Jamie called to see if I’d like to meet her for coffee. I sailed into the coffee shop on top of the world. However, ten words had not left my mouth when my feet slipped on that spinning ball, and I tumbled to the bottom. For two hours I cried and told Jamie all my lonely secrets. I kept apologizing for the tears, saying I didn’t know where they were coming from. They felt like they were coming all the way from my toes. Jamie and I were the only ones frequenting the normally busy coffee shop that day; I’m sure it was the hand of the Lord keeping people away, and I hope He blessed the owner with multiplied business after we left.
I finally ran out of things to share and we sat in silence. The shopkeeper looked up in surprise, wondering if we wanted something, but shrugged and went back to reading his newspaper. Jamie concluded our time together by saying, “You need prayer. You need more prayer than I can give you. I’m contacting Linda in Minneapolis. Have you heard of her and her prayer group?” I nodded numbly.
“Can you go up there for her group to pray for you?”
It took a minute for her words to pierce my fog and to form in my mind and for me to comprehend her question. “You mean Linda, the one who prays for all the famous minsters?”
“Yes. Her group is the most effective one I know.”
“I’ll say! That prayer group is famous! What an outstanding privilege! You bet I’ll go to Minnesota and consider myself blessed in advance!”
“I’ll call her tonight. Are there any dates you’d prefer?”
Actually, the soonest the prayer group could fit us into their schedule was November. So, the arrangements were made. John and I were to be prayed for in November. My problem now was how to live each day until then, how to breathe and think and walk until my help arrived. Because once Pandora’s Box had been opened, I could not stuff my emotions back inside.
I began preparing, spiritually, for our trip to Minneapolis, pulling out scripture to support what I hoped would happen there, in other words, John’s complete deliverance. That’s what prayer groups are for, to obtain God’s complete victory, and this group had an international reputation, so my expectations were high. We were both quite excited. John expected the same thing, or so he said.
Then I received a phone call from the leader of the prayer group. “Hello, Marty, this is Teresa, I lead Linda’s Prayer Group up here in Minnesota.”
“Oh,” I said, wondering what was wrong. “We’ll be up there next week, right?”
“Yes, we’re expecting you, but I wanted you to know in advance that your husband cannot be present at the prayer meeting.”
Confused, I said, “But I thought that was why we were coming.”
“What we want to do,” she responded, “is pray for you.”
“But why can’t John be part of the prayer? Isn’t he supposed to get deliverance?”
“Because, Marty,” Teresa sounded very patient, “he doesn’t want deliverance. He doesn’t have a heart to change and therefore his presence will destroy our time together.”
Totally confused, I asked, “How do you know that? John tells me he wants to be free.”
She said, “I know this by the Spirit of God. John wants to keep things just like they are. He doesn’t want you to change, Marty. He wants you to continue to try to “fix” things for him, but without his cooperation, nothing can be fixed. Therefore, his presence in the prayer room would prevent any changes taking place in your life, and you are the one we want to help.” Her voice sounded firm and I didn’t argue.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll be up next week, but I’m bringing John with me just in case you change your mind.”
“We won’t. Leave him in the hotel room, and we’ll pray for you.” Her voice had the quality of a street fighter, and I didn’t fancy tangling with her.
After we hung up, I found John in the kitchen. “I just spoke with Teresa, the leader of the prayer group we’re going to in Minnesota.”
Orange juice ran down John’s chin as he bit into a quarter slice. “Oh, yeah?” he questioned, looking sideways as he leaned over the sink.
“She said you can’t be in the prayer room because you will ruin the prayer. When I asked why, she said you didn’t want to change.”
John jerked to attention, tossing the rind into the sink. “That’s not true!” He said with such profound innocence I couldn’t help but believe him. “That’s not true at all. I want to change.” He adamantly reiterated.
“She said they want to pray for me so that I will change.”
He cocked an eyebrow, “What kind of changes do they want you to make?”
“I don’t know. She didn’t say.” My focus had always been on his problem, not on myself, so I continued in my preparations for Minnesota, thinking we were going there for John. I figured the leader had been mistaken and that the Holy Spirit would correct her before we got there. John must have been convinced of the same thing as he drove up with me.
We checked into our motel and drove to the church to confirm the appointment for the following morning and to see if they had changed their minds, certain they had. But they hadn’t. John still could not attend. My heart agonized for him as I could see he was suffering terribly. We spent the rest of the day exploring the city. Minneapolis, hunched under a cloud cover, expressed our feelings for us as we drove miserably about town.
The next morning as we dressed, John said to me, “I feel like I have a steel vise around my chest.” He winced, and I could almost see it.
I arrived early and wandered around the bookstore in the church lobby when I noticed Linda, the director of the prayer group, a nationally famous woman, and I, timidly approached her. She said, “You must be Marty.”
I smiled and nodded yes.
She said, “God gives us the strength to do the hard things.” Compassion flowed out of her towards me. Then she turned and left me standing there, in the knowledge that tough times laid ahead.
Linda did not attend the prayer time, but Teresa took me into a softly lit, thickly carpeted room with cushioned benches around the wall. In the middle of the room sat an armchair. The décor of muted colors warmed the room. There were two men and two women on this prayer team, waiting for me, sitting on the cushioned benches. Each one spoke to me in subdued voices, and I had the sense they knew the ending from the beginning. Gingerly, I sat in the armchair.
Teresa shut the door and began preparing the ground for our prayer. “Marty, we are here to assist you. We’re not here to make anything happen. We’ll let the Holy Spirit lead us, but it is only as you open your heart to Him that any progress can be made. That which has held your husband in bondage also has held you. We want you to be free, but we’re not going to force anything, so relax. This is not one of those violent deliverance sessions we all read about. This is doing business with the Father. Your husband’s will is immovable, and that is his choice. But your Father God wants you to be free. Do you have any questions before we start?”
I looked down at my shoes. Here were these people surrounding me, focused on only me and wanting me to give up something I had lived with so long, I could not remember being without it. “Yes, I do have a question. Why can’t we?” I indicated the group, “pray for John right now and override his choice?”
Teresa just looked at me, and absolute silence reigned in that prayer chamber. Then I looked back at my shoes and said, “I guess that’s a stupid question.” The slight mounting of tension in the room dissipated. “All of us have free choice, don’t we, and we can’t override John’s will, even by force.” I answered my own question.
Teresa smiled, probably relieved she wasn’t dealing with a complete nincompoop, like my question indicated. Then she asked, “Do you want to be free?”
My whole life culminated in this one question, and I studied my shoes for one last moment. I didn’t want to consider the consequences; I didn’t want to examine the ramifications of either answer; I just wanted freedom more than anything. So, I looked up and said a simple, “Yes.”
Teresa stood, “Then let’s get started.”
Softly, the group around me started praying. I listened; only no one said anything that seemed to pertain to my problem. The tenor rose and fell; the intensity surged and descended. From time to time they laid hands on me and then retreated; there seemed to be no plan or direction.
I forgot them and started praying with my whole heart. I bent over, my face submerged in my hands and intensely prayed until I fell out of the chair onto my knees, clutching my chest, my heart pounding. But it wasn’t my chest that was bothering me; it was my head. Something was gripping my head! It felt like the vise that John had mentioned being around his chest was around my forehead and temples. It tightened itself there, and tightened itself like someone turning a screw, and I was afraid to touch my head! To think of touching my own head terrorized me! Completely forgetting the others in the room, I screamed, crying out in pain and fear!
Suddenly, I saw the most gruesome creature I could have ever imagined and never wanted to see. It had one hairy arm around my head and the other circled tightly around John’s chest.
I shouted, “Let go of me! I command you in the name of Jesus, LET GO OF MY HEAD!” I pounded the floor! Immediately the five people in the room surrounded me, also shouting and shaking their fists at the creature. The relief their presence brought fortified my strength and my determination. “I said LET GO!”
As I watched, the hairy arm broke in several pieces and disintegrated. The other arm stayed around John’s chest, and the beast dragged John away from me. I, however, sighed a deep sigh, rubbing my head, touching my temples, and tenderly caressing my own face, absorbed with the fact that I was free.
By now I laid prostrate on the floor. The energy in the room dissipated, the five prayers returned to their benches, and I got up and sat back in the armchair. For the first time since I don’t know when, my head did not hurt. There had been constant pressure there, not enough to call a headache, but tightness. I felt like I could think clearly, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt so lucid.
Teresa said, “Well, it’s done. Now you’re free. I’m sure you know, but I want to affirm that John must leave. If he were to stay in the house with that creature gripping his chest, you would soon be back in its grip as well.”
“Then you all saw it?” I marveled.
Teresa said, “You mean the demon?”
“I did.” Teresa looked at the others. “Did anybody else see it?”
The other four nodded affirmatively. She continued, “If you stay with John, then that creature will soon have you back in his clutches. I cannot stress that enough. Tell John clearly that he must leave and give him the option that if he gets free, he can come back. That is, if you want him back. But that’s none of our business, that’s up to you.”
One of the men said, “Make sure he is the one to leave, not you. It doesn’t make sense for you to lose your home. He’s the one who invited that beast into his life; he can take him elsewhere.”
When I walked outside, the world wore different colors. Grays perked up as blues; beige beamed forth as rose. I wanted to pick up the dead grass and smell it. I wanted to pull down a cloud and eat it. I wanted to scratch my back on a tree trunk and stomp in the puddles from last night’s rain. It wasn’t artificial Disneyland where you can’t live; it was real life, and I was really living!
I went back to the motel. John asked, “How’d it go?”
I said, “Great!” But I wasn’t ready to really talk. “Are you hungry? I’m starving. Let’s get some lunch. You want to try that artsy Italian place we saw by the Conservatory?”
“That looked pretty expensive to me,” he said.
“Yeah, it probably is. But I think the occasion calls for it.” I thought I could talk better in a crowded restaurant with lots of distractions, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t think of how to tell him to leave. I could only talk small talk. Trying to focus on something, I noticed all the little details of the restaurant while John talked, the silly little salt and pepper shakers made out of oil and vinegar vessels, the lion lattice fortifying the fireplace, trying not to show my astonishment. What was astonishing me? Listening to John!
“This morning, while you were at the church, the Lord came right into the motel room. I don’t think it was His intention that I go to the prayer meeting. I think He wanted to meet me right there. Alone. Did you get some good out of going?”
“Yeah,” I said noncommittally.
“I really believe that He set me free this morning.” John said with great conviction. “I’ve wanted to be free for so long, and now I’ve got it at last. It feels great! He swept right through me. He really did. It felt like a broom brushing me out.”
It was not so much that John said this that astounded me. It’s that what he said was litany of a hundred other times he had said this exact same thing. “I’m free. The Lord has set me free!” But every other time he had said it, I thought it to be the first time. For some reason I couldn’t remember the other times. However, my mind, no longer clouded, could recount how often he told me he was now free. Why, he was always spouting off about how free he was! That beast, with his arm around my head, knew what I wanted to hear, and he fed it to John, who then fed it to me. What’s worse, I had believed it, every time. But I didn’t believe him today. I saw that creature, and he was still hanging around John’s chest.
We drove around Minneapolis a bit; we were staying a few days for some special meetings the church was having. We drove past my old haunts as I had graduated from Edina-Morningside High School way back when. Our tiny Japanese car belied the great distance that grew between us as we drove.
Then we returned to the motel room. He sat on one side of the room, and I sat on the other. Tension cut the air like a knife. He wasn’t going to ask what happened. He picked up a book as if he were willing to let it pass, but I no longer complied. My freedom brought with it a new will to remain free, discomforting or no. With dry mouth and trembling hands, I said, “John, I experienced a great deliverance today. You know that expression, ‘I’ve got a monkey on my back?”
He nodded looking queasy.
“I got rid of the monkey on my back. There was a beast squeezing my head with one arm and compressing your chest by encircling it with his other arm. That thing is broken off my life. But until it is broken off of yours, then I am in danger. You’re going to have to leave.”
His mouth fell open. “But I told you I got free this morning.” His chin quivered, and he dropped his book.
I said quietly, “You’re not free, and that presents a major problem for me.
Then he composed himself, picked up his book taking care to mark his place, his hands jerking as steam began percolating in his body. With disgust snorting from his nostrils he said, “So, to solve your problems you have to get rid of me.”
I didn’t know what to say so I nodded and kept quiet.
“You’re not actually going to go through with this are you?” He asked with muffled rage.
I nodded again. I think he was so shocked that he didn’t know what to say next. His problem had been the sole focus of our lives. Now I was throwing my problems into the fray, and my problems were him. We said a few more words about it then, but the impact was too great to make any cohesive remarks.
We read for the rest of the day, and then went to the meeting that night. That format served us well as we attended the meetings for the next two days. We avoided the subject with silence and reading. But eventually we had to talk. We tried to analyze how we would do this, our finances were so tight, and John said he would probably have to get a job. This seemed like the final affront to him. For ten years he had been willing for our money to dissipate, not wanting to even look at property to buy or any other benign means of making money. Any suggestion I made along those lines had brought derision on my head, so I avoided constructive comments. Having to go back to work came as a low blow to him. I realized he had been waiting for me to become the major breadwinner.
As we were driving back to Texas, I threw out a suggestion that came unpremeditated. “Why don’t you find one of those residential programs for people wanting to get out of homosexuality?” John jumped at the uplifting thought of a solution for him. Chewing on that thought consumed him for the remainder of the drive.
As we brought our suitcases in the house, he asked, “How soon do you want me to leave?”
Now that I had made my decision, I wanted it to happen as soon as possible. But the holidays were ahead of us, and I didn’t want to be cruel. I had my grandchildren to consider. They lived right next door and Papa’s leaving before Christmas would be too much of a confrontation. So, I said, “By the first of the year.”
We had been attending a certain church that held Thursday night meetings for people struggling with addictions of all kinds. We had a general worship service and then broke into groups, depending on the addiction. John went to the sexual additions group, without ever telling them why, I might add. Being addicted to pornography is considered kind of cool in our society, so John tried to blend in with those men. I, however, told my group everything, blowing his cover, so to speak. But no one ever required him to confess his addiction.
They asked me to facilitate the group of wives of the addicted men. I was not the only wife of a homosexual. With my ministry background they felt they could trust me, and they needed help. It was there we learned about the residential facilities. There were very few for homosexuality, and they were booked for years. John called twelve places, and each one said they were booked solid for years. They all put him on their waiting list. Even so, I told him he had to leave by January 1. It seemed heartless to kick him out as that left him with no place to go until a spot opened up. But I meant what I said. John prayed.
That month of waiting made my skin feel like it separated from my body. The French have an expression that says, “He is comfortable in his skin.” I understood that expression, as I was not comfortable in my skin. I couldn’t wait for him to leave. Every day was agony. I fought with my friends, overworked my marketing business, and barely slept. Perhaps it wasn’t me fighting; perhaps that creature was reaching his arm toward me, and I resisted. Whatever it was, it wasn’t comfortable.
A week before Christmas, a facility in Tennessee called and said they felt impressed to take him before anyone else on the list, could he be there to begin the program on January 1? John had been sitting at his desk when he received the phone call. Our couch jutted into the room, separating his desk from where I sat in an overstuffed armchair. He hung up the receiver, ran around the couch and sat in my lap, tears streaming down his face, his mouth bubbling with the words, “They want me. They want me!”
John and I had not touched in years, except for the odd brushing in passing, or the light kiss on the cheek. To have his body on mine was rather offensive, especially in a gesture so obviously seeking mama. “I’m happy for you, John.” I responded. “I’m also happy to see you express some genuine emotion.”
He looked at himself sitting on my lap, almost shuddering with his personal revulsion of what he had done, and he got up. “Thanks.”
Christmas passed painfully. To add to the gloom, a friend of mine died, and I attended her funeral. The pastor remarked that my friend had been torn between staying on earth and going home. As I listened, I heard the Lord say, “John is in the same place.”
When I arrived home, John was sitting in the living room reading, and I asked, “Are you torn between staying on earth and going home? Are you having thoughts of death?”
He put his book down and softly said, “Yes.”
Naively I asked why.
“When I think of people knowing, and the prospect of being under scrutiny and having to answer questions about my homosexuality, I get terrified.”
I couldn’t say that I blamed him. Our society cheers a drug addict coming out of drugs, but an ex-homosexual is suspect.
But then he blew that thought by saying, “And I don’t think I can come out of it.”
“You mean you don’t think you can become a heterosexual?
“I can’t even face the thought of trying.”
“You haven’t given the facility a chance yet, John. Be patient.”
On December 31st, Jo, John, and I set out by car for Tennessee, behaving like we were taking a family vacation. The little girls, staying home with Daddy, cheerily waved goodbye to Papa. After all, it was only a temporary separation. They didn’t understand why he had to leave, but if we said it was necessary, well, then, wave goodbye and be done with it.
Writing has been in my blood, so to speak, but when I surren-dered my life to Jesus Christ and He told me to write, all my trepidations rolled away and I began in earnest! After all, if God Almighty says it was His idea that I be a writer, who am I to stand in His way? My hope is that you not only like what I write, but that your life is moved by it, and that your party to Jesus and with Jesus turns your life into days of Heaven on Earth.