a story of redemption
‘This will end in Divorce because he will commit adultery’ It’s not often you would hear a 24 year old bride-to-be say these words out loud to herself when she first looks in the mirror wearing a white satin gown and her veil trailing down her back. Expectations were not high to say the least! After years of witnessing fathers, brothers, uncles, family friends crush, abuse, neglect, cruelly oppress the women in their lives with an authority they felt given by God, it wasn’t surprising. But she had a plan.
It took years of strategic planning to escape a home environment filled with fear, intimidation with a mentally ill father who’s sense of religiousness & rules magnified 100 fold in and out of insane seasons. Marrying a man who had already shown unfaithfulness in their engagement meant that it would be painful for a while but the reward would be freedom from any man claiming to be her ‘head’ and oppressively forcing his own view of what she should submit to and tolerate for the rest of her life. Religion and faith are worlds apart yet accepted in her as the same.
But a plan and the reality of living it through are two very different things.
Many people say the first year of marriage can be quite difficult, learning to get to know each other, learning to compromise and growing in the art of grace. This marriage started with physical violence, a river of rage and many angry words and tears. The brokenness was deep in both Husband and wife, with no tools or knowledge to hold onto that it could be different or they could be different. Many boundaries of indecency were crossed. Both expecting the worst and secretly hoping the other would change enough that they could both grow in love and to that movie ending.
Even now as I write this, 11 years on, I feel slightly sick to know that was me and amazed at how redeeming Gods love is even in the face of our own messed up choices and actions. To be honest I feel like I’m writing about another couple. It took a long time to fully surrender to God!
A year into the marriage I walked out & turned up VERY angry & unforgiving onto the doorstep of a couple who had never met me. Their first words were “ We are so glad to meet you, we’ve been praying for God to give us an opportunity to use our home for restoration.” I gave a plastic smile thinking they might have over reached on prayer there! For days I sat in silence in my room, hating who I’d become, despising my own choices and torn between wanting a miracle or a divorce. This was the first window of a loving marriage I looked into. I daily watched this couple as they interacted with each other, with equal respect, love and kindness shown. Hope began to grow. I genuinely had never witnessed this type of marriage. Their view of God was different. Their God had a plan for their life not for evil but for good. Their God loved men and women uniquely and equally. It amazed me. How had I missed this?
Feeling hopeful and calmer with changed view that marriage could be so much better, I went back home changed, responding differently in arguments, not getting sucked into drunken taunts and mothering his behavior but by then my husband had walked deeper into a path of drugs, drink and other women. Instead, peace disintegrated & anxiety and fear drove my response. I have always written journals, over this period of my life they are full of a mixture: despair, psalms, worship songs and suicide. We would last 6 months max under the same roof before it would all fall apart and another woman would emerge onto the scene and I would walk out. The following 6 years, we went around the same broken repeated circles. I had no idea how to fight in the spiritual, (Trying to sleep with my head on the bible was a regular thing!) When you are led to believe that God does not move supernaturally today, & the devil and our sinful nature has more power: demonic nightmares, abusive relationships and adultery just look impossible to overcome.
From the age of 15 I knew that I was deeply loved by Jesus and I loved and still do love him dearly. I couldn’t separate my earthly father from my heavenly father, for a long time I didn’t even realize how entwined they were. If I got a glimpse of a balanced, loving father to a child or even a sense that God was like that, my heart would crave it but accept that it wasn’t for me. The Holy Spirit didn’t get the time of day, all of his promptings and voice was credited to Jesus. Jesus was the only one I was interested in. Thankfully Father God and Holy Spirit felt completely differently.
Within the 6th year, I woke up one morning after throwing a huge post -school -inspection party and heard a voice say, ‘Get up and go, I will heal him.’ At the beginning of that week I had thrown Jon out for violence and adultery. It amazes me that when you obey Gods voice how rapidly events move. I had a complete peace, handed in my notice. My boss gave me more money than I was entitled to under such short notice. I gave away most of the contents of our home, got in my car and drove 100s of miles away & chose not to work for 3 months so busy-ness could not get in the way of much needed healing process. I had no idea if ‘I will heal him’ included ‘I will heal your marriage’, but it released me from the misplaced responsibility that the healing was my job. Each week I met with a female Christian counselor who gave me much to think about. The most painful realization was I couldn’t pin point the time as a child when I stopped trusting God completely, I cried literally for days with verbalizing the life I had lived, the standards I had accepted, taking responsibility for my own actions and the rejection I felt from God and man. Slowly God used this time to build the goodness of his character again in my heart and opened the dreams I had hidden & carried for years not knowing if they would be fulfilled.
There was a slip backwards within the 3 months. Jon had run off with a teenager to France by then. I got a phone call from a very disillusioned, regret-filled husband explaining how he didn’t realize how young she was until he met her teenage friends. As we all sigh, yes I flew out to France the next day (Noooooo!). After a few massive arguments we settled for a ‘truce’ ride on a fair ground wheel, as we got off and walked to a late night café, a stranger joined us (it was one of those unspoken- we –need-a-spare-wheel-or-i-will-kill-you-moments) Jon left the table, the guy turned to me and said “Suzanne what are you doing here? God told you to get on your own path and be the woman he created you to be. There is something so dark inside of Jonathan that only God can fix, you are getting in the way.” Jon came back. I pretended nothing had happened & waited. Jon eventually went to bed. This man, who I had never met, told me facts no-one or only a few people knew about my life and proceeded to speak life over me for a few hours. The next day I flew back, with a mind shifted & more focused, this time set on Gods expectations for my life. A week later I got a job in Dubai and followed Gods peace there. Over time Jonathan joined me with a desire for a new life, there was a genuine turning happening: for 8 months he wept in church and walked for the following years with our pastor as he showed him a new identity in Christ & being the son God deeply loved.
I wish I could say that forgiveness came naturally as a Christian. But the truth was it took a sledge hammer to get through my self- righteous attitude. As God challenged my grip on unforgiveness he revealed an ugly belief: Over a 6 week period he asked me to pray for the women who I had worshiped with, shared meals with and some I never met who had knowingly had affairs with my husband. I point blank refused for a week. Then the hell, fire and brimstone prayers came out, each week God asked- did I feel different? The following week I prayed they would know Jesus and all come and say sorry to me.. still no change. LOL My father was very patient! 4th week he asked if I thought I deserved his grace… the ugly truth came out…I believed I was better because I hadn’t sinned the same. From the 5th week my prayers were much longer with less words because that type of hiccup crying makes speaking quite tricky. It was painful to let go of pain & repent. The prayer was simple, that they would know Gods love, be set free and live to their full potential in his Kingdom. By the following week I felt a change happen in my heart, a tangible peace came over me and something physically lift off my back. At the same time a very painful lower back pain I had been having treatment for nearly a year had also healed with my heart.
Over the last 5 years God has brought painful memories back to the surface, removed the trauma and challenged the lies that had been planted there. I’d be running one day, chatting to God and suddenly a memory would come back, the pain of that memory would physically stop me in my tracks and I would ask him ‘Show me where you were Father because I need to see it.’ He would show me each time where he was. All the time I had felt abandoned by God because I believe at some point that by my own choices, I deserved the abuse and thought he agreed too. Revelation after revelation in my authority in Jesus & his whole revealed Word to fight spiritually made a huge difference in my life.
Gods redeeming love changed both of our hearts and continues to. I’m also happy to say I now have a wonderful relationship with my earthly father, God restored much more than I ever dreamed. This is only the beginning of a new life.
‘There is no victory without battle, no testimony without a test and no miracle without an impossible circumstance’ – Kris Vallotoon, Spirit Wars.