I received the following article from an old friend of mine. It was published back in the year 2000. The questions she asks are much like the questions that many of you have asked ME! Mary’s given me permission to share this publication. The original article was titled, “What Are You Doing, God?” by Omar C. Garcia and Mary Aucoin. Omar was the Pastor of Education at Bear Creek Baptist Church and Mary was a journalist and attended that church at the time the original article was published.
The questions that Mary asks are timeless. As long as there are single people, these questions will be asked. I hope it speaks to each and every one of the godly women who have liked my page for so many years!
The parts that are italicized are of my own re-formatting of the original text and represent Mr. Garcia’s words (to help you see who’s “speaking.” )
On a side-note, Mary went on to write a couple of books under her married name. Yes, she married the man that God has been holding for her. Her books, “Help for the Laid Off,” and “Hope for the Laid Off,” can be found on Amazon under the name Mary Aucoin Kaarto.
As always, if you have questions, send me a PM or comment/tweet and I’ll do my best to answer! Read on…
Mary is a delightful individual. She is personable and friendly. A single parent, she works for a publisher in Houston. She regularly attends the church where I serve as minister of education, and she actively participates in our singles ministry. Not long ago I received a note from Mary via email, a note that she has given me permission to share with you. Certain details in her correspondence have been changed but the story is real. While no two people face challenges that are absolutely identical, the questions one person asks in his or her own situation can be very similar to questions others ask in theirs. Have you asked questions similar to Mary’s at one time or another?
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I hope this letter finds you well. I don’t mean to unload my problems on you, but I need to share this with someone. I’m sort of embarrassed to tell you this stuff because it is kind of personal, but I’ve always felt comfortable talking to you. Please respond when you can—even if you need several days or even a few weeks to reply. Your insight will really help me. Eighteen months ago I answered an ad for a pen pal through the writer’s section of America Online. You know how I love to talk to people and how I love to write! My pen pal’s name is Steve, and he lives in Omaha. In the time I’ve known him, he has become, quite frankly, the best “earthly” friend I’ve ever had. Steve is 42 years old, has been widowed for 4 years, and has a 15-year-old son. My daughter Emilie, you might remember, is 16. Steve works at an accounting firm in Omaha. Over the past 18 months of writing to each other almost daily and talking on the phone regularly, we’ve exchanged pictures not only of each other but also of our kids. We have, well, basically shared our lives with each other. Steve understands me, and I understand him. I’ve helped both Steve and his son deal with grief over Steve’s wife’s death. I’ve even helped the two of them mend their relationship at times. Steve has helped me deal with family stuff, work stuff, and Emilie stuff. We’ve exchanged recipes, read books together and discussed them, had disagreements, made up. Steve is one of the most decent, kind, honorable, and respectable human beings I know.
Last May I went to meet him in person, and truthfully, Omar, those were the happiest four days of my life. He told me those days were his happiest in years, certainly his happiest since his wife passed away. As I expected, he was and is a complete gentleman. We went to a couple of movies together, to his workplace, his home, the mall, out to eat, and out for numerous long drives and several leisurely walks in his neighborhood. What should’ve been obvious to both of us before we even met in person was that we had each done the “falling-in-love” thing with each other. When we shared those four days together, my deep feelings for him suddenly became very, very real! We talked about he future, about one of us relocating to be with the other, and so forth. You may be wondering, “What’s the problem?” Steve isn’t a Christian. He doesn’t object to my faith but has indicated that he feels strongly that church and God and religion just aren’t for him right now. I knew he didn’t go to church soon after we first started writing, but Omar, you have to understand that at the time we started writing to each other, never in my wildest dreams did I think we would become so close, that our writing would last 18 months, or that we would fall in love with each other! During all this time the spiritual differences were never an issue. Now they are.
We talked at length while I was in Omaha. He’s very gracious and kind about it all, and
he even acknowledged a remote possibility that he will, sometime in the future, be open
to thinking about spiritual things—but not now. When he told me he’s just not ready to
consider Christianity, I knew in my heart that there was no way that I could consider marrying him. No way. Nada. Finito. You cannot imagine how difficult it was for me to write to him then and tell him that I couldn’t marry him because of our spiritual differences. And it was absolutely agonizing for me to write to him that because I’m in love with him I cannot possibly continue talking with him on a regular basis—daily—as before. It’s just too painful. Steve was and is unhappy with my decision but accepts it and respects it, and I’m grateful for that. Since I told Steve about my decision in late May, we’ve only exchanged emails once or twice a month—usually just once a month. When I called him for tax help a couple of Sundays ago, it was the first time we’d heard each other’s voices since my visit. I wasn’t surprised we wound up talking on the phone for nearly four hours!
My questions are these:
- The Bible clearly states, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?” (2 Cor. 6:14). Omar, what if I am Steve’s only witness to the one true God? If I stop writing to him completely, what will become of him spiritually? This is a big concern of mine. Yes, I love him; yes, I would marry him—would’ve already been married to him—if he were a believer. My biggest concern is that he be saved. If you only knew him, Omar, you would realize what a wonderful person he is.
- Sometimes I think that God has allowed Satan to tempt me in the worst possible way by giving me the most extraordinary man to love and be loved by—as a test to see if I have the strength to give him up for God. I have given him up willingly but not without a struggle. I will do anything God asks of me, or at least I have been trying to. Do you think that this is why Steve came into my life?
- It is beyond painful to not talk to him all the time, and I cannot even fathom the thought of never seeing him again. Omar, there just aren’t many good and eligible men out there! Having been divorced for six years now, I have learned to live alone. Yes, I have grown spiritually a great deal during the past six years, and I am grateful for this growth. I needed it and still need it. I am very much enjoying becoming more involved in our church family as well, but I am hugely lonely for a male-female relationship. Not sexual. You know what I mean, right? Companionship! I have plenty of female friends, but I need a man in my life! It has become increasingly painful to attend worship services when I see all of those fortunate married people, having someone to share their lives with, talk to, worship and pray with. My heart’s deepest desire is to find a good Christian man to fall in love with and marry. So while I’m learning patience, what else is God trying to teach me? Why is this beautiful, wonderful, loving, and intelligent man given to me, so to speak, when I cannot truly have him?
- What should I ultimately do about my friendship with Steve? If you tell me to never, ever write him, call him, see him again, I promise you that I will try with all of my heart—but it won’t be easy. Again, with a resounding yes I have learned to accept my singleness, but I sure don’t like it. I go to movies alone, eat out alone, shop alone—do everything alone! It gets real, real, real old. Real old. I am trying to meet some quality people. I attend Judy’s Sunday School class faithfully. There are mostly women there, and that’s fine, but I am lonesome for a nice boyfriend, and the one I want, I cannot have. So . . . what am I supposed to do here? Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’m not grateful for the many, many blessings God has given me. He’s blessed me greatly. You know how horrible it was for me to have been laid off for two years. It was such a wonderful answer to prayer when I was offered my current job! That blessing isn’t making this easy, though! I guess maybe because I’m human I keep thinking, “Where is my reward for giving up Steve?!” Ha, ha! I laugh, but only because I cannot cry anymore about it. My heart is exhausted from crying about this, Omar, and I need peace—and some answers.
- Please tell me why you think Steve came into my life, and why I have to walk Please tell me why I can’t learning whatever it is that God is trying to teach me, other than patience.
- What can I do that I’m not doing right now to understand God’s will for my life? I apologize for taking so much of your time with what must seem like a silly problem to you. But thanks for your help. Please take your time in answering this. Reread it if you have to. Please pray for God’s will to be revealed to you, because I’m obviously not getting it over here. Please also pray for Steve’s salvation. I would so much appreciate it if you would pray also that God would send the right Christian man into my life. Thank you again, Omar.
Your sister in Christ,
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Have you experienced these or similar feelings? Have you asked questions similar to those Mary asked? How would you have responded to Mary if she had asked you those questions? Here is what I wrote to her.
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Hi Mary . . .
Thank you writing and sharing with me about all that has happened in your relationship with Steve. My heart aches for you and what you are feeling at this time. I would like to speak with you in person when we can work out a time, but for now I will try to briefly answer some of the questions you asked.
Question 1: The Bible clearly states, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14). What if I am Steve’s only witness to the one true God? If I stop writing to him completely, what will become of him spiritually? My biggest concern is that he be saved.
Answer: Mary, 2 Corinthians 6:14 is a very appropriate verse for your situation. I’m glad the Lord directed you to this verse. It reminds us that we must not try to justify a marriage relationship or a serious dating relationship on the basis of evangelism. A believer and an unbeliever operate on two different planes; each lives according to a different perspective. It is easier for an unbeliever to drag a believer down than for a believer to pull an unbeliever up. This is evidenced in part by the fact that Steve is unwilling to consider adopting your system of beliefs or biblical worldview. As for what will become of him spiritually, remember that God is more concerned about Steve’s spiritual welfare than either you or I ever could be. Pray that God will send other people into his life to bear witness to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Question 2: Do you think God allowed Satan to bring Steve into my life to test me, to see if I would be willing to give him up?
Answer: I do not know if that is the reason your path crossed with Steve’s. I do know that God gives His absolute best, in His own time, to those who leave the choice with Him. A man who doesn’t believe that Jesus is God’s Son and the Savior of the world, however, is clearly not God’s best for you, however wonderful he might be in other ways.
Question 3: My heart’s deepest desire is to find a good Christian man to fall in love with and marry. While I’m learning patience, what else is God trying to teach me? Why is this beautiful, wonderful, loving, and intelligent man given to me, so to speak, when I cannot truly have him?
Answer: God is aware of the deepest desires of your heart. I agree that patience is certainly part of what God teaches us through life’s experiences. As for other lessons the Lord is trying to teach you through this particular situation, you might have to wait until heaven for all those answers. I am reminded of a poem that Corrie ten Boom kept in her home during the difficult years of World War II. I think it is especially meaningful during life’s difficult times. It is entitled, “The Weaver,” and its basic message is that a Christian’s life is like a tapestry God is weaving together. We don’t choose the colors of the threads that go into our tapestries—God does. When sorrow or disappointment or hurt or frustration comes into our lives, we often forget that God is looking at the fronts of the tapestries while we are seeing only their backs. When our lives are over, however, God will reveal the beautiful, finished works of art. At that time we will see how the darker threads are necessary, how in the finished products they will blend in with threads of vivid colors to make he designs beautiful. Can the patterns and pictures woven into the tapestries be as beautiful without dark colors? No. Dark as well as bright colors are needed. God is working on each of our lives to present it as a masterpiece that testifies to His grace, power, and love. One day we will see the final product and understand how God used pain as well as joy in life to bring glory to Himself.
Question 4: What should I ultimately do about my friendship with Steve?
Answer: I think you can be a friend with the understanding that you disagree about the answer to life’s most important question. Jesus asked that question in Mark 8:29. He asked, “Who do you say I am?” Be Steve’s friend, yes; but realize that as long as Steve doesn’t agree that Jesus is God’s Son and the Savior of the world—and until Steve accepts Christ as his own Savior—your marrying him is clearly not part of God’s plan for your life. Your mentioning God’s instruction in 2 Corinthians 6:14 indicates to me that you already understand this.
Question 5: Please tell me why you think Steve came into my life, and why I have to walk away from him. I mean, how cruel is this?! Should I walk away from him? Completely? Please tell me why I can’t or don’t seem to be learning whatever it is that God is trying to teach me, other than patience.
Answer: You are learning more than you think. Unfortunately, we often have to go through some of life’s toughest struggles to learn some of life’s most valuable and helpful lessons. Those who struggle with the truth ultimately have a better understanding of it than those who merely read it. You probably will be discovering for a long time to come just how many things God has been teaching you through your difficult experience.
Question 6. What can I do that I’m not doing right now to understand God’s will for my life?
Answer: I want to suggest that you continue doing something I’m sure you already are doing. Mary, stay in God’s Word, the Bible. God’s Word is God’s will for our lives, including 2 Corinthians 6:14—and so much more! Spend much time reading in the Psalms. They speak for us as much as they speak to us. And remember, you will find two positive principles behind every negative command (like 2 Cor. 6:14) in the Bible.
First, the principle of protection stands behind each negative command. God says no in order to protect us from what He knows will harm us. Second, the principle of provision
stands alongside protection. God says no because He wants to provide for us, to give
us something better.’
You also wrote, I apologize for taking so much of your time with what must seem like a silly problem to you.
Response: Mary, please do not apologize. Your problem is not silly in any way, shape, or form. I give much weight and consideration to what you are experiencing. Finally, you said, I would so much appreciate it if you would pray also that God would send the right Christian man into my life. Response: Count on it, Mary. And please keep me posted. I know my answers are brief and frank. Let’s try to carve out some time to talk further by phone or at my office.
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Not long after responding to Mary, I received this note from her. As you read it, notice that although Mary was still struggling, she also was reaching out to God in faith and drawing strength from her church family. If you’ve been struggling, talk to a Christian friend or pastor, read the Bible regularly and accept its teachings as true, and reach out to God in faith and obedience, as Mary did.
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Thank you so very much for answering my message. While you believe your answers
to be brief, they were enough to get me through the day. I’ve printed your message out to hold on to and to read over and over again during times of temptation. I have decided to leave Steve alone for as long as I possibly can, and I am going to try to forget about him. The picture of the two of us taken at the park near his home in Omaha is now in a box at the top of my closet.
I thought I was through grieving, but I see that the waves of grief come in cycles. Nothing
in particular brings them on, it seems. However, I know I have to work through my grief.
The poem you told me about was especially wonderful. Most helpful, though, was your telling me that every time God tells us no, He does so to protect us and to give us something better1. It is really hard to imagine anyone better suited for me than this guy, so if what you say is true (and I will believe that it is)—Wow! I can’t wait to meet this new person. Where is he? Ha, ha! I am also wondering if there is such a person. I mean, I know that if I tell God I’m willing to be single for the rest of my life, I have to accept that God may choose to never bring a man into my life for me to marry. Omar, the thought of being single until I am dead is a horrible thought, one I don’t want to consider at all. But I know that God is infinitely wiser than I am!
Thank you so much for your compassion, understanding, and willingness to listen to me. I am still struggling with all of this and would like to talk to you about it all. So, if you are willing to hear me unload—sometimes through my tears—in your office or on the phone, all I can say is I hope that in return God will give you everything in life you could ever want. I’ll call you at some point during the next few days.
I keep thinking back to that horrible time when I was laid off for two years, how God pulled me through that and blessed me beyond my wildest dreams by giving me not only a job but a job I absolutely love, one I’d dreamed about for a long time. I’m just so grateful to God for making that life-long dream a reality. So I do take comfort in that experience, because it showed me that God really works in wonderful ways. I am so thankful to be a part of this church family as well, and it means so much to me that I am—by taking part in serving others through the church—beginning to feel a part of it for the first time since I joined several years ago. Anyway, I’ll call you soon. God bless you, Omar. I know He will.
‘Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, Right from Wrong (Dallas:
Word, 1994), 106.