At first glance, Ps. Samuel, his wife, Ps. Connie, their children, and grandchildren appear to be a very normal family. But a slightly closer look might cause one to wonder, “Is Ps. Connie old enough to be a grandmother?”
Married for twenty years now, Ps. Samuel and Ps. Connie often get confused looks when people observe their family interaction. Judging by their love for one another and the closeness between their family members, most people would never guess that their story indeed involves the grace of God on remarriage.
Ps. Samuel lost his late wife, Christina, in 1993. His daughter, Delicia, was only eight at that time. As she came to the end of her life, Christina, in her wisdom, spoke to Ps. Samuel about moving on after her death. Unbeknownst to him, she also talked to her mother and uncle about telling Ps. Samuel to move on after the first anniversary of her death.
Ps. Connie, having grown up as a youth in their church, looked up to Christina as a mentor and was also ministered to by Christina’s grace and wisdom through the years she knew her. “Though we couldn’t understand at that time, she somehow knew that God was calling her home, and she prepared the people,” Ps. Connie said. Several people who visited her in the hospital during that time came to know the Lord. Christina’s own mother, whom many in the church later referred to as Aunty Ruby, also accepted Christ during this period.
It was two years after Christina’s passing before Ps. Samuel and Ps. Connie began their relationship. “Every person, whether a widow or widower, will have to go through that period of grief and mourning first,” Ps. Samuel said. “Some people may get over it faster than others, but if you jump into any relationship before that period is up, you’ll create a lot of emotional reaction, especially if you have grown up or even teenage children.”
When counseling or giving advice to other individuals who have lost a spouse, Ps. Samuel and Ps. Connie usually recommend at least one year of mourning. “Anything too early would cause others to wonder about the quality of your marriage or even doubt your character.” This is especially vital for those in leadership positions, as people are looking to them to set a godly example.
Ps. Samuel and Ps. Connie worked closely together in their youth ministry at church and were very good friends. Finding that they loved spending time with one another and were able to talk about anything under the sun, they began discussing the possibility of taking their relationship to the next level.
“We spent our courtship in a very unique way,” Ps. Connie said. “We just sat down, and chit-chatted with each other. Delicia was part of our lives.” In a very informal setting, Ps. Samuel and Ps. Connie discussed all the different aspects that life together would entail, and Ps. Connie realized that she was going to inherit an instant family.
Ps. Samuel pointed out the importance of not imposing oneself as a parent when marrying into a family. While a marriage covenant ends with death, a parent-child relationship lasts forever and having someone new in the family could be threatening to a child. Ps. Connie took on the role and function of a mother when she married Ps. Samuel, but made it a point to assure Delicia that she would never replace her mother. In time, Delicia, on her own initiative, started calling Ps. Connie “Mom.”
Ps. Samuel and Ps. Connie also made it a priority to seek the Lord in their relationship. “We actually asked God for a few signs that would show us that He is for this relationship.” While they received many confirmations from God, two in particular stand out: The salvation of Ps. Samuel’s mother, and Ps. Connie’s uncle.
Ps. Samuel’s mother came to know the Lord through none other than Ps. Connie’s parents—when they met up to talk about marriage arrangements. Confident that their children knew what they were doing, Ps. Connie’s mother said, “Let’s talk about Jesus instead.” Through a series of events, Ps. Connie’s uncle also eventually asked them to be the ones to lead him to Christ. “This was something we prayed for: That our union would bring forth good fruit!” Ps. Samuel said.
“When we look back, we really see God’s hand in all of it,” Ps. Connie said. “He was touching his (Ps. Samuel) heart, my heart, and Delicia’s heart.” God also worked in Ps. Connie’s parents’ hearts, as they were initially not in favor of their daughter marrying their widowed pastor—despite the respect they held for him. Wanting keep the Biblical command to honor her parents, they prayed about it, and in time, seeing that Ps. Samuel and Ps. Connie were serious about each other, Ps. Connie’s parents gave them their full blessing.
In addition to the good relationship that Ps. Samuel now has with Ps. Connie’s parents, God also poured out His grace upon their union by blessing Ps. Connie and Aunty Ruby with a beautiful relationship. Towards the end of Aunty Ruby’s life, Ps. Connie was one of her primary care-takers and would visit her at the hospital regularly.
Others who shared the hospital room were puzzled as to who she was, and were amazed when Aunty Ruby explained their relationship. With such a wonderful testimony that they were able to witness with their own eyes, these hospital roommates were open to hearing the Gospel!
All in all, the family has been extremely blessed with close relationships and acceptance among Ps. Samuel’s family, his former in-laws, and Ps. Connie’s parents. “When Aunty Ruby and my mom were still alive, we used to say that we have three moms. During Chinese New Year, everything we do is repeated three times.” Ps. Samuel said.
Ps. Samuel and Ps. Connie also have two sons of their own who get along wonderfully with their older sister. “God really worked in each of our family member’s lives. That’s why we tell people, ‘Don’t marry for the sake of getting married. Get married because you’ve sought the Lord and really want Him to be involved in your marriage.’” Marriage by itself, is full of complications and requires commitment and sacrifice from both parties. Remarriage requires much more grace, with many other things to take into consideration.
Based on their experience, Ps. Samuel and Ps. Connie also encourage couples who are considering remarriage to preserve the memory of the departed spouse. In their home, Christina’s name is still mentioned on a regular basis after twenty years. Her pictures are still around, and the entire family commemorates her memory on the anniversary of her death.
This openness has helped to keep their family dynamics healthy and united. “Whoever wants to remarry has to establish some good ground rules,” Ps. Samuel said. “You cannot compare. You cannot hide. Some don’t compare, but never want to talk about it. But you cannot erase that memory—especially with children, because they will see that as a threat. When we look at Scriptures, part of life is accepting the past and learning to live for the future.”
“We entered into this marriage with this understanding,” Ps. Connie said. “I looked to Christina in those days as a mentor and I honor her, but I never felt like I needed to be who she was.” Ps. Samuel also played a vital role by assuring Ps. Connie that he would never compare her to Christina.
“I think he, giving the leadership, made a lot of difference,” Ps. Connie continued. “We understood it as a family, and the church caught on. It’s not a hush-hush that we cannot talk about. I have my own ministry and responsibilities, and Delicia is who she is because of all the years that her parents put into her earlier on. It helps knowing who I am in Christ and who God has called me to be. I had to spend a lot of time with God and ask myself, ‘Do I really believe and do, what I say in theory?’”
“If the new prospective spouse is very insecure and jealous, don’t get married. It’s better to be single and happy than married and sad.” Ps. Samuel said. “One of the things we always say is that remarriage is not for everyone who loses a spouse, even though it is biblical.” Similarly, not just anyone is able to handle marrying a widow or widower, as lots of grace and maturity are required to make a healthy marriage work.
Ps. Samuel and Ps. Connie also warn people against getting married out of loneliness or to simply find a new parent for their children. Rash decisions made in the state of emotional vulnerability or grief could lead to serious consequences that ought to be avoided. “It’s not something you do based on emotion, and it’s not something to dabble with,” Ps. Samuel said.
The couple also said that churches should look into providing classes not just for the pre-marrieds, but also for those considering remarriage, as there are many other aspects to cover. “Looking back, God has been really good,” Ps. Connie said. “Since we’ve gone through it, with the same grace that God has comforted us, we want to comfort others, rather than hide our experiences,” Ps. Samuel affirmed.
* Rev. Dr. Samuel Ng and Rev. Connie Chan serve as the Senior Pastor and Associate Pastor of Faith City Church, Subang Jaya. He is the General Treasurer of the Assemblies of God of Malaysia and she is the Assemblies of God Prayer Commission, Central Coordinator.
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