Sometimes, in the Christian life, God’s subtle intervention in our day-to-day can be much like a budding flower, slow to blossom, yet oh so worth the wait. Such were the related events of my life in the early eighties, events that would stir the complacency of my dormant Christianity and re-direct the course of my future.
Early in 1972, at the altar of a small church in my home town, I had confessed my sins and asked Jesus to be my Savior. Unfortunately, I failed to follow up that act of salvation by building on my relationship with Him. I was then gradually pulled back into worldly living, losing interest in spiritual matters and not giving Christ rightful lordship of my life.
Ten years later, Judy and I were just beginning our twentieth year together. Our marriage right out of high school had more than it’s share of rough edges. She had a hunger for other men, I was completely self-centered and we had five children, ranging in ages from 11 to 18, all of whom were emotionally and spiritually neglected. Our loveless marriage amazingly managed to barely sustain on the “life support” of mutual dependency, but with each passing day, we grew farther apart and increasingly distant from God.
One winter evening in ’82, while on duty as a city police officer, I experienced God’s touch on my life in a most unusual way, a way that was to have dramatic repercussions on the direction and events in days to come.
My working partner and I were dispatched out of the police station to a residence on Echo Drive to investigate a possible burglary to this home. When we arrived, we found the front door standing wide open, the interior lights off and the house empty. Although I had never been in this house before, during our routine search of it’s interior, I experienced an extraordinary and unique sense of familiarity with not only the home’s interior, but with it’s furnishings and photographs as well. I could almost hear a voice telling me that I “belonged” at this house, indeed an eerie feeling beyond the scope of my experience.
Two years later I found myself in the deepest pit of despair I could have ever imagined. My “high school” marriage was over, Judy had deserted me to live with another man. At thirty-eight, I found myself the sole custodial parent of three teenagers still at home. For my part, I felt emotionally crushed, heartbroken, abandoned and nearly suicidal.
I suppose it is at times like this when a line is drawn in the sand regarding spiritual direction. Following the desertion, I was faced with the crucial choice of becoming hateful toward God for my plight and turning away from Him, or drawing near to Him as a hurting child seeking consolation from his father. By God's grace and mercy I chose the latter.
Now, at last, in my brokenness and despair, I came to realize how much I needed God's comfort and guidance. Though my prayers were selfish at first, products of my own desperation and need,….they were prayers. Finally, I was talking to Him again.
Pleading for the return of my wife and restoration of the marriage,I begged Him to help me live again and to make me whole. Then, as days turned into weeks and weeks into months, I finally began to understand that Judy had freely chosen a new life with someone else and God wanted me to look to Him, and seek His direction for my future.
I drew closer to God through daily reading of His word. No longer did I view Him as just a critical observer of my life, but now welcomed Him as an active participant with me, one who loved me and tried to guide me away from sin and into His will. The loneliness however was still very real, and my heart continually cried out for God to bring a mate into my life, one I could trust with my love and share in my life. The difference this time was that I was leaving the selection and timing to God. I asked Him to open doors and make it clear to me when, and if, he was indeed directing me to that special someone.
As the leaves began to fall, I returned to work from a surgically related medical leave of absence and relocated my family in a smaller house closer to my job.
One day in late October, my eldest son (then twenty) brought me a clipping from our local newspaper. It was an advertisement calling for persons interested in starting up a "Parents Without Partners" organization to gather that evening at the local library. Though I resisted the idea of going, I reasoned that as a “single parent” I could use support and my children deserved any help available.
Later that same evening, I parked my police cruiser across the street from the library, prayed silently for God's leading and watched people entering for the meeting. I was very apprehensive about leaving the comfort of my cruiser and pessimistic that this meeting could possibly do much toward helping me get my life back on track. As I observed the people going into the building, I noted that they seemed awkward and uncertain. They appeared to be just as weak and lost as me,….the “blind leading the blind” (I thought), and I was beginning to view this as a misadventure in futility.
It was nearly time for the meeting to begin, and I was almost ready to drive away when "she" arrived. She was blonde, attractive and in her mid-thirties. She walked with poise and determination, held herself in a posture of self-confidence and was carrying writing supplies. She smiled at others entering for the meeting and showed no sign of hesitation or discomfort about being there. Indeed she was different. Her arrival seemed to be just the encouragement I needed from the Holy Spirit, to move past my own doubts and fears. I grabbed up the microphone and radioed to the dispatcher that I would be taking my supper break at the library.
During the meeting, I learned that the blonde woman's name was Debbie. She radiated a sense of purpose and organization that must have been visible to all the others as well, for they seemed to gravitate toward her. She was friendly, sensible and intelligent, and without a single objection or slightest hesitation, the others immediately moved to elect her to the office of president of this newly formed organization.
In the days following, I continued to be drawn into God's word, I listened for His voice and sought His direction. Judy completely refused to return home, or agree to any type of counseling, adamantly insisting that our marriage was over. Seeking God in this matter, he directed me to First Corinthians 7:15. It is there He taught me that though he indeed does "hate divorce" (Malachi 2:16), for what it does to individuals and the children of any marriage, because of poor human choices sometimes divorce becomes inevitable. He indicated that such was the case in my situation, Judy’s leaving was permanent and she would not be returning to our marriage. He brought to my memory and understanding situations from our marital history illustrating a deficiency of the essential elements of love, fidelity and spirituality that compose godly marriage, so that even in the unlikely event of her future return, that relationship would never meet the standards of what He intended real marriage to be. Rather, it would likely continue to be the very vehicle that would drive both of us further from Him, ultimately resulting in another desertion somewhere else down the line. This thought, along with an accumulation of many other concerns regarding finance and child welfare, freed me to sign a petition for divorce for cause of desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15b).
A few days later I was advised that somehow (through secretive and somewhat curious balloting) I had been elected into the position of vice-president in this newly formed Parents Without Partners organization. I was told I would be working closely with the organization’s President (Debbie) at meetings and planning sessions. It was a prospect that prompted a curious smile to my heart.
As we began meeting for club business, we soon discovered that we shared a love for the Lord and had both placed our lives in His hands. I learned she had divorced her first husband some six years earlier because of his repetitive adulteries, and she was raising her four young girls by herself. Strangely, it was her eldest daughter who brought her the same newspaper advertisement about the meeting at the library, and encouraged her to attend. What was even more startling, was the revelation that Debbie lived in that very same house on Echo Drive where just two years before I had experienced that strange sense of belonging and eerie familiarity. The pieces all seemed to be coming together.
Debbie was exactly the opposite of Judy, intense in her conviction regarding fidelity in relationships, having deep belief in prayer and a love for the teachings of the bible. She brought me through many moments of my post desertion depression by challenging me and encouraging me to be the man God was calling me to be. She taught me not to depend on any other human being to bring joy in my life, but to seek God first and know the joy only he could provide.
Over the next few months, we found ourselves often being brought together in many an unusual happenstance. Doors were being opened as chance meetings, long telephone conversations and like interests became increasingly commonplace. The more I spoke to her the more I began to realize, she was exactly the kind of woman God would have me seek in a lasting relationship. I could clearly see His mighty hand at work, bringing us together and bonding us both emotionally and spiritually. Needless to say I fell in love with Debbie for the godly woman she was.
The next summer, following finalization of my divorce, we were married. That was nineteen years ago now, and I am so thankful to God for His faithfulness to His word in Romans 8:28. For we both love God and are called for His purpose, so He is constantly faithful to work all things for our mutual good, even out of the heartbreak and mistakes of our individual pasts.
I am convinced that the “Echo Drive experience” of 1982 was God’s subtle way of assurance in preparation of my heartbreak two years later,and also the movement of His mighty hand in redirecting my life back into His will, setting my feet on the right path.
Today we continue to honor God in our marriage, as we live together in that same special house on Echo Drive. Debbie has founded a vibrant women's ministry and I know her love for me is second only to that for her wonderful Savior….Christ the lord.
“A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.”(Proverbs 12:4-NIV)
Denny, Welcome to FaithWriter's 500! It is wonderful, as the bible tells us, what satan intends for our harm, God takes and uses for our good. Well written. Blessings, Rita
23 Sep 2004
Denny, I've read your other work, and can say that over time your writing has shown marked improvement. This one is definitely your best. It's very well constructed and whollly ready to be submitted for publication.