Marriage

 

It's really hard to write about a topic that has caused me so much pain, and in which I've really failed God. I've put off writing this part because I am ashamed to admit such failure. I know, I've asked forgiveness and the Lord does not hold these things against me. The only reason I share this part of my life is in hopes you will not make the same mistakes I did.

You see, I've been married three times and divorced twice. I've always believed that marriage should be forever. I hate divorce and was not one of those who blithely say, "If it doesn't work out, we can always get a divorce". Looking back now, I believe it's better to never marry, than to marry and have that marriage die. I thought I was lonely as a single person. But to be married and lonely, to wait at home night after night for the man you've pledged your life to, to long to be held in his arms, while he is out with who knows who doing who knows what - well, that is loneliness at its utmost despair. And fertile ground for defeat, desperation, depression and disease.

How did I get to such a state? I've already told you about the dysfunctional childhood and some of the pain I suffered. This set me up to look for "true love", unconditional, lasting love outside of the home. Of course, it's normal to desire a marriage partner and to leave home. But if you've never had a stable love from your parent of the opposite gender, you do not have a clear picture of what true love is.

I love my father dearly, but that love, trust and adoration was not always returned. Sometimes all my love received was cursing, bitterness and hate. Therefore, I was looking desperately for a love that would be perfect, unconditional and free. I had watched all the Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies where a dark handsome stranger would sweep you off your feet and you would live happily ever after. I had extremely unrealistic notions about romantic love, marriage and the "happily ever after". I had no information on what to look for or expect in a mate - just a vague romantic yearning. I felt that when the "right one" came along, I would "feel it". So I expected to be swept off my feet and then the "happily ever after" would start. I blush now to be so dumb, but that's the truth of it. Of course, now we know that Rock Hudson died of AIDS, was not attracted to women, and I shudder to think that he was my "ideal man".

I believe I was "set up" emotionally for failure because of my false idea of romance and false expectations. So the first guy who came along and played up to my fantasies seemed to be my true love. Now once I made up my mind that it was "HIM", then I pledged my undying love and devotion to "HIM". Consequently I ignored all the red flags that kept popping up and refused to listen to wise counsel from my family or friends. "HE" was my whole life and as far as I was concerned, we were "married " in our souls long before we actually had a ceremony.

So I passed almost 11 years in this romantic delusion. Yes, I was a Christian, yes, I was trying to serve Jesus. And it took a long time for reality to crash through my fantasies, and for me to see what "HE" really was - an adulterer, a con man, a manipulator, a liar. Even after I found out "HE" was unfaithful, I gave "HIM" another chance, but "HE" went right back to his mistress the minute my back was turned.

Psalm 73:20 "As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise,
O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies."

Proverbs 12:11b "...he who chases fantasies
lacks judgment. "

Proverbs 28:19b "...the one who chases fantasies
will have his fill of poverty. "

The only good that came out of this time was that I did finish college while "HE" was in prison. But a lot of good that did me, as far as marriage was concerned. Intellectually I was advanced; emotionally I was stupid.

After "HE" was gone, I decided not to be so stupid. So what did I do? Before my heart healed, I gave it to another man. This one SEEMED to be a much better choice. He CLAIMED to be a Christian too, and had all these hopes and dreams that we were going to fulfill. We dated almost a year and then married. For this year and our first two years of marriage he treated me like a queen and I "felt" very happy.

BUT, sigh, there is a BUT that I didn't expect. We wanted children, at least he SAID he wanted children, but when I became pregnant, his attitude changed. He started staying out late, working weekends, drinking, finding other things to do besides be with me or go to church. I was considered an "high risk" pregnancy, and was very ill. I also gained a tremendous amount of weight. I was depressed and lonely. Forget the movies and TV shows you've seen where the expectant father caters to the expectant mother, patting her tummy, talking to the baby, bringing her dill pickles and ice cream. It didn't happen. I was virtually abandoned when I needed him the most. No, he didn't actually leave or quit supporting me. But emotionally it was a desert, and I was dying of thirst for love.

Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

Micah 2:11 If a liar and deceiver comes and says,
`I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,'
he would be just the prophet for this people!

After the baby was born by caesarian section, my precious daughter, who is a joy to me, things got a little better, especially after I went to Weight Watchers and lost all the weight. He seemed to fall in love with me again, and I thought, well maybe I imagined it all - that my hormones had been acting up during pregnancy, and things had not been all that bad.

So when my daughter was about 15 months old, we conceived another child, which he said he wanted as well. Almost immediately after I began "showing", the emotional abandonment began again, only it was worse this time. Again, I was considered a high-risk pregnancy destined for another C-section, and again I was very ill. But the problems this time were compounded by the fact that I had a baby to look after as well. I'll spare you the dreary details. But I would have committed suicide, I was so depressed, except for the fact that I believe abortion is wrong and I couldn't bring myself to kill my baby.

Well the depression left when my darling son was born, but I didn't lose the weight for two years.  When I did lose the weight, it was due to severe allergic reactions and I nearly died. He not only was not supportive, but actually yelled at me because of the doctor bills I was raking up in the effort to regain my health. It was obvious that the marriage was dying, despite all my attempts to resuscitate it. He wouldn't go to counseling, because nothing was "his fault", and started the cycle of blame and denial that allowed him to make beer his mistress and killed the marriage.

Proverbs 23:30-35

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaints?
Who has needless bruises?
Who has bloodshot eyes?

Those who linger over wine,
who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.

Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup,
when it goes down smoothly!

In the end it bites like a snake
and poisons like a viper.

Your eyes will see strange sights
and your mind imagine confusing things.

You will be like one sleeping on the high seas,
lying on top of the rigging.

"They hit me," you will say,
"but I'm not hurt! They beat me,
but I don't feel it!
When will I wake up
so I can find another drink?"

OK, this sounds like it was all his fault, I know, but I'm sure there were things I did that displeased him. He was obviously very unhappy, but he wouldn't talk about it. The pain drove me closer to the Lord, but seemed to drive him farther away. I begged for help from the church, but was rebuffed. I'll always wonder if some Christian man had put feet to the prayers he was supposedly praying for us, and went out of his way to befriend my X, if things would have been different.

One thing you need to understand is that I blamed myself for all this. Here I was, with a SECOND marriage failing, letting myself get totally under condemnation, the devil's preferred method of destroying believers. So I hung on to the bitter end. I put up with daily cursing and mental abuse. I kept trying even when it was obvious to everyone else that the battle was lost.

Finally, he started punching holes in walls, jerking my son by the hair, and threatening me with his fists. I knew we were in physical danger. So I told him if he didn't wish to be a husband to me, to leave. So he did.

Proverbs 17:1 Better a dry crust with peace and quiet
than a house full of feasting, with strife
.

Proverbs 22:10 Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife;
quarrels and insults are ended.

For a week my children and I walked around in a daze, wondering what was different. Then we realized, it was peace. No cursing, no verbal abuse, no stomping around, snorting in anger. No rage. Just peace. For the next year of the separation we lived in peace, until the house was sold.

Suddenly, I was a single mom with two children with no where to go. He virtually quit paying support and life was a struggle. I had several jobs that didn't work out, and we moved several times. Finally we ended up living with my mom.

This was a very difficult time for me spiritually as I was mad at God. I never quit being a Christian, however, I was trying to live on my own resources since I felt that God had abandoned me. Why weren't all those prayers I prayed for my husband's salvation answered? Why was I lied to, cheated upon, misused and abused if God loved me and was listening to my prayers?

Psalm 73:1-15

Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from the burdens common to man;
they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
in their arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.
They say, "How can God know?
Does the Most High have knowledge?"
This is what the wicked are like--
always carefree, they increase in wealth.
Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;
in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been plagued;
I have been punished every morning.
If I had said, "I will speak thus,"
I would have betrayed your children.

 

The sense of failure I had, coupled with all the negative things my husband had pounded in to my head over a period of almost 13 years had taken their toll. I was sure that God hated me and would never be able to use me in His service since I had been such a complete failure at marriage. I reasoned within myself, "If an alcoholic doesn't want me, if I'm that hard to love, if God won't answer my prayers, what good am I?"

Pity parties aren't much fun, and they don't really help. Feeling sorry for myself and blaming God for decisions I made was making my trials harder, not easier. I was also mad at the church because I felt that my "Christian" friends and pastor had failed me too.

Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 15:13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful;
but heartache crushes the spirit.

Well, the devil was snickering at me; I could almost hear him. Watching me struggle on my own limited resources, he was waiting for a chance to totally destroy me.

I guess the thing that kept me going was my children - knowing that they needed me and that what I did mattered to them. Then my daughter, at the wise old age of 14, decided to run away to her father because we had moved to a town she didn't like. That was a devastating blow, and after two years, I had to file for full custody because her father was not caring for her properly.

All this pain finally clued me into the fact that I COULDN'T make it on my own. I had to have God's help, whether I was mad at Him or not. So I started going to a church in Blacksburg, VA called Tried Stone Christian Center. I was accepted there, with all of my failures, and began to trust in God again. I realized that He had heard my prayers, and the answers to them were hindered because of my husband's hardened heart. God would not force him to obey the Word, any more than God forces anybody to serve Him.

Psalm 73:16-28

When I tried to understand all this,
it was oppressive to me

till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.

Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.

How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!

As a dream when one awakes,
so when you arise, O Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.

When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,

I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

A lot of my suffering was my fault for making bad choices based on false information. And I waited until things got desperate before asking for help, and perhaps did not make those in church understand how in need I was. I have always APPEARED to be self-sufficient, and have a tendency to be a loner. So God began a work of healing in my soul that took a while to get me back on track.

During this time I had a boyfriend that I fell madly in love with and would have married him in a heartbeat, but that was not his intention. A good thing, because it would have been another mistake. I was definitely out of God's will in that relationship.

Finally, I took a good hard look at myself. I quit throwing pity parties, quit blaming others for my actions, and repented of my marital and romantic sins. I was unbelievably lonely, and was tempted to become involved in yet another wrong relationship, but I finally threw my heart at my savior's feet, and told Him that IF it was His will for me to remarry, HE would have to pick out the husband.

My life's goal became to take care of my children and try to serve the Lord from my heart totally. I was becoming closer and closer to Jesus and recapturing the delight and joy of my salvation and walking by faith.

I got a job working for a computer company as a trainer. I enjoyed the work, but had been having some physical problems that medication was not controlling. So soon after I began working I had to have surgery. Before I left for surgery, I met the company's insurance representative. He was a jolly, friendly guy, with a potbelly, thinning hair and a loving nature. Not exactly Rock Hudson. I wondered why he had to come over several times a week. They sure must have had some difficult insurance problems, I can remember thinking. This man also had a terrible burden to bear: his father was dying of bone cancer and he was living in his father's home taking care of him. I was really impressed with his devotion. This man's name was Jim Page.

After surgery in May, I returned to work in July, and Jim offered to help me find a place to live nearer to my employment. He found me a place, in his heart, and in his life and in his home! He had lost his father that September, and by the end of November we were married. God's choice, this time, is my husband for the long haul, the love of my life. Thank you Jesus for Jim Page!

JimKarleen.jpg (59977 bytes)
Karleen and Jim Page
11-30-96

So what is my advice for marital success?

  • Be sure your heart is healed from childhood trauma, the ravages of sin or a failed relationship before you seek a mate.
  • Make pleasing the Lord your goal, and trust Him, not your senses or emotions, for finding a spouse.
  • Learn to really know this person without becoming sexually involved.
  • Forgot the romantic nonsense you've seen and heard about. God's choice will make bells ring, but that comes later.
  • Get pre-marital counseling and seek wisdom from those who've succeeded at marriage.
  • Be practical about such things as finances, child raising, household duties. Don't assume "it will all work out". Know what your intended thinks about such things.
  • Don't marry outside of the church.  Marry only "in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:39) "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers." (2 Corinthians 6:14). If he/she isn't already a Christian, the chances that YOU will win your partner are next to nothing. It is more likely that they will drag you under.
  • God's choice for you will be someone who is your perfect compliment, who understands your heart and wants to serve God with you from the minute you meet. Don't settle for the first good-looking thing that comes along. Don't be content until you KNOW that you are joining yourself to God's best for you.
  • And take time to read book of Proverbs. There is a lot of practical wisdom there that will save you much grief.

 

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