A Personal Emmaus Journey

Pastor Linda Marcum

May 4, 2014


My father was ordained in the Christian Church in the Southern Ohio Conference. I was thirteen when he died, and my mother took my siblings and I to the church where my uncles pastored. I came from a poor country family and had six siblings. I married my husband at age 16. My husband was an only child and had a hard time understanding the camaraderie of a large family, but we wanted our children close together, so they would have someone to play with. We had our first child when I was barely 17. Pam was a healthy happy child. I was barely 18 when our second child, Bradley was born. He died in my arms when he was two weeks old. Don and I were devastated with our loss. But to make our loss more heartbreaking, people from the church I was raised in made the statement: “you and your husband must have committed some awful sin for God to have taken your child.”


I look back on my life and I see where I separated myself from my God who created me. And yet, for seven years following our son’s death, my arms were empty from the want of a child. In those seven years I prayed for a child. And then I gave birth to a beautiful little curly headed girl. Even though God had given me my little Terri, I was still angry with the church. My husband was never what you would call a religious person, and as long as I had Don and my children, I did not feel the desire or need to seek out God – to question why this all happened to me – to my family. I was angry at God for twenty two years for the death of my son.


After 14 years of marriage, my husband and I packed up our kids and moved here in W.F. July 4, 1974. After the tornado in 1979, we both lost our jobs and moved to Dallas. Then my loving husband became very possessive of me and my time. He only wanted me and the kids in his life and no one else. Now, I loved my husband more than life itself. But I was expected to have no friends but him, so I grew tired of my prison and packed my bags and left with our youngest daughter – the oldest was already out on her own. I was gone for one week when Don tracked me down, put a letter on my windshield that he had written in his own blood from pricking his fingers, and he promised to change if I would come home and give him another chance. He said he would go to church with me if I would take him back. THAT was a huge step for him, so I felt it was worth returning home.


God carried me and sustained me with his grace all my life. God's prevenient grace was with me as I did all those stupid things in my youth when I first heard God call my name. In August 1982, I felt God calling me back after my absence of 22 years from the church. I had turned my back on God, but God had not turned his back on me.


August of 1980, my life was in so much turmoil. I loved my husband dearly, but I was miserable, and I knew something had to change. I realized there was only one way out for me, and it was to return to the relationship I had with the God of my youth. For twenty-two years I lived with anger toward the church, but also toward God. Then I remembered the footprints in the sand poem. 


“A man dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonged to him and the other to the LORD. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”


It was time to let go of my anger and hate that was consuming me. There was a little Methodist church around the corner from where I lived that I was drawn to. The pastor prayed with me and led me into a new way of thinking about God. I felt forgiven and set free when I opened myself to God’s grace. I found I could forgive those who had hurt me.


Following the service on that first Sunday we went to church together, our car wouldn't start. I expected Don to get upset about it, but he took it all in stride and a nice man offered to help get our car started. That night, I know Don was wrestling with God. He was restless and unable to sleep. The next day on Don changed in ways only I knew he needed to change, so I knew it was the work of the Holy Spirit. He started going to church every Sunday and Bible Study, and this was just the beginning of God's grace at work in both our lives. Yes, Don needed to change but so did I.


In 1982, God called me back in a big way. My husband who had never been a religious person started going to church with me. For the next 14 years, I served on every committee in church and taught the fourth grade in Sunday School. You see, God was molding me for something bigger than I could have ever imagined.


For the last three of those years, I felt God calling me to ministry as a pastor, but I fought it because of my age and lack of education. Two of my favorite words in the Bible are…”But God” showed me I could be of use and He continues to use me today. It was all made possible through His wonderful, marvelous, matchless grace!


 But God reminded me of Moses – can’t speak – Aaron will be your mouth piece. Reminded me of Jeremiah, “Oh Lord I am only a boy, I cannot speak eloquently enough.” “I will be with you. I will tell you what to say.” So, with tears in my eyes, I said yes, Lord, here am I.” And so here I stand before you today loving every minute of it. It is not without pain, but oh what joy.


God’s gift of love and grace is a gift like none other you will ever receive. It is the holiest kind of love. Don and I found a loving church family who embraced us and loved us back into a relationship with God and the church. Don and I renewed our wedding vows at 25 years, and prayed to be able to renew them again at 50 years.


In the early 90s our youngest daughter was followed home and abducted at our front door. Terri was 4’7” and weighed 85 lbs. The man put his hand over her mouth and drug her away.  She was blindfolded with her hands handcuffed behind her back, taken to a field along I-35 in Dallas and brutally raped.   However, the man returned her to her front door alive. For the next three years, Terri crawled in a bottle of booze. Then one day, she came to me and said her life was going nowhere and she turned it over to God. I had so much hate in my heart for this man who had hurt my little girl so badly. I didn’t understand how this could happen to her, because she was a gift from God when I was not supposed to have any more children. I prayed for forgiveness in my heart for the hate I felt for this man. Through much prayer and counseling with my pastor at that time, I was able to not only forgive the man but also receive forgiveness from God for my hate. I went to my daughter and told her I had forgiven the man, and she said: “Mom, I have already forgiven him.”


During the pain of what was going on in my daughter’s life, I was in the exploring process of my call into ministry. It really took me aback, and I felt that God certainly couldn’t use me now because of my hate and anguish. But I found that it was God’s grace guiding me through it – healing my wounded soul.


Don was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2003. Our church at that time embraced Don with their love, and through God’s grace I saw a not so religious man humbled by God’s love shown to him through others. By God’s grace, we renewed our vows of 50 years Sept. 3, 2010. When I lost him 2012, it was a devastating loss. But in those 52 years, there were bumps along the way – there was pain, but the joy we had in those 52 years together had been made perfect in the love of Christ, and the love of our faith families. We truly experienced agape love.


God continued to work in my life in God’s Sanctifying grace. After several years of teaching and serving God through the church, I began to feel God pulling me in a different direction, and I’ve told you this part before, but in 1991, Perkins School of Theology had a week-end workshop called: “Here I Am Lord, I think!” It was for those who felt the call to ministry to explore their call. So, I attended, and we began with worship. The first hymn we sung was Here I Am Lord. By the time we finished the first verse, with tears rolling down my face, I said: “Okay Lord, I got your message. Let’s rock and roll.” New life, new strength, and a new heart. That is God’s grace imparted to me. One of my favorite Psalms is David’s prayer in Psalm 51 and specifically verse 10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Conversion is an ongoing process. This Psalm reminds me that I am a work in progress - ever in need of forgiveness and grace. In my being perfected in Christ’ love, it is ever before me. It’s a real change in my life that continues from yesterday, today, and forever.


It was only by God’s grace that Don and I celebrated our 52nd anniversary the month before he went home to be with the Lord. Over the years, I witnessed the churches I served, embrace and love my husband through prostate cancer, interstitial lung disease, and they loved him right into eternity as the church is called to do. And I thank you for that. Life is all about choices. We don’t always make the right ones, but through God’s love and grace, we can get through anything that is thrown our way.


If you are a Christian, you have had Jesus reveal himself to you on your Emmaus road. By the power of the Holy Spirit living and ministering through us, may we all leave this place so filled with Jesus and His love that everyone will know “He lives within our hearts.”