Don: I was raised a Seventh-day Adventist and my dad was a pastor. Growing up I experienced a lot of rejection in my life. It was no surprise that when I was introduced to pornography in my teen years I became addicted to self-medicate my low self-esteem. I walked away from God in my mid-twenties.
Then, after 12 years of a marriage that produced three children, I found myself going through a divorce. Hoping to ease the pain I took up drinking.
Lisa: I, too, was raised in a Seventh-day Adventist home. At the age of 20, I was fearful I would never marry because my past relationships with guys didn’t seem to work out. My dad reassured me, “Lisa, don’t worry. Someday, the man you are going to marry will come through the doors of our church.”
Don, 13 years my junior and going through a messy divorce, came through the doors of the Jackson Church one Sabbath in 1985 and it was love at first sight!
Not wanting to lose Don, I chose to give up the morals and standards I had upheld over the years. But, after making that decision, I found myself a few months later in the doctor’s office, receiving the news that I was pregnant. Feeling ashamed and not wanting to face our families, or my church family, Don and I decided to have an abortion.
Don: After we were married, when Lisa didn’t have to work at the nursing home on the weekends, she would go to church and I would go with her to keep her company. After one year of this, the Holy Spirit got through to me and I was re-baptized. But I held onto my secret sexual sin.
Lisa: The first year of our marriage was very difficult for me. I was still suffering from the emotional pain of the abortion and blaming Don for it all. But something else was wrong. My husband no longer wanted sexual intimacy with me.
Nevertheless, two years after we were married we had a son, Justin Michael. As they laid this precious child on my chest, I thought, “Why, God? Why would you give me another child after what I did to our first child?” You know, I was raised an Adventist Christian all my life and I’ve always heard of “grace,” but never really understood it until this moment. God showed me that His grace is sufficient and that nothing can separate us from the love of the Father!
After 14 years of marriage, I felt that I could no longer live with the rejection from my husband. I was led to a trusted Christian woman, who surmised that my husband was probably addicted to pornography. She suggested we separate and heal for a time, but I took that as a key to freedom. I went home and announced to Don, “I want a divorce!” He did not act the way I thought he would. Instead he begged, “Don't leave me; help me!”
Don: When Lisa told me that she wanted a divorce, I had never felt such hopelessness before in my life. Even though I was continually hurting her, deep down, I loved her.
That night as I walked aimlessly through the neighborhood, I found myself on the freeway bridge, contemplating suicide. If she didn't love me, no one did.
Then I was reminded, Someone else loved me. Jesus reached out to me in His still small voice and said, “Don, trust me. I love you. I will carry you through this tough time.” As I argued that I couldn't go on without Lisa, He told me He would help me and love me.
As I turned away from the bridge that night, a whole new feeling came over me, that I could trust Him at His word and that He would get me through this. That night began a whole new walk with Christ in my life, at a deeper level than I had ever let Him in before. I began to plead with Him to transform me.
Lisa: I still didn’t have a clear conscience that it was okay to divorce Don, so I talked with a pastor and told him our story. He said, “Lisa, I want you to go home and pray for God to change Don’s heart and pray that God would change your heart.”
All summer long, I prayed God would change Don’s heart, but I couldn’t ask Him to change my heart. I had a plan, and I intended to stick with it.
One Sunday afternoon, these words surprisingly tumbled out of my mouth: “Do you want to take a walk?” Don agreed. As we walked around our neighborhood, he began apologizing for the way he treated me and cried for putting me through the abortion. But the thing he said which really caught my attention was, “Lisa, you brought me back to God, and I see you going away from God. Even if we don’t get back together, don’t lose your walk with God.”
That night I got down on my knees and prayed, “God, please change Don’s heart.” (I could see He had been doing that.) Then I prayed, “God, please change my heart, too.”
Within 24 hours of that prayer, I asked Don to come back home (we had been living separately) and told him that I was willing, with God’s help, to make our marriage work.
It wasn't perfect right away, but we are thankful for the journey. Walking with God day by day has given us so much joy. I am so grateful that friends and family were praying for us through that very difficult trial, and I am so thankful for choosing to allow God to change my heart.
God is working hard to lift our hearts and minds from the base elements of the world and place them on what is pure and holy. Jeremiah 17:8 says that if we are planted in Christ, drink deeply of Him, draw from His Word, seek Him daily and gain strength from prayer, that we can remain fruitful and obedient, whether in drought or under pressure.
God’s amazing grace, reconciliation and transformation in our lives can only be accomplished by Him! He can renew you, no matter how far you have wandered off the path He has chosen for you. He is a God of restoration!