June 3, 1995. In Chapter 15 I told about some painful memories that Sylvia had, beginning immediately after we got married in 1953. Now after all these years we were able to begin talking about it. I decided to replace those memories with happy memories. But I did not realize how difficult that would be.
A few days ago I told Sylvia that I would like for her to be thinking about where she would like to go and what she would like to do if she had her heart's desire. I told her to please not allow any preconceptions about what she thinks I would like or dislike to influence her in any way. I want to take her on a special honeymoon trip next year. I want it to be her trip. If she enjoys it, I will enjoy it too, no matter what it is.
Yesterday morning while she was getting ready for work, I asked her if she had thought about it. She looked at me in a way that said, "I'm getting ready to go to work. I can't think about that now!"
Today during a time when we were both relaxing, I asked her if she had any ideas for our honeymoon trip. She seemed irritated and she asked, "Are we going tomorrow?"
I said, "No."
And that was that.
I thought, "Maybe some day when Sylvia is ready, she will bring the subject up and tell me what she would like to do."
During our prayer tonight I was struck by a surge of severe pain. It seemed to be an attack by demonic forces. I asked Sylvia to pray for me. She did and the pain immediately subsided and went away.
June 4, 1995. Sylvia and I decided to wash our windows and screens today.
I realized after the fact, how clever and destructive Satan and the powers of darkness are in using my weaknesses to cause a severe setback in Sylvia's and my relationship.
Sylvia was washing the windows on the inside and I was washing windows on the outside when I noticed that one of the windows downstairs was open. It was the one which had a broken crank. Sylvia had opened that window yesterday and I had difficulty getting it closed. I told her to leave that window closed until I could order and install a new crank. When I saw it open, Satan must have said, "Look! Out of all the windows she has opened the only one that is broken. And you just told her yesterday not to do that!"
I went inside and approached Sylvia and the open window. I asked, "What are you doing?!" She had already realized her mistake and was trying desperately to close the window, but nothing was happening. The crank had completely fallen apart inside the window frame.
I began to express anger, berate, and belittle her. I realized too late what I was doing. It was much like how I remember my father treating me when I made a mistake while I was growing up. I was so ashamed that I had treated Sylvia this way! And Sylvia was wounded!
Months of effort to rebuild her trust was wiped out in moments.
I apologized and she said she forgave me, but I could see that she was still hurting. I asked God to forgive me and to heal Sylvia's heart. And I asked God to make me more alert, and give me the wisdom to act according to His will.
June 11, 1995. This afternoon Sylvia said to me, "I don't want to think about a 'honeymoon' trip while I am having trouble finding money for groceries. I don't think it is realistic to plan such a trip and I don't even want to think about it."
Sylvia had difficulty speaking without crying. The expression on her face and the pain I saw reflected in her eyes let me know that healing her wounds that I had caused would not be easy.
I said, "Honey, Jesus wants me to plan this trip for you. He wants to use this to heal some painful memories that you have suppressed for years. He wants us to go on this trip. He will provide the money!"
Finally she said, "I would like to go to the beach. I would not necessarily want to go into the water, but I would like being near it -- some place not crowded."
When she said that, Charleston, South Carolina came strongly to mind and I wondered if there were any beaches there. I had not thought about Charleston before and had never been there, so I don't know why I thought of it so strongly and so quickly at this time unless that thought came from the Holy Spirit. My guess about that would be confirmed during the weeks to come.
I decided to contact the Charleston Chamber of Commerce soon for brochures and information.
In Enemy Territory
June 19, 1995. The Lord talked to me last night after I went to bed and again this morning a little after 4 a.m. He reminded me that Sylvia and I still have the wrong numbers. She has mine and I have hers. Sylvia is still exercising control that does not belong to her. For example, last night our daughter Suzanne brought us some ice cream to go with the strawberry shortcake that she made for me for Father's Day. Suzanne wanted me to keep the leftovers to eat at another time. Sylvia insisted that she take them home with her, that we were on a different diet and we shouldn't have it in our house. It was my gift from Suzanne and Suzanne wanted me to tell Sylvia to leave it in our freezer. I started to say something, but Sylvia gave me a look that showed disapproval and I said nothing.
Earlier I had heard Sylvia tell Suzanne that she had told my sister that we would go in with her on buying a certain gift for my mother. This decision of course was okay with me, but we had not discussed it. Jesus wants us to have communication in love. And He wants me to be in submission to Him and He wants Sylvia in submission to me (see chapter 11).
And in just a few days some strangers (relatives of our friends) will be spending the night with us as a result of an offer Sylvia made without consulting me.
It is difficult to break a lifetime of habits and lifestyle. Sylvia was so accustomed to making decisions and acting on her own for the family and I was so used to her doing it and just going along. But we both must change and take on the roles of husband and wife that God ordained. This would not be easy, because we had opened the door of our lives to evil spirits and at this point I did not fully understand the authority I had lost to the enemy, how to get it back, or how to use it when I do.
I talked with Sylvia about this after she woke up.
Before she left for work, I became more aware of Sylvia's wounded spirit as she recalled something that she had told me that I had repeated to someone else. She felt betrayed and embarrassed. That was thoughtless of me. I realized that I have a weakness of not being careful of what I say. I was ashamed. And I apologized. But I could tell that she still hurt over the incident. Now I hurt too. I was humbled. I determined more than ever to control my tongue, and to earn Sylvia's trust and respect.
I called the Chamber of Commerce in Charleston, South Carolina and asked for a travel guide and some brochures. A young lady named Wendy was very helpful. She said they have several islands with beaches and that the flowers would be beautiful in late March and early April. When I said that after 42 years of marriage I thought it was time I took my wife on a real honeymoon, she added that springtime is very romantic in Charleston.
I decided to use my experience in advertising design to do a series of things for Sylvia leading up to our "honeymoon" trip that will add excitement to the idea, whet her appetite, and help her look forward to it. I believe God has something very special in mind for her (and for me), and this will be a wonderful experience, a time of healing, and a romantic highlight in our new relationship.
June 20, 1995. This morning I made the first in a series of three "Honeymoon Certificates" to be given to Sylvia over a period of time between now and our honeymoon trip next year.
I gave her the first one today at noon. It was a "Honeymoon Gourmet Certificate" where I made a commitment for all meals, her choice, all she cared to eat during our upcoming honeymoon. It said that this includes breakfasts without limit, and advanced estimates would not be required (a reference to painful memories Sylvia has of the times during our first weeks of marriage when I required that she tell me how much money she would need for breakfasts which she would have to eat alone since I did not eat breakfast back then). This, it was stated, is provided by those who love her the most -- Bob and Jesus. As part of the design, I included a large illustration of a table covered with all kinds of delicious food. Below is a photo of that certificate.
Later I made two other certificates for Sylvia. The next one (shown below) was a romantic scene of a man and woman (think me and Sylvia) alone on a beautiful beach with water and moonlight. The headline said, "Sand, Sea, and Shells Honeymoon Certificate for Sylvia West" and the text below said, "All the seashore, sunshine, and surf you care to experience -- Enjoy! To be redeemed on your upcoming honeymoon trip. Provided by those who love you the most -- Bob and Jesus"
The third certificate (shown below) had a romantic scene of a female flower and a male flower holding "hands" with the following headline, "'A New Beginning' Honeymoon Certificate for Sylvia West" and the text below says, "A time for healing the hurts of the past. A time to make precious memories for the future. A time to rejoice and be glad for these are the days that the Lord has made for you. A time of refreshing. A new beginning! To be redeemed on your upcoming honeymoon trip. Provided by those who love you the most -- Bob and Jesus"
The Father's Timetable
In chapter 11 I confessed that in August 1994 I had asked God to teach me to be the man He wants me to be and teach me how to provide leadership in my marriage. He told me to massage Sylvia's feet. Reluctantly, she let me do it. She was afraid I would hurt her, but she began to relax as I gently massaged her feet. And as I was down on my knees at her feet doing that, God said to me, "You are learning to love Sylvia like your own body. Sylvia is learning to trust you and submit her will to yours."
June 28, 1995. Now Sylvia looked forward to a foot massage from me at the end of each day, but there was still a problem. Three days ago God let me know that I have not given Him complete control to direct my life. This morning I learned what He meant.
God has been encouraging me for a long time to get up earlier to begin what He has planned for my day. I was successful for a few mornings. I got up, took my stretching exercises, and was outside cutting firewood, mowing the lawn, and other maintenance of our property before 7 a.m. After an hour or two, I came inside, cleaned up, read the scriptures and prayed, ate breakfast, and was in my studio writing and doing art work for my publications by 9:30 or 10. And I felt good with plenty of energy all day.
But lately I have been waiting until Sylvia was ready to go to bed so I could massage her feet, which was at least midnight or after. This made me so tired, I have been sleeping later and getting started much later in my studio without time to work outside while it is cool. In addition, I have felt very tired all day and accomplished much less.
This morning I woke up about 4:30 and the Lord let me know that I am still following Sylvia instead of following Him. He wants me to get up early which means going to bed early, but I have been letting Sylvia's late night lifestyle keep me from doing this. In effect He said that Sylvia is free to do as she wishes, but if she wants me to massage her feet then she must make herself available to me before I go to bed. And I will be going to bed earlier whether she does or not.
After the alarm went off and Sylvia woke up, I told her about this.
Protecting Sylvia From The Dogs
July 23, 1995. A few days ago while we were walking up our mountain road a couple of dogs came out of a field barking at us. One was very aggressive and came onto the road a few feet from us, showed his teeth and growled at us. I felt a responsibility to protect Sylvia. I placed myself between Sylvia and the dogs and kept alert. The hostile dog followed us a short distance, still barking and growling. When we were beyond the point of danger, a rock in the road caught my attention. Suddenly I had a strong impulse to pick up the rock and sling it over my shoulder in the general direction of the dog. I didn't aim or throw it directly at the dog. I had not given what I was doing a lot of thought. I guess I just intended to frighten the dog so that he would leave us alone.
I turned and watched the rock as it hit the road beside the dog, but a couple of feet away. Instead of bouncing and continuing in the direction I had thrown it, it bounced at a 90-degree angle toward the dog. The dog had looked away and didn't see the rock coming. When it hit him on his side, it probably stung a little, but I expect it startled the dog more than it hurt him. I was so amazed at what I saw that I laughed. It was as if an unseen force had changed the direction of the rock so that it would get the dog's attention.
Sylvia was very upset with me for throwing the rock in the first place, and my laughter made her furious. She said, "That's not funny!!! That dog has just as much right being on the road and making noise as you!"
After that she gave me the silent treatment.
This morning I thought about this incident and realized that it was an illustration of our marriage. God has given me as the husband that protective role for my family. Sylvia is resisting my efforts to do that. And she is having difficulty giving up control.
I told Sylvia that I believe the Holy Spirit was involved in the incident with the dog and then used the memory of it this morning to give me more insight into our marriage and what we need to work on. I told her that He gave me the impulse to throw the rock and then He made it hit the dog.
This opened up an emotional discussion, and we talked for a couple of hours. Communication and healing took place. Sylvia said she thought I wanted to hurt the dogs and that it was a game with me. I explained that it wasn't.
I told her that I felt she still had some painful memories that were being suppressed. She responded that for the first time she did not feel defensive when I said that. She said that when we got married, she thought she was being rescued from her father, but then she felt abandoned when I was sent by the Air Force to Korea for a year.
I said, "You may have felt abandoned when I immediately took you to Tennessee to spend our last days together with my family. My mother made me feel guilty, so I felt an obligation to do that."
Sylvia agreed. And then she said, "I felt crushed, and a nobody, and that set the stage for the rest of our marriage. I didn't trust you after that."
Healing our relationship would not happen fast. And it would not be easy. But it had begun, and I was convinced that it would happen in time.
Communication in love was still the key.
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