Soul Mates…even after Divorce?

Hello World,

It’s Valentine’s Day Eve, and since I don’t post typically post on Mondays (I post on Sunday and Wednesday), I have dedicated today’s blog post to one of my favorite topics (which you know if I you have read more than a month or so of my blog posts) – the pursuit of romantic love…

I first heard about this love story that I will feature in today’s post about a month or so ago at the annual Racial Reconciliation Service we have at our church commemorating the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. Each year, my father and a worship service planning team invite a white minister to come to our church as a way of bridging white Christian churches to black Christian churches. Even if we work together all week, I still believe that Sunday mornings at churches all over America are still overwhelmingly segregated…

“Unfortunately, most of the major denominations still practice segregation in local churches, hospitals, schools, and other church institutions.  It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning, the same hour when many are standing to sing:  “In Christ There Is No East Nor West.'”  ~Martin Luther King, Jr., Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, 1958

And so this year, we had another white person, but instead of the usual white male minister with a booming voice and large stature, a tiny white lady with a sweet voice showed up. Betty T. Smith, a retired legal secretary, spoke with passion about her lay missionary trips that she had taken over the years to Peru, Mexico, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Russia, Siberia, Israel, Estonia, China, Uganda, Wales and New York City. Smith penned a book about her experiences “Around the World in Seventy Years: Finding Healing and Fulfillment in the Pursuit of God,” which was published in 2008.  I was enthralled as she told stories of smuggling Bibles and God’s providential care as she risked her life to spread the gospel.

In passing, she mentioned that God taught her to forgive as she had to forgive her husband when he left her after 28 years of marriage all the while hoping that he would return to her. Since I am a journalist, I knew I had to get to the bottom of the story…So after she spoke, I walked up to this woman that I had never met before and asked her if her ex-husband ever returned to her…I figured if she did not want to share, she shouldn’t have said anything in the first place…(Yep, I’m nosy, and I get paid to be that way…) Instead of shrinking from my question which I anticipated, she told me that she could not tell me but the answer was in her book, “Nothing Wasted: When Evil Befalls You, Know That God Keeps You Standing.”

I thought I had her cornered, but as it turns out, she had me cornered. I had to get her book and find out the answer the hopeless romantic that I am…I read the entire book that day since I could not put it down until I got to the end! It starts off like the story of many Georgia girls of that time I imagine…Betty met Bob when she was still a student at the now defunct Hapeville High School, and he was attending the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs). She was a member of Hapeville Presbyterian Church, and he was a member of Hapeville Methodist Church. They spent many evenings at the infamous Fox Theatre downtown and enjoyed the greasy goodness of The Varsity.  “In those days, no one gave cholesterol a second thought.”  They married three years later on June 29, 1952.

They settled into a normal life attending Forest Park United Methodist Church where her husband was the treasurer. After Bob joined the Army, their lives changed, and they moved to several locations before finally settling again in Georgia – this time in College Park. By this time, Bob and Betty had three children Steve, Scott & Stacey. All was normal until 1978. After returning from a business trip, Bob confessed to Betty that he was having an affair with a mutual friend and that it had been going on for 10 years! And then he left…and this is where the story gets interesting…Now, with my temper and flair for the dramatic, I think I would have flung myself on the floor and cried for a while before hatching a plot to take him out…But that is not what Betty did…Betty prayed and asked God to forgive her husband through her!

“Forgiveness is not a one-step operation, it is a process, and I began by prostrating myself on my bedroom floor, crying out to the Lord to forgive Bob through me and to remove any bitterness. I felt His cleansing touch as I lay on that floor with my face in the carpet.”

During her time with the Lord, Betty also discerned God telling that her relationship and marriage with Bob would be restored. Wow, that’s a lot of faith….

In the months and years that allowed, God confirmed His word to her through many signs and wonders which are too many to detail here, but I will mention a few. Just after Bob left Betty, Betty read this book “Hinds Feet on High Places,” in which one of the characters in the book is afraid as she follows the Shepherd (Jesus) to high places. On her path, she discovers a yellow flower, and the name of the flower is “Acceptance-with-Joy.” From reading that book, she felt that God was challenging her to accept her circumstances and find a new life even as she expected her husband’s return…

But as any dyed-in-the-wool Christian knows, even when we know that we have heard God’s confirmation of victory in a difficult situation, we still have to endure until our change comes. And it is hard to believe when faith is the substance of things hoped for and not seen – yet at least…Her faith in God’s promise to her was especially challenged when Bob filed for divorce about two years later…Their divorce was final on Feb. 5, 1980, and he married the other woman on Valentine’s Day of that same year…I cannot imagine her heartbreak…She said that to shield her pain from her children, she often took “hour-showers” so that she could cry without them knowing…

Although Bob was no longer her husband, she claimed God as her husband according to various promises in Isaiah 54.

5 For your Maker is your husband— the LORD Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.  6 The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.

But Betty’s life did not end. She took her family on vacations. She hosted an exchange student from Sweden. She watched her children get married. She went on mission trips all over the world…

Twelve years after Bob married the other woman, they too divorced. Now you would think that Betty and Bob reunited then, but that is not case. And if not, you would think that Betty would have given up her hope of reconciliation at that point, but she did not. In 2001, she professed her love to him after a graduation ceremony in which Betty received a bachelor’s degree. That’s right, Betty received a bachelor’s degree when she was 67 years old and received a master’s degree two years later…All the while, she held on to her love for Bob, only going on very few dates in the many years after she and her husband divorced…It’s hard to believe that she continued to be faithful to a husband that was flagrantly unfaithful to her, but as they, God is able…

Aside from praying for her husband’s return, Betty also prayed for his salvation. After her marriage was over, she discovered that Bob’s faith in Jesus Christ was cursory and that he had only gone to church to please her. Years later, after their divorce, they started dating again, and he even invited her on a trip to Acapulco. But Betty refused to go…

“There was no mention of restoring our marriage, or any talk of forgiveness or commitment. It appeared to be an invitation to shack up, and it was offensive to me. I sadly declined his offer, answering that since he did not have Jesus in his heart, I could not go with him.”

And yet she still held on…You have to read the book to discover all of the wonderful ways that God reassured her of His promise to her…

In 2002, after years of praying, fasting and interceding for him, Bob declared that he did believe that Jesus Christ was his Lord and Savior, and Betty expected “Bob to knock on my door any minute, but he didn’t.” At this point, I wanted to yell, “Wake up Betty! This guy ain’t coming back. And if he does, why do you want him anyway?” But this is not my story to tell so I had to read on…

In 2008, Bob got sick…The family decided to place him in assisted living home, and Betty was there to help Bob get adjusted…On April 12, he revealed to her that he had never stopped loving her and asked for her forgiveness, and Betty confessed her love as well. But secretly within, she grappled with other emotions…

“I had waited thirty years to hear those words, but they came from a broken man, and I never wanted that. I wanted my strong, virile Bob to knock on my door, confess his undying love, sweep me off my feet, and then we would have many more years of wedded bliss. But we were running out of time.”

Bob died days later…After the funeral, Betty went to the cemetery to take fresh flowers to his grave. Mysteriously, one faded yellow rose lay on his grave.

“I took it home with me, for I recognized its name: Acceptance with Joy. My Lord retrieved for me one yellow rose as confirmation that He does not waste anything. He kept every promise and gave me a happy ending.”

Betty dedicated her book to Robert Lee Smith, “her soul mate.”

I must confess I don’t know if I would have held on to my love for someone who clearly rejected me over and over again as is detailed in the book, but I am inspired that the Lord led her on her path every step of the way. And He made sure to take care of her, making sure that not one of her experiences was a waste…Although romantic love was the centerpiece of this story, it is also story of God’s unfailing love…Happy Valentine’s Day to Roberts everywhere and to God, most importantly!

For more information about this book, go to BettyTerrySmith.com.

Any thoughts?

I know this song is thick on the melodrama, but I still love it, and it is appropriate for this post…

“My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion…




Advertisements

~ by jackieholness on February 13, 2011.

3 Responses to “Soul Mates…even after Divorce?”

  1. Let me start by saying that very rarely do I read long posts ~ sorry :-), it’s just hard for me to focus. BUT I read today’s post with anticipation ~ probably because we are just 5 days from our own wedding AND because you did such an amazing job of keeping me on the edge of my seat that I had to read the story.

    Like you, I am not sure if I could hold out but I must say that this is only the 2nd story of this type I have heard (one I know first hand as it occurred in my family). Love of and commitment to Christ is an amazing thing. As I grow more, I think there are very few women as virtuous as Betty and the one other woman I know who encountered a similar situation. While I can’t say that I honestly pray to become either of this women, I do use this as a model of commitment. sacrifice and selflessness. Thanks for sharing and Happy V-Day!!!!

  2. I wondered if anyone reads my long posts…truth be told, I don’t like to read others’ long posts either, but I felt this story was the worth of length of the post…Yes, Betty’s story is one that must be told because it is so rare…AND Happy Wedding Day (in advance) to you as you embark upon the last few days of being single…May God Bless You, Your Hubby-To-Be and Your Union:)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: