Thirty-five years ago today, I stood on the brink of adulthood, certain I had all the answers and life would go on happily forever after. It was a huge shock when, the very next day, my crystal dream castle came shattering down, filling my soul with shards. Or maybe the shards were already there and I was unaware until things got shaken up a bit.
Tom and I married on my 18th birthday, two days before Christmas. We chose this time because his mother and brothers and my sisters had long distances to travel and we wanted them with us for this occassion. I hadn't realized how that would interfere with a honeymoon of exclusive time for just us. Tom wanted to spend time with his family, who he hadn't seen for a couple of years, and it was Christmas--definitely a family time--but I had my mind set on the ideal wedding, honeymoon and marriage and this was not fitting. I got so angry I gave him back the ring and stomped out. It's easy to see that drama objectively now, but at the time all I could feel was the hard crash of perceived rejection.
Our marriage went downhill from there. Having established in my mind that Tom cared more about himself than me, everything that happened between us from then on was filtered through this belief. I was miserable. I had read every book on marriage in my school library (which also served a seminary, so there were lots of books on marriage) and was sure I was prepared for any problem that might arise.
Since I was so prepared, it was evident to me that the problems were all his fault. I tried so many ways to fix things, completely unaware of the brokenness in me that coloured my view and tainted my perspective. It's only been in the last year or two that I've begun to realize that I came to marriage twisted and distorted, unable to receive the very things I longed for. There's a long journey ahead as my awareness grows. I'm a lot uglier inside than I ever realized.
It was during these early years of marriage that I slowly drifted away from God. I justified my absence from church by reasoning that I could keep in relationship with God on my own through Bible reading and prayer; but without the encouragement of other believers and because of the unseen messiness inside me, these spiritual disciplines also slipped away. I was searching for answers to my misery and looking in all the wrong places--so much so that I began to think that having an affair was the remedy. I can't remember my reasoning on that one, but I know I was convinced of it.
You think starting an affair is easy business? I flirted with every male I could but it took six months or more before one bit. And he seemed very much the answer. The contrast in the way I felt with him, compared with how I felt with my husband was so marked that I was certain I could no longer tolerate my marriage any longer and, without any warning, packed up my personal belongings one day and moved out while Tom was at work.
The next two years and a bit were tumultuous. With all the boundaries gone, for the first time in my life I felt free! My lovers multiplied and it was a struggle to keep them sorted out. When I moved to another city to live with one of these men, my philandering didn't stop.
But God started to awaken me, to open my ears to his voice, gently calling me back to him. I started looking for a church, I studied the Bible with a couple of girls who came to the door and decided I wanted to return to God. Before I could act on this decision, I landed in the hospital for emergency surgery and spent the next several weeks recovering--except that I didn't seem to.
One night, after vomitting seven times, I returned to Emergency where I learned I was pregnant. It was a shock but I never questioned whether I would keep the child or not. Of course I would keep it! And so I began looking for resources available to single moms.
I connected with a woman from the Pregnancy Crisis Centre who, after hearing my story, said she had something to tell me that would affect how she would counsel me. "I am a Christian," she said.
"So am I!" I declared.
"No you're not. Look at your life!"
And she was right. My life was an ungodly mess. But I was ready and together we knelt down and prayed.
My life turned completely around from that point on. I couldn't get enough of God, of the Bible, of church or other Christians. I spent hours every day with God and a question that began to materialise was, "What about my marriage?"
What about it? I had absolutely no intention of returning to the pain I had left and hoped that perhaps I could start a new life with the father of my child. Who was the father? It took several times of doing the math before I could be sure. He was the man I had initially left my marriage for.
God seemed to be telling me to return to Tom but surely I wasn't hearing correctly! I fought long and hard with God about that until finally I put the whole thing to a test--a test that was so weighted in favour of what I wanted, that it could only be God if it went the other way.