Finding God After Failure
Choosing to go God’s way and staying there.
by Eileen Key
I lay on the sofa in my parent’s den on July 4, 1976, a heap of misery. While the television newscasters showed videos and celebrated our nation’s two-hundredth birthday, I wallowed and cried over the demise of my marriage.
Terry and I met at Texas Christian University our freshman year, 1965. He was my dream come true: handsome, adventurous, and fun. Soon I became his exclusive date.
Before I left to go home for the summer, Terry presented me with a golden key necklace with his last name etched on it. The necklace stayed draped around my neck as a treasured possession. Once I was home, we carried on our relationship by phone, letters, and occasional visits.
When I returned to school in the fall to work on my elementary education degree, Terry and I began dating again. One brisk day, he met me on the front steps of my dorm, a folded letter in his hand. I quaked inside: This was at the height of the Viet Nam War. I’d seen similar letters delivered to other young men in college.
I read the letter and, sure enough, Terry had been drafted. But he decided not to serve in the Army. He chose instead to enlist for four years in the Navy and train as a medic. Medics were assigned to the Marine Corps and were sent into battle.
So our senior year, before he was deployed overseas, Terry and I married. I was now a war bride.
The next harrowing year, I graduated, began my teaching career, and watched for the postman. I feared late-night phone calls and unexpected visitors at the door bringing bad news. As it turned out, Terry’s unit left the area during the Tet Offensive, and Terry moved to Okinawa.
After his year overseas, my husband returned home. We bought a mobile home, he enrolled in a university, and our married life together began. I taught school, and Terry studied. Later he attended Baylor Law School.
At some point after that, my Christian faith veered off course. My active prayer life, which thrived while my husband was in danger, evaporated, lulled by contentment. Participation in church activities played second fiddle to campus clubs and organizations. Sunday mornings proved to be the soundest sleep we had.
Then came the spring and summer of 1976.
We had moved to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where Terry had started a law practice. Our social life accelerated, and it was new to me. Rifts began to develop in our relationship. I focused on starting a family, while Terry focused on his career. Neither of us seemed to prosper.
Not being pregnant brought me much distress, and that caused more friction. I visited my gynecologist to determine if there were any physical problems hindering me from becoming a mother. When he could not find any, I continued to worry.
Priority for pain
It was this fear that brought me to my knees, and my prayer life once again became a priority. A friend gave me a copy of The Living Bible, and I devoured scriptures looking to ease my pain.
But many of the words I read caused self-righteousness to rear its ugly head, and I pointed an angry finger at my husband. Not a great way to heal a relationship, I soon discovered. After many angry words, I left Terry.
A sense of failure permeated my soul. Where in the Bible was there balm to heal my broken heart? I’d chosen to walk a path alongside someone who did not want me. How could God let this happen?
To escape answering these questions, I let myself revel in the American bicentennial. Eyes glued to the television, I watched each fireworks celebration and cried at the majesty of the New York tall ships parade. I etched the wonder of those moments into my brain to avoid tackling any real-life issues.
Too soon, however, the celebrations were over.
I found myself with time on my hands. I missed the companionship and friendship of my husband. Slowly, the fissures in my heart widened, and sorrow crept out. I began to cry.
In 1976 Prozac was not a drug of choice. Certainly, depression wasn’t widely studied and discussed in my circles. I spiraled downward with each tear shed. I had no desire to get up, to dress, to eat, to live. Thick sadness enveloped me.
Desire to die
During the last week of July, one humid Houston night, I crawled on the floor in my childhood bedroom and told God, “I want to die.” I didn’t have a plan. I wasn’t contemplating suicide; I just wanted to fade away.
He said, “No.”
This life-defining moment isn’t chronicled in my journal but in my heart. I lay on the floor, tears plinking circled stains on the hard wood. There the eternal God of the universe spoke to my heart. No audible, thunderous voice clapped from above just serenity like no other I had ever known.
I reached for The Living Bible on my nightstand, wiped dust from the cover, and began to read. My eyes found Proverbs 3:4, 5. “Trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself. In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.”
Cleansing tears flowed; a new direction opened before me God’s way. I had struggled on a road clogged with discord and unhappiness, never once seeking what God wanted, and now I shifted course. Peace enveloped me. I set my compass, and with a new day dawning, asked the Lord to forgive me. He did.
That July day, God and I started on a journey that has given me a rich, full life. After much prayer and waiting, I eventually remarried and ended up with three wonderful children. The road still had bumps and bruises as I persevered in the relationship, but this time I made sure God walked alongside me.
He has said no, yes, and wait many times in the years since, but He has never disappointed me. I have learned to listen and obey. I’m not right every time; I’ve made my share of mistakes. But I know how to return to the pivot point of the compass the center of God’s will. If I stay there, He will never fail me.