In many ways, I have learned that many people perceive my husband as wearing this sign across his forehead. It makes everything easier. If we can sum up everything about a person by the worst moment or moments of their life, we don’t have to struggle with trying to figure out who that person is now. We don’t even have to give them the same respect we give to “real people.” Nice and tidy in our minds.
Unfortunately, that’s not life, and that’s one of the lessons that God has taught me and is still teaching me through my husband’s example.
By our second date, John was disclosing his past to me. I guess it’s kind of a dating ritual, because my first husband (who was also divorced), also made “disclosures” during our dating period. John’s disclosures were so different from my ex’s.
When my ex “confessed” his past, he minimized what he had done. (I later learned he altered timelines in his stories and omitted tons of details.) I felt like I was under a lot of pressure to take what he said as the truth and to hurry up and marry him before I could learn enough to say no. Not surprisingly, I discovered this pattern continued throughout our marriage.
John wasn’t exactly eager to tell me, but he was man enough to give me the opportunity to make an intelligent decision because he knew that his past would have a dramatic effect on my future. He knew how hard I had fought to set up a reasonably maintainable future for my kids and that my ex would exploit and exaggerate every detail to aid his plans without regard to the best interest of our children.
Listening to his story was hard. It scared me. I had to grapple with my faith in God. After all, I knew this guy well enough to know that I liked who and what I saw, but I also knew what “everyone knows” and so he was supposed to be an absolutely dangerous person and I should just shut him down and walk away.
I hesitated, and I turned to God. I began praying, and I began searching to see if others had found what I thought I was seeing in John — the ability to change and to not actually desire to continue living as he had. I asked John searching questions about his repentance process with his bishop, his sessions with his therapist, and his own experiences working through both the church’s and a secular twelve-step program and addiction recovery group.
John and God were both honest in their answers, and sometimes the answers hurt. I also found credible sources of scientific studies that had been repressed by popular opinion and groups with political agendas that supported what I was seeing in John.
However, the final component was the answer I received after yet another heartfelt prayer about my desires, my fears, and my commitment to doing whatever God asked. Through the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart, I was told that I could choose. If I decided to end things with John, there would be no condemnation, because God knew how much he was asking of me. However, if I chose to stay with John, things would be ok.
That’s the beginning of how I learned that God’s ok looks a lot different from my ok. There have been tons of consequences. John became the final tool that my ex needed to drive a wedge between me and my children, and one-by-one I had to let them go to preserve what was left of their childhood. I have endured people taking my ex-husband acting like an idiot and hurling insults at my husband (then boyfriend) as gospel truth. I have even learned the expediency of separating John from parts of my life to avoid the headaches of dealing with people who don’t want to think and consider — they just want to quickly pigeon-hole my husband as a non-human and go on their way.
The blessings, however, have been so much more numerous than the trials, and I have never truly regretted choosing John as my husband and eternal companion.
What are some of those blessings?
- By watching John, I learned that committing to walking with the Savior and staying worthy of the companionship of the Holy Spirit — especially through honest heartfelt prayer and deep daily study of the scriptures — truly creates a change in a person. There is an amazing change of heart, mind, spirit, and core character. It wasn’t an overnight process, it’s an ongoing process. I am blessed to wake up to a man who is better each day than he was the day before.
- When it was my turn to use the church’s twelve-step guidebook to overcome unhealthy patterns that I developed in childhood, John was right there as my anchor and guide. He never pushed me to change or follow the program, but he cheered me on the whole way. As I continue to follow his example of prayer, study, and improvement, he continues to be my rock and my cheerleader.
- I have learned that God’s promises trump conventional wisdom every time. It doesn’t matter what “everybody knows,” it matters what God says. God cannot lie, and God is all-knowing and all-powerful. If He promises something, it’s as good as done. The only limiting factor is our willingness to be obedient and do our part.
- Sooner or later, the evidence points back to what God says. As a case in point, check out this study by a Johns-Hopkins psychiatry professor and what “everybody knows” about gender and sexuality.
- True repentance is much more than saying a quick “I’m sorry” prayer and promising not to do it again. God intends to make us into people who are just like him. Repentance has to go deeper if we are going to be changed! LDS.org has a great overview of repentance (make sure you click the “more” spot and read the scripture references).
- I have learned that the greatest obstacle facing people who have made “giant mistakes” in their lives is the unwillingness of the people around them to let them grow, change, and become a benefit to society. The reactions of others, the feeling of being pushed to the side — – of being something less than human — causes a sense of hopelessness that breeds anger and resentment and inhibits each person’s ability to find the strength to change.
Perhaps the biggest blessing is that, over time, I have learned to stop worrying about how people will react, what people will say, and what people will do. I have learned that, even if things look like they are going worse in the moment, following spiritual promptings always brings greater blessings than “choking” out of fear. God takes care of the consequences when we do what He asks!
Meanwhile, I am enjoying a marriage based on friendship, love, and a mutual commitment to living the gospel. I finally understand the sentiment that home really can be heaven on earth!