One is a Whole Number
Marilyn had wanted to be a missionary. Instead, she married Les, a man who drank too much, and womanized and who destroyed all her self-esteem. Much of that marriage she felt as if she lived in a deep, dark vat, with just a pin-hole of light at the top, and she could never scale the walls to reach that light.
There were a number of deaths in her extended family, so in 1971 she ended up in a hospital with a nervous break-down. The doctors gave her 13 shock treatments then sent her home, saying there was nothing more they could do for her.
However, she had a pastor who cared, and wasn't ready to give up on her. It was the time of the great Saskatoon revival with the Sutera twins preaching first in one small Baptist church, then moving to larger and larger facilities. Marilyn's pastor called and invited her to come to one of the meetings. He wasn't going to leave until she was prayed for. He wanted her to be healed.
She went, but found it impossible to get up to go sit in the chair where people gathered around a person to pray for them. For hours she struggled with this. Finally at 4 a.m. in the morning, something in the spiritual realm shifted, and she was able to do it. Probably because this pastor stayed and prayed so hard for her.
A few nights later, her husband came too. He was prayed for in the after-glow meeting, and it looked like all their problems were over. He lasted five months. Then he was back to drinking and his promiscuity.
Les was very bright, a quick thinker, so he could be extremely cruel to her, until someone pulled up in the driveway. Then he was peaches and cream, a friendly gentleman. As soon as they were driving away, he was back to his usual ways.
Marilyn grew up in a large, extended Christian family in southern Saskatchewan, near the town of Herbert. Her Mennonite ancestors from both her parents' families had come from Europe and pioneered the raw prairie. But that didn't make them perfect. At age five, Marilyn was sexually abused by one of the extended family. Although she tried to forget and blocked it out for a number of years, she always felt like dirt and any criticism made her feel worse.
Other children made fun of Marilyn, and as she gained more weight she was more down on herself. Still, Marilyn managed to put it away behind her for many years, and did not fully recall the bad experience until decades later. She tried her best to live a normal life.
At 13, when living in Herbert, Marilyn listened with a friend to a gospel program on the radio, and received Christ as her personal Saviour. At 16 she was baptized in Beaver Creek, (but it wasn't until some years later, living at Outlook, when the pastor's wife invited her to a ladies' conference, where she became sure that Christ had accepted her too).
Marilyn met Les in Herbert, they married in Saskatoon, and they moved to the Swift Current area. In 1961 they had a baby son, named Myron. Marilyn was thrilled. Things were going right for her at last. Two years later she gave birth to a stillborn son. She and Les decided to foster a baby girl who died a month later. In 1966 Marilyn gave birth again, to a little girl, but she only lived for eight hours. Six weeks later Marilyn's Dad died.
This was more than Marilyn could cope with. She was 24 and her world seemed to cave in on her. Was God punishing her for not becoming a missionary, she wondered. Her doctor put her on anti-depressants. They didn't help much. The following year they were able to adopt a baby girl, but about the time Candace arrived their marriage started to fall apart.
Les too, had family issues, with untold anger bottled up inside of himself, and took it out on her by drinking and sleeping around with other women.
Again she felt like it was all somehow her fault and she must keep the marriage together for the sake of the children. However, Les' total disrespect for Marilyn took away the last shred of self-esteem she could muster. She spent many days in tears. Later she learned that her husband had abused their son. Staying together had not helped at all.
Besides the nervous breakdown with the shock treatments, Marilyn struggled to know what to do about the marriage, and didn't have the strength to do what she must.
Marilyn tried to pull away and separated from Les three times. One time she wrote him a letter about his alcoholism and running around. In the early 1970s they were separated for the first time for seven weeks.
After the Revival Fellowship meetings and the changes that followed, things began to go downhill again.
She and the children had gone with a relative to B.C. That relative needed someone to drive her car. While there they had a very good time, and her son begged her to have their things sent out, and to settle down there, while at the same time her daughter was begging to go back to Daddy. It tore her heart to pieces.
She tried another separation, but when Les begged her to return, she gave in again. Les told her that he knew he had it good with her, but soon everyone knew that he was openly spending time with other women. It caused Marilyn untold anguish, but her lack of self-esteem made it too hard to do anything about it. She kept on hoping things would work out.
After Myron finished high school, and left for university, and Candace was entering high school, the three of them, Les, Marilyn and Candace moved to Laird. Their daughter still admired her daddy, and after his visits to see their 15-year-old teenager, Marilyn often found things missing. She kept hoping that things would clear up and they would be one happy family, but Les often threatened her when he saw her, and finally she realized that the end had to come.
Her one solace over those rocky years was a middle-aged couple near Rosthern, whom she could visit and who would encourage and pray with her. They valued her. The peace in their home was like a soothing balm, though love was a language she could not understand any more. She did not understand what people meant when they said they loved her, or that God loved her. But this couple showed by small kindnesses, such as starting her car for her in the winter, and making sure she had her basic needs met, that someone cared. She would be so touched at these smallest gestures of kindness that she wept all the way home.
One Christian friend suggested she read Matthew 6:24-34 every day for a month. At first Marilyn did that with clenched teeth, but eventually it did its work in her. She learned to know it to be true deep in her bones.
At last Marilyn took steps for the divorce, and a short time later took Candace to Saskatoon. It was a very rough time. She had so many things to deal with, one of the main ones being that she had to find a job to support them. She was able to find one as a janitor with a company that had a contract to do the cleaning at the Regional Psychiatric Centre. This turned out to be a very good job for her until she injured her back and had to go on Disability, and then was retrained for office work.
Years later when she took an anger management class, the instructor asked if she had ever been abused. Marilyn had guessed her excess weight was tied to that somehow.
Emotional healing was a long, slow process for Marilyn. Someone paid for her to have a certain number of free counseling sessions. She worked hard with the counselor, hoping to have all her problems resolved before those sessions were over.
As Marilyn relived the childhood abuse, she could see and smell memories from that time of abuse. Sometimes she felt like there was a dark spot in her gut with a baby curled up in a fetal position.
Another strong help was a group of praying friends in the church she attended at that time. They often gathered around her, and prayed fervently for her. She leaned heavily on them. When she hurt too much to pray, they did the praying for her.
It took a long time to be able to forgive Les. Not to forget, but to forgive. Marilyn learned there was a distinct difference. Things began to improve and look up for her. Someone told her one was a whole number. That comforted her the more she thought about it.
Years later, after Les joined an Alcoholics Anonymous group, admitting he needed help, he came to make amends to Marilyn. When she tried to describe how she had felt, he cut her off, reminding her that she had forgiven him. (Les is currently in a nursing home dealing with dementia).
Marilyn also found it helpful to start reaching out to others. She joined Singles for Christ because she kept hoping for the love and friendship of a man who would understand. Eventually, Marilyn found herself continuing there for the sake of helping others. After she learned she was going to be a grandmother, she volunteered at Birthright, an organization that deals with women in a crisis pregnancy, who need direction and encouragement. She praises God now whenever she looks at the photos of her two lovely grandchildren.
Today Marilyn feels great about herself. She has a regular pension now, and delights in giving to others. She lives in a seniors apartment complex, where she is able to enjoy her own company or go out to common areas to visit with others in the building.
There is, of course, much more to her story. Marilyn's advice to those who battle depression is: "Don't shut people out. Force yourself to talk to others and keep in touch with your friends. Otherwise, you might lose your social skills, but more than anything you definitely need people to carry you to Jesus, who ultimately will help you overcome depression."
While you don't have to be married to feel like a whole and healthy person, you do need others. The Lord Jesus is the perfect Friend and Healer and close Confidant, and He can be there even when others cannot or will not. Cry out to Jesus. Seek Him out in the Bible, and let Him speak peace, wisdom and grace to your troubled mind and heart. Marilyn assures you it is possible!
Confess all your sins and short-comings to Jesus, and receive as a gift the forgiveness and cleansing of your mind and heart and past. It may not be erased but the pain will be transformed into peace and joy.
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