This past weekend, I had the honor of presenting two workshops on God’s Design for Healthy Relationships at the Ignite Shout youth conference in Des Moines, Iowa. Encouraged by my story, one by one, others came forward and shared their stories with me. One of those brave enough to step into the light shared the following story with me.
I am the oldest of four kids. My family home life was awesome. My mom and dad didn’t have a lot, but we had a great family. Mom and dad were always in love and showing us how love should be. We never, ever saw them fight, just love each other. It was great.
But there was always tension between my mom and I. I was the result of a teen pregnancy. My parents married a week after graduating high school. Maybe my mom felt that I had taken away her youth.
I was always happy as a child, always smiling – you would never see me sad. But when it came to boys – I was scared to death. I dated in high school but was a “goody”. Out of all the boys I dated in high school, I only kissed one. I remember in high school I said “I would never get a divorce”. I have now been divorced 3 times. It kills me to even see that number. It leaves a huge pit in my stomach. Here is my story..
After my first kiss broke my heart in college, I met husband number 1. It was destined to be a disaster from the very start. He was the first person that I gave myself to. Even then I wasn’t sure if he was the one I should marry, we graduated from college and got engaged on my 20th birthday.
The day after we were married a letter came in the mail for him from a woman that he had been seeing – I had NO IDEA!!!! My stomach was just in knots, but I kept smiling and looking to God for help. I got pregnant about 4 months into marriage. After I miscarried, I got pregnant again immediately. When my daughter was born, he and his mother bought boy clothes and boy diapers. He already knew we had a girl, but really wanted a boy. The first few months of my daughter’s life were hell. She and I slept on the couch because he didn’t want her to hear her screaming. She was born in January, and he was gone by August. Despite having left us, he continued to insert himself in our lives. He would threaten me, sometimes with a gun. He hit me, just for trying to clean out his closet. Over the years, he quit coming around, and my daughter refuses to have contact with him.
I knew my second husband for a few years before we started dating. He moved in right away. I didn’t ask him to, he just did. I really loved him. We were married for 8 years, and had 2 children. He was a military guy. The first years were pretty good, but we frequently fought about money. When I was pregnant with my second daughter, he needed help becoming aroused as he wasn’t attracted to me. He turned to pornography. As the years went by, he withdrew further from me and more and more “magazines” showed up. Eventually, I discovered other women’s phone numbers and naked pictures. He would frequent strip clubs with his buddies. I felt so dirty. That year for Valentines Day, he bought me porn. I turned to God for refuge. I started spending a lot of time at my church. I would just go there and play the piano for hours. However, I began to doubt God during this time as my second marriage was falling apart. I yelled at God. But he stayed with me, and I continued to pray.
While I was still married to my second husband, I met husband number 3 while out with a friend. He pursued me against my wishes and despite knowing I was married. It felt good to have someone want me. I filed for divorce and started seeing him. I felt so low for moving so fast into a relationship with him, but I felt as though I had too. After a few months, my kids and I moved in with him. We were married a year later after I became pregnant. I miscarried the day before the wedding. He was good to me and the kids at first, although we fought constantly. I got pregnant again. The day I had my fourth child, he said I needed to get pregnant again. I said no. My doctor said no. He kept after me.
That year I lost my job due to cuts at the company. He was angry at me for losing my job, and everything started to turn bad, really, really bad. The kids and I started attending church again even though he hated it. I loved it and so did the kids. I felt God’s presence every time I walked through the doors. I started playing the piano and then started singing. I spent a lot of time in church. But things at home just got worse. He constantly criticized and belittled me. I continued to take it. I thought that I deserved it. When I started working with the youth group, he would accuse me of having an affair. Then he began accusing me of having affairs with every guy I saw or ever talked about. He called me a preacher woman that was a hypocrite. I started to believe it. I hated myself so much.
He started abusing the children. He took their Christmas presents and broke each one in front of them. He broke so many things. He would be remorseful but find a way to put the blame on me. We were married 12 years. The kids were afraid of him. Anything that brought me happiness he tried to ruin, and when that didn’t work, he would try and hurt them. When my oldest daughter graduated from high school, she informed me she had saved up $2000 for us to leave. She had started saving when she was 16, by working 3 jobs. And yet I stayed. I didn’t want to fail another marriage.
I eventually hit bottom and I lay down on the floor of my church and cried out for God to help me. My husband always reminded me he had a gun, so I hid it and the shells leaving only the case and left. My last straw was watching him hold my son against the wall by placing his hands around my son’s throat.
We moved out the week of Easter, into a one bedroom across the street from the church. I felt safe for the first time. When the kids fell asleep I would run across the street and pray – for love – for peace – for happiness.
I have since found and married my best friend. Our kids, all six of them, love each other like they were all meant to be brothers and sisters. We will have been married a year in April. He is a man of faith, a man who loves God before his family and me. We pray together, worship together, and the day we were married, the whole world felt like it was at peace. I know that God is blessing me.
I try hard to look at my past, but it burns my eyes. I have to remember that it is part of what has shaped me into the woman that I have become. I know that God has amazing plans for me and for my husband. We are both led to help serve. I want my story to help others. I want to use my voice to make a difference.
Then they cried out to the Lord because of their problems.
And he saved them from their troubles.
He brought them out of the deepest darkness.
He broke their chains off.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his faithful love.
Let them give thanks for the miracles he does for his people.
Psalm 107:13-15 (NIRV)