PART ONE – Darkness to Light (cont.)
I confessed a critical attitude to several. While some accepted my confession and apology graciously, I saw the countenance and attitude change with others, Henry included. I saw resentment that was not there before my confession. Les Nelson was another person I remember having a changed countenance toward me immediately, from friendliness to resentment.
I don’t think it necessarily wise to confess secret sins to others. Confess to God, repent, and go from there. Nevertheless, those confessed to are all tried, aren’t they? Will they forgive and love, as they ought, or is theirs a vain profession of faith?
God was calling me up higher. It occurred to me that everyone wanted God for a friend, always needing, wanting, and asking Him for something. How many prayers are simply selfish requests and focused, not on God, but on self! But it occurred to me that God wanted friends. Abraham was known as the friend of God. I concluded that I also wanted to be God’s friend, seeking Him and being here for His sake, and not my own. Some Scriptures were sinking deep into my soul, finding permanent residence:
“I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2 MKJV).
“For let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8 MKJV).
“But whatever things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. But no, rather, I also count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for Whose sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them to be dung, so that I may win Christ and be found in Him; not having my own righteousness, which is of the Law, but through the faith of Christ, the righteousness of God by faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death; if by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11 MKJV).
“I have been crucified with Christ, and I live; yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me. And that life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith toward the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself on my behalf” (Galatians 2:20 MKJV).
I wanted to be God’s friend. I wanted His perfect will.
I persuaded Archie and Cathie to move to Saskatoon and attend the Bible school. They came in the fall of 1974, but they seemed uncomfortable with it all. They had financial difficulties, and they did not seem a whole lot interested in the subject matter. They also seemed out of synch with the rest of the people, and Marilyn and I were finding ourselves in conflict with them as well.
Another curious thing happened, too. Archie told me of some people in Calgary who talked to him about being filled with the Spirit and having gifts. He said someone laid hands on him, but I don’t recall if he said anything happened, and there was no indication that anything had. Being the budding Baptist, I cautioned him against such a thing, though I wondered and suspected there might be something to it.
I met my future wife at the school – Marilyn Coles. She and I had been teamed up on several occasions to do church work in the year before we married. During this time, I felt pressured to marry her, though it was very subtle. Was it only my perception? Was God directing us? If pressured, was it good or bad, warranted or unwarranted?
One day Marilyn was attending a Baptist Student Union conference in Seattle, Washington and invited me to come. We passed through Vancouver, BC, and decided to visit my Aunt Polly, her son, Gary Guraliuk, his wife, Marilyn, and their children.
A fateful thing happened. Arlie Peters, a former attendant of Faith Baptist Church in Saskatoon and Marilyn’s friend, hearing we were in his city, came by with flowers and proposed to her. She came crying to me, confiding that she didn’t know what to do. She wanted to know where she stood with me.
I had felt pressure from the Southern Baptists to be a married man. Their conviction was that a man could not be a truly effective minister without an involved, supportive wife by his side. They had no valid answer for the apostle Paul’s example or his words declaring he preferred that all could have his gift of celibacy.
I desired to be as Paul, single and wholly committed to the Lord. Several people, however, Charlie Baker, Jan from Texas, and others, were indirectly, passively persuading me to marry. I also felt that Marilyn was twisting my arm, though she has solemnly declared otherwise. We had been unintentionally teamed up together for many activities, and I missed her when she was away. She seemed the only sober, sincere one who was serious about God. Was her desire to marry me of God?
We had never discussed marriage, although Marilyn told me later that the Lord told her I would be her husband. She also had a dream wherein we were outside some city walls and she, sitting on my left, was giving me to drink out of a goblet we shared. As I was drinking, I held her hand, which held the goblet.
While Marilyn hadn’t told me what she received from the Lord, I felt I needed to make a decision. I wanted to cease the suspense and see her at peace. I asked Marilyn to marry me, and she accepted. Furthermore, I felt (and she agreed) that we should marry as soon as possible, setting the date for a month later – November 30th, 1974.
Many had a good laugh about the sudden news, hearing how it happened, particularly Don Pittman, since I had once passionately confided to him that it never would.
We drove to Marilyn’s father’s ranch in the hills south of Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. There I asked John Coles for his daughter. I had been there once or twice before as Marilyn’s guest.
He said, “Take good care of her. A good wife is hard to find.” I suppose he spoke with some hard experience. Marilyn’s mother had left him when Marilyn was twelve and her brother ten. He was right in what he said, and I am chagrined to say that I have not taken care of her nearly as well as it seems to me I should have.
“He’ll be good for her,” Les Coles, Marilyn’s brother, said of me after we announced our engagement. This was during an incident when I resisted Marilyn’s efforts to manipulate me somehow. I had but a hint of an idea as to what Les meant, and I thought I heard a touch of bitterness in his words. While I did not understand, the time would come when I would understand very well.
I am now rather reluctant to confess other, carnal motivations for marrying. I am no different from any other man, perhaps worse, in that I have allowed myself to be guided by base passions when, as a Christian, I should have known better. Marilyn once or twice wore a low-cut dress, which stirred my desire. She also baked a moist and tasty carrot cake with cream cheese icing. I am ashamed to admit such things, yet these things were there. I also know, however, the meaning of these words:
“A man may make designs for his way, but the Lord is the guide of his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 BBE).
There’s another saying: “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!” Clever and wise, whoever wrote that one.
Was it wrong for her to wear a low-cut dress? According to the world, no; according to Biblical principles and Christian etiquette, yes. Was it wrong for her to bake a good cake? No. While she no longer does the former, she still does the batter – uh, latter.
The issue is not in externals, however, but in our attitude towards them. Was I trapped by my own lusts? It could be. Yet I know God determined the course, which He would soon confirm in miraculous and marvelous ways.
When getting medical examinations for marriage, the doctor told us that Marilyn would not be able to have children because of a hormonal imbalance. This would obviously be a problem to those aspiring to have a family, but we weren’t concerned. My sole desire was to serve God; all else was optional. The doctor would prove to be right – for many years.
Though I had grown attached to Marilyn while we were working in the church, my preference was to remain single. As it happened, we married. Before we committed ourselves to each other, however, I told Marilyn that I wanted our marriage to be different from others in this respect: I didn’t want her to expect a normal marital relationship. My desire was that we would each be, first and foremost, serving the Lord together. She readily agreed.
Did she understand? Would that be suitable to her indefinitely? Was it a “Yeah, yeah, I know…” or a “Yes, I understand and solemnly agree,” yet not knowing what she was getting herself into?
The apostle Paul warned the Corinthians of trouble in the flesh in marrying, saying that the husband would seek to please the wife, and the wife would seek to please the husband. He recommended that, if possible, one ought to remain single so that he or she might serve the Lord with full devotion.
Marilyn and I made that agreement explicitly. I hoped we could marry and serve the Lord, too. For years, even decades, I thought we were doing just that. We would find out differently – the Word of God cannot be broken. I would discover that I could not eat my carrot cake and have it, too.
We were married the last day of November, 1974, 21 months after my conversion, which was near the end of February, 1973. Marilyn had come to faith in June of 1971, nearly two years earlier than I. For her, our wedding was 3½ years after her conversion, twice as long as it was for me.
All those at Faith Baptist Church graciously participated and helped with a modest wedding festivity. I wished to have a casual wedding, and it was not as I would have had it. Powerful forces are ever at work to press formality. For $25, we rented the Hudson Bay Park Baptist Church where there was more room and better facilities than at Faith Baptist to accommodate our guests.
We wrote vows in our own words, and I tried not to be conventional, yet succumbed to the pressures of custom and tradition from every direction. Today, I do not believe in vows of any kind, having learned that only God can ensure anything.
Marilyn borrowed a wedding gown from her first Christian friend and fellow student, Gladys Goertzen, and I picked up a good suit at a garage sale for $15 and had it altered for another $15. We let the rest of the wedding party get what they liked.
We hired a photographer, a cousin to Judy Linton, at Judy’s recommendation. I asked her to take pictures that would capture people in natural circumstances, not in deliberate or formal poses. She did not honor my request and charged us about double the expected price. Judy wasn’t pleased with that. Neither were we, especially because I had a problem with money matters anyway.
Henry performed the ceremony. He was somewhat perplexed because we had not gone to him for premarital counseling. Who knew? Why didn’t he tell us we should do so? Marilyn and I had no idea. Would we have listened to him if he had told us? I doubt it very much.
Marilyn’s brother Les and my brother Archie were best men, Sheila Klein (Marilyn’s half sister) and Cathie, Archie’s wife, were bridesmaids. My younger brothers Bob and David, who lived in Dauphin, ushered. I was somewhat annoyed with David because he was a bit inebriated. He knew we did not want alcohol in our midst. I almost considered denying him the honor of being our usher, but I let it go. It was not a time for strife and rebuke. I think he was nervous in a formal gathering of strangers.
Why did we choose to have our earthly brothers and sisters as best men and bridesmaids, and my earthly brother for an usher at our Baptist wedding, though he was not a believer? At least, Archie, Cathie, and Les did profess faith in Christ. In any case, God was about to change our relationships dramatically.
My sister Barb and her husband Ron, my father and mother, and my Uncle Fred and Aunt Mary Prestayko came from Dauphin. They sat in front seats in great gloom throughout the ceremony, displeased that I was not marrying in the Catholic Church, and that I had opted for a Christian wedding, or that we had married without their direct participation and arrangement. Throughout the evening, my physical family stuck to themselves and did not mingle with our church family, which was to be expected, though some in the church tried to make gestures of hospitality.
I had not honored my parents as they would expect. Was I right or wrong? All I know is that it happened as it did, and Marilyn and I were not at all inclined to be subjected to a great nonChristian, Ukrainian wedding with all its revelry. I also believed that if they held a wedding festivity for us, it would not be enough for them unless we had a Catholic ceremony, the thought of which I found utterly unacceptable before God.
We were granted time to declare to all what God had done for us. Being emotional, I cried when testifying. Following some advice from Henry, I tried to credit my parents for some religious upbringing, and it backfired, at least with my sister, Barb. She, as usual in her mysterious bitterness toward me, was able to find fault with that particular segment of what I said.
Lois, my mother’s sister and wife to Howard Benson, was there. Lois is the one with whom I held a bet that whoever married first would owe the other a dollar – she married first (I don’t know that I ever saw the dollar). Fred and Delores Molnar also came; Delores professed faith in Christ, while it seemed Fred went along with it. I was never sure where he stood – was his faith real, one that gave him a quiet confidence, or was his silence an indication he had no personal relationship with God?
Marilyn’s father, John Coles, was there from Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, with his brother Walter, as were Marilyn’s mother’s brother and wife, Charles and Nancy Moeller. Her mother Laura also came, but she didn’t come with her second husband, Les Klein. If their marriage was justified, why not? Both John Coles and Laura Klein professed faith in Christ, Marilyn having “led them to the Lord.”
Dave Miller flew in with a friend from Winnipeg to honor our wedding. Later, when he married, he didn’t invite me; he told me his was very small, but I surmised he didn’t want a zealous believer at his wedding. Gerry McClintock didn’t make it, but he came to the reception in Dauphin the following week, where Dave again came.
Gerry was upset with me at the Dauphin reception because my father was upset because of the way I was conducting myself there as a believer. I wasn’t flowing with the crowd, drinking and being as I once was. I was a bit perplexed that Gerry should side with my father, though not surprised, since they were unbelievers. I now guess that Dad had complained to him confidentially about me and influenced Gerry to see things his way. That thought didn’t occur to me when Gerry was acting unusually disagreeable.
Oh, the remarkable, strange trials one must face in the world when choosing to walk by faith, according to the Law and will of God. No person taking up the cross is exempt from such conflicts. If those do not exist, there is no taking up of the cross, which is the only way to follow Jesus Christ. Just what does taking up the cross mean, if not death? Isn’t that what the Roman cross was for? And who desires or enjoys death? No, it is not a pleasant thing at all.
My wife’s mother is a perpetual giggler, always pacifying, flattering, pretending; often lightly apologizing at suspected offenses she may have committed, or trying to please somehow. Gigglers seek to be accepted. It seems to me that giggling comes out of insecurity, nervousness, and fear, every bit as often as out of simplemindedness. It is a defense mechanism used to preserve oneself and divert unwanted attention from certain issues, yet it attracts attention in another way that is not expected or desirable for the one trying to avoid it.
It has repeatedly been my experience that people living in fear simply cannot be trusted. I have known several gigglers, and they have all been untrustworthy, every last one. This is not at all to say that those who don’t giggle can be trusted, or that every giggler cannot be trusted, but generally speaking, this has been my experience.
Marilyn and I made the Toews basement suite our first home. We would see many more.
For our honeymoon, Ludwig and Pat Teichgraber lent us their home for the weekend as a getaway. Wayne Andries and some friends of his decided to “fix” our suite while we were at Teichgraber’s. Mr. Toews, not suspecting what they were up to, let them in. They messed up everything; they spilled salt on the floors, cupboards, and in the beds, smeared Vaseline on doorknobs and other objects, and generally made a mess of the entire suite.
Though they meant and did no harm, in a narrow sense of the word, Marilyn didn’t appreciate it at all, and she made it clearly known. While I understood their pranksterism, having been a prankster myself for most of my life, and not a very nice one at that, I nevertheless supported Marilyn, feeling that this kind of conduct was not justified among Christians, and it didn’t represent love, holiness, or sobriety in Christ.
The boys sheepishly repented outwardly, likely wondering what the big deal was about, and offered to clean the mess, but Marilyn, being a fastidious housekeeper, determined to clean it all with my help. Vaseline and salt are not too easy to clean from doorknobs, floors, and beds.
The lesson? Do you recall my advising you not to be concerned about nosy landlords and landladies? Keep them in the know, and let them work for you! They have a stake in your welfare, too. But who knew? Who can anticipate all things?
Another lesson: Don’t believe for a moment that those who profess life changes in Christ (which may or may not be genuine) are not capable of the old life. Salvation is a process, which is not done until it is done. It can also be mimicked.
Marilyn and I had relatively new convictions on how to conduct ourselves in various matters and circumstances of life as believers. Thus, already divided from my family, it was our understanding that to discuss and make wedding plans with my parents was not an option.
My parents were displeased because they wanted me to marry as a Catholic and preferred that I marry a Ukrainian, though they respected Marilyn. Furthermore, my father wanted to hold a full-fledged Ukrainian wedding, with all the customary trappings – music, dancing, drinking, and general celebration. I was his firstborn, which is an important matter to many fathers, but he was in turmoil. He wanted to take pride in, and celebrate, his son, yet he was greatly disappointed with me.
They wanted the wedding in Dauphin for family and friends. On such short notice, there would be no opportunity for renting suitable facilities or for making significant preparations. They settled for holding a small reception in the only facility available a week later, the basement of the Ukrainian Catholic Hall.
The event was a trying affair because of the spiritual conflict. We were not comfortable with the celebration habits of the world, and we could not participate, which was a source of annoyance to many attending. We were not loved or honored, not that our being loved or honored was an issue to us.
Though we made our wishes clear, taking a stand against consuming alcohol, they served it anyway. My Aunt Polly, my father’s sister, an alcoholic, was a sad spectacle, being foolish and falling to the floor in her drunken stupor.
The day before, while visiting with the family at my grandmother’s, Aunt Polly turned to me and said, “You know that mark you got when you were baptized as a baby? Well, I have news for you! That mark is there permanently! There’s nothing can wash it off, ever! You are Catholic, and that’s that!”
At the time, I thought, “How great a hold the Catholic Church has on its members, leading them to think there is no leaving it alive!” I had no idea how great that power and hold was. There was more to be revealed to me in the near future about my spiritual relationship with the Catholic Church. Aunt Polly would prove to be right, unless God performed a miracle!
What good, I thought, was it doing Aunt Polly to have her “mark”?
There was a bright spot in this event for us. Keep in mind that by now I had been a believer for nearly two years, preaching to several, trying to convert them. They were all, for the most part, defensive and offended. This was the general attitude toward me; it was somewhat the atmosphere that evening at the reception dinner.
My brother Archie, as best man, stood up to speak. He began by recounting some of the evils of our childhood and how I would pull devilish stunts on him, like giving him a bite of a chocolate bar that had a worm in it when we were in catechismal school. They laughed and laughed, perhaps feeling that I was embarrassed (which I wasn’t), perhaps feeling that they were being vindicated, or feeling some hope and assurance by Archie’s words that I was still the old Victor they had always known. I don’t know – maybe it was just funny. I do know that Archie had them eating out of his hand.
Though I had no idea what Archie was going to say, I was not uncomfortable. I suppose I knew that he would testify of the Lord somehow, being a believer, and he did. While speeding down the road of a litany of bad things I had done, he suddenly hit the brake, depressed the clutch, and slammed the stick in reverse: “Then Victor changed,” he proceeded.
“When he believed in Jesus, overnight, I found a very different person.” Archie then spoke of how the Lord changed me. Very suddenly, it was one of those situations for which the expression is so apt, “You could hear a pin drop.” It was like he had climbed up on a menacing tank, lifted the lid, and dropped a grenade inside. He had set them up and conquered them. Rarely, if ever, have I seen such a coup. Yet I know that the Lord gave him the words and wisdom to speak. I marveled.
The next morning, our relatives and closer friends were customarily gathered at the hall for lunch. Having experienced great discomfort and contempt from many people, Marilyn and I did not want to go, but for my parents’ sakes, who insisted, we went.
I had little idea how much my conversion to Christ offended the extended family. As an example, Uncle Ernie Hafichuk’s wife Aunt Lillian and I met for a few moments at the door. I do not recall what I said. She did not say a word, but she glared at me with looks that could kill. We would hear more of her later.
When Don and I were trimming trees near Choiceland, I had gone on and on about how Marilyn was chasing me and how we would never marry. I expressed to him my annoyance with her. Now word got to me that the news reached him about our hurried wedding, and that he got a good chuckle out of it – understandably so. I was embarrassed. It should have been a funny thing, but it wasn’t to me. Why? I don’t know. Pride? “Eating crow”?
Did I invite Don? Maybe I did; I don’t remember, but I don’t think I did, possibly for any or all of these reasons: one, it was short notice (not a good excuse at all); two, we intended to make it a small local event (not a good excuse at all); three, he was far away in Texas; four, Don and I really had not known one another long or that well (a hollow excuse); and five, I was too embarrassed (probably the real reason) – a selfish thing on my part, to be sure.
Where was my sense of humor? I wish I had invited him to the wedding. Perhaps he would not have made it, being in Texas. He might have appreciated it, however. Sorry if we didn’t invite you, Don; so sorry. Please forgive me and know that I much appreciated you. In fact, if you should ever read this, please get in touch. I would love to hear from you. I have tried, finding several Don Pittmans, but not you.
I have the sincere hope and perhaps conviction that, one day, God will straighten out all these things, and we will all be so thankful for it. Obviously, I speak of a world other than this one.
Marilyn and I returned to Saskatoon from Dauphin and settled into our basement suite and married life, but things weren’t ideal. I was in the middle of a term paper, and she expected more from our marriage. She later confided to me that she had asked herself, “Is this all there is to it?” I suppose she expected some kind of fulfillment – perhaps a lot of attention from me, which she didn’t get, but there was attention coming that neither of us expected, and plenty of it.
Commonly, newlyweds look forward to having children. I didn’t realize I was looking forward to our becoming children.
END OF PART I
NEXT SECTION: PART II – PENTECOST TO ISRAEL