I knew growing up what my dream husband would be like. I wanted a man who could see and understand me. Someone who made me feel loved. I craved intimacy.
I thought I had found him, so I married at 19, and we had a son together.
My father died when I was 21 after a two-year battle with cancer. My mother died five years later, and I was left to navigate the tumultuous culture of the ’70s alone. The rising tide of feminism swept me up, and I blamed my husband for my unhappiness — just as the culture instructed. Then no-fault divorce legislation passed. After seven years of marriage, we cut ties, and the search for my soul mate continued.
I believed happiness would come with financial independence, sexual freedom and a soul mate. I had been enlightened by the new age movement — a form of Christianity without the religious trappings. But I had no solid relationship with Jesus.
My ascribed victim status — a divorced woman with a child — was rewarded with food stamps, child support and my college tuition was waived. With the help of affirmative action, I landed a well-paying job after graduation. I loved school and enjoyed my work, but they were never my priority. They were simply the way I spent time looking for my prince.
Finding a Dream
We met nine years into my search for the perfect mate. During our first encounter, I knew he was the one. Our first, brief season together was filled with stolen moments of shared delight. His presence was intoxicating, partings were agonizing, and away from him I felt empty and without purpose.
That he could be married never occurred to me.
He said his marriage was loveless, but he was committed to raising his children and would not divorce. Confused and disillusioned, I broke off the relationship. My entire world came into question — my dreams, my goals, my purpose.
A Dream Rekindled
A year after the breakup, I met Jerry.
He was on assignment to the company where I worked. He was different; there was a mystique about him. He was athletic and enjoyed outdoor activities (and was competent in most of them). Ten years my senior, he seemed wise and stable, yet he had a good sense of humor with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. The fact that he was educated and successful appealed to me. While I was clearly not in love with him, his interest in me was a balm.
The promises to honor and respect my husband were not spoken lightly. Before marriage, I spoke to him honestly about my concerns: I was broken from my previous romantic encounter. This was a second marriage for each of us — I had been divorced for 10 years, he for 13.
But he assured me we could make this marriage work. Our three sons were practically raised. We both had good jobs. We were rational, mature, independent adults. We could make a good life together.
Reality proved otherwise. My dreams of a life of love, growth and adventure had morphed into a life of responsibility. Professional advancements were empty rewards. Redesigning and maintaining our home was unfulfilling. I became angry, resentful and bitter.
Seven years into the marriage he called — the intoxicating man of my dreams from before. He wanted to see me, just as friends. I agreed if my husband was welcome.
But the lunch was gloriously devastating. I was helplessly in love all over again. He called the next day and said he wanted to get married. His children were now out of the house pursuing their own lives. My marriage was riddled with conflict, and I was unfulfilled. So I agreed to get a divorce. He agreed to put his finances in order to make a life for us.
I told my husband I was leaving, that the marriage was a mistake, and I could not continue.
A True Enlightening
It was one of those glorious Michigan days a few hours before noon. You know the kind of day I’m talking about: White puffy clouds floated effortlessly while the lake reflected sparkling diamonds of sunlight. The air was soft with a gentle breeze, still cool from the night before. As I prepared for our meeting to discuss our next steps, I felt the excitement of a new beginning. My heart was full of hope for the dream to be fulfilled. I reveled in the excitement of a new adventure.
On my way out, I grabbed my purse and popped into the bathroom for one last hair and makeup check.
That’s when it happened. My vision locked with my own eyes in the mirror, and then a flash of light. It was a brilliant, white light that lasted only a moment. I felt strangely disoriented. I steadied myself on the bathroom counter and made my way across the hall to the guest bedroom where I found a comfortable chair to sit and regain my composure. I was weak and trembling. I feel feeble. I had no bodily strength, and I truly felt undone.
I didn’t make lunch that day, nor did I see him again for almost two years.
A Dream Darkened
I was confused and could not develop a plan for living each day. The simplest housekeeping chores — cooking, shopping, laundry — were more than I could manage. I was unable to manage my home, work, or even socialize. When I did venture out, the drive became a senseless wandering.
My tears were unceasing and came on without warning. In my prayers, I asked God to heal me or let me die. I felt useless and had no hope. I wanted to die.
A verse in Isaiah came to me often during this time. “Then I said, ’It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies’” (Isaiah 6:5).
I spent hours daily listening to the Bible on tape and worshipping with praise music. I prayed for direction. I confided in a spiritual director who encouraged me to read the writings of the early saints, including Thérèse of Lisieux and John of the Cross. I understood from their words that I was experiencing a dark night of the soul. I found some comfort knowing others before me had endured this experience. I had visions of Jesus’ feet with the nail driven through, and I knew my sin had put Him there. I did not know the nature of my sin, but I totally understood contrition. I was guilty of His death, and I was devastated by the realization.
My experience was a severe mercy, and through it, I found the love of God to be the greatest love.
On the day the depression lifted, I saw Jesus on the throne. I was lifted, in a sense, into Jesus on that day. I knew I was changed. My mind had been renewed, and I was a new creature. I believed I had been set free of bondage to the passion of my flesh, but I needed proof.
So I called my romantic friend and asked if he would meet me. He agreed.
A Dream Transformed by the Renewing of My Mind
The expectations created during my teenage years from reading romance novels had been replaced with the Truth that God will meet all of my needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Know the Truth. The Truth will set you free. It did for me.
This time, I saw this man — once the man of my dreams — differently. The romantic passion was gone. He was no longer my prince; he was a predator. Who else but a predator would stalk a married woman and destroy a marriage?
I had a renewed mind and a renewed love for my husband, and I wasn’t willing for our marriage to be destroyed. But I knew we had work to do. I had work to do.
I began by telling the truth. I was in bondage to sin and until I was set free, I could not keep my word. I asked for forgiveness. My husband has made some difficult decisions. He chose — and keeps choosing — to stay, and we continue to work things out day by day.
Together we have learned in this marriage that nobody shames, nobody hits, and nobody is leaving.
Our marriage is not a romantic fairytale. Rather, it is a challenge to mutual growth — a call to an adventure that is exciting, fearful, challenging and freeing. We are flawed human beings who have given our word to honor ourselves while respecting and loving each other.
We are not doing it perfectly, but we are better than yesterday.
Geneva Seeds is a lifelong learner. She and her husband are retired. They divide the months between Michigan and Arizona. Michigan time is for reconnecting with family. Arizona time is for exploring and learning new things. In her pursuit for Truth, Geneva has acquired a few degrees, though degrees are the result, never the object of her pursuit. She has been given a few roles to play: daughter, wife, mother, grand-mother and most recently great-grandmother. Some years, she says, she has done better than others.