Out of Darkness & Into the Light
(from betrayal to divorce to forgiveness)
When I look back on the last 3 1/2 years of my life, it’s incredible to see how God has blessed me in so many ways. I grew up in a religious denomination that didn’t really focus on the love of Christ, but more on the fear of God. There were so many times I figured that I had messed up so often that, yes, I needed to fear God, but that either I was already on my way to hell, or that if I said enough prayers for penance, that someway maybe He would ‘let me in to Heaven’ but kind of low on the list of favored souls! I was never really introduced to the Bible except to have partial passages read to me every Sunday, which really meant nothing to me—I just counted the minutes until it was time to leave and I could say to myself that I had done my duty—and now it was time to go out and sin again—after all—I would be back the next week to ask for forgiveness for whatever I had done the previous week.
After I spent much of my college years partying, I settled down a little—especially since I was a teacher, and needed to have my mind and strength—but that didn’t stop me from partying on the weekends. When I was 27, and after living with a man for 4 ½ years, we finally got married. He was, by no means, a Godly man—in fact, he would ask me questions about God that I couldn’t answer, and he would just call me a blind sheep. At some point, I just walked away from God—returning every once a while, but never being convicted. Life was ok—I had a roof over my head, a good job (no longer teaching but working for a large corporation), taught fitness classes, had plenty to eat, and most of the time, we were able to pay our bills. But there was always something missing—not just from my husband, but in my life. I would lay awake at night just wondering where in the world my life was going.
Then, in the spring of 2003, my life was completely turned upside down. My husband stopped coming home at night—or would show up every once in a while, with different excuses. I just couldn’t, or more likely wouldn’t, believe that he was cheating on me. I finally couldn’t take it anymore, and that June, he moved out. I completely fell apart—had no idea where to turn. My family was very supportive, but very far away, and I was so lost. I was basically surviving day to day, and was still very bitter about the whole thing, and just had an attitude of being able to make it on my own, and not needing anyone. In about 3 weeks, my husband wanted to try again, and I demanded that we go to counseling, which he had agreed to. I made the mistake of letting him move back in, and within the week, he went back to her. This devastated me completely, and I fell into a deep depression. Somehow I went to work every day, and even taught my fitness classes, but I basically had stopped eating, and I would come home at night, and drink beer and smoke cigarettes—which I had stopped doing so many years before. I would pace the floors at night, unable to sleep, and would just let my imagination run wild, which just hurt more. I started hearing from different people about how they knew all about it, and that it had actually started the fall before; while others told me it had started much before that. I felt so duped and so humiliated.
I got online and looked up ‘divorce recovery’, and a site for ‘Divorcecare’ came up. (I didn’t realize until much later how God had started working even then!). I emailed to one that was close to my house and they had actually started a ‘Boundaries’ class at that time, and the ‘Divorcecare’ class would begin when that class was over. The pastor who responded to me suggested that I enroll in the ‘Boundaries’ class, since they were only 1 week into it, and since I evidently had no boundaries, thought it was a good place to start! This class happened to be at my now-church home. I was terrified to go, since the campus was huge, and I think God felt that in my heart, because on the day of the first class, I was ready to bolt back to my car, thinking there was no way I could go through with it. Just then, a young man came up, asked me where I was going, and ‘just happened’ to be going to the same class, and showed me where it was. (I’ve learned that there aren’t a whole lot of ‘just happenings’!!). That class was the beginning of my walk back to God. That same weekend, a friend of mine from work ‘just happened’ to invite me to services that weekend, and I went. I was so hooked!! I finally felt like there was a place that a pastor taught me, and talked to me instead of at me. I bought a Bible and started to try to figure this whole thing out. I ended up joining a small group for ‘Seekers’, as it was called, which turned out to be a great group! We were a group of people from all walks of life, some married, some single, some divorced—God blessed our group with a wonderful couple who served as our leaders. They were so supportive, and yet, not afraid to deal with tough issues, and call sin out to the forefront to be dealt with.
Even with all of that going on, one day in early September, I was going home from teaching my fitness class, and I saw my husband with her, and I really don’t even know how I got home as I was blinded by tears. When I got home, I let my dog outside, (a wonderful Akita named Sam who was also such a huge blessing from God!), and then next thing I knew, I had a bottle of pills in my hand. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I remember saying one last prayer, “God, take me now, or take me and use me”. I woke up a few hours later, the back door still wide open, with Sam laying right next to me, licking my arm (which was not something he would normally do!) I remember thinking, “Okay, I’m still here, so I guess You have something for me to do”.
It wasn’t like everything changed overnight for me—but the difference was that I knew that God ‘had my back’ no matter what. I pretty much started reading everything I could get my hands on that would help me, not only in my recovery, but in learning the truth about God. My ‘Boundaries’ and ‘Divorcecare’ buddies were also a huge blessing from God—it would take up too much space to be able to explain all they did for me, and hopefully, that I was able to do for them in return.
That November, 2 days before the final divorce papers were to be signed, I got rebaptized by immersion—this time, through my own free will and choice. My 2 best friends from college came in from Chicago, and all of my new friends celebrated my rebirth as well. I felt the cleansing from God like I have never felt before. We were officially divorced later that month, but God was moving me in a positive direction. On the night before Thanksgiving, I found out that I was going to be singing on our worship/praise team—I had been singing for much of life, but had given up on being able to do it again. I can’t even explain how incredible, and to be honest, how totally unimaginable it is to be up there leading people in worshiping our Lord. Me, a person who was such a mess—even before I met my ex-husband—God didn’t just cleanse me, and then say, “Yes, I forgive you, but when you come to church, I need you to stay in the shadows with the other sinners”—He put me up front, in the light!!! To say that I truly felt His grace is putting it mildly!!
God gave me opportunities as well in our women’s leadership, as well as leading other Bible studies, teaching the ‘Boundaries’ and ‘Divorcecare’ classes, as well as so many other things. He also taught me such a great lesson in forgiveness. 1 year after we were divorced, I was able to write a ‘forgiveness letter’ to my ex-husband, and not only did I forgive him, but asked him to forgive any part I had in the breakup of our marriage. I was also, for the first time in my life, able to forgive myself for having messed up so many times! God put so many new friends in my life—some as mentors and teachers, and yet others for me to mentor and teach. He put so much love into my heart that it was able to overflow into the lives of others.
Then, last September, the greatest personal blessing for me was that I remarried a Godly man who I had been dating almost 2 years. I never thought I would be able to love any man again as the fear of pain was almost overwhelming. But I gave the reins of my life over to God when I got baptized, and he has led me on a wonderful journey! I understand now that whatever life throws at me, I will never, ever be alone again!
My goal now is to be able to reach others, mostly women, who feel that they have lost any possibly chance at receiving God’s grace and the love of His Son, Jesus. If anyone deserved to be turned away, I was a top candidate! But Jesus just held out His arms to His child—He pulled me close, showed me how much He loves me, and all that He asks is that I follow Him, and obey His word. When I look back at the time that I didn’t do that, I see how very messed up and lonely I was. Now that I try to live the life that He has planned for me (and yes, I still mess up—often!), I can see how much better and fulfilling my life is and will continue to be!
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.