In Part One, Debi goes to a youth gathering at a local church and is told by God that she's going to marry Michael Pearl. She's 13. He's approximately 21. Yipee.
Debi goes home and tells her mom the good news:
Then I casually told her that God had spoken to me and told me that, when I grew up, the preacher guy would be my husband. I handed her the flyer from the Teen Retreat. "Here's the preacher man's name." My mom acted like it was everyday fare. I think she really believed me. She was a new Christian and I guess these things as new to her as they were to me. She just said "Well, you need to start praying for him. Being a preacher means he will need a lot of prayer."
Debi, finding out your thirteen year-old daughter has a crush IS everyday fare. You fell fast and hard for a man you didn't know at all. That's part of the fun of being a young teenager.
I think Debi's mom responded well to her daughter's crush. I know I had a ton of crushes on totally unreachable men during my early teen years. These heartthrobs were a safe way for me to daydream about the romantic and sexual feelings I was starting to have without having to deal with messy reality of junior high boys.
When Debi is sixteen (and Michael is around 24 years old), they meet again when she's a camp counselor:
Guess who was there? You got it: my future husband, Mr. King-in-Charge, Famous Preacher Man himself. He was the special speaker all week, so I had plenty of time to check him out. All the time I was checking him out, he was checking out one of the other girls at the camp. I didn't really care, as I had no emotional attachment to him.
I had two thoughts when I read this bit. First, I hope that the "girl" that Michael was checking out was over 18 and not a teenage camp counselor. Second, why bring up the fact that Michael was checking another girl out if you didn't care? It didn't bother Debi at all that the man God told her she was going to marry was scoping out other women? I find that hard to believe..... (I think I'm gonna be writing that phrase a ton during this series.)
That same summer our regular pastor left our church for greener pastures. My daddy was on the pulpit committee (the group of men responsible for finding a pastor. The men called several different preachers to try out. [Debi lists a bunch of reasons none of the other pastors were good enough.] Finally, I said to my dad, "Hey, that preacher guy that was at camp was pretty good. He is still in Bible college, so maybe he could fill in when you can't find someone else to preach. (...) Anyway, my dad called the college and asked Michael to come and preach at our church for the next Sunday. Over the next year the young preacher filled in as the speaker on Sunday mornings or evenings several times a month. Finally, the men decided to ask him to come on as our regular pastor. So now I called my future husband "Brother Pearl." We became great friends, but he still treated me like I was a kid.
I am confused. Exactly how famous was Michael? Four years previous, Michael was such an amazing youth preacher that a church decided to risk 30 teenagers being hit by a tornado rather than cancel (or postpone) his speaking engagement - or so Debi claims. Fast forward to the summer of the Great Pastor Search and Michael isn't even in the first batch of people called. In fact, no one on the search committee thinks of him until 16 year-old Debi brings his name forward.
Perhaps Debi is the original and only member of the Michael Pearl Fan Club......
For the next few pages, Debi lays out how exactly she and Michael ended up married. For me, it's a list of RED FLAGS that Debi missed.
Mike started a ministry for military where he needed a flunky, someone to carry out plans. We became running buddies. We worked side-by-side handing out tracts, sharing the gospel, setting up meetings and cleaning up after the ministry was finished. And I prayed...really prayed that God would use him to minister to the lost.
I'm glad the two of them had interests in common - running and proselytizing don't appeal to me, but hey, whatever works. My only concern is that Debi describes herself as a flunky for Michael. For some reason, Debi's contributions to the ministry are of lesser value than Mike's. That's a bad sign. If you are working with someone who cannot see the value in what you do, don't get in a relationship.
Michael usually had a girl friend with him for all these events. Sometimes, I had a boy friend. It was truly strange. His girl friend would sit between us so he would have to lean forward to talk to me about the meetings or strategy or whatever we had going on. There, right between us, sat his date with nothing to contribute. Sometimes we would pray together with some girl sitting there as if she were a non-being.
When normal adults are dating, they put their best foot forward to impress their date. If you are ignoring your date, discussing topics that don't concern them at all, and pray around them, you are a jackass. If your date ignores you because a ongoing, non-emergency project is more important than common courtesy, run away.
If your date brings another person to all your dates, run away.
If you are being treated as a non-being, run away.
He never had a clue that I believed he would be my husband. He even laughingly told me of occasions where other girls approached him and told him that God wanted them to be his wife.
The times he told me about the other girls, I was glad I kept my mouth shut.
Why was Debi glad she kept her mouth shut? Michael would have mocked her behind her back just like he was mocking his former girlfriends. Blatant disrespect for others is a bad sign.
[A few years pass. Debi graduates from high school, starts and drops out of a Bible college and holds down a job. She sees Mike being "pushy and demanding"; he sees her mad. They don't get emotionally involved.]
I find this next passage chilling.
When I turned 20 I knew the time was drawing near. Still, Mike had never seemed to notice that I was a female. After seven years, it was beginning to irritate me, so I played a trick on him. (...) Anyway, on this particular Suanday I asked a young serviceman, who was a cool guy and a good friend of Mike's if he would help me play a trick on my pastor. With my arm tightly linked with this young man's arm, we walked up giggling to where Brother Pearl sat talking with some other men. I sweetly looked up at this guy's face then down at Michael and said, "Brother Pearl, I'm getting married." I don't really know what I expected him to say. His expression immediately sobered me, making me wish I had not played the trick. He looked aghast....horrified. Of course, I tried to laugh it off, saying it was a joke, but I knew at that moment something had changed. He did not think my trick was funny.
After we married, Michael told me that at that moment he suddenly saw me in a whole different light. He said he had always taken for granted that I would be there as his buddy, his friend, his helper. Now he knew I had grown up and would soon be gone. I would be another man's wife, another man's buddy and another man's helper. He decided he didn't like that idea. Can you believe how thick-headed this guy was? All those years, I was his right-hand man and he just never noticed. (emphasis in the original)
To Michael, Debi has one reason to exist - to serve Michael Pearl. Michael marries Debi, not for love or companionship, but to keep her as his servant.
That's really screwed up.
Anti-Pearl: My husband (Nico) and I had been dating for a month or so when we went to a local tavern to see a Irish music concert. The tavern was packed! We were seated at a table with a group of folks we didn't know. One of the men was a frail elderly man named Joe. We introduced ourselves and my husband mentioned he was a farmer. Joe's whole face lit up. Joe started telling Nico about all of the different tractor models and companies he remembered from the last 50 years. When talking about the tractors, Joe was animated and shared stories from his youth and adulthood. The wistful expression in Joe's eyes made sense when he explained that he had recently moved into the city to live with his daughter. He loved his daughter and was glad she could care for him, but he missed living in the country. While the band played, it was too loud to chat with Joe, but between sets, Nico would laugh and listen to Joe's stories and the two of them would banter happily about the changes both good and bad in tractor design. Watching Nico interact with Joe reaffirmed to me what a kind, gentle and loving heart Nico had. That night, I knew that if Nico was that kind to a stranger we would never see again, I could trust him to be gentle with me and my heart.