Bob: Most of us bring some sort of “baggage” into our marriages. It could be light baggage or heavy baggage, such as an irritating habit, or an unresolved way to handle disagreements or a personality quirk, or maybe even something troubling from one’s past. Like for me – something horrific from my childhood that for most of my life I tried to either suppress or ignore. The fact remains my experience did happen and eventually those bad memories carried into my adult life and into my marriage to Yvonne.
Yvonne: As several of you know the first ten years of our long term marriage were a struggle but through the grace and forgiveness of God, and our determination to work through our many areas of hurtfulness, we have seen the past 25 years show trust and love for each other grow continually. Now we are deeply in love and committed to each other, however, it was shortly after we were married that I became aware of Bob having a deep-rooted anger. It was never directed toward me. He directed it toward himself and he would be easily frustrated. He was never verbally or physically abusive to me, but he had an underlying current of anger and I could not understand the reason for it. On the surface, he looked happy but inside he had inner turmoil. He was not at peace. Often when he was speaking before an audience I could sense his anger even though he was unaware of it. And then I was really frightened when on occasion in the middle of the night he would have horrible nightmares and wake up yelling and thrashing around. The next day when I asked him about his nightmare he just shrugged it off and would not talk about it. I figured it was a one-time occurrence. But when it happened about every other month I sensed there was something in his past that must have grievously upset him. One day he finally opened up to me and my heart ached to hear what my husband experienced as a child.
Bob: I did not know this until I was in my 30s but twice my mother went to an “abortion mill” to abort me. My biological father tried to persuade her to do it and said, “This is not a good time for us. We can always have another child.” (By that he meant that since MGM Studios had just offered her a movie contract that her being pregnant now was, according to my father, untimely.) My mother, who is now in Heaven, told me that at that time she was not a particularly religious person but while she was waiting for the doctor to come into his back-alley operating room and although she did not ‘hear an audible voice’ she nonetheless had a strong mental impression of God speaking to her – “Do not kill this child. I will use him in a mighty way.” She said, “So that’s when I got off the table and went home.” Did God have plans for me? Praise Him, yes He did – and still does.
Yvonne: Since Bob’s mother opted for the birth, Bob’s father deserted the family when young Bobby was just under a year old. Bob’s mother had serious financial challenges and with no family support from anyone her only option at that time was to place Bob into a County Children’s Home where he stayed for a couple of years, all the time wondering what happened to a father he never knew and a mother he rarely saw. Even at that young age probably wondering in his own childlike reasoning “What did I do wrong to have my father and mother reject me and leave me?”
Bob: From the Children’s Home I then shuttled between 14 foster homes, some of which were wonderful and loving, leaving me with good memories, while others were something out of a Stephen King novel, leaving me with decades of nightmares, and in the latter places “assuming I must have done something wrong otherwise why am I being ‘rejected’ all the time?” In one home (I estimate I was between 4 and 6) I was frequently ‘punished’ for something I must have done, or not done, by the foster father who would take me into a bathroom and splash scalding hot water in my face followed by holding me up by my jaws with one of his hands and with a pair of scissors in his other hand lunged it forward stopping an inch short of my eyes saying something like, “You do that again and I will poke your eyes out.” For years, until I experienced a spiritual healing, I have always been uncomfortable around scissors or knives anywhere near my face, including trips to the barber shop.
Yvonne: Once in another place he was left home alone for a three or four day period with nothing in the house to eat that he could find or prepare, so besides water, for those days he ate only mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard. He was just five years old at the time. On his first day in still another home he vividly recalls walking up to the foster mother and said something to her but her reply was, “Young man, let’s get something straight. The reason I have you here is that I make money and the reason you are here is that you have a place to sleep and eat, but you are not part of this family so do not try to become a part. Now go to your room and stay there until I tell you to come out.” Unfortunately for my husband, he can still see that woman’s face and he recalls her stinging verbiage WORD FOR WORD even to this day. He was just a little 7-year-old boy when that happened. Fortunately, that is all he can recall about that particular house. But the worst is yet to come.
Bob: One episode about put me over the edge. In still another home again for (evidently) punishment I was locked into a closet. For three days. With no water or food. Those three days and nights were spent crying, screaming and pounding on the door. Each night I could hear the rats crawling along the baseboards. No bathroom so there was obviously a mess in that closet. It was not until many years later that I found out a neighbor became suspicious on not seeing me plus not liking the people running my foster home so he called the police. After searching through the house an officer noted a locked closet door and made the people open it. They found me slumped against the door in a semiconscious state, badly dehydrated, and with fingernails torn off with my finger tips all bloody. They could see that I had tried to claw my way out hence the damage. I was taken to a hospital and thankfully recovered quickly with all my fingers returning to normal. The courts later sentenced that couple. An experience like that stays with you for all your life, and in my case, that seething anger and fear carried into my marriage.
Yvonne: Bob was not open to making changes in his life that would positively impact our marriage as he was so fearful of criticism. Now I will admit that for a long time I was part of the problem of why he would not address these areas. But after God guided me to change my communication approach he still would either zone out when I would talk to him or he would become highly defensive. I knew then it was not just me – it was him – because of so much rejection in his past. Any hint of it would cause him to put up his shield to wall himself from the pain. The end result, however, was that he would not make any changes in his life that were needed for our marriage to move forward. He was stuck in behavior that needed to be changed and often he desired to change but the past seems to have such a hold on him. Also because of the past, he walled himself off from getting emotionally close to anyone, including me. Our conversations would come to an abrupt halt or anger would erupt when we would have a discussion that came too close to an area he was protecting himself from.
Bob: That’s the bad news. The good news is that today the baggage has been removed – the memories of the past have been healed – no more nightmares – the anger mostly removed (well, I must confess I do get ticked off at people who ‘chop’ in front of me on the highway) – our conversations are open and freely shared. In the next issue of our quarterly newsletter, we will fully explain how all this good news came about – and we both gratefully thank the Lord for His guidance in each of these venues. Until then – stay blest.
(And to be sure that you have Peace With God we would like to encourage you to visit www.billygraham.org and then click on Grow Your Faith followed by clicking on How To Know Jesus. You may want to share this link with family and friends.)