PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — God-Inspired Serendipity

Today would have been my 30th wedding anniversary. When I got married, I never imagined losing Steve twice to the same disease — first when our marriage ended and then when he died.

I am the kind of person who uses anniversaries to reflect, and I can honestly say I will never regret my marriage. First, because I loved Steve with all my heart. At his best, he was one of the funniest, kindest, most generous and extraordinarily multitalented persons I have ever known. I never wonder why I fell so fast and so hard.

Beyond that, the two phoenixes that rose from the ashes of our marriage are the greatest gifts of my life and are living proof of the beauty that our love could create. In addition, I have  the ongoing gifts of Caleb, Nicole and their families, who remain blessings in my life.

But I also know I made the best decision to extricate myself and my sons when I did from the disease that killed him, and we were all better served by that choice, which both broke my heart and also allowed my sons to have the fullness of life they deserved.

I am also very grateful that when all was said and done, years after our divorce, I was able to hold his hand as he died and that I was with him when he drew his last breath, finally finding the peace that so eluded him in this life. That, through the grace of God, I was able to find the love of God that helped our legacy be one of forgiveness in the face of the destruction that resulted from his addiction.

I often have people comment on how incredible that was of me, but I know the truth. It had nothing to do with me because I’m not that good. It had everything to do with what the God I serve gave me when I leaned into Him and not my own understanding. The ability to trust God and live by faith is not something I am capable of. But God, through the Holy Spirit, allows us to do far more then we could ever ask or imagine. I simply let God lead me instead of following my own, very human, instincts.

When Steve and I got married, we wrote our own vows and true to to form, Steve’s were short and mine were paragraph length. In them, I said, “I thank God for the serendipity that brought us into each other’s lives when neither of us were looking for what we found in each other.”

Thirty years later, I am still grateful for that serendipity, which is the phenomenon of finding value and worth in unexpected places and ways. As a person of faith, I understand it as “God things.” Or in the words of Squire Rushnell, “God winks.” Finding God in the midst of the “changes and chances of life.” 

There have been many changes and chances in my life since I said “I do” June 27, 1992. But because I believe in a God who does not cause all things — least of all the ravages left in the wake of addiction — but can redeem all things, I have found redemption in the brokenness of my marriage by experiencing the unending love of God, who picked up the pieces of my life and guided my family through the travails that followed.

That same God ultimately led Steve to find the peace that filled the God-sized hole in his heart that no amount of earthly substances could fill, something he found in the most unexpected places of all — in the valley of the shadow of death.

Thirty years ago today, I pledged my love to a someone and learned that there are limits to human love. But I was able to find healing and  hope through a God who loves without limits — and if that isn’t a God-inspired serendipity, I don’t know what is.

One thought on “PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — God-Inspired Serendipity”

  • Lillian Bachmeier June 27, 2022 at 10:11 pm

    I liked your story. Marriage isn’t easy. I know.


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