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Author Biography: Lee Strobel, a former atheist, holds a Master of Studies in Law degree from Yale Law School and was an award-winning legal editor of the Chicago Tribune. Currently he is a teaching pastor at Saddleback Valley Community Church in Orange County, CA, where he and his wife live, and a board member of the Willow Creek Association. He is the author of numerous books, including the Gold Medallion winners The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith.
Leslie Strobel has been involved in women's ministries and one-on-one mentoring in the churches where the Strobels have served. She and Lee live in Orange County, California, and are the parents of two grown children.
THE WEATHER WAS CRISP AND CLEAR ON THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS 1966 when my friend Pete and I took the train from our suburban homes into downtown Chicago. We wandered around the Loop for a while, reveling in the bustle of the city, but then came time for me to bring him on a pilgrimage that I took as often as I could. Fighting the wind, we trudged across the Michigan Avenue bridge and stopped in front of the Wrigley Building. There we stood, our hands shoved into our pockets for warmth, as we gazed across the street at the gothic majesty of Tribune Tower. I can't remember whether I muttered the word aloud or if it merely echoed in my mind: "Someday." Pete was quiet. High school freshmen are entitled to their dreams.
We lingered for a few minutes and watched as people flowed in and out of the newspaper office. Were they the reporters whose bylines I studied every morning? Or the editors who dispatched them around the world? Or the printers who manned the gargantuan presses? I let my imagination run wild--until Pete's patience wore thin.
We turned and walked up the Magnificent Mile, browsing through the overpriced and pretentious shops, until we decided to embark on the twenty-minute walk back to the train station. As we passed in front of the Civic Opera House, though, I heard a familiar voice beckon from the crowd. "Hey, Lee, what're you doing here?" called Clay, another high school student who lived in my neighborhood. I didn't answer right away. I was too captivated by the girl at his side, holding his hand and wearing his gold engraved ID bracelet. Her brown hair cascaded to her shoulders; her smile was at once coy and confident. "Uh, well, um . . . just hanging around," I managed to say to Clay, though my eyes were riveted on his date. By the time he introduced us to Leslie, I wasn't thinking much about Clay or Pete or the fact that my hands were getting numb from the cold and I was standing ankle-deep in soot-encrusted snow. I made sure, however, to pay close attention when Clay pronounced Leslie's name; I knew I'd need the proper spelling to look it up in the phone book. After all, everything's fair in love and war.
From Fairytale to Nightmare
As for Leslie, I found out later that she wasn't thinking about Clay as the two of them rode the train home that afternoon. When she arrived at her house in suburban Palatine, she strolled into the kitchen and found her mother, a Scottish war bride, busily preparing dinner.
"Mom," she announced, "today I met the boy I'm going to marry!"
The response wasn't what she expected. Her mother barely looked up from the pot she was stirring. In a voice mixed with condescension and skepticism, she replied dismissively: "That's nice, dear."
But there was no doubt in Leslie's mind. Nor in mine. When I called her the next night from a pay-phone outside a gas station near my house (with four brothers and sisters, that was the only way I could get some privacy), we talked as if we had known each other for years. People like to debate whether there's such a thing as love at first sight; for us, the issue had been settled once and for all. Leslie and I dated almost continuously throughout high school, and when I went off to study journalism at the University of Missouri, she moved there so we could be close to each other. We got married when I was twenty and she was nineteen. After I graduated we moved to Chicago, where my lifelong dream of becoming a reporter at the Chicago Tribune was realized. Leslie, meanwhile, began her career at a savings and loan association across the street from my newspaper office.
We lived a fairy-tale life. We enjoyed the exhilaration and challenge of climbing the corporate ladder while residing in an exciting, upscale neighborhood. Leslie became pregnant with our first child, a girl we named Alison, and then later gave birth to a son, Kyle. Buoyed by our deep love for each other, our marriage was strong and secure--until someone came between us, threatening to shipwreck our relationship and land us in divorce court. It wasn't an affair. It wasn't the resurfacing of an old flame. Instead, the someone who nearly capsized our marriage was none other than God himself. At least, that's who I blamed at the time. Ironically, it was faith in Jesus Christ--which most couples credit for contributing to the strength of their marriage--that very nearly destroyed our relationship and split us apart forever. All because of a spiritual mismatch.
A Marriage Without God
I can describe God's role in our courtship and early marriage in one sentence: He just wasn't on our radar screen. In other words, he was irrelevant.
Personally, I considered myself an atheist. I had rejected the idea of God after being taught in high school that Darwin's theory pleasure. As for Christians, I tended to dismiss them as naive and uncritical thinkers who needed a crutch of an imaginary deity to get them through life.
Leslie, on the other hand, would probably have considered herself an agnostic. While I tended to react with antagonism toward people of faith, she was more in spiritual neutral. She had little church influence growing up, although she has fond child-hood memories of her mother gently singing traditional hymns to her while she tucked her in at night. For Leslie, God was merely an abstract idea that she had never taken the time to explore.
Without God in my life, I lacked a moral compass. My character slowly became corroded by my success-at-any-cost mentality. My anger would flash because of my free-floating frustration at not being able to find the fulfillment I craved. My drinking binges got out of control a little too often, and I worked much too hard at my job, in effect making my career into my god.
Posted May 21, 2002
I've been looking for a book like this for years! As a Christian married to a spiritual skeptic, I've wrestled with all sorts of emotions, pain, and difficulties. Finally, a couple who has actually lived in an 'unequally yoked' marriage has written a biblical, practical guidebook for how to deal with the inevitable conflicts that arise in such relationships. This book has it all -- how to get through the arguments and disagreements; how to raise children in a spiritually confusing environment; how to talk to your spouse about God; how to pray for your partner (the book includes a 30-day prayer guide); and so on. It also features chapters on whether Christians should even date non-Christians; what to do if you and your spouse are both Christians but one is less spiritually mature than the other; and how to handle the situation if your spouse is a member of another religion. I thought the advice was sensitively presented, biblically sound, and resoundingly practical. The authors, Lee and Leslie Stroebel, draw on their own experience of having been married during a time when Leslie was a Christian and Lee was an atheist. While my spouse isn't an atheist, the counsel they offer was totally relevant and useful. Let me add one other thing. I've been trying at my church to start a group of people who are married to non-Christians, but I've been stymied as far as what resource to use as a curriculum. This book includes a wonderful 'application guide' that's a roadmap for a group like this. Now those of us who find ourselves 'unequally yoked' can get together and encourage each other while learning together how to survive our mismatched situations. If you're a Christian but your husband or wife isn't, you MUST have this book. If you know someone who's in that situation, please let them know that this resource can help them in a hundred different ways. And if you're the leader of a church, either a senior pastor or women's ministry director, check out this book and consider starting groups to minister to the Christians in your congregation who are wrestling with the difficulties presented by a spiritual mismatch.
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Posted May 30, 2009
I was listening to John Tesh and he had an interview with the authors. I decided to purchase the book for my daughter. The result has been extremely gratifying. We both agree that the book is easy to read, to understand and to apply it to our everyday lives.
We thank the authors for their insight and compassion. The book is being passed onto my daughter's uncle.
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Posted September 9, 2009
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