His Name Is Love

There was never a day I questioned whether or not I was a Christian. Of course I was, after all, I believed in God. I believed the Bible was true, I believed in heaven and hell, and knew I wasn’t going to hell … oh, yes, I was. Had the Lord chosen to take my life just before I turned 50, I was doomed and destined for hell for eternity. I know that now but didn’t know that then.

I grew up in a Christian home with several pastors in my family. I came from a strong lineage of Christians. My grandfather, his father, and my uncle were all preachers. Of course, I was a Christian. I guess I believed somehow by osmosis, due to my rich Christian heritage and believing in God, I was a Christian. I prayed the prayer every year at camp. I walked the aisle a few times, was baptized, did the things that I was “supposed” to do, but I absolutely missed the message of salvation. Which is to repent and literally turn from sin and follow Christ.

I attended great churches all my life, churches that preached the gospel, but I was blind and deaf and actually pretty dumb. I used to joke when trying to have a spiritual conversation with someone that “I must have been absent that week” since I had no idea what they were talking about. I set out to read the Bible many times but never really understood what I read. I never repented and surrendered my life to Christ. Ever. I never died to self. But I didn’t know that.

Grown, with a husband and children, we attended church, served, listened to Christian music, and cried with emotion listening to the words. I prayed and pled with God to “protect our family” and give us this or give us that. We had our children in Sunday school and Awana—until it got in the way of worldly things. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). I was a hearer only. I allowed sin and selfishness to completely rule my life. I guess I though God was a genie in a bottle or something! Deception!

When baseball practice or other things became more important than church, we sacrificed church. When all the worldly things became the focus because Christ really wasn’t, weekly church attendance dropped. There was baseball practice or karate on Wednesday nights, so Awana was out. We were fueled by worldly things and not things that truly mattered. Our example to our children about Christ was that it had to be convenient, not a sacrifice.

Fast forward to a life of making other things more important than godly things. I was so caught up in it I was snowballing in sin, selfishness, and pride. I was discontent with most things in my life, so I found other things to fill the holes. Newsflash: you can’t fill empty holes without Christ. Nothing satisfies like Christ.

I was constantly unsatisfied. I was discontent. I wanted more. After 21 years of marriage, I chose to leave. There was no biblical reason for divorce. I was simply done. Our children were struggling in the teen years; we didn’t see eye to eye regarding discipline. My husband “didn’t support me” with my passions; I didn’t respect him. The economic downturn hit us hard and counseling wasn’t helping.

I moved our daughter with me to Arizona where I had family, while our son was entering his first year of college in another state. The divorce caused our son great trauma through his college years. Pretty selfish, huh? Yep! Even as I drove away from our home with my husband standing in the middle of street, I knew I was doing the wrong thing. We lived in a darling neighborhood with one entrance/exit and it wrapped around in a circle with cute little houses. As I drove away in a U-Haul, I looked in the rearview mirror and wanted to wrap around the circle to go back. But I didn’t. My pride was too strong. I had to go. Afterall, I said this is what I wanted and, by gosh, I was going to have what I wanted. I told myself all the lies I needed to justify my leaving.

After moving to Arizona, I got a great job, an apartment, and kept telling myself I had done the right thing. He didn’t love me the way I wanted to be loved; he didn’t provide well enough; he wasn’t nice enough; he wasn’t blah, blah, blah.

All the while, setting up my new life, I knew I was doing wrong. I couldn’t even find happiness now. Maybe I’d be happy after the divorce was final. Maybe that would do it. But remember, I thought I was a Christian. There was no infidelity or physical abuse. I needed to find another “biblical” reason for divorce so God would honor it and I would feel justified. As Satan would have it, a few months after moving, while visiting our son in California, I went in a local bookstore looking for a book that would give me an out in my marriage. I went directly to the Christian book section.

As I looked at titles, I noticed a man hovering in the same isle. He must have sensed I wasn’t finding what I was looking for. Turns out he was actually a local pastor of a well- attended church (that we actually attended but he didn’t know that) and said he “made it a point to help people search for what they were looking for.” I explained that I was looking for a book on Christian divorce. He said, “You won’t find it here, but you can go online and get it,” and gave me the name of a book and the author. (The author of the book now renounces his position and denounces divorce). The pastor told me that if I ever told anyone who recommended the book to me, he’d deny it. And actually has to this day. It’s not his fault I sought divorce. It was totally mine. However, the book he recommended gave me exactly what I was looking for—a rationalization for divorce! I could biblically divorce essentially because my husband didn’t meet my emotional needs. I filed for divorce right away and never looked back.

There were a few people that confronted me, but I blew them off. I had no interest in listening to anyone that wanted to help me see my sin. People offered to counsel us, talk with us, mediate for us—but I was out; I had what I was looking for and that was it!

As you would guess, the Lord had other plans for my life—my life without Him. I was fraught with disappointment, pain, and sadness. My conscious knew I had done the wrong thing, but I was good at getting my way. I was good at sinning and somehow thinking that I was a Christian. Somehow, I thought God would forgive me and that my life would be full. I spent years searching for happiness, the right job, the right man (a story in itself), all the things I wanted and thought I needed, but what I ended up with was endless days and years of heartache and discontentment.

But God.

Job 42:2 says, “No purpose of yours can be thwarted.” God had a plan. He had a plan from before time began. He chose me. He chose to save me. On September 15, 2013, I learned what true repentance was and what a relationship with Jesus was supposed to look like. I was in church with my daughter. I can’t remember what the pastor was preaching, but I looked at my daughter and said “I’m not a Christian.” I don’t even know if she heard me, but I sat there with the deepest feeling of sadness and disappointment I ever felt. I realized was not saved.

How was this possible? How was it that all my life I thought I was saved? I was self- deceived. Other people knew, how did I not know? I wasn’t fooling anyone but myself for 50 years.

That was the most difficult realization of my life and yet the most important. Somehow, after all the years of church, crying out to God, and trying to read my bible, I missed the entire meaning of salvation: repenting and turning from my sin. I never surrendered my life to Christ. I was trying to control my life and let me tell you, it was out of control.

Again, I thought that because I believed there was a God and believed He would return one day, that I was saved. But I never lived for Him. I never longed for Him. I never died to self. I was never set apart from the world. Ever. Until that day, I had never been redeemed. Colossians 1:13–14 says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgives of sins.” The veil was removed! I could see it all so clearly now. I had eyes to see my sin and selfishness and I had an incredible desire to know my savior, to turn from my sin, and to trust and follow Him with every part of my being.

I love Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Oh, God is so good. So good to reveal my sin to me so that I could finally turn and live for him. I was done “playing” Christian. I surrendered my life to Christ in a chair in my living room and longed to serve Him all the days of my life. I sat for hours and hours in that chair and repented of as many of my grievous sins as I could recall. I sat and cried and poured out my heart to God. I relived so many things that I wasn’t sure I would ever be the same. Praise God, I was right, I was never the same again. So unworthy yet so thankful. I love that I had nothing to do with my salvation. I always tried to control everything! But I was always out of control. I had nothing to do with the redemptive work of the cross and what Christ did for me. I was fully His.

After God saved me and transformed my life, at 50 years old, knowledge of Scripture flooded back to me. Biblical truths I had heard all my life became something I understood, songs I remembered with words that had true meaning to me now. My entire world looked and sounded so different! I began to understand; I was finally born-again! I was able to read the Bible with understanding. I learned that my life was filled with idolatry, wants and desires that could never be met. It’s funny, before I became a Christian, I thought idolatry was just worshipping religious or spiritual gods.

It never crossed my mind that an idol was anything I worshipped more than Christ. I had many idols I needed to put away.

As I grew in my early faith, by His grace alone, God allowed an opportunity for me to reach out to my ex-husband which is something we NEVER thought would happen. His sweet mother got breast cancer and I wanted him to know that I was praying. I wanted him to know that actually meant something now that I surrendered my life to Christ. We had a few texts back and forth regarding his mom, and then I was able to seek his forgiveness for destroying our marriage and family. Oh, what grace our Savior gives!

Robert was kind and tender and said that he had forgiven me years ago! What?! Wow, how could he? He said he had heard John MacArthur once say that “you are never more like Christ than when you can forgive.” Oh, my heart was stirred. Would I have been able to offer that same grace and forgiveness? Could I forgive him if it was him that destroyed our marriage and children? At that moment I prayed that I would. I prayed for God to give me a spirit of forgiveness, chief of all sinners!

Robert and I began to talk more and more and share how God had transformed our lives over the years. We talked about areas in our lives where we failed one another and our failed our children. We sought forgiveness from one another where we disregarded each other. Text conversations began to be a daily thing. I was thankful to have connection with him again. I think I was about 12 when we met across the street from my aunt and uncle’s house. He was my first junior high “boyfriend.” We attended the same church; he cleaned our pool and was friends with my brother. We had a lifetime of history together. The connection was good.

Months went by and our daughter was going to visit her dad in California. She asked me to come and stay at a nearby hotel, and after she spent a few days with her dad we could hang out at the beach. The night before we left, she said she had talked with her dad and he said he wanted us both to stay with him. He would give up his room for us. Again, what?! Who does that? What kind of man would even want his sinner ex-wife near him, let alone sleep in our old bed!

I hadn’t seen him in over five years! We pulled up to his house and he was standing outside waiting. Oh, my goodness, do I shake his hand, hug him, do nothing? I didn’t know how to act. I got out of the car and he gave us both a hug and he took our suitcases upstairs. When I walked in his apartment I was shook. Our table, our chairs, our couch, our things. Then, I walked in the bedroom—our bed, our same sheets and comforter! I was shaking! How could he not get rid of everything that was ours! How did he not hate me?!

He took us to a nice dinner, and we walked around his little beach town and were friendly. Oddly it felt like we had seen each other recently. It felt nice, comfortable, normal. Later that evening, after our daughter fell asleep, we sat for hours—talking, seeking forgiveness, and shedding our brokenness to one another. The next night we did the same; we talked until the very wee hours of the morning. There wasn’t enough time to say all we had to say. Just as we were getting ready to end the conversation, he asked a very bold question. He asked what I wanted, what did I want for my life. I took a few seconds to respond, then told him I wanted our old life back, but with Christ. He quickly agreed and said he wanted the same.

“How? How could you truly forgive me?” He said he had just like Christ had. That statement took my breath away. Only God.

We lived in different states, so he came to visit me, I visited him, we talked on the phone, and texted a lot. I was going to be baptized and wanted him to witness that special day. He said he wouldn’t miss it and brought our son with him. We all had a wonderful weekend of restoration and time together. The time went by too fast and we both longed for more.

I knew it was important for Robert and the kids to watch me over a long period of time to see the change in me. I needed them to watch how I responded to life, and how I lived my life since I became a Christian. I needed them to be able to trust me over time. I wanted everyone that I had deceived to watch my life, to see the transformation only found in Christ. I was convicted to call old friends and send a few emails to people I know I had hurt when I divorced. I needed to seek forgiveness for my sin. I sought forgiveness from family members from both sides I had hurt so terribly.

I truly was a different person. God saved me. He changed me from the inside out. As Romans 6:6–7 says, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For the one who has died has been set free from sin.”

Several months into our reconnecting, Robert asked a friend if he knew of someone that would mentor me as a new creation in Christ. Thankfully, God brought an incredible friend and mentor to me. Tamra was a gal who had previous experience in some of the same areas of sin I had been involved with. She was wise and kind. We spent every single Saturday morning on the phone for a year. She gave me books to read, scripture to memorize, she kept me accountable for my time with Jesus, she encouraged me and “spanked me” when I needed it. She helped keep my eyes on Jesus, not on Robert. She helped make sure my motives were sincere with him. She, as well as our children, didn’t want him to get hurt again. “Over a long period of time” I kept telling myself. This is about God this time, not me. Maybe God didn’t even want us to reconcile. Maybe it was just to forgive one another and move on. Only He knew.

Months later, at Robert’s suggestion, I moved to California. Was it really God’s will for us to remarry? You know when God is in control of a situation. There was no doubt it was God’s will for me to move back. He provided a good job and an awesome place to live. His provision was perfect. I had the pleasure of moving in with my mom’s cousin Dee. She lived five miles from Robert. Wow, God doesn’t make mistakes! The time I had with Dee was such an encouragement. She was loving, encouraging, kind, and loved Jesus. She took a huge interest in my life and offered me great wisdom and advice. I know God allowed that time for me to grow in my faith and used Dee to lovingly mentor me.

After almost a year of “dating,” we knew we were to remarry. We both knew that God had brought us together again to reconcile and restore our marriage and family. I still can’t even think about that without tearing up and getting goosebumps! The time we had living in the same area again proved our love and commitment to Christ and each other—and was a true blessing. We got reacquainted with one another, went to church together, had incredible spiritual conversations, spent time with our children, walked the beach, and talked about God’s grace and forgiveness. We intentionally set out to be the best example of Christ’s love and redemption as we lived our lives for Him! On January 23, 2015, at the El Segundo, California, courthouse—with our children at our side—we remarried.

The divorce wasn’t easy on either of our children, but when I came back to California it was especially difficult for our son Dylan. He was really mad when I came back and was super angry and disrespectful, and I deserved it. The example I was before Jesus saved me gave him no reason to ever trust me, no reason to trust my conversion was real, I was responsible for breaking up our family.

During the first few months of me being around Robert and Dylan (our daughter still lived in Arizona), Robert was amazingly kind and helpful. It was very important to him that Dylan see the change and encouraged me to not give up trying to restore our once very-strong relationship. When the three of us were out together, Robert would intentionally hang back and walk slowly so Dylan and I would be forced to walk together and talk. As God would allow, over a long period of time, Dylan began to see that I truly wasn’t the same and finally let me in. He often says how great it is to have his “Mama” back. Oh, what a joy! We have a fantastic relationship today. As we modeled Christ in our marriage, our children have seen what restoration and redemption look like.

Our daughter was loving and supportive of our remarriage from the start. She knew I never stopped loving her dad and she wanted her family reconciled too. The divorce was hard on our children in different ways. I think it may have had the most lasting effect on Celeste. I was a terrible example of unconditional love, commitment, and marriage, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t give her much hope for her own future. When she and I lived together after the divorce, I became her friend more than her mother. I was so lost and just wanted us to get along and be happy. And yet, I knew I had the responsibility to guide her, but what I was doing was actually failing her. She was only 15 when we moved to Arizona. New state, new school, new friends, no dad, and no brother. She and I had few very tumultuous yet loving years. In the final stages of the Lord getting ahold of my heart, she was there. She was with me when God brought me to my knees. How she loved me through that will never be forgotten.

I have terrible regret and sadness when I think of how our children suffered for my sin and yet I know God will use it for His glory and our good. I also cling to Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” and our children are able to see Christ in me. We have our children’s trust and respect and they know that in all things we will follow Jesus and not our sinful flesh. We continue to pray for our children and grandchildren to put their faith and trust in Jesus, as we live our lives for Him daily. I tell them that no matter what they can’t out sin God. No matter the sin, no matter the time, when you repent of your sins and follow Christ, He will take you in His loving arms for eternity.

The fullness of our marriage today isn’t at all how it was before. It’s not about stuff, status, or anything other than Christ. It’s about dying to self—to show and demonstrate selfless love. God’s love for us and our love for each other is rich and full. It’s honest and joyful. My husband leads me well and I fully submit to his leadership, which wasn’t the old Zoe. The unsaved Zoe was selfish, prideful, and super-controlling. One of the books that my mentor had me read before we even considered remarriage, was Fierce Women by Kimberly Wagner. What an eye-opener; read it. The old Zoe was truly fierce.

Even in my sin and through all the terrible mistakes, one of the most amazing ways my husband has shown love and grace to me is by never saying a word about the time we were apart. He never blamed me, held anything against me, said unkind words about the choices and decisions I made, or how they impacted our family. Not once! And trust me, there was plenty of ammunition. He truly is a man of God. I often call him my Superman.

We are growing in God’s grace together daily. We love and trust one another. We spend time in God’s Word together and I marvel at how well he leads me and how much I love surrender and submission.

The fullness of our love is 100 percent God. All things are possible for those that love God, as long as it aligns with His perfect will. I thank God daily for the life he gave—the hard times, the sinful decisions, all of it—because it brought me to my knees in full repentance, and I daily need my Savior. The Lord has given me joy beyond belief and a contentment I’ve never known. I am completely content in Christ.

Hope and Helps

Zoe

Scripture I clung to on the hardest days/nights:

  • Job 42:2. You can’t thwart God’s plan. No matter what, under whatever circumstances, we can’t thwart His plan for our lives. When I got saved, I clung to this, knowing He was and is in total control of my life. It’s a verse I use when counseling. It’s a great hope for all who want someone they love to be saved.
  • James 1:5–6. I didn’t want to make any more mistakes, I didn’t and still don’t trust myself, so I constantly pray for wisdom and discernment. I know God gives that freely when we seek His will. I used to text my mentor, Tamra, to ask what I should do, how I should handle something. Her response, which at the time really frustrated me, was, “Go to the Throne, before the phone.” Ugh. I really hated that! It was right and so wise of her! I went to my Bible, prayed, and asked for wisdom. Seek God’s will—His wisdom, not another person!

Helpful things people did to minister to me:

  • Prayed and prayed and prayed!
  • Counseled and encouraged me.
  • Held me accountable in a gentle manner.
  • Gave me scripture and books to read to strengthen my faith.
  • Sought me out at church to give me a big hug.

What you should NOT say to someone in a similar circumstance:

  • Don’t encourage people in their sin! I had several people encourage me in my sinful decisions.
  • Don’t sympathize with sinners. Their story probably isn’t accurate.

Hymns or songs that comforted me:

  • Amazing Grace, John Newton
  • Instead of music, I listened to podcasts of incredible preachers, teachers, and encouragers. I couldn’t get enough of God’s Word. I sought expository preachers and clung to every word. My weekly/daily favorites are:
    • John MacArthur, Grace to You
    • Adam Bailie, Christ Church, Gilbert, Arizona
    • Journeywomen podcast
    • Daily Grace podcast

The hope Jesus has given me through my trial:

Hope in Jesus is everything. Without it there is nothing to live for, nothing to put your faith and trust in, nothing to long for. Without Jesus there will be an emptiness that will never get filled. Your cup will never be full.

The other hope we found through this incredible trial is that it is never too late to find Him. I was 50 years old. Never stop praying for an unsaved family member or friend. God is on the throne of grace and He longs for people to be saved. Never give up. We hope and pray that our children will too, one day, surrender their lives to Christ. The hope we have in Jesus is that we know, if they are chosen, they will one day live eternally with Him. Oh, what a joy that will be.

Robert

Scripture I clung to on the hardest days/nights:

1 Peter 5:10

Helpful things people did to minister to us:

  • Prayed with me and for me.
  • My parents’ support had the greatest impact. They kept pointing me to the cross, no matter how I was feeling. They kept telling me to trust in the Lord. Trust in Him regardless of the circumstances.
  • A few friends/family tried to confront the sin of my spouse (Matthew 18:15–20). Even when it doesn’t restore the sinner, you have a biblical responsibility to confront sin. Few people feared God more than man in this regard.

What you should NOT say to someone in a similar circumstance:

  • “This is just a season.” Seasons can be long.
  • Don’t tell someone you are going to do something and then not do it. Be a man or woman of your word.
  • “I know how you feel.” Only say it if you truly know what someone is going through.

Hymns or songs that comforted me:

  • How Great Thou Art, Carl Boberg. This carried me through years of sadness and loss.
  • Trust and Obey, John Hammis. I never forgot this song from my youth and clung to it during this time.

The hope Jesus has given me through my trial:

Answered prayer continues to give me daily hope in so many ways: hope in the salvation of our children and grandchildren, hope in restored marriages all over the world. By God’s amazing grace, nothing is impossible to those that love Christ.

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