Sometimes it is good to remember times you have stepped out faith and seen God work so powerfully. Getting married was one such occasion. Kirstie and myself were working together at the time in the full time ministry leading a church in Wolverhampton. It was a satellite of a larger church in Birmingham. I had known Kirstie for a couple of years and shortly after we started working together, I had fallen in love with her. I found her to be spiritual, kind, thoughtful and caring. Plus she laughed at my jokes. I knew I wanted to marry her (mainly because she laughed at my jokes).
I proposed on 4th August 2001 at Blenheim Palace. The family home of Winston Churchill. Kirstie was brought there under the guise of helping someone else with their romantic relationship. She was then directed by someone down a path, and as she past the Temple of Diana (the place where Winston Church proposed), I appeared and got down on one knee. After what seemed like eternity of contemplation, but was in reality only a few seconds, Kirstie said yes. In that moment I think she was counting the cost of question I was asking her.
The security guards around the palace were incredible and really went the extra mile to make this a magical day. They were on the radios to each other to help orchestrate the moment and helped me find the perfect tree under which I placed my blanket, roses and champagne to overlooking the lake. A view which had been described as the “finest in England” They even allowed us to explore the water gardens for 45 minutes to ourselves before they were open to the general public.
We then had a wedding to plan. Initially, we thought of having a three month engagement. However, to help lead the church in Wolverhampton more effectively, we asked by the church leading in Birmingham if we could get married even quicker. To most normal people, this would seem like complete lunacy, but I liked Kirstie and Kirstie like me, so we jumped at the chance to get married earlier and we set a date seven weeks later. 22nd September 2001 was the date. Our biggest problem was that we had no plan and next to no money. Thankfully we worship a God who loves us.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
– Ephesians 4:20-21 (English Standard Version)
God started to come through in some fairly major ways. In the first week Kirstie went shopping for a wedding dress. The first shop she went into had a sale on, the first dress she tried on looked great on her, it was reduced from £400 to £200 and didn’t need any alterations. We found an incredible function room above a working men’s club in a poorer area of Birmingham. From the outside, it looked like a dive, but the room was large, was in great condition and didn’t get used very often. It was perfect. At the time when we booked it, it was being run by a larger than life Irish woman who assured us on several occasions that we would make beautiful children together. She let us have it room for next to nothing and let us have two cases of sparkling wine for the wedding toasts for a mere £40 per box of 12 bottles. The Irish woman was no longer in charge of the club as the wedding date got closer. The new managers were surprised at the extremely low quote we had been given, especially for the cases of sparkling wine, but decided to honour the quote anyway.
So many friends and relatives helped us in big and small ways. In the Birmingham church there was a friend, Glenn, who worked as a jeweller within the Jewellery Quarter of the city. He made our wedding rings and did an amazing job and only charged us £50, for the both of them. Kirstie had a wholesale cash-and-carry card which she used to buy all the food for the wedding and a friend, Gregg, within the church who was also a chef helped prepare the food and put on an impressive buffet for over 100 people. Kirstie’s housemate Chrissie helped in so many ways, no least in making the reception venue look like a wedding venue on a very limited budget. The reception was paid for by my parents. We were very grateful to everyone helped and still very am when I think back to my wedding.
A month before the wedding I had £200 accessible in my bank account. This much of this was earmarked for our wedding cake. However, at this time our church was also taking up collection Christian missions work in the third world. I had given some money forwards the collection, but not what I originally intended. I was challenged by the senior minister of the church to give more. I spoke to my wife to be about it and we agreed to give the £200 to the missions collection. We reasoned that we could have a great wedding even without a cake. I was now totally broke and was getting married in just a few weeks. Later that day we attended a staff meeting of ministers from various churches around the UK. We found out at this meeting that ministers who got married received a one off payment of £200 each. Later that evening we attended the midweek meeting of our church in Wolverhampton. A married couple who were members of the church handed us a envelop at church. It contained £100. They said that they had been helped in their wedding, and they wanted to pay it forward to someone else without expecting anything in return. It was incredibly generous of them and we were extremely grateful. It reminds me of an Old Testament scripture in the book of Malachi, where God was calling the Israelites to test him in their giving:
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
– Malachi 3:10 (New International Version)
We started the day with £200, by lunchtime we had nothing. By the end of the day we had £500 in gifts and generosity of others. We felt so protected by the hand of God. We gave in faith and the faith was rewarded. We could now afford a wedding cake – nothing expensive, three iced fruit cakes from Marks and Spencer with ribbon around the edge, but it was very special.
God didn’t stop working. The day went so smoothly. There were over 300 people at the ceremony and over 110 at the reception. To be honest, I don’t recall exactly who was there. I was very fixated on my wife. All I really remember was we both entered the church building a single people and left the building as a very happy married couple.
A friend of mine who I had helped to become a Christian a couple of year before very kindly bought us flights to Paris as a wedding gift and my step father generously paid for the rest of our time in Paris. All I had to do was pay for the first night hotel. I had booked a nice Best Western hotel in Sutton Coldfield. However, by the time of the wedding, the money had once again ran out. At the wedding reception, I quietly spoke to my best man and asked him to search through the wedding cards to look for money to pay for the first night. A few minutes later he came back to tell me that there was no money in the cards, just vouchers for Marks and Spencer. As we left the reception, a woman who Kirstie knew from her time working as a women’s minister in London handed her a card in an envelope. Also in the envelope was some money, it was the exact amount to pay for the first night. Once more God came through for us again. I really didn’t have another plan to pay for the first night, all I had was my faith in God. Unknown to me, my best man had arranged for the our driver (another Christian who had donated his time and his car as an act of kindness on our wedding day) to pay for hotel on arrival, but it meant that we could pay him back in full immediately.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
– Romans 8:28 (New International Version)
We have now been happily married for almost 17 years and we have four beautiful children, the Irish lady in the bar was right after all. It has been a wonderful adventure and it continues to be.
However, in the last few months, my wife has been diagnosed with secondary cancer. We are now once again digging deep into our faith, unsure of future and how things will work out. Challenges come which we cannot deal with alone, we need God to get through. Remembering how God has worked in the past gives us hope for the future.
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
– Hebrews 11:1 (New Living Translation)
This pattern of remembering how God has worked in the past in challenging times to give hope for the future is common in the Bible. In the book of Exodus God rescues his people from Egyptians, parts the Red Sea and leads them to safety. The Israelites celebrate every year the passover as they remember how God saved them from slavery and brought them into freedom. The story is recalled time and time again throughout the Bible. Every time was to remind them of God comes to rescue.
However, all this time God wasn’t pointing them backwards into the past, He was actually pointing them forwards into the future. A new rescue was coming, not from Pharaoh and the Egyptians, but from sin. A rescue from all the mistakes and failures which entangle and weigh us down. Jesus became the new passover lamb, perfect and without blemish. He recuses us from sin and plants us firmly into the freedom of God’s family.
When I look back at my wedding it reminds me of how God worked when I stepped out in faith. It also points me to look forward to put my hope and faith in Him both now and in the future.
Remember how God has worked so powerfully in your life and look forward to what it will do in the times to come.
For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
– Jeremiah 29:11-13 (New International Version)