I remember the day life started to suck. I was numb with disbelief, but deep inside I knew it was true.
I was serving on active duty in the Army then, and had been attending an intense military training school. I found myself with some time off, and couldn’t wait to call my husband back home. I hadn’t spoken to him in several weeks. The last thing he had said to me, as I boarded the plane, was, “You go Girl, make me proud.” It was a couple of hours before he would be home, so I had to wait to call. In the meantime, I was invited to join my friends for pizza and beer. Both of those sounded great after a couple of months of training camp mess hall food. “Let me hit the ATM”, I said.
The balance was $12.62. I’ll never forget that number.
What? I had been in training for three months and hadn’t touched my accounts. My paychecks were going in every two weeks. I checked the Savings account. It was empty. I called the bank. All of the funds had been withdrawn within an hour of me boarding the plane to come here three months ago. Within an hour of my boarding the plane.
Additional funds had been withdrawn with each subsequent deposit, right up to the previous paycheck, they said. My heart sank. Not the lying, again, and secret spending. We had dealt with this before. I tried to call home, knowing that he wouldn’t answer. I left a voicemail asking him to call me at the barracks right away, but was troubled that the message on the machine had changed. It no longer said both of our names, only his. My friends and I went out for that pizza and beer, and I returned not having received any call backs or messages. I was still troubled by the changed voicemail recording, and brushed it off thinking it was because I would be away for awhile, but no, that wasn’t sitting well, either. On a whim, I used the voicemail password to call back and listen to the messages, to see if he had gotten mine yet. I suspected something was amiss. Then I heard the messages left for Ginger. Ginger? Who was Ginger? It was clear that the people leaving the messages thought they were calling her home (like her mom). That’s my home.
As the story unfolded, I learned that Ginger had moved in shortly after I left. She didn’t know that my husband was already married, and had become pregnant by him. She soon learned the truth, and immediately left the situation. I don’t know what ever became of Ginger. I know she was betrayed, just like I was. Life as I knew it had changed, and the days became very dark. I felt as though life’s rug had been pulled out from under me, that everything I believed in was in question, and I didn’t know what I could trust.
I traveled back home to retrieve my things from our military housing before going on to my next cycle of training. I put everything in storage, and regretted having to leave our two dogs at home. I couldn’t take them with me, and I was assured that he was taking care of them. I remember one of my dogs, Champ, on his chain outside, barking and pulling hysterically as I drove off. I’d never heard a dog bark like that, and hope I never do again. I didn’t realize at the time that it was a cry for help. I can still hear it.
I learned a few weeks later that the two dogs had been abandoned after I left. I was told that one had died, but I don’t know which one. By this time, two dogs and at least two women had been deeply hurt. I had held on to hopes of restoration until this point, but at the advice of my brothers and father, I finally filed for divorce. He wouldn’t sign for the papers until he had a commander escort him. He never showed up at court. He remarried a third woman a week after the divorce was final. I haven’t seen or heard from him since. That all happened in 1999, nearly seventeen years ago.
I stayed in the military for another 10 years after that divorce, and focused my energy on that career. I was able to get back on my feet, buy a house, and move on. Almost. Deep inside I was hurting, and didn’t see much hope for the family I’d always dreamed of. I went through cycles of destructive behaviour all aimed at self-preservation and regaining my self worth. I was a stoic face shielding a broken heart. It took a long time to work through that pain, to let go of the fear of being hurt again. I’ve tasted failure and humiliation. I’ve tasted rejection and despair. There is life afterwards, though, and I’ve found it now.
I thought I had done that recovery alone, but recently the Lord reminded me of one night in particular, just a couple of months after that divorce was final. I hadn’t actually realized when He truly came on the scene for me, it has been such a gradual, patient walk. I was struggling to regain my footing, and by the grace of God, I never completely fell. In the confusion, I was exploring some of the crazy partying that tends to happen at military schools. I remember looking around that night at a particularly rough scene, and whispering, “This isn’t who I am.” I realize now that it was at that moment that Jesus met me there, in the midst of the deepest hurt and darkest place I had ever known. Then He began to lead me out. I have been learning from Him ever since, learning to trust His ways and His timing, to rely on Him to provide what we need and care for us, and to lend me His strength and courage to face the challenges that arise each day. It has been an amazing journey, even though I tended to take my time learning things, with many diversions along the way. It’s been a crooked path, and there have been other mountains to face since then. The wind and waves have tried their hand at bringing me back to that darkness, but I know better now. I know how much He values me, and have seen His work on my heart and my life. So have you, if you’ve known me for long. I smile at the thought of His patience with me and sweet, tender response to my failures. I smile at the way He has turned crippling hurt and despair into compassion.
“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” – Job 42:5
I’m so grateful that He’s not afraid to step into the trenches to rescue us.