Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography
I married my high school sweetheart. Bob and I had known each other since first grade. I knew he had a good heart and I believed the Lord brought us together with His blessing. I was young and idealistic, full of hope and dreams for a bright future together. Fifteen years later at the age of 35, I found myself living in quiet desperation. My husband and I had good jobs. We lived on the property of a golf course where my husband was a PGA pro. Our three daughters were wonderful and a source of much joy. Yet something was wrong with our family. Day after day, hour after hour, I was forced to deal with the fact that my husband was an alcoholic and drug addict. Oh, there were days we could hide it from the outside world. There were moments we pretended it wasn’t a fact and tried to laugh and have fun together as a family. But always in the back of my mind I was waiting for something to trigger him, to set him off and send him into erratic behavior directed toward me or the girls. We never knew when or why that would happen. Once he began to drink, his rules were the only rules in our house. He would drink all night, unable to work the next morning. Our girl’s room was the only sanctuary they had. They were afraid to invite their friends to our home because of what their daddy might say or do. Not only was his behavior awful, but his language was also worse. He didn’t care who heard what. I didn’t know how to deal with these terrible problems.
I remember going to a golf tournament with him. He promised me it would be a good weekend without drinking and that we would have fun together. The first night I found myself in the motel room at midnight wondering where he was. His promises had quickly been broken leaving me upset and frustrated again. Left alone, I questioned my life, and began to talk to the Lord. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to come face to face with Jesus Christ in a way I had never experienced before. But before this happened, things went from bad to worse. My husband was arrested for public drunkenness and everyone in our little town knew it. He was the “town drunk.” I had accepted Christ as my Savior when I was ten years old. I have always had a deep love for the Lord. I was active in my church and when I married that continued. As each child was born, I made sure they were in church. Rarely could I get Bob to attend church with me. Mostly he would only go if the girls were in a program. When I asked him to attend, he got indignant, saying that Sunday was the busiest day of the week at a golf course and how could I expect him to be gone. I made sure the girls went even though they knew that Dad didn’t think it was worth it.
I’ll tell you some of the things I did wrong. I wrote letters to people who had overcome the battle of alcohol. I called members of my husband’s family. I asked friends to talk to him. Five times I went to the pastor of our church but could never really tell him what was wrong. I could only sit there and cry. I got mad at Bob, went along with him, ignored the problem, and tried to reason with him. I reached out for any solution that sounded reasonable. In August of 1975, I began to feel ashamed of myself. I found that if I encouraged Bob to drink more, he would pass out sooner and I would have some peace and quiet.
One evening that August, Bob had finally passed out and I went to our back porch, a quiet haven for me. Everyone in the house was quiet. Outside everyone was gone and the peace and solitude that our old worn-out porch offered were just what I needed. I was physically and mentally exhausted from juggling three jobs, keeping the girls busy and having no answers. I had upset Bob that night. I don’t know what I did to upset him but when he drank it didn’t take much. I sat down, soaked in the night noises, and sighed. I hugged my knees and rested my head on my arms and the tears began to flow. I cried out loud and I thought about whether anyone could hear my sobs and if they did would they even care. I thought, “I am of no use to anyone.” I felt reduced to a scream, a tear, a cloudy mind. I was unable to function, a blob waiting to crawl into a hole and stay for a long time. Many other nights this same summer I had come here knowing there had to be a way out, wanting to help but just not sure what I should do. I can remember screaming on previous nights, “God, why is my life like this? What good am I to anyone? Why don’t you just let me die?” And then I would always feel so guilty because I couldn’t pull it together. I couldn’t find an answer.
That night in August was different. Out loud, in sobbing tones, I said, “Lord, I’m at the end of my rope. I’ve tried all I know to try. I don’t know anything else to do. If you are listening to me, please, please help me.” And at that moment my tears and sobs ceased. That shocked me. I had been sobbing so hard I was shaking, but it just stopped. I felt very warm inside and very calm. It was not a sensation I was familiar with. For the first time in an exceedingly long time, I didn’t feel alone. The Lord spoke to my heart and said, “I am with you. You can go on. It will be alright. You are my child. And you have three children to care for. I will help you.” The Lord had been waiting for me to turn it over to Him. He probably said, “Well, finally she is going to let me handle it!” At that moment, I knew everything was going to be alright. God was listening and He cared. He could see my heart and He was there. I didn’t know how everything would be alright, but I knew He was giving me strength and love to face tomorrow. Positive thoughts began to come into my head. “I can like myself once more. I can begin to be a better mother. Our girls need me. And Bob with all his problems needs me more than ever. With God’s guidance and wisdom, I can be a good wife, the wife Bob needs me to be.” I finally gave up my problem to God and said in effect, “Lord, take over.” And He did… in more ways than I could ever imagine! The evening breeze stirred the leaves on the huge elm tree in the back yard. I suddenly was aware of the beauty around me. I stood up slowly as not to shatter this new atmosphere. I went into the house and looked in on our three girls, my heart was so full of love for them. They looked so fragile and beautiful as they lay there sleeping soundly unaware that a miracle had just taken place, one that would deeply affect their lives forever.
At last, I knew I must work on myself. The Lord helped me by sending a friend who invited me to a Bible study. There I began to study God’s word in a fresh way. I made my heart vulnerable to others in the Bible Study and they began to pray with me for Bob. The more I learned about the Lord, the stronger I became. I was able to exhibit a kinder spirit in my home, my emotions were more stable, and I had a wonderful hope inside knowing the Lord himself lived within me and was helping me become more than I could dream.
I never thought of divorcing Bob. When I looked at him, sometimes I could see the 17-year-old boy I fell in love with. I could see the gifts and talents hidden from view. I could see the man I loved to be with, to laugh with, to share with. All those things were still there, they were just hidden. One of my greatest desires was to be a good wife to him. Taking care of him made me happy. I knew without a doubt I couldn’t abandon him. I would not give up on him. With the Lord’s help, my love for Bob and a deep sense of commitment and purpose kept me going. After I realized the Lord was in control, the thought occurred to me that I might be the only one exhibiting a Christian walk in front of Bob.
In November of 1975, Bob was converted at an old-fashioned revival meeting in the Laurel County High School gym. The Lord took away the desire to drink immediately with no withdrawals at all. Bob took no more drugs. He was able to fellowship with fine Christians who provided encouragement and love. It took almost 2 years to work through everything we had gone through to put our marriage back together. Our daughters had a dad again. Bob went back to college and seminary at the age of 40. He started two churches in Kentucky and became a full-time evangelist whose calling was to share this story about the grace and love of our Lord. We began traveling all around the world and Bob preached and taught. We had amazing experiences and met many wonderful people. God even used Bob’s golfing expertise to evangelize. Bob would invite men to play a round of golf with him and while they were playing, he would share his testimony and invite them to attend revivals where he would be preaching.
Bob preached his last revival in 2006. He passed away in 2008. My trust in God has grown so much since my husband died. As I reflect on my life, I can see now that God was guiding me all the time. He reassured me and encouraged me in the difficult first years of our marriage. He gave me an unexplainable peace even when Bob was out of control and I had no idea what to do. When I surrendered the situation to God, He worked things out in wonderful ways that were beyond anything I could imagine. God provided years of extraordinary experiences and opportunities. He sent many people to encourage us, mentor us, pray with us, and provide for our financial needs. I am deeply grateful for the wonderful people God put in our lives and the part each person played in our story. It isn’t our story at all. This story is God’s story and the glory for every step of our journey is God’s alone!