Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks often of his religion—but he tailors it to fit his politics, and it focuses on works over faith
Two years into his first pastorate, Mark Looman sat down to lunch with his wife Dorothy and their two girls. From Mark’s perspective, everything was normal, but over the last eight years, Dorothy’s frustration had been silently building. At that lunch, it became too much: She told Mark she did not love him anymore and walked out the door. “I wasn’t sure if I’d even see her again,” Mark says.
Before coming to the church, Mark had attended seminary. “He would go to work, he’d go to class, he’d sleep, he was consumed with homework, and our relationship just suffered terribly,” Dorothy remembers. The couple had two young children, so she stayed home with them while Mark worked from 3 p.m. to midnight, five or six days a week, while attending classes. Over time, the lack of communication and time together drained the marriage. Mark says, “I can’t even imagine how many nights she just went to bed by herself, had supper alone, put the kids to bed, week after week after week.”
The Loomans wanted to serve God in ministry, so they pushed through seminary. Dorothy desperately hoped Mark would spend more time with the family after graduating and becoming a pastor. Instead, he prepared and taught lessons for Sunday morning and evening services, plus Sunday school and Wednesday evening. He was also the youth pastor, plumber, and janitor in their small Marlette, Mich., church.
One summer Sunday in 1983, things came to a head. Dorothy recalls that even when she walked out, she “knew this was a marriage God put together, and I had no right to break it apart.” She returned to the house. They talked. Mark realized he had to change. He started reading Rekindled by Pat and Jill Williams, a book about revitalizing marriage. After that Sunday conversation there were no more big turning points, both Loomans say, “just lots of slow, hard work.” They took family camping trips and had date nights here and there. Mark remembers trying to learn how to have “soul-building” conversations with his wife on their dates, instead of just discussing the business of the family.
Mark says he looked at Dorothy 10 years later and said, “We are happily married. This is turning into a marriage that is better than I could’ve ever dreamed it could be.” She agreed with him.
After their younger daughter married in 1999, the Loomans began doing devotions together each morning. Today they read the Bible, then rewrite portions of it in their own words before praying through an extensive prayer list. The process usually takes them an hour and a half, and they say this has drawn them close to each other and to God. They also enjoy doing things together: gardening in their raspberry patch, kayaking, and performing in community theater plays.
Now in their 60s, and with pastoral and pastor’s wife experience at four churches, the Loomans agree on advice they’d give to young couples: “You have no idea about how still immature and young this relationship is compared to where it is headed if you will just be faithful, trust God, keep your vows.” After 46 years of marriage, they speak of “heights to be reached and depths in your relationship and feelings of love that will rise to the surface in your 40th year and beyond, you have no idea of when you’re in your 20s and 30s.”