Cindy's title

John and Cindy This column is a regular part of this journal, but I asked Cynthia to let me say a few words in this issue because we have had so much mail about her writing in previous issues. Those of you who have been longtime readers of this periodical know that my wife of 49 years passed away in May 2008. Phyllis Clayton was not only the manager of this ministry and the producer of this bulletin, but she was my rock — the one thing in my life that gave me stability and uncompromising support. There were many people close to me who wondered how I would survive without her, and there were times when I did not think I would myself.

While I was struggling in major ways with my wife’s death, a set of circumstances took place that brought a widow into my life. She had been through a variety of bad experiences that left her feeling beat up and clinging to her faith as the foundation of her hope to build a future based on some kind of ministry.

She was very pretty, very bright, and ten years younger than I am. When I met Cynthia I was attracted primarily to her spirituality. We communicated by e-mail on a brother-sister level, but gradually began to see that we shared a great deal in common. My loneliness and need for love and companionship caused me to wish for some way I could make her fall in love with me. An unattractive, bald, overweight, 71-year-old man coming off a good 49-year-old marriage is not exactly a “catch” for any woman, especially when his life is immersed in a consuming ministry.

There are two passages in 1 Corinthians that affected both Cynthia and me as we looked at our relationship. The first was chapter 10 verse 13 where we are told that no temptation we have is unique to us, and that God promises his children that a way of escape would be provided. The solutions I was entertaining as I worked through the trauma of the death of my wife were not good solutions. The circumstances that brought Cynthia into my life were so unusual that both of us felt God had a hand in it and a purpose in our being together. Both of us had to decide if we would recognize marriage to one another as God’s “way of escape.”

An equally important scripture was 1 Corinthians 7:39 where Paul writes that if a woman’s “husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord” (NIV). I wondered how Cynthia could possibly love me with all of my “baggage.” Cynthia’s response is that to love someone is to love who they are inside. We all have “baggage” in later life, but God’s love is made complete in us (1 John 4:12 –17). He helps us to love each other more deeply and completely as time goes on.

I have worried about how she could handle the drastic changes our marriage brought — including Michigan winters, a small mission-field-type congregation of the church, and living in a house Phyllis and I built together. I have been amazed that she can handle Phyllis’ shadow and constant reminders of Phyllis’ role in this ministry without being offended. It is only because of her being a Christian that this has been possible and that this new and rapid marriage has been able to work and work incredibly well. She does not blink when the name of my previous wife appears in discussions about the past, or when I tear up in a memory, or when I talk about an experience in which Phyllis was involved. Her Christian strength and resolve enables her to walk as no worldly woman could. God’s promise and his instruction concerning love the second time around is a great evidence of His hand in life and His love and concern for us, even when death strikes.                
— John and Cynthia Clayton

Photo: Patty Gibson and Roland Earnst

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