I gave my heart to Christ when I was only 25 years old. At that time, I was a true redhead in every area–I had the temper and the mouth to prove it! I had the attitude that no one was going to tell me what to do or how to live because I was an independent woman who didn’t need anything from anyone.
A wasted life.
I got married early in life–at age 18. I did it because I wanted out of my parent’s house. Rules and discipline were not my cup of tea, so I moved out and got married. Those first seven years of marriage were the worst years of my adult life–honestly. I was not one who liked being told what to do or how to live, so I just kind of rebelled at having to answer to a husband. In fact, I remember thinking–this is not going to work for me. So I did what any sassy and independent woman would do in my marriage. I made everything about me. I was the most selfish and obnoxious person you would have ever met. I was loud, bossy, a pushover, and I would embarrass you in a heartbeat if I thought you were trying to get over on me–and this is the type of attitude that my marriage was built on and it is exactly what I brought into the marriage. I had the “this is how I am–take it or leave it” kind of personality. It caused a lot of problems for me.
Even as Stephen and I dated, we never had the most solid relationship. We were always fighting and at each other’s throats. If you have ever seen the movie, Why Did I Get Married by Tyler Perry–envision us as Angela and Marcus. Yep–that was us. From day 1 of us dating we fought like cats and dogs. I grew up watching my momma and daddy fighting so I just assumed that this was how a normal and healthy relationship was conducted. I would get in Stephen’s face and dare him to hit me or to challenge me (my husband is 6′ 3″…and I am 5’2″–yeah–I know. Gutsy, huh?). We were constantly doing things to each other to hurt one another. I felt bored and trapped so my outlet was other men. The sad thing is –he had no clue about it. I honestly think he did not really care that much because he had his own thing going on. His love at that time was fishing. He would go and stay gone all day fishing from dawn until dusk. He drank a lot during those early years–staying drunk on the weekends–working all hours just to stay away from our relationship. I think that was his way of handling the fact that even though we were married we were strangers.
It was around this time that I was introduced to pornography. It is the absolute worse kind of thing to get addicted to. I can tell you from experience–getting off drugs, quitting smoking, or going sober, is a cake walk to letting go of pornography. This kind of thing starts off small–reading erotic stories or a small peak here or there. But then soon, that is not enough and you find yourself wanting a little more–needing a longer look. Soon, I was so entangled in the web of pornography that I developed a horrible addiction that would take me years to get rid of. I stayed on the computer engrossed in the vile images and videos and fed my addiction.
It was about this time that I found out I was pregnant and expecting our son. Robert came along and things were a little better for a while. I just knew that a baby would be an answer to all our problems. I was so excited when he was born and desperately told myself that I was going to be the best mother and wife now that I had the perfect little family. However, instead of things getting better they got worse. Stephen and I started getting more heated and more violent in our arguments at one another. For three solid years we were constantly at each others throat, tearing apart what was left of our feeble marriage. I went back to my old ways of finding comfort in the arms of another man and he went back to his love of fishing. Soon this was not even enough for me so I stopped for a while and tried hard to focus on my husband and our relationship.
Then I landed a job for a big company that allowed me the ability to pursue a career in sales. I was told constantly that my job and clients came before my family and it wasn’t long until I started believing that. I treated my work family and my clients better than my own family. My boss made me feel appreciated and loved and respected–something that had been lacking in my marriage.
It wasn’t long after I started my job that I found out that I was pregnant again. Stephen had begun to suspect that I had been having an affair with someone–so during those first few months of my pregnancy with Kayla he told me everyday that this was not his baby. I think he hated the site of me. However, when I found out I was having a girl (I was almost 8 months pregnant), he realized that this was his baby and he got really excited about being a daddy all over again.
Kayla was born and things got even worse. Because I had gotten a promotion at work into the sales department, I wanted to look good when I went back to work, so I went on a major weight loss kick and changed a lot about myself to make me look more appealing and eye catching. I traveled a lot with my boss and I wanted to look good. I went back to work a week after she was born. I lost all of my baby fat and only gained one pound. At that point in time, my worth was in my looks and my ability to turn heads. I flirted with all the guys at work, and I even had the audacity to flirt with the men at Stephen’s work. Needless to say, I was back to my old habits of cheating and I had started secretly looking at pornography again.
It was during this time that I got really sick. Six weeks after having Kayla, I just could not go anymore. My body was worn out from going back to work to early and not getting the proper rest I needed. One of our close friends at that time and who also worked with Stephen would stop by every day to visit and check on me. He could see that I was just exhausted and not feeling well. He would take Robert outside everyday when he came over and play with him just so I could rest. It was no wonder that I started falling for him. He was showing me the kind of love and care that a husband would show a wife. He would stroke my hair and allow me rest and watch my child. The problem was that both of us were married. We knew what we were doing was wrong, but we were just drawn to one another. Nothing physical happened–we were just talking and cheating emotionally, however, I felt really bad about it so I decided to come clean with Stephen about my feelings. However, when I told the story to Stephen, I left me and my part out of the equation. I told Stephen that the guy was coming on to me and that he had tried to do things, but really he didn’t. It had been both of us, but I blamed it all on him. Stephen confronted him the next day at work and made the guy tell his wife. So he told her and she left him. They divorced because of me. I really started seeing the repercussions of messing around with other people’s mates and soon realized I did not want to do that to another marriage. However, I continued to rip mine apart.
My position at work did not help the matters any. I was a professional woman on the rise and was loving all the attention and fame I was getting. It went to my head and I was soon back to my old tricks again–but this time worse than ever before. I left Kayla, Robert, and Stephen at home all the time while I was carted off to Vegas, Florida, and other places. I felt like a princess when I wasn’t at home. My boss would wine and dine me and introduce me to men who wanted nothing more than to give me whatever I wanted. I loved to pretend that I was a someone important who all she had to do was snap her fingers and she could have anyone and anything she wanted.
When I would come home, I shut myself away from everyone and everything. Stephen’s mom had moved in with us, so I let her fix dinner and take care of my family. I did not want any part of that. I hated cooking and taking care of a household. In my private room, I dreamed about being single again with no kids–so that I could just go and do what I wanted, when I wanted. Being a wife and mother just was not the life for me. I wanted to be free–free of kids and free of men. I just wanted to be independent and free. I wanted out. I wanted to leave.
Twelve years ago this past September will be the day that God helped me make the best decision I ever made. That decision was to give my life and marriage to Him. At first, I did not give my marriage to Him, but I gave Him myself. In doing so, it helped me to grow close to God first so that I could grow close to Stephen.
I remember saying out loud that last weekend before I got saved that I was going to leave and move away. I was going to walk away from my marriage and my babies. At the time Robert was almost five and Kayla had just turned three. I wanted a life that was free to be me, free to go and do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. God had other plans though and I am so glad that He did. Getting saved might have saved my life, however, I had NO CLUE that this was only the beginning to the biggest battle I would ever face in my life.
And so, the battle begun.
Have you ever had to do something so horrible, and you were uncertain about the outcome of what you had to do? That was exactly how I felt two weeks after giving my life to Christ. God gave me exactly those two weeks to get my feet wet in His word, and then He hit me with a Louisville Slugger bat the size of Texas. I remember the first time I ever heard His voice so clear. It was as if He were standing in front of me. His words still ring in my ear today. They were the most profound I had ever heard in my life. God spoke to my heart and said, ” I want you to confess to your husband all your indiscretions–everything.” I stopped dead in my tracks and turned around as if God was going to see the look of terror that was stricken across my face. I laughed that nervous laugh and then immediately spoke out loud that I refused to do this. I knew in my heart that if I told Stephen all of the horrible things I had done, he would leave me. He had a suspicion because he had caught me a couple of times, but if he knew for sure, he would leave me. I was most sure of it.
I ignored God for as long as I could, but during that time He made sure I was completely and totally miserable. It kind of reminds me of Evan Almighty when God is trying to get Evan to listen to what He wanted him to do and he refused. He kept doing everything in his power to make him miserable until he finally relented and said OK God I will do it. That is exactly how I felt. I made mistakes in the bank account, I got into trouble at work which is something I would never ever do! And then, He whispered to my heart….it’s time–tell him.
I went to my friend and told her how *crazy* all this was. Her response to me was simple–”If God is asking you to do this, then you need to do it” . I just was not ready to do this. I cried, I prayed, I begged, I pleaded. . .but all of this fell into God’s lap without one single solitary bit of approval from Him. He refused to talk any further about it with me. He had given me something to do and until I got it done, He would not talk to me anymore. At this point in my life, I felt so utterly alone.
Feeling defeated, I went home that evening and told Stephen that I needed to talk to him in private. We sat down that evening and I poured my heart out like I had never done before. I had no idea if he would leave when I got done or if he would hate me or what, but I had to be obedient to God. After I was done, I felt totally exhausted and spent. Stephen sat there in silence for what seemed like hours, but in reality, it was only a few minutes. He got up and walked out of the room without saying a word to me. I cried as I thought about how much he probably hated me at this moment. I couldn’t say that I blame him. I mean, I had defiled our marriage bed numerous times and then expected him to still love me and be my husband.
After about an hour he came back in the room. He carried with him his Bible. He sat down and told me that he had been praying and talking to God. He said, “I forgive you. I can’t say that I love you very much right now, but I forgive you.” I felt a sense of relief. He didn’t say I love you, but he said he forgave me. That was a start. I knew that he wasn’t leaving and neither was I. Where in the world would we go from here I thought. If we were not in love, how was this going to work?
After Stephen told me he forgave me, he shared with me about a small indiscretion he had experienced years ago during one of our many drinking fiascoes. It was nothing like I had done and had only been a kiss, but to me my whole world came crashing down. I think he told me that at the time not to share and get off his chest what he had done, but I think he was trying to hurt me like I had hurt him and it had worked. I was angry with him for doing this to me (yeah I know…I had done a lot worse, but when someone cheats on you even though you are doing the same, it just feels like your whole world is falling apart).
Coming clean for me had backfired. Instead of feeling better, I felt worse and I got bitter about it. I was angry with Stephen and I let him know it every single day. I think I was more angry about the fact that he was going to actually forgive me, and I had an extremely hard time of letting go of the fact that he had kissed someone else. While he was busy trying to get close to me, I was busy pulling away from him.
I got mad at God and accused Him of allowing all this to happen. I screamed at Him–“How could you let this happen to me? How could you allow him to kiss someone else?” God spoke to my heart and told me in very simple terms, ” I allowed you to go through this so you could catch a small glimpse of what Stephen feels like.” SMACK” (there was the bat moment again). I literally felt like all the air had been completely punched out of my stomach.
It was at that moment that I felt that I was a horrible person who did not deserve God’s love or forgiveness. In fact, for three weeks straight all I did was cry. I cried because I was ashamed of who I had become and how I had hurt this man that I had wanted to treasure. I felt like I was not good enough for him anymore and that I would never allow myself to love him in any kind of way. Stephen tried to hold me and reassure me that we could work through this. I remember staring at him and asking him, “WHY. Why do you love me? Why are you so willing to forgive me? Why aren’t you mad at me like you need to be? WHY?” His answer rocked me to the core and it was not one that I had expected. He told me that his only answer could be that this had to be God doing all of this, because if it was him and him alone going through this, he would have left the minute that I told him about everything.
It was also during this time that Stephen announced that he had signed us up for a marriage bible study by Gary Smalley (Making Love Last Forever–I recommend this to anyone going through marriage problems). . . without asking me first. I was so angry with him. I yelled at him in front of everyone. I told him, “how could you sign us up for this class without even talking to me first? I DO NOT want to go to marriage bible study! And I am NOT going..do you hear me?” Later that week, I found myself sitting in this class with seven other couples. As I listened to everyone sharing their stories, I realized my story matched the guys and Stephen’s story matched the girls. I also learned that first night I had some serious problems to deal with before my relationship with Stephen was to go anywhere.
I pondered on all this for a couple of weeks. Then we were at church one night again when God really got a hold of me regarding all this. Stephen was preparing to go away on a spiritual weekend retreat and we were having a silent time of prayer after taking communion. I excused myself from my family and went and sat on a pew by myself. I sat there for about twenty minutes just staring at the communion table thinking I had gone too far and there was no turning back. I had made so many mistakes in my life, marriage, and everywhere that there was just no since in even continuing trying to make amends. The associate pastor at that time, who happened to be a really good friend of mine and Stephen’s, and who was also leading the marriage bible study we were attending, sat down beside me. He asked me what was wrong and I started to tell him. After listening to me, he asked me point blank…”do you still love Stephen?”
My response. . . I don’t really know if I love him anymore or not.
As Stephen prepared to leave for his weekend retreat, God began doing some things in my heart. He started showing me what real love was and what that felt like. I had never felt love like I was beginning to feel and I truly believe it was because I had come to God so broken and contrite that He reached down and filled me with His love. I was beginning to learn that in order to love someone fully, you have to first allow God to love you and fill you with his love. Love on your own is selfish and prideful. That was all I had ever known. But now, I was discovering a new kind of love and it was scary and exciting.
Two days before Stephen was to leave for the retreat, I finally reached my breaking point. God had removed that huge wall that I had built around my heart and for the first time in many, many years, I allowed myself to love someone whole and completely. It was also at this time that I had allowed someone to love me with no repercussions involved. I allowed Stephen to love me as a husband is supposed to love a wife. Through him, I saw how the Savior loves me. God was using Stephen to show me how much He cared for me.
As the day drew closer for him to leave, I realized I didn’t want him to go. We had stayed up the night before and talked long into the night about our new found love of each other. We had visited Charlie, the associate Pastor and friend who was teaching our bible study and told him about the changes that were happening in our marriage. He sat there and listened to us until we both could no longer talk and see because of the tears that were falling (tears of joy). Charlie looked at us and said, “This marriage will only work if you both decide to give one hundred percent of yourself and expect nothing in return.”
I think for the first time in my whole life, that being selfless finally clicked in my head. I was to love and serve my husband like there would be no tomorrow, like this was the last time that we would ever be together again. It was then that I finally realized I need this man. . . I truly and deeply love this man with everything in me.
Stephen left that afternoon and I cried my eyes out. I already missed him terribly, but I knew that this was something that he needed to do. Next weekend I would be gone to that very same retreat, and I knew I would miss him all over again.
While he was gone, I took great care in fixing myself up for the day that he would return. I colored my hair, went and purchased a new dress (which is something I don’t wear, but knew he liked to see me in them), I had my nails done and I was feeling very feminine and in love. Even though by this time we had already been married for seven years, I felt like a blushing bride and newlywed for the first time. This must be what true love feels like.
He came home on Sunday. All fifteen men were paraded into the church to share their experience while being gone over the weekend. I was totally on edge wanting so badly to hug my man and find out what he thought about the changes I had made in myself while he was gone. I did not have to wait long, because as soon as our eyes met, we both broke down in tears. I ran to him as if my life depended on it and I flung myself in his arms. We held each other like that for a long time as our church family cheered. They had all been praying fervently for our marriage to be restored, and God had truly and completely answered that prayer.
It’s been 12 years since this happened. It has not always been easy and lovey dovey. God is showing us daily how to give. Every Single Day! Giving is not a one time occurrence. I have to wake up every morning and ask the Lord to help me serve Stephen in some capacity today. I ask Him to help me not to be selfish when Stephen needs something done that interrupts my time. While we still have our ups and downs, we both realize that Christ has to be center of our marriage–or we get off track again. That is why it is so very important to keep Him in the center and your eyes and your heart focused on what He wants for your life and marriage.
If you have enjoyed my testimony of how God restored my marriage, leave me a comment letting me know. I have been sharing with Stephen how many of you have said this story has touched your heart. It has humbled us both to think that God allowed us to go through all that we went through in order to share with other couples who may be struggling through the same issues.
If you need prayer or would like some suggestions for books that would benefit your marriage, feel free to email me at email@example.com