A Romance Restored. (Taken from ‘THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE CONSTIPATED CAT – and Other True Stories of Answered Prayer.)
It was towards the end of the 1990s when I first got hooked up. I had been using a computer since 1983, when a Sinclair Spectrum had enabled me to play Space Invaders, and games where spiders chased me round the screen. Not a good idea for a man who suffered from arachnophobia anyway!
Then came a free offer that looked too good to refuse. A free computer. No catches or trickery – a free computer was offered to dentists in the UK by a company called Baker Heath. I thought about it quickly, and applied immediately. Surely there would be a stampede for the machines, and I wanted to be at the head of the queue. My computer duly arrived – but it did not do anything. I needed software. “What’s software?” I enquired. “About £1,000,” should have been their answer, and I duly forked out. And a little more to connect to the NHS dental HQ in order to speed up payments from them. And before I knew it, the software was out of date and needed replacing. “What for?” I enquired. “About £500,” should have been their reply. Baker Heath! I always referred to them as Heath Robinson!
Can you remember the first time you played Solitaire (‘Patience’ in English) on your computer? And can you remember the first time you won? Of course you can, and so can I, watching with amazement as the cards tumbled across the screen in scintillating and mesmerising patterns at around 1.30 a.m. It was the same relatively primitive computer that took me into the Internet – the Worldwide Web.
A patient of mine called Peter was the first person I can recall speaking about it. He had co-authored a book on personal growth, and was now using the Internet to research for the courses he was running. He was amazed, astounded, totally gobsmacked (not a word dentists use very often) at what he found there. “You can read research papers in Sweden one minute, and be in Australia the next,” he explained excitedly. “And you can send emails – they’re like letters typed onto your screen – to the other side of the world in seconds. It’s totally revolutionary.”
And so it was that I too got hooked up. I did not understand it, but there were plenty of younger folk who did. In fact, the younger they were, the more they understood. Any person out of their teens was really too old and too past it. It was suggested that the average age of a computer operator in the UK was ten, and that that was also the optimum age for knowledge and helpfulness when one needed to learn more or have one’s machine ‘fixed’.
Like most of my peers, I explored what was ‘out there’. I discovered that one could use emails like conventional letters, which were now referred to as ‘snail mail’, because they took so long to arrive compared with electronic mail flying around the globe at something approaching the speed of light. So I was told. And then there were ‘messengers’, where one could chat in ‘real time’ – it was like a telephone conversation, except we used typed words in place of spoken words. I also heard about chat-rooms, but steered clear as they were getting a bad press, so it seemed to me.
I joined groups. With two Siamese cats that were like family, I was soon exchanging cat stories with others who shared my penchant for the creatures. But my greatest passion in life is for Jesus. It has been since October 1965, when I first came to faith in him, found he was real, and experienced my whole life being turned right way up. And so I found other Christians of all persuasions, from out and out fundamentalists, to liberal and social and political. I joined groups. I chatted. And just a few became ‘almost friends’.
Greg was an interesting guy. He lived in Australia, lectured in agriculture at University, and had a smallholding. He was married to Rachel, and they had a teenaged daughter, Mandy. He explained that he did not share my evangelical faith – he was more of a liberal, but he loved God and wanted to live for him. We emailed from time to time, and occasionally messaged.
It was early in the year 2,000 when he emailed me, with a somewhat more serious tone to his words. Did I really believe that prayer ‘worked’? Did God really hear us when we prayed to him? We corresponded, electronically, on the subject a time or two.
And then, one evening, I received an email from Greg, in which he opened his heart. He and Rachel had fallen in love over two decades earlier, and had married. Mandy had been born, and Rachel had spent more time with her and around the house as Greg had developed his career at the University. And the University was not exactly on the doorstep. Instead of absence causing the heart to grow fonder, it had the opposite effect, and as a result he and Rachel had grown apart and decided to divorce. Their relationship was cold. The tenderness had long gone. They would not divorce immediately, but in a couple of years or so when Mandy herself left home and went to University…
Yet it all seemed so wrong to Greg. Surely they should not only stand by their marriage vows, but also be seeking to find again the love they had once enjoyed together. So he asked me if I would seriously pray, asking the Lord to save his marriage. The request arrived in an email, and I had developed a routine in handling email requests for prayer. As it was so easy to say that I’d pray, and then forget, I usually wrote an email back, explaining that I would pray for the request as soon as I had hit the SEND key on the keyboard. I wrote this explanation to Greg, hit SEND and turned away from the screen, praying and lifting my brother Greg and his marriage to the God who is with us, hears us, and answers. I then turned the computer off and went to bed.
* * *
The next morning I checked my incoming emails before driving the seven and a half miles to my surgery for the day’s work. Greg’s name was amongst those that had arrived. I opened the email, and could hardly believe what I read.
Greg had been sitting at his computer, having sent me his prayer request. He felt very unsettled within at the prospect of divorce and all that it entailed. It was morning, and he was not expecting me to reply so soon, when Ping! An email had arrived, and it was from me. He opened it and started reading. I thanked him for his email. I thanked him for his prayer request. I would pray after hitting SEND. Then surely, he thought, I must be praying at that very time; 9,500 miles away, but praying to the God who was with each of us anyway.
He heard someone enter the room, and from the reflection in his monitor realised that it was Rachel. He remained facing the screen, and was surprised that she came right over to where he sat. She placed her hands on his shoulders, caressed them gently, and asked if they could sit together and talk. Surely, they should never have come to the place where they spoke of divorce. Was there no way back? Couldn’t they rediscover the romance they had once enjoyed?
Greg felt overwhelmed with joy that his marriage could be saved, and that romance might actually be restored. They were going to talk more. And as for prayer being answered, this was way beyond his wildest expectations.
* * *
I could hardly contain my joy. Coincidence? Come on – if ever there was evidence of a God in heaven who was active on earth, and who heard the cry of his children and answered them with miracles… But some would say it was just a coincidence!
* * *
We continued to email from time to time, and it seemed as if everything was going better than either of us had expected. And then with changing circumstances and other priorities, we lost touch.
* * *
It was towards the end of 2012, and my first book was about to be published. A young man who I knew through church, had set up a website for me, and also a page on Facebook and links to Twitter. He encouraged me to write a regular blog. “What’s a blog?” I asked, and he explained that it is a type of diary-made-public, where I would write on events in my life – and point people towards my book. It seemed like fun anyway, and I was soon tapping away.
Wendy and I were at that time enjoying a season of ‘quick answers to prayer’. That is not the norm for us, but was for a purpose. Work was being carried out on our home, and the workmen were members of a cult. They were a captive audience, and the Lord gave me a lot to tell them. It was at that time that Duane and Cherie were reconciled with their family member, and Bob and Sue were blessed with a night when he did not have to work. I told the workmen all about it, and included these things in a blog.
But had I other examples of prayer that had been answered almost instantly? I thought of Greg and Rachel, and wrote out the amazing story. And then I stopped – what if they were no longer together? Maybe they had divorced in the end? Were they still alive, as over twelve years had passed? I felt I should try and find out what their situation was before publishing, but his email address had vanished along with the computer I had emailed him on when I had upgraded to a newer one. I knew nothing of transferring data in those days.
Just two days later an email arrived. Christmas was approaching and Greg had decided to catch up with old friends by sending out a newsletter. He and Rachel were enjoying running the smallholding, with less time now at University. Mandy was using her University degree to develop her own career. He and Rachel were involved in the life of a local church. He and Rachel… “Rachel and I…”
I emailed back with my own news, and enclosed a copy of the blog I had written, cataloging the events leading up to his reconciliation with Rachel – an almost immediate answer to prayer that was proffered 9,500 miles away. Yes, of course I could publish it. Yes, they were still together, and very much in love. Yes, what a wonderful God we have as Father.
* * *
I sat there almost dazed. I had a sense of awe at the God who had not only answered my prayer for the restoration of love and marriage for two cyber friends that I had never met, but also for the almost immediate update on their situation and permission to publish it.
No one can prove God to another person, but to me the evidence is overwhelming, and fills me with faith.
However, some people would say these happenings were just coincidences. Come on – get real!
All my books are available at www.amazon.co.uk (UK) and (except ‘There Must be More to Life Than This’) at www.amazon.com (North America) and at all good book shops.