpin turn down the steep grades, and wasn’t looking forward to the brakes locking up.

I tried all I knew to restart the truck — even pushed the start button. Dead. Slowing enough to stop, I turned onto a shoulder area and began sliding straight off the mountain in about a foot of slick mud as it was spring melt-off time.

Ready to bail out at the last second, the truck turned back onto the highway. I have no other explanation for this than God’s hand came from heaven and steered the truck aright much as a boy in a sandbox does with his Tonkas.

Again, I reached for the start button. Ignition!

As soon as the truck restarted, I heard a voice so startlingly real that I turned to see who was in the passenger seat. I liken this to the late Adrian Rogers quip about the voice of God: “It wasn’t an audible voice; it was louder than that.” However, it was audible to me. The voice said, “Norman, go home.” I knew exactly what that meant.

That fall I enrolled in Criswell College, and in the months preceding had re-established only a slightly more friendly relationship with Cynthia, the woman I divorced, mother of our two children. By running off to Bible college, however, I was sacrificing, not obeying. This I realized in Old Testament survey class when I came across the prophet Samuel’s confrontation with King Saul, who had kept forbidden spoils from a battle with the Amalekites. “To obey is better than sacrifice,” Samuel said. Ouch!

The more I sat under the tutelage of Criswell College professors, and the more I learned about the God who saved me, spared me, and whom I purported to love, the more I realized that the marital covenant is no less binding than the covenants God made with all the Old Testament luminaries. That, coupled with the fellowship of godly professors and fellow students at the school made me face the truth of how God truly feels about divorce. He hates it, says the Bible.

I wanted to come back to God on my own terms. But the One who put my truck back on the road also had a life map for me to follow, and he wasn’t allowing me much comfort in my detours. God let me drive in misery to a fork in my spiritual road: complain or comply.

I called my father, the late Eldridge Miller, who was pastor of First Baptist Church, Sallisaw, Okla., to see if he planned to attend the annual “School of the Prophets” in Dallas. Having been numerous times before, he said no?that is until I told him I had plans to propose (again) to Cynthia if he and Mom would bring her. “What were those dates again?” he asked.

Anybody for a lesson in how not to propose? After explaining how God was working in my life, I said to Cynthia: “The only love I have for you is as a sister in Christ. But I’m willing to try again if you are.” As romantic as it is convincing, eh? Well, it must’ve been the half-carat solitaire and not my half-baked soliloquy because she said: “I still love you, and I’m willing to try.”

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