I had a telephone conversation with one of my daughters-in-law yesterday that took me back to my own toddler-raising years. Two-year-old Livi is as headstrong and highly intelligent as her father (my oldest son) was, and is therefore very challenging to train. Her blond curls, baby blue eyes and unwitting charm of a smile disarm even the most exasperated parent (or grandparent), however. Little Olivia is tough as a boot, too (like her daddy), so spankings don’t seem to deter her undesirable behaviors. Her mom has found one thing that gets Livi’s attention: having Livi stand with her nose against the wall for a period of time. For a highly active child, taking away their freedom to run and play for a few minutes may be just the discipline they need. But the effect is short-lived, so they’re still trying to find out what it will take to get her attention and produce longer-lasting change.
I’ve hesitated to share what I’m about to write, because telling on myself is uncomfortable and very humbling, as anyone can imagine. However, I learned such a valuable and truly lifesaving lesson from this season of my life, that I want to share those hard-earned nuggets of wisdom. My hope is to spare someone else from unnecessary shame or pain — and possibly shed light on questions for those facing a similar dilemma. Okay, here goes.
I was walking across the campus of Northeastern State University (Tahlequah, OK) in the fall of 1991, overwhelmed at returning back to college, now as a single mom. I’d been alone for over two years, but had only recently removed my wedding ring. My ex-husband had remarried, so I knew there was no going back, as much as I prayed for it.
As I hurried to my next class, a nice-looking guy passed me on the sidewalk, and we glanced quickly toward and then away from each other. I silently prayed, “Lord, even though I never wanted this (to be divorced), I guess you’ve set me free.” (I remembered 1st Corinthians 7: 10-16) What I wondered next, I dared not even ask God out loud at that point — but He heard my thoughts, anyway, of course! I wanted to know, “Father, will I ever get married again? Where will my new husband come from? When will I meet him? I WANT to love again!”
Suddenly, the Holy Spirit spoke clearly into my heart: “Your husband is not on this campus.”
Two months later, a young man at church began to really show an interest in me, and even in my two little boys, who were four and six at the time. This man was a pastor’s son, played the guitar and sang at church, a virgin, and quite handsome. He seemed like the perfect guy! Apparently he’d recently moved to Tahlequah to attend NSU, but I met him at church (not “on campus”). I went on my first date with him (I’ll call him Dave) right before Valentine’s Day of 1992. I’d conveniently forgotten (albeit temporarily) what the Lord had told me.
Ironically, by this time, I’d already been exchanging letters and phone calls with my “good friend”, Hank, who was stationed in California serving as a Navy Chaplain. Hank had asked if he could send me roses for Valentine’s Day (his first “romantic” gesture of our two-year long-distance friendship), but I chose to decline, fearing that “Dave” would be jealous. Hank, gentleman that he was, graciously stepped back from communicating with me for several months after that. My wise mother later admitted that she felt I’d made the wrong decision.
As the months rolled on, Dave and I had our ups and downs, but I began to see red flags. He began to be very controlling and jealous, almost paranoid. One particular day when I went grocery shopping right after class (instead of going straight home), he had called and left several messages on my answering machine, imagining that I’d had a car accident or was in the hospital. Why else would I not be home the minute he called every day? He began to show inordinate jealousy when I would even hug my own children.
During our roller-coaster romance, Dave proposed marriage to me, and I reluctantly said ‘yes’. We went to our local jeweler and picked out a ring I liked, but Dave couldn’t buy it yet. I had enough money to go ahead and pay for his ring (around $400), but chose to leave it at the store until right before our wedding, so it wouldn’t get lost.
The very next day, unknown to me, Dave was driving his new car over to my mother’s house to ask her to co-sign a loan so he could buy my wedding ring (another red flag…). On the way, he had a wreck and totaled the new car. He wasn’t hurt, thankfully, but the car was a total loss. He never made it to ask my mom for the loan/ co-sign arrangement.
That same week, I came home to a nightmarish scene.
The house where I lived had come with stray cats who lived outside in the storage building. My little boys and I had grown very fond of the kittens, who’d been born to four adult cats right before we moved in. We fed them and played with them daily, and had even named most of them.
Pulling into my driveway, I saw two very large dogs coming out of the storage building, and they each had blood all over their mouths. I then noticed lifeless bodies of kittens strewn across my driveway. I began screaming and crying, honking my horn to scare off the dogs. I called a family friend (my mom’s plumber, Scottie) and he came over promptly with his shotgun, and managed to scare the dogs off. Then he compassionately dug holes in my yard and buried several kittens. Only two survived.
My boys and I cried for weeks over the loss– and the indescribably horrible way it transpired. Of the two that survived, my favorite one – a solid black one I’d named “Stormy”, was killed a few days later — by me. I’d started my car on a rainy morning, and she’d hidden inside to stay warm. Once again, I was overcome with grief and anguish, as my walls of self-deception and pride (in going my own way, ignoring God’s voice) continued to crumble.
The following week, I began to receive notices from my bank of overdrafts. It made no sense to me, since I’d NEVER (intentionally) written a bad check! After meticulously going over everything, I discovered the ONE check I’d failed to write into my record (even though the carbon copy of the check was in my checkbook) — the $400 check for Dave’s wedding band. That one check had caused seven others to bounce, costing me an additional $175 in fees. That item I shouldn’t have purchased in the first place. Hmmm…..
Red flags were waving all around me, sounding like a siren in my heart, and finally right before my very eyes. Wrecked car. Mauled kittens. Bounced checks. Controlling, narcissistic and paranoid behavior from my fiance. Gentle warnings of relationship concerns from my loving mother. Even Dave’s parents, even though they liked me, told him we weren’t right for each other. God was speaking, trying to protect and help me…. would I finally listen?
My vision was clouded, obscured by my own will and impatience, having settled for the “convenient”, instead of holding out for the best — God’s best — for me, and my children.
It was like God was saying, “Can you hear me now??”
Finally, in October of 1992, I broke up with Dave, for the final time. There were lots of tears, not only from me and Dave, but from my children, who had both grown very fond of him. By my disobedience and compromise, I had hurt my innocent children. I had hurt Dave, and felt like I’d wasted months of all of our lives, not to mention emotional and spiritual energy. I had ignored the still small voice of God, when He tried to steer me clear of even looking for my future husband — instead of waiting for God to reveal him to me.
I was experiencing a much-needed “divine spanking”. I was broken, once again, from my own guilt and shame. I cried out to my Heavenly Father for forgiveness and mercy. As always, He cradled me in His arms and reminded me how much He loved me, like we would with our own child. I prayed for Dave, and for my children, that God would comfort each of them, and that Dave would eventually find the right woman whom God would send to be his wife. I also gave Dave an excellent book (that had REALLY helped me after my divorce), called Love is a Choice (help for unhealthy, co-dependent relationships).
Thank GOD for His mercy! I was coming to realize this truth about God, as a good and loving parent:
[bctt tweet=”God speaks in a still, small voice, unless He shouts like a tsunami in our lives for our attention. #mercifulGod #goodFather” username=”becky_wright”]
Watch a 1-minute excerpt from Becky’s workshop at the Agape Fest, “God Steers Us to Surrender”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9SwMr_Em3Y