Dan called once a month the first year I returned to France. They allowed him to use the office phone and tolerated an international call, which he paid for. Living in Greg and Alice’s house—called a Trinity because there were three floors, and each floor had one room—I established myself in the bedroom constituting the top floor. The telephone reverberated through the house, ringing on the bottom floor and reaching the top floor with insistence. Dan called in the middle of the night, being six hours earlier and not wanting to use prime time rates. By the time I woke up and hustled down those stairs, I didn’t care who was calling; I didn’t want to hear from them. But Dan evoked something in me that I couldn’t release.
He called on our anniversary, October 24th. It would have been our 34th, but fortunately I wasn’t there. It wasn’t an event I wished to celebrate. It’s not that I rejoiced at being divorced; I didn’t. I just felt the thirty-three years had been a sham and all the other celebrations a deceit.
Fridays, on The Farm’s phone system, all national calls were free, so he called Noelle every week. He told me his intention was to make it up to her for his years of mistreating her, and he worked hard at it. He not only stopped his vicious tongue but also turned his speech around to encourage her and build her up. She told me he gave her anything she asked for. As his tenant, she wanted to make improvements in her living quarters, and to every request, even if he didn’t have the money to pay for it, Dan said yes. Surprised by this turn, Noelle responded one time by shouting in the phone. “Hello? Hello? I’m calling for Dan DuBois. Did someone else pick up the phone?”
As a graduate, Dan’s program intensified into a more personalized study of Mercy and more required prayer. He had a little more freedom in his personal life, and he helped in the office by answering the phones. One day, he called me in either quiet exultation—there was a note of victory in his voice—or perhaps it was thick mercy I heard.
He said, “I’ve been in the office all day answering phones, and you’ll never guess what happened.”
He sat in silence till I prodded. Yawning, I asked, “What?”
“Four phone calls came in from Dundee, Florida.”
“Oh, yeah?” My interest perked.
“All four callers were pastors.”
“Did you know any of them?” I asked.
“Maggie!” he shot back in disgust. “When men call here, they don’t give their names.”
“So, what did they want?” My interest began to wane.
He whispered into the phone, “They wanted help in getting out of homosexuality. They were all struggling with it.”
The line went quiet. Since I couldn’t conjure up anything to say, I said, “My, my, my.” I think he wanted me to know how widespread the problem extended and that he wasn’t the only one. Fighting sleep deprivation is not conducive to engaging in a verbal parlay.
My awareness of Dan’s dependence on me accelerated that year. I had always considered my own isolation because of his continuing “problem,” but I failed to recognize how terribly isolated he had been. Who did he have to share with besides me? Nobody. Even now in his program he was forbidden to speak of his “problem.” My heart went out to him, but not enough to go back. I knew his only hope, like a butterfly, rested in having to struggle out of his captivity alone.
For Christmas, Dan and I went to Texas to spend the holiday with Noelle and our charming granddaughters. Dan slept in Bridget’s room, and I slept with Noelle in the king-size bed that used to be mine. I hated that bed. Dan bought it when I was out of town, an inflatable air mattress, each side pumping up or down depending on the sleeper’s preferences, and I never could get comfortable on that thing. Besides gouging our bank account, he had not consulted with me, and at that point I earned the money—I brought home the check. When roles had been reversed, I never treated him like that. So, I tossed and turned while Noelle’s husband slept on the couch.
J.J. and Veronique flew to California to stay with my mother, and all of us left Texas Christmas morning to join them there. Noelle’s husband did not come. Thin-lipped as ever he dumped us at the airport. Their marriage had disintegrated and filing the divorce papers was all that remained. In fact, Noelle did that upon our return.
Her husband’s family came down from the mountains to have Christmas with Noelle in a restaurant, and she begged us to go along. J.J. left Veronique with my Mom in case fireworks erupted like they did before my divorce. But the occasion flowed quite civilly. After the festivities ended, a brother-in-law hugged Noelle and asked if she would be married to his brother the next time they met. Noelle responded that whether she was married or not, they would meet again, and that was the important thing.
Dan and I, Noelle, and the girls stayed in a hotel suite for the five days, and again Dan and I arose early, meeting in the living room of the suite for coffee and Bible reading each morning. He explained to me, “The staff has finally accepted our divorce.”
“So, they’re not going to kick you out after all?” I teased.
“No. They never were. They just wanted me to know how they felt about things. But they said that they understood that you and I love each other, and they hadn’t understood that before.”
I didn’t ask him to explain his understanding of our love, I just said, “We do love each other. I want the best for you, and I assume you want the best for me.”
“I do,” he said solemnly. “You need to be free to do the Lord’s work.”
My mind turned that statement over a bit. Did he mean he thought himself noble to have divorced me? Or did he think I couldn’t serve the Lord with the spirits of sexual addiction hanging around? Finally, I decided to take it at face value. We have ended up being friends. I’m the one who invited Dan to California with us, encouraging my mother to accept him as a good friend of the family. That sense of responsibility still plagues me, but the desire to have Dan is gone. I wonder what it is in me that won’t let go.
When he returned to Tennessee, he entered a more advanced program that the staff created because they now had several like Dan, old timers who stayed around. This was Dan’s third six-month session. For this program he could not work. In fact, they paid him $50 a month to take the program. Four hours a day were to be spent in studying the Bible and four hours a day in prayer. I’ll be honest. I envied him. It would be nice to have someone feed me, house me, pay me, and require me to study and pray. Dan lived the life of a monk and for the first time I appreciated the value of that life.
Our phone conversations ended, maybe because he couldn’t pay for them only earning $50 a month. Being basically not a communicator, Dan did not put pen to paper. The letters and cards I received from him throughout our intertwined lives had been monotone necessities.
“Hi, I’m fine. How are you? Dan.”
But now Dan had access to a computer, even though two other men were required to be with him when he used it. That prevented the men from surfing the web for porno sites. Dan always protested he would never learn to work a computer, but he did, and we began emailing once a month, replacing the phone calls. Electronic communication allowed him to more succinctly express himself.
One day he wrote, I’ve been on the prayer trail, and when I got to the bottom and sat down on one of the stones circling the fire pit, I looked around at the barren landscape, stripped for winter, and I felt cold and lost. I asked the Lord, “Why am I here?” The Lord said to me, “Look up.” I looked up and saw the sky through the black frozen branches. The Lord asked me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see trees that have lost their leaves.” The Lord said to me, “When you are as empty inside as these trees are outside, then you will be useful to Me.”
“I think I’m going to be here a very long time because I have a long way to go to be as bare as those trees.”
Never had I heard such prose come from him. Toward the end of this sequestered six months Dan emailed some exciting news. “I went to the doctor today for a check-up, and guess what? My blood pressure is 110 over 70! He’s going to take me off the high blood pressure medication next month if it stays down! I’ve been on that medication since our first year of marriage!”
The program was evidently doing him multi-leveled good, but I couldn’t help wondering if I were somehow being blamed for his condition. Or did he fix the cause of having high blood pressure on having been married? Whatever it was, I had to admit a few more leaves were being shaken from the tree.
Sometime during these six months, the staff called Dan to a private meeting. He described the event by phone during my springtime visit at Noelle’s house. “Without any warning they called me into the conference room one day, and all eight of them were sitting on one side of the long table. They looked like a jury sitting in judgment.”
“That must have been intimidating!” I offered.
“It caught me by surprise, I’ll say that!”
“What did you do?”
“I sat down on the other side; it was the only chair left in the room.”
“Did anybody say anything to you, like, ‘Hi, Dan, how’s it goin’?”
“Nope. Nobody said a word. So, I asked, ‘Is this a special meeting?’”
“Then the director said, ‘We’ve discovered a serious flaw in your walk with the Lord.’”
“My goodness! What did you say?” I interjected.
“I didn’t say anything. You know me; I’m not going to get myself in trouble.”
“So, go on, what happened next?”
“The Director said, ‘You try to control things.’”
I sighed inwardly and thought, Thank God. The vigilantes have arrived!
Dan continued, “The director didn’t say anything, so I defended myself. I said, ‘I work very hard at being helpful round here. I give it my all. I don’t see your point. I’m a detail person, I see things that need to be done, and I do them. Just because you have someone walking around behind you guys cleaning up the messes you make doesn’t mean I’m trying to control things! I should think you’d be grateful for my help!
“The director said, ‘Dan, you listen in on conversations that do not pertain to you, and later you give advice based on what you heard. You have changed certain office procedures without asking my permission. Furthermore, you tell the staff what to do and how to do it. And, if things aren’t done your way, you pout!’”
Since he couldn’t see me, I rotated my fist in the air and inwardly shouted, “Give it to him, director!”
I asked with a bit too bright of a tone in my voice, “What did you say?”
“I said, ‘I can’t believe what I am hearing. I never raise my voice, I am kind to everyone, I only give suggestions, and no one has to do things my way. But I might point out that in the business world I was well paid to run things. Administration is my gifting, and I am simply sharing my gift. I think you have confused my quiet, easygoing ways with wanting control. I don’t want control; I want to contribute.”
“Did you really say it that forcefully?” I asked in amazement.
“Yup. That’s apparently what made the director stand up, lean across the table, loom over me, and say in one of those voices that better be heard, ‘Control does not have to be loud. Wanting things done one’s own way is control, whether it is loud or quiet, gracious or vicious. The Christian walk is not one of telling God what to do but is one of submitting your will to what God wants to do. We practice that walk by submitting to one another. I’ve heard from God, Dan, and He put me in charge here. You will either submit yourself to what I want without poking your nose into what is not your business, do what you’re told, or you can leave immediately. What’s your choice?”
“Whew! What did you do?” I asked in suspense.
“I sat there, realizing my character was laid open on that table. There was no hiding from them. It was a moment of truth for me. I saw that I had wrapped myself in control, all my life, and that control acted as insulation, keeping me from enjoying and appreciating all the people who had filled my life. Instead of loving them and being grateful for them, I had manipulated and used them. I realized how much I love the staff and how grateful I am to live on The Farm. So, I said, ‘I love you guys. I don’t want to leave. You’re right. I’ve been a controller all my life. Please help me. Help me be humble.’”
He paused so I asked, “What happened then?”
“We all cried and hugged each other, and they said they were glad I was staying.”
His turn around must have been impressive because after that third session Dan elected to remain at the facility as they asked him to be a member of the staff. There are only six on staff now, two couples and two single men. All the men are overcoming sexual addicts. They rarely leave the facility, and the two married men never go into town without their wives, not trusting themselves to pass the porno stands without stopping to peek.
Dan counsels by phone. They have a counseling package done by long distance in which the counselee studies the materials at home and follows this with a weekly phone counseling session. Dan has six men. One, he told me, is an international evangelist whose name I would recognize, but of course he won’t tell me, nor would I ask. And they are giving him one counselee living at The Farm. This is his starting point.
He called to tell me that one of his counselees by long distance attended a church we used to attend years ago. Dan didn’t share that information with him, but he thought it to be a small world. The reason for the phone call was to tell me that he utterly surprised himself by yelling at the counselee, “You must love your wife! You have no choice but to love your wife! The Bible commands husbands to love their wives, and you will be a stupid fool if you don’t love your wife!”
“What did the guy say to that?”
“Not much. I don’t think I got through to him. It was me I got through to. When I hung up the phone, I asked myself, ‘Why didn’t I love my wife if I find it so easy to give that advice now?’ I had to go outside and walk around awhile in order to calm down.”
“If you shouted at the guy, it doesn’t sound like it was so easy for you to give that advice.”
“Maybe I was shouting at myself,” he said. I wondered if this was the closest I would get to an apology for thirty-three years of not being loved. Then he changed the subject.
“On Sunday mornings for church and during our group meetings, I sit on the platform now. Can you imagine me sitting on the platform?”
I answered with a smile, “That’s where I have always seen you sitting in my mind’s eye.” He emailed that he preached one Sunday and had been well received. Actually, he criticized himself saying points one and two were good, but three didn’t have a good illustration, and therefore, his conclusion crumbled. He said he needed stories like mine to make his sermons good. I received the compliment, but I can read between Dan’s lines. He is an abject perfectionist, and the fact he admitted to have two good points meant it was a roaring success. My son confirmed that verdict because he told me Dan had then preached two other times after that. It would not surprise me if the men in the facility didn’t start calling Dan “Pastor.”
We had a long talk by phone recently. In the conversation he mentioned something about the wives always having to accompany their husbands when they leave the house. To me that is just so much bondage for the women and has irritated me since the first day I heard of it.
I asked, “If the director has been free from sexual addiction for fifteen years and still needs his wife to govern his behavior, does that mean he’s not really free? And since you are under his anointing, does that mean you’ll never get rid of the sin?”
Disappointed, I let that issue lie and pursued the subject of wives. “If the wives have to go everywhere with their husbands, doesn’t that make women even more enslaved to their husbands then when the men were indulging in sin?”
Dan said, “That’s not true. The nature of man seeks sin, and 99% of women are pure and good, and only they can elevate the man to a higher plane.”
I gritted my teeth. “I want to challenge you on that! Where do you find that in the Bible? My Bible says that God created us equal. Aren’t you putting the work of the Holy Spirit onto the wife?”
“No. That’s why God gave us wives.”
I didn’t press into this point as I was actively fighting the guilt making its way up my body, sucking me up like a swallowing snake. Besides, I didn’t want to ask any questions for which the answer would be that I should be there holding his hand and elevating him to a higher plane.
Just before this particularly irritating phone conversation, I had attended a seminar given by Andrew Wommack with Mike Feylauer. Andrew is a great one for preaching about Holiness stemming from your thought life. So, I asked him after one of his teachings what he thought about the studies that reported men having sexual thoughts every forty seconds. After registering disdain for such a judgment, Andrew told me I could quote him as saying, “It doesn’t have to be that way. We can take every thought captive.”
I told Dan what Andrew had to say, and Dan said, “If the Bible says that we can take every thought captive, then it is possible. But, personally, I’ve never met anyone who has achieved that level of holiness.”
“Andrew Wommack says he has.”
“Well, I haven’t.”
“But you can get there. Do you still entertain homosexual thoughts?”
“I don’t entertain them, they’re just there.”
“You can overcome them. You really can.”
“I’ll agree with you because the Bible says so, and I don’t want to disagree with the Bible. But I personally don’t know anyone who has full control of his thoughts.”
At that seminar I also interviewed Mike Feylauer. He told me that “men who commit adultery in their hearts are outside the standards of the Bible.”
I read his quote to Dan, and he said, “I know. But fortunately, God is a forgiving God.”
“Yes, He is, and you can overcome it. You can do what Mike did. Mike was a sexual offender, and he took the Word of God as if he were taking medicine. Through doing that Mike became an overcomer. Dan, I asked Mike about homosexuality, even though pornography had been his sin, and I asked if homosexuals were a different breed of sexual offender than others. And Mike said, ‘homosexuality is self-destructive.’”
Dan interrupted, “Homosexuality isn’t any more self-destructive than any other kind of sexual addiction. They are all self-destructive.”
“Okay, for the sake of the argument, let’s just lump them all together. In fact, I did that with Mike, too. I asked him to comment on repentance from sexual addiction and listen to what he had to say, ‘Repentance is not just a sorrow we feel, it is accepting responsibility for what we’ve done as an offense against Jesus and the world around us.’”
As I read that quote to Dan, he said, “Amen!” to repentance, and he said “Amen” to offending Jesus, but when I said “and the world around us,” Dan said, “What?” I didn’t press. He is not mine to help. If he does not know how he offended me, how can he have repented? You can’t repent for something you didn’t know you did. But surely, he knows!
Obviously, quoting experts was trying “to help,” so I changed the subject. “Tell me about how you are changing.”
He said, “The Lord changes me on the inside, and then I bring the changes to the outside. Actually, the showdown with the staff really affected me. I saw who I was and how I operated in life. You wouldn’t believe how little I try to control things now. I just relax, do my job, do whatever they ask me to do, and I’m learning to be submissive.”
“Can you describe an example to me?”
“Yeah. One of the things that really bugged me here is that they make the men change bedrooms. Just when somebody has made himself really comfortable, they tell him to move. I always thought it was a mean streak in the staff.
“Was it?” I asked.
“No, they want the men to give up their self-centeredness and wanting things their own way.”
“So, a controlling spirit, like you had, is pretty normal for a man with a sexual addiction?”
“Oh absolutely. It goes with the territory.”
“So, what did you do to humble yourself?”
“Simple. Instead of judging them and commiserating with the poor guy that had to move his stuff, I pitched in and helped the guy move. Then I saw they placed people with difficult personalities so the men would have to learn to get along with people they really didn’t like. They’ve done this to me since I’ve been here, and now I’m grateful for their help instead of complaining when they reassign me.”
I’m glad for Dan. He is making tremendous progress. But I’m also glad I don’t have to be there holding his hand and restraining his behavior. He is doing it for himself. He is doing it for God and with God. I’m glad I got the divorce because without it, Dan would still be hiding, denying, controlling, and not bringing himself to a useful place where he can pastor other men. I don’t even regret life turned out this way.
I was explaining all this to a pastor at a minister’s luncheon I attended. He happened to be sitting across from me, and the people sitting on either side of both he and I had turned away to other conversations. As is so often true, I found this complete stranger easy to talk to. He said, “It sounds like you are right on course.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
He said, “I’ve counseled people through many a divorce. It takes three to five years to decide to get the divorce in the first place.”
“That was certainly my case.” I said.
He continued. “Then it can take another two years to actually file. After that it can take another five years to get over it.”
“That’s where I am, in that last category.” I acknowledged grudgingly.
He said, “The reason it takes so long to get over it after all the time it took to arrive at the point of freedom is because the person will not let go. The biggest mistake you can make is to try to remain friends. Not to cut it off completely reinforces a sense of guilt, lays a foundation of trying to solve the ex-spouse’s problems, and keeps one wrapped in the past. The best is to make a clean break with the past and rebuild your life toward a future. Sounds like you’re doing that.”
Maybe I had painted too rosy of a picture. I didn’t think I was doing that well. What I saw about myself is that I was still trying to “help” with Dan’s problems. While the speaker at the luncheon gave a rousing talk, I mulled over my position and decided to let Dan have his program. I am not his wife; I do not have to be his warden. If those wives living at the facility like that relationship with their husbands, leave them alone; let them have it.
I thank God for bringing that pastor to sit across from me at the luncheon. I also thank God for bringing me to the place where I am. I couldn’t have written about all this without having had that life. I hope I am at a useful place and that this will make a difference in someone else’s life. Perhaps someone reading this can bring things to a head quicker and subsequently get on with life, rather than having to live it out, dragging it out until both parties are practically used up.
When I emailed Dan and asked him for permission to write our story, he immediately wrote back with capitals answering “YES!” He said if it could help anyone else to know our story, then he was all in favor of the project. Dan has come a long way from that day in Dundee when he said he didn’t want anyone to ever know of his orientation—ever.
About that time, I had a dream. I saw Dan standing on a dock. Behind him loomed an enormous ocean liner, one they could have used as a model for the movie Titanic. He waved to me, and I must have waved back, in fact I think I waved until the end of the dream. Then he turned, walked up the gangplank, the dockworkers released the massive ropes, pulled down the gangplank, and the ship sailed out sea. I watched until it became a speck on the horizon and disappeared. I woke up from that dream with a lump in my throat that lasted all day.
My mother feels sorry for Dan; she thinks he has lived a wasted life. He should have left me a long time ago and taken up habitation with Herb. Then he could have lived a fulfilled life, by my mother’s standards. And she is accurate in the sense that he had the right and the opportunity to do just that. But she’s also wrong. His life would not have been fulfilled. He would have only fulfilled the ecstasies and calamities of lust, ending in profound defeat having missed God. Now he is fulfilling the upward call to unite himself with the Lord, to overcome the strategies of the devil, and for that I am glad I gave him up. I’ll spend eternity with him in heaven.
In one of our emails I mentioned something that I would like to discuss, but it was too lengthy for long distance talking, even transmitted by email. So, I said I would postpone it until we were sitting at one of the café-bars in heaven, or maybe in the garden as I assume our mansions will be next door to each other. He emailed back that he was looking forward to our long talks.
Whether or not he will ever handle the homosexual issue is something I don’t know. Talking about the “problem” is forbidden in the community, and Dan doesn’t offer the information, either. He may never handle it till he leaves his body behind and goes to heaven. But I do know he is safe. He is living in community where he can serve and be appreciated until he finishes his life. I don’t expect him to leave.
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.