“He’ll never change,” the lady told me. “I’ve known him for over 20 years, he is what he is. He will just break your heart,” she added. “He will always be a drunk,” my loved one said. I felt defensive, ashamed. I started keeping the sordid details of my life to myself even amidst the turmoil in my heart. What had been an exciting, three month courtship now resulted in a young twenty-two year old disillusioned bride.
I fell hard for this man. He was unlike any I had dated before. Worldly, successful, funny and 15 years my senior. I felt safe with him, and there was no doubt I loved him. My friends gossiped and marveled I fell for an older man. My family just about disowned me and did their best to intervene, yet something deep inside made me determined to marry him.
We were married 2 months when I found out I was pregnant. This was the only child we had planned to have. Three months in I realized what appeared to be social drinking was really an alcohol addiction. Confrontations led to dismal fights which led to declarations of cutting back or doing better. We existed in a realm of illusory, he knew I wasn’t happy yet he tried.
The drinking fractured our family time, our relationship, our outlook. I started thinking about leaving, my adorable toddler gave me strength to insist we deserved better. Then I found out I was pregnant, again. I decided to keep trying but I had to have help.
I went to church but it wasn’t the right fit, I was gossip to those who knew me. It was hard getting myself together with a toddler in tow, to show up and make an appearance with a big smile on my face. I didn’t see other wives hitting the altar because their husbands had issues. Yet I had this overwhelming feeling I needed to be in church.
The addiction continued to take its toll on our family. In a drunken, angry state my husband quit a job providing a six figure income. In the 80’s, this was a substantial salary. Within months we found ourselves losing everything. He agreed to rehab only after he came face to face with financial ruin. Soon he was offered a job in Louisiana. It was a new start in a new place.
He went ahead to find us a place to live. Weeks later I came with our babies. We were barely settled into our new home when I realized he was drinking again. I was heart broken, hopeless.
GOD provided a Christian family next door. I went to church with them, I felt GOD’S presence. I saw hurting people on the altar, I let my guard down and shared my painful secret. They prayed and taught me to pray for GOD’S will. They shared with me it was GOD’S will for my husband to be a born again Christian and to be set free of his addiction. I had hope.
We were in Louisiana just less than a year when the job was over. The owner was selling out. We were going back to Tennessee. I was considering going my separate way when we returned home. It would be an easy transition during the move. In the process of packing, I found out I was pregnant with our third child. Yea….GOD has a sense of humor. I stayed.
The struggle continued to be heart wrenching, the finances were tight. My first born was pretty sharp and soon picked up on daddy coming home drunk. Thank GOD he wasn’t a mean drunk but a sloppy, affectionate, sentimental drunk. My feeble heart literally ached because my child could see the difference in a drunk daddy.
I remember crying out to GOD…..”I don’t know what to do, you have got to help me GOD.” Our third baby was born and amazingly GOD led me to a new friend named Debby. A vivacious, GOD fearing, spit fire full of faith. What a friend. She led me to a church with a pastor named Jerry. An evangelistic, friendly, soul winner man of GOD. What a pastor. Jerry shepherded a loving, non-judging church family with real problems too. What a church.
I started praying one night a week with Debby and another friend. I learned to pray specific, I remembered the precious family from Louisiana who taught me it was GOD’S will for all to find salvation. I believed and claimed this promise for my husband.
We prayed it would rain on Sunday’s so he couldn’t golf and maybe go to church with me. We prayed he would get hangovers….something he never did. We prayed GOD would wrap his spirit so tight around my husband’s heart he would suffocate in conviction. It rained 6 weeks in a roll and he attended church some. He started puking his guts out after he drank and I so enjoyed listening to his gut wrenching bathroom sessions. I specifically remember thanking GOD for hangovers.
One night he sat down and watched a Billy Graham crusade on television. I sat next to him on the couch as tears streamed down his face and he wiped them with his hand. For 7 months, we prayed, we prayed specific, we prayed expectantly, we prayed in faith.
Three days after we watched the crusade on television he was in his favorite local pub with all his golf buddies. It was a Sunday evening and my babies were loaded in their car seats as we headed to church. The pub was on the way….GOD spoke clearly and said….”Stop and send Matthew in.”
“Send my baby in a bar Lord?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from GOD. I literally sat in the parking lot for 20 minutes wrestling with whether to send my three and a half year old into a bar. Finally with a heavy heart, I stood at the door as my baby went in and asked his daddy to go to church with us.
We settled into our seats near the front, liquor on his breath. He wasn’t drunk but he had knocked down a few. I remember thinking, I hope no one smells the alcohol on his breath. The pastor brought a powerful salvation message directed at my husband. I knew he was under conviction when the invitation started. I looked at his knuckles white from griping the pew so tight.
The pastor offered one more verse, I was about to give up. Then all of a sudden he turned to me and said, “I’ve got to go Mel, he’s calling me.” He shot out into the aisle and hit the altar. The pastor went and counseled him. I waited and prayed but made it to the altar just in time to hear him pray the sinner’s prayer.
I remember my husband holding me on the altar after he asked Christ into his heart. I remember the taste of my salty tears as we embraced each other for what seemed like forever. I cried into his chest, he cried on my shoulder. The entire church was rejoicing and praising GOD.
GOD was so faithful to my family that precious night. I relive it often. He has brought us so far, replenished us financially, restored relationships, restored hope. What the devil took….GOD replaced.
We will be married 30 years in January 2015. He has been sober since giving his heart to JESUS on March 17th, 1990. What rehab and a devoted, young bride’s love couldn’t do…GOD did.
I have often thought about what would have happened had I not sent my innocent little boy into the pub that night? Crazy isn’t it? GOD told me to send my baby into a bar? I still scratch my head about doing so and I have never shared this detail of our story till now.
We’ve read countless stories of GOD telling our bible heroes to do crazy things haven’t we? So it stands to reason….why would he not tell us to do crazy things too? Remember the leper, Naaman? Elisha told him through a servant, go wash in the muddy Jordan seven times and you will be clean. Naaman was angry Elisha did not come out to meet him and call on the Lord. He questioned the choice of waters stating there were cleaner rivers around. He went away in rage. If not for his servants convincing him to go to the Jordan and obey Elisha’s directives, Naaman would not have been healed. (2 Kings 5)
Its a beautiful story of stubborn obedience, similar to mine. I have learned through my 49 plus years, GOD’S ways are certainly not my ways. (Isaiah 55:8) He doesn’t do things the way my flawed mindset would do them.
If I had been the one who went into the pub that spring night in 1990, I don’t know if my husband would have responded with a yes. It probably would have angered him I showed up….especially in front of his buddies. The little wife had come to fetch her husband could have been his embarrassment….but seeing those sweet, little, expressive eyes with arms reaching up…speaking a tender, innocent plea…. I believe GOD used our baby to move my husband.
This reminds me of the scripture in Corinthians….
“But GOD has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and GOD has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.” 1 Corinthians 1:27
We don’t have a clue what GOD wants to use in our lives to bring him glory. Our ways are not HIS ways and HIS infinite wisdom will never be matched. It could be foolish things, the weak, it could be sickness, an addiction, a baby in a bar….but whatever he chooses to use…. we have got to be willing to do the things not making sense…. the crazy things…. if he asks us to.