But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:17, 23 NASB)
Growing up, I felt loved by my family. But outside the confines of home I felt insecure. I was a fat kid and I thought to myself no one would ever fall in love with me because of my physical appearance. But someone did, and I told myself, this was for keeps. He was my first and only boyfriend from high school through college. Our relationship lasted for ten years. We were a couple that everyone envied in school.
We went to separate universities, but we managed to keep our relationship going. After we finished college and started looking for work, we talked about gerting married because it was the natural thing to do. We were of age, and everybody was expecting us to end up together. So we did what was expected of us.
We got married in 1992, even if we were not yet self-sufficient and financially stable. I thought during that time that marrying him was my only option lest he found someone else. I went into it even if I felt it was not the right decision. I felt enslaved to my love for him and his love for me – the only romantic love I knew.
Married life was challenging. He couldn’t hold down a job. He would find work, but would not keep it long enough to earn for our future. He was too complacent and I was the supportive and tolerant, hard-working wife. This continued on until we had our two children. That was when I felt that he needed to step up and be the head and breadwinner of the family. I got tired of lying to people that we were a perfect family, making it seem like I had a very responsible and loving husband.
I influenced him to go abroad to try his luck there. He was quite hesitant and afraid. He got used to me being always the one handling the situation. But I pushed him to leave and find work. He worked in the U.S. for a year, and when he came back, things were never the same between us. I felt it but convinced myself that whatever it was, it would pass; I would make up for lost time and make our relationship work. After almost two years, my husband decided to go back to the U.S. again to find work. I agreed on the condition that the kids and I would follow him once he was already settled there because I did not want us to be apart again. But before he left, I found out the real reason why he wanted to go back to the States. One morning, his cellphone vibrated under the bed and I had the urge to pick it up. So I did, and I read the text message from his mistress saying she could not wait to be with him again.
It was something I was not prepared for. No wife will ever be prepared for a revelation like that. So I confronted him, and he still insisted on leaving. I was devastated. He left me and our two boys to be with another woman.
I tried to move on. It was slow, difficult and painful. I pulled myself together because I had to. I needed my job more than anything to provide for my children. For almost a year, I kept my situation unknown to friends and my parents. Only my siblings and my closest friend knew the real story. To deal with emotional stress, I would drive after work from Quezon City to Tagaytay – my therapy and momentary escape – and would drive back to the city where I live. I couldn’t leave it all behind like my husband. I had my children to care for. I had to be strong for my two boys. They couldn’t see me broken. I faked the feeling of being fine until I learned to accept the situation. After some time, I felt neutral again.
After two years of separation from my husband, I met another man who was also separated. He showered me with all the love and attention I yearned for. I was afraid at first because I had only been with one man. But I wanted to give myself a second chance at love. Everything seemed promising. I was having the time of my life and even believed that love could be lovelier the second time around. I submitted to this man, a better love, I thought. My family, my friends and my two boys even accepted our relationship even if they knew it was not legal nor sacramental. Last June, eight years in our relationship, I found out that he and my best friend for ten years had been seeing each other behind my back. I did not suspect it would happen again to me. I felt betrayed.
My friend saw my emotion-laden Facebook posts and she sent me a message saying that she didn’t know what I was going through at the moment but she felt the heaviness I was feeling. She would text me verses from the bible; check on how I was feeling. I felt a bit relieved every time I would read her messages. I did not tell her what I was really going through – no one knew what happened; I felt ashamed to have the same thing happen to me twice – but she knew I was a single mom. In her effort to make me feel better, she invited me to attend a breakout session for single parents in her community. I looked forward to it. It was during a time when I was going through another emotional struggle. I was in a state of deep depression but due to the demands of home and work, I needed to be strong and act as if nothing major was happening to me. In my eagerness and desperation, I lost track of time and went one day early to the venue of the single parents gathering. It hit me then how much I was thirsting for God. I needed to pick up the pieces of my life, but I could not do it on my own anymore. I needed God to help me. I asked Him fervently to be with me.
The invitation to the Road to Damascus Retreat (RTD) came when I felt the world was caving in on me. The same friend invited me to the retreat. Little did she know that her invitation would be my saving grace.
The RTD retreat gave me a chance to realize that I needed to reconcile with my God and not just with what happened with my two exes. I know now that I need to love and value myself first before I can truly love others. I need to be healed and I need to know what is true and right, and pleasing to God; live according to Christ’s teachings and His commandments, even if it means turning my back on the past and never looking back. It is difficult. Everyday is still a struggle for me between right and wrong because I know very well already the right thing to do, but my natural inclinations tries to stop me from moving toward the right path. But thanks be to God, by His grace, I am able to overcome temptation and discouragement.
Now, I can say that I am stronger, not by my own will, but by embracing and recognizing God’s love in my life. Hard as it may seem, I found the strength to turn away from what had been causing me to live in sin. Since that retreat, I have been reading the bible everyday. It is now part of my morning ritual. Before, I just couldn’t understand what the bible was saying. Now, the meaning is unfolding before me, like God is speaking directly to me. Now, I also talk about God with my family, friends and people at work without any hesitation because I want to share this newfound love; the love I am not afraid to surrender to and not afraid of losing – God’s love working in me.