MAKE A LIST

Yes, this is my third marriage. My first? Well, I was very young and so was he. And then there was the other woman, and that was that. You know our men want to have their cake and eat it too, but I was not going to put up with that, as young as I was. I left him and moved to my mother in the US to work and find a better life. I learned the language, and it was not easy. Then again, when I set my mind to something, I can make it happen, God willing! All things are possible to God, and I have a story about that. But first, some sadness.

My second husband was from here. Very different. Older, more settled, but it turns out he had mistaken ideas about what a woman from my country is. He seemed to think that we would let the men tell us what to do. Haha! He must have been watching the wrong movies. And in fact, it turned out that he had been. To be serious. I couldn’t talk about it for years, because of the pain, but now I can. He was addicted to pornography. I had no idea, no warning. The saddest day of my life was finding him hunched over his computer, looking at someone who could be his daughter, a mere skinny teenager, and touching himself. That was it. I actually vomited, because my whole body and soul immediately rejected him. I still remember the dizzying emptiness, as if I had vomited out my whole marriage in a single cast. I fell in a heap to the ground, but the ground sustained me. I honestly thought I might fall right through it. But I didn’t. I survived.

Some men! What is wrong with them? I really wonder. My first husband tried to tell me that he didn’t really care about the other woman. That she had no value in his eyes, no importance at all. He seemed to think that would comfort me. I found that odd. If he didn’t care about her, why would he risk his marriage and future family for her? Why would he enter a part of his body into hers? What a strange way to think. What a breach, what a disconnection! I let it go, but I really cannot understand it to this day.

My second husband tried to tell me the girl on the screen was not real. Those words haunt me. Not real! I told him she was more real to me than he was. Because he was just an empty shell of a man. And she was most certainly somebody’s daughter. Having to suffer and smile for such as him! What made him think he should have sexual access to this teenager? I demanded an answer. But there was no answer. He just stared at me like a fool. Blinking like a deer in the headlights, frozen – paralyzed. I don’t think he was even in his body at the time I found him. Apart from God he was, that I know. I went to counseling after that, and they called what my second husband did dissociating – when your mind is actually out of your body and your body is abandoned. Such weakness in a grown man infuriates me. I feel the bile rise in my throat even as I speak of it today!

What happens to certain men to lead them into thinking that women are not important – that women are not real? I wonder. What kind of childhood trauma, what kind of abuse? What would make a man think that telling a woman that another woman doesn’t matter or doesn’t even count as a real human would be a nice thing to hear? What sadness there is in that. A deep well, fathomless. I believe these men are banished from God. Outcasts. And as a Christian woman I knew I had to leave him immediately. It was consorting with the devil to stay. If I cleaved onto him still, I would cleave onto his sin. It was my bounden duty to depart, although it cast me back into poverty. Still I left – to redeem my very soul.

Think of me with compassion! In all my youthful innocence, in all my desire to be good, and do good, it just went from bad to worse. First, a man who says a sister of mine in Christ, from the same church, is not important. That he can become one with her in the flesh and it has absolutely no meaning. That it shouldn’t even register for me as a transgression, because of her lack of importance as a human being! What sinful thinking. What a dark underbelly he showed me. Then worse yet, a man, already grown, even middle-aged, who would obliterate the very existence of suffering girls. To deny their humanity. To stand before me and state with conviction that they are not real! They are not fully human! What madness, what sin is this? Slavery was built on these lies. And human trafficking is modern day slavery. Give it a pretty name, and call me a prude if you will. I know what I know. And denying someone’s humanity is the basis for all human suffering. An absolute recipe for sin.

So here I was only 25 and already divorced twice. What could I possibly do but turn my life completely over to God? Like a child. God had never forsaken me, but I had moved away from God in my blind search for partnership and marriage. I was the one who had been out of touch. So I turned back to God and asked forgiveness for my own transgressions. I asked for the gift of clear-sightedness. I prayed to come into alignment with God. I prayed for atonement. I prayed until my heart was clear and strong again. I felt I was ready to try again. So I put up an ad. Optimistically. Third time’s a charm, haha!

Oh, heavens! The devil was in it. I can tell you that! The men I met! I went through some very bizarre first dates. Strange and stranger. I didn’t know what to do, but I was way too young to give up on love. I kept looking, and some dates made me laugh, and some made me shake my head in despair. I cast an ever wider net, hoping to catch my golden fish, but no such luck. Then one day I opened up and I told the ladies at my church prayer circle, and the oldest one gave us this advice. Make a list, ladies. Make a list. And then pray with an open and trusting heart. Pray to God who made you!

She told us, put every single thing you want on that list. Don’t be vague. You don’t make a shopping list that just says “some nourishing food” when you go for groceries. Be specific. State your true desires. She didn’t tell us to do it there at church, of course, because that would be embarrassing, but to do it in the privacy of our homes and to humbly pray over our list. And make sure, she told us, not to settle. If there is one thing on the list that does not match, that man is not God’s gift to you as a faithful servant. Make a list! Be specific! And pray.

The first thing I had to do was pray to God to suspend my disbelief. Could there truly be a man to match me, a twice-married woman, who was still pure of heart? By then I was already running my small business on the internet, mostly cosmetics, so at least I didn’t need a man who could take care of me financially. But I longed for a soul companion, one with his own innate moral sense, a man that I wouldn’t have to guide or shelter… a man that might even protect me in my most vulnerable places. For him, I would gladly offer my life, and use every breath in my body to serve him. To rest in him. The potential joy of it made my heart flutter! So I made my list, and I gave it to God. Let me think what was on it, as best as I can remember.

Strong moral fiber. Thoughtful. Self-aware. Insightful. Clean. Neat. Professional. Nicely dressed. Very hygienic. Because if he may end up kissing me, my dear, he had better be thinking about the quality of his breath! Man of God, of course. Good Christian. Loves his family. Understands family ties. Cleans his shoes. Believe me, I dated a few where it was only the scuffed shoes that warned me off. I decided that mine would have immaculate, shiny shoes. Ambitious, like me. An equal partner. In good shape, because I work out and I care a lot about it. Did I say well-dressed? Well put together? That matters. Not vain, but a man who likes to look his best. Must be able to lead me in dance, vitally important, and appreciate my cooking. I grew up in the kitchen at home! And of course, above all, faithful in word and deed. And not because I am watching! True to himself, and thus trustworthy. A strong man. Someone who can see the humanity in everyone. Who knows himself well.

Perhaps a strange list. Perhaps. But God is great, and thirteen years after my last divorce, guess who I found? Him! Yes, I just got married for the third time a year ago last summer. Yes! We run the internet business and it is expanding like crazy. We go to the gym most mornings, because we have the time. We make our own schedule. And I have time to take care of my mother, and come with her to her appointments, as she grows forgetful. He supports me in this, and is kind to her himself! And my dear, he is tall and clean. Healthy and strong! What do you call those kind of push-ups where you clap your hands underneath you between the push-ups? Yes, he can do those! He cares about staying in shape. And he treats me very well. He sees and appreciates my good qualities. He is pure of heart. He wishes to do good in the world. We help through our church, and we enjoy ourselves immensely, and we pray together!

As to my list? Yes, haha, even down to the shoes it was a match, just as the old auntie at church had advised me, may she rest in peace. I knew it would click when he finally invited me to his home and there was a shoe-shine kit by the shoes at the front entryway. That was the last piece of the puzzle. I saw it, and thought to myself: God’s last detail. A man with clean shoes is a clean man. And so it was, in the most fundamental way.

I feel sure that God is holding us as man and wife in the overwhelming immensity of His Loving Hands. I have felt human love before, this is true. But in giving my love to men who were unworthy, men for whom I merely settled thoughtlessly, without intent, I was sloppy. And I paid for it. Now I finally feel completely safe, in my innermost heart. And my dear husband feels just the same about me, that he can rest in me. What joy, what happiness! And the baby to come… truly God is great. And whatever else God chooses to give me or take from me, I shall praise Him to my dying day.