I grew up in a home where divorce was the legacy shared with me. My parents were married to each other twice and divorced twice from each other by the time I was 2.
My mom married my step dad when I was 5, he tried at times throughout my childhood to have moments with me, some of them were great and some of them were really hard. I did not have a close relationship with my step dad until I was an adult, and even then it was not a relationship of father and daughter, it was more of friend and caregiver. My step dad was diagnosed with MS when I was in the 5th grade and I watched him slowly deteriorate for 22 years, he passed away in 2008. Although I did not gain a realization of what my relationship towards men should look like through him, I witnessed amazing endurance and humility as I never once heard him complain during 22 years of illness.
I visited my real dad from time to time throughout my child hood; my mom and step dad even went as far as having my dad over for some holidays to be able to see us. I don’t remember many moments from visiting my dad as a child; a lot of my time was spent with my grandmother and alone with my brother walking around town. My father worked from 6am-5pm Monday-Friday so when we would visit for weeks in the summer I was met with money on a table most mornings to go spend around town on video games or swimming. My whole life my father has shown his love through monetary gifts, I think it was the only way he knew how to show love. He would leave money for us during the day to entertain ourselves and he would send us money for gifts on birthdays and Christmas, my dad has never personally purchased me a gift throughout my whole life.
My dad dated many women throughout my childhood and occasionally I would meet them, unfortunately, it would usually end up being a woman he met at the bar while playing music and it never lasted long. What I saw from him was that you could jump from sexual relationship to sexual relationship until you found the right one. He married my first step mom Sandy when I was 16, I really liked Sandy but sadly that relationship only lasted a year. Sandy came with three kids and 6 pets, my dad had been a bachelor most of his life and this lifestyle quickly became something he didn’t want. I remember being hurt by this divorce because I really liked Sandy, and sadly this showed me that if you didn’t like something you could just leave, which unfortunately became something I did as well later as an adult. My dad married my second step mom when I was an adult, they are happily married and I am grateful that he has a companion to share life with.
If you really love someone, then you show it by how you act toward that person.
Love is more than attraction and more than arousal. It’s also more than sentimentality, like so many of today’s songs suggest. By this standard, is love dead when the emotion is gone? No — not at all — because love is an action and a behavior.
Over and over again in the Bible, God commands us to love each other, and you can’t command an emotion. If I told you right now, “Be sad!” you couldn’t be sad on cue. Just like an actor, you can fake it, but you’re not wired for your emotions to change on command.
If love were just an emotion, then God couldn’t command it. But love is something you do. It can produce emotion, but love is an action.
~ Pastor Rick Warren
Not having an example of what a healthy relationship should look like with a man, all I had to rely on was what I saw in society and on television. At age 17 I had sex for the first time and started down a very confusing and dangerous path. I had somehow gotten the misconception that sex equaled love, that if I gave up my body, then a boy would love me in return. I had seen the pattern of jumping from partner to partner until I found the right one that loved me, so I proceeded to continually give myself away sexually trying to find someone to love me. Every attempt at this failed and I got more wounded every time I decided to give a part of myself away. I did not understand what I was doing until I was 22 and I heard a radio show host pray a prayer for those who were trying to seek love through sex. I would say this was the point in my life that I started to see a bigger picture of what was really going on inside of me and hurts that I didn’t even realize I had.
I met my first husband when I was 19 and married when I was 20. I think I married him out of the idea of being loved by someone. I didn’t know how to really love someone because I didn’t know what real love was. I gave birth to my son when I was 22 and was divorced at age 26. This relationship did not have any cheating, abuse or anything that really should have been cause for divorce. We were very young and did not know how to fix anything in our marriage. I had unfortunately seen the example to leave if you weren’t happy and had turned into a person that left if things weren’t going how I thought they should. We parted ways and I went back to trying to find love through sex. Relationships with men went very different during this time of my life due to some maturity on my part and having a son to consider, but it didn’t change the fact that there was still a little girl inside me begging to be loved.
I relocated to a different town in 2004 and a friend from my hometown who now lived there too invited me to attend her church in 2006. This is where a whole new world opened up for me. I had been baptized Catholic, but never went to church growing up. I had attended CCD for a couple of years but never really gained any perspectives on the Lord. I always believed there was a God and had made vain attempts at getting to know Him throughout my life with no success. I tried approaching God on my terms and through religion rather than seeking relationship with Him, so it never grew into anything for me. All I had ever known was the Catholic religion until I attended this church; I even remember being confused because there was no holy water hanging by the door when I walked in. The new church was very different from anything I had ever known, it was very charismatic and spirit filled. I got to see that God could heal and that He sent the Holy Spirit to be our counselor. I finally understood why I needed Jesus and what He really did for me. I was learning a lot, but I still couldn’t figure out how to have relationship with God.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good. ~Psalm25:7NIV
I married my second husband in 2007; this marriage only lasted a year and was a big mess. I got married for all of the wrong reasons and saw the writing on the wall before I said “I do”, but I ignored it. My second husband cheated on me the whole time we were married, we divorced in 2008, and it was the longest, most miserable year of my life. Even though this relationship ended in divorce, I am thankful for it because it was the pain of it ending that drove me straight to God. About a month after my divorce, a mutual friend of ours came over to confess to me that he had known what was going on and never said anything; I got to hear about the full extent of my ex-husband’s infidelity. As this friend left, I sat on my couch and looked up towards the ceiling at God and said out loud, what am I even suppose to do with that? And then it happened, I felt the Lord speak inside of me to just be at peace. I couldn’t believe it, I was ecstatic, I spent the next half an hour having a little talk with the Lord and that is when I was blessed to start being in relationship with the Lord, I was 32 years old.
Something else wonderful happened for me in my relationship with God, forgiveness. God forgave me for all of the sexual sin of my past and I felt free from it. It was a weight that I had carried for so long and I didn’t know there could be healing and freedom from it. I felt like a new person, over the next 6 months of my life, God put me though wife boot camp, every time I would open my bible or turn on the television there would be some wisdom about how to be a good wife. And the 6 months after that I just soaked in all the Lord had for me, it was one of the best years of my life. He was preparing me for something I did not know was coming.
I connected with Greg (my third husband) in 2009 and married him in 2011; he has also been previously married. Everything about this relationship is different. We are both Christians and God is in this with us. We are a step family and have had a lot of emotional bumps and bruises along the way, but God has really created something spectacular for our family. We have four awesome kids and God is using all 6 of us in fantastic ways. In 2011 God called Greg and I into marriage ministry. We had no idea what we were doing or why God would use people like us to speak into other people’s marriages, a place where we felt that we had both failed. That was when God showed us in His word where He uses people to comfort others in the ways he has comforted them. God actually uses our “failures” to help other people, God is so good.
I have learned some things through doing marriage ministry that have saddened me about choices I have made in my life. You see, God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman and He had good reason for it. He wants us to be blessed and He wants the best for us and this is His best for us. When you get married and you have had previous sexual experiences, you bring these into your marriage. These things hurt your spouse and they can create issues for you in your marriage. Our bodies release chemicals for example: “oxytocin” when we have sex. Oxytocin is a chemical that bonds us to our mate; mothers release this with their children when they are breastfeeding also. When you have sex with numerous partners, your body releases less oxytocin each time and you become less bonded through sex as you increase your quantity of sexual partners. I have unfortunately had a lot of sexual partners in my life and it has created issues for me in bonding with my husband. I have damaged this process within myself through my mistakes, I really regret this and am thankful that the Lord is healing this within me and blessing our marriage.
My life has very much been a roller coaster of relationships; I am a sinner and a wounded person. I need Jesus and I need the healing and forgiveness only He can provide. I spent most of my life trying to fill the big empty love void in me with sex and men when what I really needed was God. He has been able to fill that void. I am still a sinner and still a wounded person, but I can rely on God to see me through this life, to love me the way I need to be loved and to guide me into loving others the way they need to be loved. You see I could never love anyone because I didn’t know what that meant.
I think that our relationships with our fathers set the example for how we will respond to God and to men. I had nothing against men or fathers, I share this story because I know mine is not the only story like this and my hope is that young ladies would find relationship with the Lord before too many mistakes are made and that there path would be different than mine.
I have tried to reach out and have relationship with my dad throughout my whole life. Each of these attempts has failed, they usually ended with me in tears and hurt, not understanding why he didn’t want to know me better. I visited my dad a little over a year ago and that attempt at relationship ended the same way it always did, as we drove away I broke into tears and felt defeated. The following Sunday as I stood in church worshipping God, He spoke to me through the lyrics of a song ad healed me of all of the hurt over the broken relationship with my dad. “For those who seek the love of a perfect father, hope has come” I have sung those words numerous times, but this day the Lord highlighted them in a way that was healing. I felt like the Lord said to me “come to me Lisa, I will be the Father you are seeking” I am so sorry your earthly father relationship has been what it has been, but I am here now and you can rely on Me. I found a freedom that day that I didn’t know could exist, I was able to let go of it all and be ok with whatever happened with my dad. God gave me a peace that only He could give and He wanted relationship with me, He was seeking me out and loving me unconditionally. He saw my value and he wanted to use me to help others see their value.
I do not share any of this with you to make my father look bad or to blame him for anything that has occurred in my life. He is a broken person just like the rest of us; he has never walked with Christ to my knowledge and was doing the best he could with where he came from. His father was the town drunk, so he didn’t have much of an example to go by. I am sharing this with you so that if you see yourself in any of these examples or if this hits home with you about your own life, you can know that your relationship with your father doesn’t have to define your relationship with men and it doesn’t have to define you. Don’t make choices that take your choices. Don’t go around looking for love in all the wrong places, there is true love in one place and God loves you enough to participate in all the parts of your life. He will help you make good decisions, He will lead you where you should go, your success is His success. He wants you to feel loved, He wants you to have awesome opportunities in life and if you let Him, He will never steer you wrong. There is a welcoming Father who loves you and wants relationship with you. He wants to show you what relationship with Him, yourself and with your future husband should look like.