[Note: This story is about one couple’s journey into a God-honoring marriage. It is meant to encourage those who have struggled or are struggling with sin in their relationship, not to glorify it. If it will offend or cause you to stumble, please do not read it.]
We all have baggage, right? We all have different baggage, but we all have baggage. Still, having come to salvation, we understand that we have been redeemed. To me, that means that my baggage can be used for good, maybe to comfort another as I have been comforted. But it’s scary, so be gentle with me. :o)
My baggage is mostly sexual. I have a fear that sharing it will offend others and bring their judgment on me. The few times that I have, though, that didn’t happen. Most Christians are not condemning because they know there are no “levels” of sinfulness. And they have sinned and been forgiven, too. The worst that has happened was that, once, sharing my story titillated when I intended to testify. I guess there is such a thing as TMI, so I’ll keep it general.
My parents divorced when I was three. My mom remarried a few years later, but the man she chose was never really a father to us. She worked long hours, she provided for us, she disciplined us… He basically shared our house. He wasn’t a bad guy, but not a dad.
My real dad, at first, got my brother and me every other weekend. Later he, too, remarried and had more kids. He wasn’t able to keep up with child support, so he lost his visitation rights. I didn’t see him between the ages of about 9 and 20.
We went to church when I was very young, usually my grandmother’s. But as I got older, Mom became more of an ‘Easter and Christmas’ churchgoer. Grandmomma talked to me about Jesus and the Bible, told me what God liked and what he didn’t (based on how I was behaving at the moment.) And she prayed for me, which is probably why I’m still here at all.
So, I could blame lack of church life or a father figure, or loneliness, or crazy hormones, or the birth of Mtv *wink* – any number of things – for the choices I made in my high school years and beyond. All of that probably contributed. But mostly, I was just lost. I was trying to find my way in a very broken world, believing no man would ever love me and willing to take what I could get and be appreciated for what I could give. I learned that there were things I could do that would get me short-term attention, and I rationalized that as “loving,” in a very sixties sense of the word.
After I graduated high school and left home, I went to church for a little while with my roommate. I actually got baptized, but my ideas about what Christian love meant were still very messed up. Some say that the devil leaves you alone until you pledge allegiance to his “enemy”; then he attacks full force. I would concur, at least in my experience. Instead of getting better, I got worse.
When I got into my twenties, I did have a couple of (abusive) longer relationships. The last one led to a rifle being held to my head. Believe it or not, he was the one who finally ended it, deciding to go back to his wife and son. I told you. I have baggage.
But just prior to this, I had met a young man in my Army unit who actually seemed to care about me. He knew about the other guy but pursued me anyway. He took me kite flying and laughed with me and shared his hurts. I was finally in a relationship that wasn’t one dimensional.
When he called from Saudi to ask me to marry him, I jumped at the chance – then I cheated on him before I even saw him again. Self-sabotage, I guess. But after I also deployed there, I confessed. And he tearfully forgave me. That was the first time I had ever, ever felt loved by a man.
But neither of us was living a Godly life. Rez wasn’t even a believer. I thought of myself as one but didn’t walk the walk. Suffice it to say we did a lot of things both before and during our marriage that we shouldn’t have.
The “freedom” we claimed in our marriage was almost it’s undoing. After seven years together, Rez left me. For weeks, I cried my eyes out and barely ate. I remember coming home from work one Friday evening, literally falling through the front door and lying on the floor bawling. I was asking God, “Why? Why! I don’t deserve this!”
And you may not believe this, but I heard him chuckle. God laughed at me! And he whispered: Yes, you do.
What a wakeup call. Immediately, I was convicted. I knew that I had brought every bit of this hardship into my life by not living it the way He said. Who would know better how things are supposed to work? Me or Him?
My butt was in church that Sunday and, when the altar call was made, I was up that aisle. The Pastor hugged me and asked me how he could pray for me. Not realizing my mouth was right beside his lapel mike (!), I wept into his shoulder, “My husband is leaving me!”
The next day I was in his office, confessing all the sordid details. That sweet old man, who I expected to have a heart attack from what I was telling him, just listened without batting an eye. Then he reminded me of the plan of salvation and prayed over me.
My life did a 180 that day. It was focused on God and what he wanted rather than what I or anyone else did. Church and prayer meetings were non-negotiable, and I studied my Bible every spare moment. There was so much to learn! I acknowledged my responsibility for what had happened to our marriage and that I might lose it, but I prayed earnestly that God would save it. And I talked with Rez about what our relationship might look like if He did.
It took months, but my husband and I did finally reunite. At some point, he began his own relationship with the Lord and eventually was baptized. We rebuilt a strong marriage over time and went on to have three beautiful children. I have been so crazily blessed!
So, that’s one of my testimonies. God doesn’t stop working on us at conversion. I’ve had a pretty wild journey so far, and I expect it’s not going to be smooth sailing from here on out either. There’s always a new challenge, new ways to grow and things to learn. I see now that, while God didn’t make all those bad things happen in my life and marriage, they didn’t take Him by surprise either. And He, long ago, made a way to redeem me and my past for His good pleasure and purposes. He’ll show me how to use it all for His glory.