Wedding of Dan E. Augsburger and Rose Marie Elizabeth Parker
Seventh-day Adventist Church, St. Joseph, MI, August 3, 2012, 4:30 pm
“A God-Arranged Marriage”
The Bible shows us at least three kinds of marriages:
- Marriages arranged by humans without reference to God. Genesis 6:2 tells of people who “took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.”
- Marriages in which God has some influence, but not complete freedom to act, because the humans involved have not fully yielded themselves to God.
- Marriages arranged by God—where God has freedom to guide in everything, because both partners are fully surrendered to God before making any plans for marriage. Biblical examples include Isaac and Rebekah, Ruth and Boaz, and Joseph and Mary.
Jesus Himself stated the principle in John 7:17 (niv):
“If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether My teaching comes from God.” In other words, the prior choice to accept God’s will is the condition for discovering God’s will.
Only after we yield “all things” to Him, can He orchestrate “all things” together for our good. But to those who let Him have His way, He gives nothing less than His best. God always reserves His best gifts for those who leave the choice with Him.
This is especially true of marriage. Wise counsel is found in the book Adventist Home, p. 43: “Marriage is something that will influence and affect your life both in this world and in the world to come. A sincere Christian will not advance his plans in this direction without the knowledge that God approves his course. [The Christian] will not want to choose for himself, but will feel that God must choose for him. . . . I would not be understood to mean that anyone is to marry one whom he does not love. This would be sin. But fancy and the emotional nature must not be allowed to lead on to ruin. God requires the whole heart, the supreme affections.” (AH 43)
In order to fully appreciate what we are celebrating today, you need to know how God arranged the marriage of Rose Parker and Dan Augsburger.
The story began in 1999 when Rose was a student in the Seminary at Andrews University. She had shared a testimony of answered prayer in a Sabbath School that Dan was involved with. A little later Dan caught up with her on the sidewalk. He mentioned hearing her testimony and they had a casual conversation about her being a woman in the Seminary.
“Do you preach?” Dan asked. She started to explain.
“But you will if God wants you to?”
Thoughtfully she nodded, “I will if God wants me to.” Neither of them had any inkling that one day they would do ministry together.
About a year later, Rose, still a student, was working as a cashier at Apple Valley Market. When she saw Dan in the market she prayed, “Lord, please let him come through my line.” He did, and suddenly the thought flashed into her mind, “I’m going to marry you someday—but you don’t get it, do you?”
One of Rose’s Seminary courses was taught by Dr. Augsburger, Dan’s father. One day as she was standing next to Dr. Augsburger in class, Rose suddenly thought, I’m going to marry your son someday! The experience was so striking that her next thought was a playful, Shall I tell you out loud?—No-oooo.
But when Dr. Augsburger told about immigrating to the United States, she figured out from the story about how old he was, and that even if Dan had been a late baby, there must be an age difference.
Next time he came through her line at Apple Valley she again felt impressed that she was destined to marry him, but now she was deeply troubled about the age difference. After work she phoned a girl friend who was much younger than her husband. “I think the Lord wants me to marry this man,” Rose confided, “but we have a big, big age difference.” Her friend assured her, “If the Lord is leading, it will be okay.”
A third time in the year 2000, Rose saw Dan in the market. This time he had with him a girl whom Rose thought might be his daughter, or a girl friend’s daughter. This was a very upsetting development. Was he married? Did he have a girl friend? Then what about those clear impressions? Sadly she decided, “I must have been soooo wrong!” and dropped him from her mind.
Eight years went by as Rose gained a varied experience. She taught Bible and Home Economics at Blue Mountain Academy, worked 14 summers as a youth camp counselor, and served as a Bible instructor in evangelism and church planting. In 2008, she was back in Berrien Springs, visiting a girlfriend. When the conversation came around to relationships, her friend suddenly said, “You should get to know Dan!”
“Dan who?” Rose asked.
“Dan Augsburger.” Rose’s head shot up and her eyes opened wide. This was the same man she had had the strong impressions about, so many years before. That day she prayed, “Lord, if it’s Your will, I’m willing.”
In 2009 she was a Bible worker in a church planting project in Rockingham, North Carolina. Some family and friends were concerned that she was staying so many years in a place where there seemed to be few eligible Adventist men. One Sabbath, listening to a sermon, she sensed the Lord calling her to surrender on the issue of marriage. When a call was made, Rose stood up, committing herself to continue serving right where she was, believing that if God had someone special for her, He knew where to find her.
Meanwhile, Dan was in a relationship that he thought would eventually lead to marriage. But he felt impressed that he needed to back off some, because he wasn’t convinced that she really wanted to marry someone with his itinerant life. Dan assumed that eventually the relationship would resume, but she began seeing another man, and the new relationship became serious.
Dan became so disappointed with this turn of events that he lost his appetite, lost weight, and despite total physical exhaustion, he couldn’t sleep. In this time of need he was led to a precious quotation.
“In order that we may die to self, we are called upon to endure trial, and when the chastening hand of the Lord is laid upon us, we are not to fret and complain, not to rebel, not to worry ourselves out of the hand of Christ. We are to humble ourselves before God, pleading with him to give us rest and peace. We enter the furnace of affliction with our hearts darkened by selfishness; but if patient under the crucial test, we shall come forth reflecting the divine image, as gold tried in the fire.” [ST, December 10, 1896 par. 9].
As he wrestled with that message he saw that “selfish self-centeredness was the BIG issue that God was working on—is always working on—when He is bringing about our death to self.” A couple of days later, as he was re-reading the whole article where that quote was found, God suddenly spoke to him:
"Write her a letter good-bye. And by the way, your struggle isn't with her, your struggle is with me. Do you trust Me?"
“Yes, I trust You!” Dan responded, and at that moment found the peace that he had been missing for several months.
Dan was shocked to think that God had orchestrated the breakup. But that experience became for Dan a striking illustration of the surrender of self to the will of God, and he resolved to make that surrender continual in his life. Particularly in regard to marriage, he determined never again to let his will run ahead of God’s will. If God wanted him to remain single, he would.
In November 2009, while visiting in the home of her grandpa, Rose saw a set of CDs labeled “Dan Augsburger,” and the thought was immediately impressed on her mind, “If you listen to these, they will have a big impact on your life.” She borrowed the CDs and began listening to Dan’s preaching. Until this, she had admired him from a distance, but really didn’t know him. Now she began to get a glimpse of his mind and heart. She was so in agreement with his teaching that as she listened she suddenly burst out, “I could marry this man!” When Rose heard Dan tell the story of his breakup and the revelation that not the woman but God was the initiator, she shot back, “That’s because you are supposed to marry me!”
After listening to these sermons, Rose had a strong desire to somehow support Dan in his ministry, send him a small donation, or otherwise make contact with him. But the Lord said, “Noooooo.” That would be putting herself in his path, taking things into her own hands. But she did visit his web site, path2prayer.com, read more of his messages, and discovered more and more harmony between his thought and hers.
About this time her work in Rockingham appeared to be coming to a close, and she was tempted to move back to Berrien Springs. But she felt her work in Rockingham was not yet finished. When the way opened for her to continue, she agreed, and felt the Lord’s approval on her decision.
In the spring of 2010, as she continued listening to Dan’s CDs, he was preaching that prayer should be specific. Rose paused the CD, knelt in her trailer and prayed, “Lord, I don’t know if you want me to be married, but if you want me to be married, please let me marry Dan Augsburger.” That was specific! (Dan still had no clue.)
Another day she heard Dan say something that sounded like he might already be in a relationship. So she knelt down again and prayed, “Lord, I don’t know if You want me to be married, but if you do want me to be married, if not Dan Augsburger, then I’d like to marry someone like Dan Augsburger.”
In the spring of 2011, Rose in North Carolina, was on the phone with a girlfriend in California, talking about how we know God’s will for us. The friend asserted, “Dan Augsburger says ‘da-da-da-da-dah,’” to which Rose retorted, “Dan Augsburger also says ‘dah-ta-dah-ta-dah.’”
Rose said nothing to her friend of her interest in Dan, but something in the conversation sounded like Dan might now be “available.” Rose soon found a quiet place to pray. She told the Lord she wanted to have no will of her own about whom she should marry. Regarding another man who had been writing to her, she asked, “Lord, if it is not your will, please take it away.” She also prayed for God’s will to be done about her friendship with Dan. Anxiety gone, she waited expectantly to see what God would do.
One Sabbath soon after that, God chose to make His move. While driving to her church (in North Carolina), Rose began praying about another man who had also been writing to her. She told the Lord, “I’m not in a rush. I’m willing for your will to be done, but if this other man is not your will, please take the friendship away, and quickly.”
The very same day, in Berrien Springs, Dan Augsburger was serving Sabbath dinner to his mother and two young adults. Dan knew the young man, but the young woman with him was unknown to Dan.
Halfway through the meal Rachel suddenly said, ‘out of the blue,’ “There’s someone you have to meet! The two of you are made for each other.”
“Why would you say that?” Dan wondered.
“I just know,” Rachel insisted. “Rose and I were Bible workers together.
Dan was very skeptical, because he knew Rachel did not know him at all, so how could she be so sure. What Dan didn’t know was that from the time Rachel walked into his house she couldn’t get Rose out of her mind. “Rose would really like it here,” she kept thinking.
But Dan had been an executive recruiter and he knew it took him at least a 90-minute interview about a person’s past experience and future hopes, before he could even suggest a job placement, much less a marriage partner!
But Rachel was so enthusiastic, refusing to take no for an answer, that Dan finally agreed, against his better judgment, to contact Rose. And Rachel left a voice mail on Rose’s phone, “You two are perfect for each other.”
Rose was overwhelmed. Apparently God was already responding to both her prayers of that very morning. He had revealed His will about both friendships, and quickly.
A few days later, Dan sent her a friend request on Facebook, saying “Rachel was insistent that we get to know each other. I don’t know where this will lead, but I can always use more [of] godly friends.”
And so they began communicating on Facebook. They shared ideas, materials for ministry, and things they had read. Rose saw that they were getting acquainted intellectually, but Dan was extremely careful to avoid anything like “romance.” She sometimes wrote fairly lengthy letters, but his were almost always short and to the point. As Dan later explained, he was already in a “twosome”—with God—and would not move from a “twosome” to a “threesome” until He knew that God agreed.
This went on for several months. In November 2011, Rose came to Michigan to spend Thanksgiving with family. After praying and thinking carefully about it, she let Dan know she was coming. He invited her to have supper with him and his mother Monday evening and then invited her again for Wednesday.
During the whole time Rose was there, Dan was silently praying, “God, what am I supposed to think about this?” When the conversation turned to the spiritual exploits of famous Christians like Hudson Taylor and George Mueller, Dan realized by the light that went on in Rose’s eyes that she was captivated—she wasn’t pretending. Reflecting on those two visits, Dan decided that if he were to get married, it would have to be someone like Rose—because the most unique aspect of Dan’s ministry is his wide reading about the great Christians of history, and unless someone were interested in books and great Christians, why live in the same house?—because there would really be no partnership. Knowing that Rose could understand and extend his ministry and be a real partner with him in ministry, was extremely important to Dan. But he still hadn’t heard from God, so he remained guarded. A few weeks later, on her birthday, he let down his guard just a bit when he wrote, “I hope this will be the best year of your life.”
By January 2012, they had been writing for 9 or 10 months. Rose had deepening certainty of God’s leading, but increasing concern about how to know Dan’s intentions. She saw them getting to know each other, but could detect little movement toward a closer relationship. She considered just being patient, but sensed that could be risky if the friendship wasn’t “moving forward.” What if he wrote her a note someday saying he was getting married to someone else?
She thought of directly asking him about his intentions, but had no peace about that either. To solve the dilemma she began to search the Bible for stories of relationships in which God clearly led couples to marriage. In the story of Isaac and Rebekah, she found a relevant insight. When Abraham sent his servant Eliezar to find a wife for Isaac, Eliezar had approached his assignment with earnest prayer, asking God to reveal the character of the right girl, by her generous response to his request for a drink of water. Genesis 24 tells the story.
10 Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and . . . went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor. 11And the servant made his camels kneel down outside the city by a well of water at evening time, the time when women go out to draw water. 12 Then he said, “O Lord God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 Behold, here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14 Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’—let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.”
15 And it happened, before he had finished speaking, that behold, Rebekah, . . . came out with her pitcher on her shoulder. 16 Now the young woman was very beautiful to behold, a virgin; no man had known her. And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and came up. 17 And the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please let me drink a little water from your pitcher.”
18 So she said, “Drink, my lord.” Then she quickly let her pitcher down to her hand, and gave him a drink. 19 And when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” 20 Then she quickly emptied her pitcher into the trough, ran back to the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.
Genesis 24:21 says that as Rebekah drew water for the ten thirsty camels, “the man, wondering at her, remained silent . . . to know whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not.” Eliezar had to decide: Was Rebekah’s action was merely a coincidence, or was it a direct answer to his prayer?
Rose was impressed that Dan’s silence was like that of Eliezar. Dan was noncommittal because he was waiting to discern what God was saying in answer to his prayers. As Rose thought about this story, God seemed to be saying to her, “You know the story, but Dan doesn’t know the story.” Rose prayed that she was willing to tell him the story if God wanted her to. But how would God would let her know? Then Sabbath came—isn’t it wonderful that God has given us a Sabbath, every week?! That Sabbath Rose sought out an older, mature, Christian woman for counsel. After they had prayed together and talked at length, suddenly the woman said,
“This is what I think you should do: I think you should tell him about the prayers you have prayed in regard to him and how God has answered. I don’t know if I’d tell him all of it, but the main ideas, and then tell him specifically how you believe God is leading.”
Rose suddenly had a lot of peace; this approach made sense. Dan would have all the information to make an informed decision. He would know what she believed God was doing. It wasn’t playing around with his heart, it wasn’t saying, “I love you, I want to marry you,” or anything like that. It was just: “This is what I see; this is what I believe.”
So Rose wrote a ten-point letter, reviewing the ways God had led, and concluding, “I believe God is calling me to walk by your side, but I don’t know the ‘when.’ ”
In another Bible story—the marriage of Ruth and Boaz—Rose had noticed the importance of timing. Ruth didn’t lay herself at Boaz’s feet until Boaz had finished his day’s work, eaten supper, relaxed, and was in a receptive frame of mind. Praying about the timing, Rose felt led to hold the letter until Dan returned from a preaching trip in mid-March 2012.
When Dan got home, he read the most amazing letter he had ever received in his life. He was amazed with Rose’s courage, and deeply impressed that here was someone who would seek direction from God by actually thinking about specific Bible examples, asking, in effect, “God, where in the Bible is the wisdom for this situation?”
After reading the letter, Dan had two questions: “Is God working in all of this?” “Is Rose a mature, stable Christian, whose story I can trust?”
Over the next few weeks, Dan found lots of evidence that God was at work, and that she was trustworthy. Here are a few examples:
- A major issue with Dan was the awareness that he is not just a single man. He lives with and cares for his mom, and has two grown daughters, and has always been concerned that whomever he married would have a heart for his daughters.
Very soon after “the letter,” Dan and Rose began talking on the phone. One of Dan’s first questions was “Tell me about your family, growing up.” Rose replied, “I grew up in the military.” Dan thought, “Praise the Lord!” because both of his daughters, Lisa and Leslie, are married to military men, and he saw that Rose had an understanding of military life that he himself did not have.
- When Dan asked Rose to tell him about herself, one of her first characterizations was “I’m an optimistic person, and I’d rather be around people who are cheerful.” “Praise the Lord” again! “That’s me,” Dan said. “I want to be around cheerful, optimistic people. People call me a glassy-eyed optimist, and if I were married to someone who wasn’t an optimist, I don’t think I’d be happy.”
- They discovered that they both, in their ministry, emphasized practical Christianity (more than theory and doctrine).
- They both had a visitation-oriented ministry, spending lots of time with people in their homes.
- They had similar views on lifestyle and what they prefer to eat—just harmony everywhere.
One Saturday night soon after “the letter,” as Dan and Rose were talking by phone, Dan suddenly recognized that their relationship was becoming serious, and told Rose, “Before we continue, I need to talk with your mom about us being in relationship.” When he called Rose’s mother, she welcomed their relationship, she had no objection to their age difference, and she described Rose as a happy person who easily makes new friends, because she loves people. And Dan said, “Praise the Lord.”
- “The age difference was a major issue for Dan. Thinking back on his long “silence” with Rose, he realized that it was especially because of the age difference that he didn’t feel it was right to go forward until he had a clear answer from God. When he learned from Rose’s letter how clearly and for how long God had led her, he knew they had God’s approval despite the age difference.
- But God worked in one more way that meant a lot to Dan. Someone had emailed Dan for counsel on a relationship and he turned to the writings of Ellen White for an answer. The question had nothing to do with age differences, but purely coincidentally, the first quotation Dan read was Ellen White’s letters to Steven Haskell and George Butler about marrying younger women. They each had a much greater age difference than Dan and Rose.
Steven Haskell’s first wife died in 1894. In 1897, when he remarried, he was 64 and his new wife, Hettie Hurd, was 40. Elder Haskell was concerned about the difference in their ages and asked Ellen White’s “opinion and advice. She said, "If her [Hettie’s] mind is drawn out in this direction, do not hesitate. You need the help of a spiritual-minded, intelligent woman, who can sustain and encourage you in your work.” (RY 116.1). When Haskell wrote again to tell Mrs. White that he and Hettie were now married, Mrs. White wrote back, “I am pleased, Brother Haskell, that you have a helper [a partner in ministry]. This is that which I have desired for some time. . . . It is your privilege to have happiness in your new relation to each other. . . . Because of the light given me,” I know that “through your united agencies, light shall be reflected to the salvation of many souls.” Retirement Years, 114-115.
George Butler’s first wife died in 1901. A year later at age 68, he planned to marry Lorena Waite, who was 33. Ellen White was in favor of it, and had a night vision specifically approving the age difference, that Elder Butler was “strong in physical and spiritual health” with a significant ministry yet before him and he needed a younger woman to support him in that ministry. (EGW to Bro. and Sr. Keck [sister to Lorena Waite], Letter 77, 1902, in RY 117).
- Reading the letters from Ellen White to Butler and Haskell right at this critical moment, Dan felt that he got permission from the writings of Ellen White. “To [him], that was very important, because now [he] could look people in the eye and say, ‘God is behind this—in so many ways.’”
By now it was April 2012, about a month after “the letter.” Things were moving quickly, and Dan asked Rose if it was okay for him to send out a newsletter to his family and friends announcing their plans for marriage. Rose thought “family and friends” meant perhaps 20 people. She was startled when she learned his newsletter went to more than 1800 people. Before sending the announcement, Dan called Rose to double check and make sure there was no miscommunication.
“You will marry me, won’t you?” Dan asked.
“Yesssss,”. . . said Rose, “is that official?”
“Well,” Dan said, “I still want to ask you in person.”
He offered and she invited him to hold a series of meetings at her church in North Carolina. He spent a week there in May, joining in her ministry. He went with her as she distributed groceries from a food bank, gave short Bible studies, and visited a lot of people she was working with. The group in Rockingham had started with a handful of members as a satellite from an established church, and Rose was instrumental in seeing it grow to 58 members with their own church building.
Also in Rockingham, in the same place where Rose had prayed, “Lord, if you want me to be married, please let me marry Dan Augsburger,” Dan made a formal proposal, and presented her with an engagement gift—a copy of The Adventist Home. That was symbolic of their purpose to base their life on the Bible and the writings of Ellen White.
- That week of working together in Rockingham brought another confirmation to Rose, as she realized that she and Dan could not work as effectively in ministry together without being married. So that was one more reason why marriage was necessary to their ministry.
- The same week brought another confirmation from Dan’s perspective. He does a lot of teaching and counseling on relationships, and became convinced that God set up the relationship between him and Rose so that their own experience could be an example of what they teach. For example, many parents have asked Dan for advice for guiding their young people: “What about holding hands and kissing—where do you draw the line?” Dan’s reply had been: “Based on my own experience and the people I’ve met in traveling, I’m absolutely convinced that dating is destructive and dangerous and to be avoided at all costs.” Now he could add, “Rose and I have chosen not to hold hands or kiss until the wedding.” (Sometimes in a prayer circle they hold hands as part of the group, but not when by themselves.) They look forward to being married, but are happy to wait, because they think their relationship is safer that way. The emotions aroused by premature physical contact hinder clear thinking and discernment of God’s will, and open the door to further temptation.
- A final, major confirmation came in June when they asked Bruce and Dorothy Hayward to give them marriage counseling. When the Haywards gave them a standardized compatibility test, they both determined to “be themselves,” be “real,” in order to get an honest appraisal of their compatibility. Their attitude was: “God, we think You brought us together, we think You have been an amazing matchmaker, but we’re sure curious about what this test will show!” When the results came back, Dan and Rose saw their names matching on page after page—a major confirmation.
Dan says, “I feel like the luckiest man in all the planet.” For Rose, getting to know each other has been like opening a present from God and finding a whole lot of smaller packages inside. As they learn more about each other, it’s like unwrapping the little packages and saying, “Wow!—Wow!—you mean that too?! It is like God is doing something that is just right for us.”
Many people are afraid to trust God’s choices for them. They are afraid that if they do, they will soon be complaining, “God, I really wish that You had thought of such-and-such.” But it is not like that at all. When you trust God’s choices, He arranges for you all kinds of things that you would never have thought to ask for.
According to Scripture, in perfect surrender there is perfect peace. Dan and Rose, I charge you before God that you make this your daily, perpetual commitment, to keep your wills surrendered to God’s will. Hearts that are surrendered to Jesus can never get very far apart.
To the rest I say, it is true, not just in marriage, but in every area of life, that God reserves His best gifts for those who leave the choice with Him.
If there is anyone here who is realizing that you are not this moment surrendered to Jesus without reservation, to let Him be the Arranger of your life, there will never be a better time than now. Just say, “Jesus, I give you myself, sins and all. Take me and possess me as Your very own, and teach me how to love others as you love me.”
He will save you the very moment you surrender—even in the middle of a wedding.