Love that Keeps on Growing
When Dan Wooding asked me to contribute a monthly column for the readers of the ASSIST News Service, I didn’t hesitate long. Writing about marriage and family relationships is merely an extension of what my husband Pete and I have been doing together for over 52 years. And we had just finished coauthoring a book about marriage.
|Bev Caruso, and her husband Pete|
We joke that no one wants to hear from the older generation. Even the experts on TV all seem to be under 40. One of our young grandkids questioned why some of her friends would come to us recently for pre-marital counseling. It took only one question to provide a little perspective:
“If you needed delicate surgery, would you want a doctor to cut you open who recently graduated from medical school and just finished his pre-med—or would you want a doctor who had performed the surgery dozens of times under a multitude of circumstances?”
When fellow Americans learn we teach Marriage Enrichment Seminars all over the world, many have asked how we’re able to adapt the message to the various cultures. We’re always delighted to respond: “The principles found in the Bible apply in any culture, in any time in history. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be God’s wisdom.”
It’s easy for a preacher or Bible teacher to let contemporary concepts or pop psychology slip into their message. We’ve even been called to task for it by some in our classes. Then we (and any other conscientious Bible teacher) must go back to our notes and make sure that our teaching is based on God’s Word.
Each month I’ll share something you might apply to your life, or you might share with someone whose life you influence. I promise to be transparent. Real. That’s who we are. If you come to our place for a visit, that’s what you’ll find — a couple still madly in love. You might even catch us hugging in the kitchen. Things might be a little messy. Projects half done, waiting for more attention on our part. We’re just plain folks who love our Lord—a couple still enjoying a love that keeps on growing.
For now, let’s take a look into the beginnings of our relationship, way back in the late 1950’s.
We were both afraid of marrying the wrong person. Pete’s parents divorced when he was only twelve. My parents divorced after I was married following thirty difficult years together. In fact, Pete and I both were so afraid we would marry the wrong person that we had each been praying about it for the three years prior to our meeting. But that’s a story for another time.
I was a senior in high school and had violated my older brother’s strong advice. “Never call a boy on the phone,” he’d cautioned me. “If you do, you’ll send a wrong message.” But my phone call was not in order to flirt with Pete. I needed godly advice and sensed that he would give me some. Pete, a new Bible college student, recently had spoken at our church’s youth meeting and mentioned the effects of his parents’ marriage problems on him as a boy. Now, with my parents’ marital problems affecting me, maybe he could help me learn to cope.
So he picked me up from my job at Disneyland the next evening. We had a Coke® together and he drove me home. I was sitting on the little ’50 Ford’s bench seat, way over next to the door; he was behind the wheel. He said, “Let’s commit this to the Lord before you go in.” I began to pray.
It was many months before he told me what happened next:
As he watched me pray he was thinking, Hmm, she’s cute, she’s smart, she’s spiritual. She’s going to make some guy a good wife. A bright light from nowhere filled the car and a voice, also from nowhere, said, “This is your wife.”
I had neither seen the light nor heard the voice. Our prayer time had barely begun. Yet before I knew it Pete was reaching past me, opening the car door and saying, “I think you’d better go in now.”
I thought, What a strange guy!. He says, “Let’s pray,” and then he practically pushes me out of the car. A few days later, on our first date, he asked me to be his special friend.
I think I’ve fulfilled that request. We’ve been best friends now for fifty-three years.
I love teasing Pete that he didn’t have any choice but to love me. That he has done well. Pete’s love has been totally unconditional. It’s been protective and supportive. His love saw hidden potential in that shy, obscure girl. He has nurtured me until I’ve learned to believe in myself enough to fulfill it.
Conversely, I was afraid to love; afraid I’d marry the wrong person and be miserable. I had to learn to love Pete. Yet loving him was easy and so natural. Before long I was asking the Lord if this love was the kind to base a marriage on. Pete began talking about marriage right away, not blatantly, but subtly. I didn’t know how to respond.
Our prayer times at the end of each date proved to set the stage for God’s answer. One evening after Mom and Dad had gone to their room, Pete and I knelt side by side at the sofa in their family room. While we were praying God gave me a knowing: I knew that I knew that I knew that we were to be married. I’m so glad I waited until I knew. In all these years I’ve never doubted for a moment that God meant us for one another.
What a life we’ve shared!
During his last year of Bible College, although we were only 21 and 25 years old, we pioneered a church and a year later established a Christian school. It’s a good thing we didn’t know how little we knew and how much we had yet to learn. During our twenty-one years of pastoring there we had four building programs and sent out over 100 people into fulltime Christian work. During a sabbatical we resigned and joined Youth With A Mission and worked with them for a while. Then we came back and started another church which we pastored for fourteen years.
During those early years God planted in Pete a desire to encourage other pastors. He’s been an active part in many pastors’ prayer and share groups—in many cities. His heart’s cry is for pastors to become united, not just with surface cooperation, but at the heart level, so they can together lead their flocks to truly influence their communities for Christ.
During the 1980s God led me to begin writing books in order to share with others the many truths He was instilling in our hearts and lives. One of my favorite things is to teach those from other countries to write to their own people, in their own language, using their own cultural heritage. For too long, materials have been translated into other languages. I love to teach writers to use the richness of their own experiences, stories and backgrounds to convey the truths of God’s Word to the hearts of their own people.
We’ve been blessed in so many ways. God has given us three children, eight grandchildren, and so far, nine great grandchildren. He has sent us to 45 nations to share His Word.
And He just keeps growing the love in our hearts for one another. We never tire of being together, of working together, and looking for understanding of God’s ways for His people to relate better to one another.
In the coming months, through this column, we’ll explore together how God wants us to apply His truths to our lives. Sometimes we’ll laugh together; we also may shed some tears. That’s how we learn best—by being real about life and love. I hope you’ll find yourself too with a love that keeps on growing.
In the meantime, if you aren’t married yet, I urge you to begin now to pray, as Pete and I did, for the one God has selected for you. He can let you know clearly, as He did for Pete and me.
Bev Caruso, and her husband Pete, have served the Lord together for over 50 years. They pastored two churches for a total of 35 years. From those churches they sent over 100 individuals into fulltime Christian service. They have preached or taught in 35 countries: in schools and colleges, barrios and offices, prisons and jungles. Whether encouraging weary pastors or missionaries or praying for the sick, speaking through an interpreter or teasing with their grandchildren, their love for God and His people shines through. Bev’s many books include God’s Gift of Friendship—Tools for Improving Relationships; Developing Godly Character in Children, now in its sixth edition; Getting Your Writing Into Print and Getting It Read; and Loving Confrontation. They recently coauthored: Keeping It Fresh—A Love that Keeps on Growing based on the Marriage Enrichment Seminars they team-teach. The Caruso’s continue to teach and preach. They also are directors of a hospitality center for traveling missionaries and ministers in Southern California. They have three grown children, eight grandchildren, and currently nine great-grandchildren. They can be contacted at: Caruso@across2u.com. Or visit their website: www.PeteandBevCaruso.com