It’s one thing to recount your life in a sermon or book, but it’s quite another to watch your faults and foibles unfold on the silver screen as I did with the upcoming biopic, Jesus Revolution.
As I told my story for this film, I withheld nothing about my journey—my days of dropping acid and smoking pot, catering to my drunken and broken mother, and being a mixed-up kid who couldn’t emotionally connect with anything or anyone until I found Christ. I let the raw truth about how becoming swept up into the Jesus Revolution set me on the path to life-changing peace and redemption.
One of those story threads was how I met my wife of nearly fifty years. Cathe was fourteen and I was seventeen when we first met and fell in love. For Cathe, a near catastrophe with her sister turned her around. My path to Christ had taken me on a different route. But the most important thing to remember is that all roads lead to Jesus.
Boy Meets Girl
Watching our love story play out on the big screen has been the most surreal part of this Jesus Revolution experience for me. Every time I watch Anna Grace Barlow and Joel Courtney replay scenes from our life, I choke up. Directors Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle managed to capture the essence of who we were and are even now. They were especially effective in depicting the debates Cathe and I had as we do to this very day. I believe this love story will resonate with young people today because it is honest and real.
I met Cathe a few months after I accepted Christ and started teaching a Bible study. Teens from all over the area came for meetings, and I was overflowing with youthful energy and passion for the Lord.
That evening, my foot shook up and down as I spoke—a tell-tale sign of the reservoir of nervous energy inside of me. Then, halfway through the service, I saw a beautiful girl looking up at me. She had dark blonde hair, parted in the middle, flowing past her shoulders. Her brown eyes and big smile mesmerized me. Did I mention how beautiful she was? She was sitting with two other cute young ladies who I assumed were sisters or friends. But my tunnel vision kicked in and blocked out the other two. Cathe was the one who stood out to me.
After the service ended, I made a beeline toward her. I introduced myself and learned her name was Cathe Martin. She introduced me to her two sisters: Mary and Dodie. I was feeling a bit full of myself, thinking I delivered quite a sermon that night and asked if they planned to start attending my Bible study every week. It was a very leading question with a result I expected to work in my favor.
“Maybe,” Cathe said sincerely, “but there’s another Bible group that meets near here on Thursday nights, so I may just go to that one instead.”
That just about crushed me. Evidently, my wonderful teaching and oratorical skills had not made that big of an impression. But I was not to be dissuaded on this night. I asked Cathe if she wanted to go out for coffee and dessert. She agreed, but she came as a package deal that night. Her two sisters also piled into my faded champagne Corvair, which I purchased for the bargain basement price of $225. And it was about $225 too much for this beater with a stick shift (Ralph Nader later led a crusade to get all Corvairs off the roads of America because they were improperly designed and hazardous).
That first date led to others, and as time went on, I discovered that Cathe’s boyfriends never lasted more than a few weeks. She had learned early on she could manipulate her male suitors easily, which led to her quickly losing respect for them. She was on an unconscious search for someone who was comfortable in his skin and sure of his convictions. She wanted someone who could stand up to her rather than a chameleon who would be whatever he thought she wanted to be. She wanted someone who was unconventional, who colored outside the lines. Someone who was just slightly off.
Apparently, I fit the bill!
Cathe Deems Me Worthy
The very qualities Cathe enjoyed about me were the ones I had developed as survival skills as a boy. Back then, I had to mentally escape the chaos of my mother’s world because I could not escape it physically. So, I created a new world, inventing stories, characters, music, and art. I had half a foot in another world, and the other half in the real world.
Now, because of Jesus, I was free . . . but that coping skill was still there, and it was one of the very things that drew my future wife to me. She liked how I could make anything into a source of entertainment. For example, I would turn up the classical music station and sing in a fake operatic voice or make up silly stories from my warped imagination. And she determined that if she wanted someone who could stand up to her, I was her man.
In fact, I told her on one of our dates that if she ever tried to get between me and my relationship with God, it was over.
“And the same is true for you,” I said. “We’ve got to seek God first, and then He’ll show us where our relationship is supposed to go.”
Cathe had never had a guy lay it out for her quite like that. She found my candor refreshing. She hated it when guys were wishy-washy and didn’t really know what they thought or where they were going. My clarity about putting Jesus first made her feel secure. But that didn’t mean our relationship was all clear sailing. Perhaps the only thing we had in common back then, other than our mutual love for God, was our strong-willed personalities. Even today, that is truer than not.
She likes British shows on PBS; I like shoot-‘em-ups.
She’s neat; I’m messy.
She’s sometimes late; I always try to be on time.
She’s practical; I’m a dreamer.
We have learned to overcome those things as we’ve matured over the years, but at the beginning of our relationship, it wasn’t so easy. Our disagreements sometimes escalated into full-blown arguments that ended with us breaking up, saying dramatic things like we never wanted to see each other again. We did this three times in three years—it seemed to become an annual event, like Christmas, only not as festive. After our last big fight, she and I got together and determined to make it stick. What we discovered was that Cathe fought for the sake of an argument, I fought because I wanted to find out what was really true.
Meeting the Family
The jury was still out, though, on whether I was good marriage material. You see, her father was Dick Martin, a marketing analysis manager with Esso, the oil company that eventually became Exxon. The Martins lived overseas in Malaysia and enjoyed a comfortable life with servants, nannies, and a chauffeur. Dick was a man who lived all over the world and was very dignified and polished in his manners. The same couldn’t always be said for his daughters.
When Cathe and her sisters hit their teenage years, they went into full on rebellion mode. They stopped hanging out with their parents, opting to sit in their rooms listening to Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and The Beatles. They no longer wore cute little cotton dresses with perky accessories. Instead, they opted for skirts, torn jeans, flowing shirts, and wild, long hair that appeared as if a brush had never touched it. They constantly talked back to their parents, slammed doors, and yelled. Then there were the drugs.
They began smoking dope, then moved to uppers, downers, and other pills. They’d hitchhike to love-ins (remember those?!) at local parks, sit on the grass, smoke some weed, and talk with whomever came by about music, life, or flowers. I had been on that same trip, too. Until I discovered Jesus. A few days after my conversion, I had pitched my pipe and my dope as far as I could into the woods and never looked back.
Cathe virtually did the same thing but decided to give her life to Christ at an Agape concert, a Christian acid-rock band who were about as loud as The Who. After the first set, they gave an altar call. Something resonated deep inside of Cathe. She stood up, went to the front of the stage, and accepted Jesus in front of hundreds of concertgoers at a local college. She stood with several new believers. One of them gave her a Bible. Immediately she started going to church at a place called Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, with a group of friends.
From “Don’t Talk to Me” to “I Do”
My faith in God was about the only thing I had then. Certainly, it was what I cared about most and paid attention to. Both Cathe and I prayed to Jesus whether we should be together. We asked for a sign. Around that time, I was preparing to leave town for the summer with a Christian band that sang, and I would follow up with a message from the Bible. I sent Cathe what I felt was a cute and funny card, floating it as sort of a test balloon to see what her feelings were for me at that time. Cathe sent me a terse note telling me not to write to her anymore. I was completely deflated.
The summer road trip got short-circuited. It went on, but I missed Cathe so much that I wanted to come home. I had no money, but a friend named Tom Stipe bought my plane ticket, and I took the next flight back. I showed up at Calvary Chapel the next Sunday. Cathe was there in her usual attire: a long, flowing batik-print dress and equally flowing, thick, blonde hair. She’d made a few changes, too. For one, there was something going on with her eyebrows, but I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it.
After the service, I worked my nerve up to approach Cathe, who was talking with a group of friends. She turned to me and asked sweetly, “What are you doing here?”
I said nothing and just stared at her face. Silently.
“What?” Cathe asked.
Everyone in the circle was now gazing at Cathe’s face. Finally, I managed to get it out.
“You plucked your eyebrows!” I pronounced.
Always the romantic, eh?
And from that day forward, we were a couple.
On February 2, 1974, Cathe and I exchanged vows in front of five hundred friends, most of them fellow hippies who had given their lives to the Lord. It looked like Woodstock West.
Chuck Smith performed the ceremony. Besides being the legendary pastor of Calvary Church, Chuck was a mentor and father figure to me. But even pastors who’ve performed hundreds of weddings can still make nervous, rookie mistakes, and when the time came to announce that the deal was done, he cried out: “I now pronounce Greg and Laurie man and wife!” Even Dick, my new and very formal father-in-law, laughed. I got such a kick out of it that I somehow found myself tangled up in Cathe’s veil and almost yanked it off.
Nearly five decades, two children, and six grandchildren later, our union remains an ongoing adventure, charted only by our enduring and deepened mutual love and respect. God remains the center of it all.
We fell in love in the 70s. I just recently turned seventy, and Cathe is not far behind me. How groovy is that?!
Greg Laurie is an American author, film producer, and pastor who serves as the Senior Pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship with campuses in Riverside, Orange County, and Maui. Laurie came to faith at the age of 17 as the Jesus Movement was exploding in Southern California. He is also a producer on Jesus Revolution, which will be released nationwide on February 24, 2023 by Lionsgate.
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