David - Divorce and Remarriage

As I write this, I realize that the experiences and revelations I’ve had on this issue, although mine personally, were brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit. You and I know that the Holy Spirit will never reveal one thing to one person and something different to another. One of the objectives of the work of the Holy Spirit, we could agree, is unity in our fellowship. Therefore, if my experience can help another understand and be willing for God’s will, this will be a worthwhile endeavor.

My experience began in 1971 when my wife Claudia told me she was having a love affair with a man named Larry V. He was in my squadron in the Air Force at Cannon AFB in Clovis, New Mexico. Claudia wanted a divorce so she could remarry Larry right away.

The workers in our field that year were Kay Stout and Gertrude DenHerder. I asked Claudia to reconsider and asked her to take a trip with my sons, Galen and Jason, to visit her mother in California for the summer and think about what she wanted. That summer, I went to Happy, Texas convention by myself and Kay asked why I had come alone. Claudia had been professing up until this time. I told Kay and she in turn told the overseer, Gilbert Richter, who recommended in this case, if Claudia would not consider reconciliation, to get a divorce from her.

During the summer of 1971, new workers came to our field, Joe and Mark Crane. Because I was barely holding on mentally and emotionally, while still in the Air Force, the workers spent a great deal of time with me to try to encourage me. However, Joe made it very clear that if I were to divorce Claudia, there would be no way I could remarry and be right in the sight of God. He showed me the scriptures in Matthew 5 and Mark 10:11-12. I was stunned. I was shocked.

At the age of 25, knowing I had my whole life ahead of me, and not being the one who wanted the divorce, I could not understand how God, being Just and Fair, could ask such a thing of me. In my heart, I doubted I could remain single for the rest of my life. I am, by nature a people person and never could handle solitude well. To live a celibate life, not by choice, looked impossible at the time.

About this same time, Larry drove to get Claudia and the boys in California without my knowledge and Claudia pushed for a divorce as soon as possible. We were divorced on October 1, 1971 and Claudia married Larry October 15, two weeks later.

While in the Air Force, I was also attending Eastern New Mexico University, working on getting a teaching degree. In August 1972, I was discharged from the Air Force and went to the university full time. Meanwhile, Larry got orders for Germany so in the winter of 1972, Claudia, Larry, and my 2 sons moved to Germany for 4 years. It was at this time I went into a severe depression and thought about taking my own life. Only God prevented this, as I look back now.

I did not stop going to meetings, although, my service was less than whole-hearted. About the time I completed my teaching degree, in the spring of 1973, a very fortunate thing happened to me. Larry Blair, my contact who brought me to the Truth while in air traffic control tech school in Mississippi in 1968, came to visit me in New Mexico and invited me to come to California with him and work with his dad, brother, and himself in their construction business in Hayward, California.

Still suffering from extreme depression, I did go to California in late March 1973, just after receiving my teaching credential. I lived with Larry’s parents, John and Gladys Blair, and looking back, I see so clearly the hand of God in this.  Living with the Blairs was like being in a “spiritual hospital,” because they nurtured me and cared for me like I was their own son. It is doubtful I would have ever continued in the Truth without their love and support. They encouraged me to be true and were there to talk to when I had down and blue periods, which happened way too often. I can’t say enough about how important love and support is to someone who losses a mate by divorce…and an added burden was the loss of my sons for 4 years as well.

However, in 1975, my mom had a serious heart-attack and I came back to Denver to be with her. While staying with my mom, an old high school sweetheart, Jeannie, dropped by to see my mom in the hospital and right away I felt something for her. This was to be my first serious test about my convictions concerning divorce and remarriage. Jeannie felt the same way about me and we talked about marriage.

Here was to be my first strong experience concerning the will, hand, and power of God. In October 1975, Jeannie and I made plans to get married and I felt I owed it, out of respect, to go to Mississippi and tell the 2 sister workers I professed through, Maurine Baker and Mary Lucy Mask, that I was getting married and would likely no longer be going to meetings.

During the months that Jeannie and I planned our marriage, although I had still continued to go to meetings, my heart wasn’t in my service anymore. As I flew to Mississippi to attend the Jackson convention that year, 1975, I wondered if God even cared about me anymore or even thought about me. I remember thinking, “I wonder if God even thinks about me anymore?”

The first hymn chosen at that convention was “Thou Thinkest Lord of Me.” The presence, and the power and love of God was stunningly REAL! I wept and wept and knew without a doubt, I would be transgressing the Will of God by getting remarried.  God spoke to me very loudly and personally at that convention and I changed my mind about getting married.  I never told Maurine or Mary Lucy about Jeannie or my plans to remarry.  It was settled…for a season. I told Jeannie we would not be getting married.

Jeannie kept hounding me to marry for about a year but my “no” held firm. I had a deeper relationship with God than ever before and prayed more earnestly and deeply to stay true than any time previously. My prayer life and spiritual life deepened and for the first time since I professed in 1968, I really felt I had a vital, daily, living relationship with God. And of great help was the love and support of the whole Blair family.

It was also at this time that I had a revelation about Matthew 5:32, “…saving for the cause of fornication…” In Jewish law, when a couple were engaged to marry, if one of the parties was unfaithful BEFORE marriage, they could, PUT AWAY the one who was untrue. It became clear that this did not apply to married couples as the word would have been ADULTERY…not FORNICATION.

Fornication is sex between TWO unmarried people. If one OR both were married, it would be adultery. This was something God made real to me because I wanted to know God’s will on this matter. The scripture is not a matter of opinion but truth. To me it was, and still is clear.  In Mark 10:11-12, the condition of fornication isn’t even mentioned. God hates divorce. Although I had made a man-made vow, until death do us part, I made a binding vow to God to be true also, which is far more binding than a marriage vow, if taken outside the Will of God.

As I continued to work with the Blairs in their construction business, I did struggle with the flesh and although there was a constant war within me, I knew there would be no happiness outside the Will of God…and I knew if I remarried, it would be outside the Will of God.

As the years rolled by, there were temptations. However, the miraculous Hand of God kept me and as our old hymn #5 said, there was a love that would not let me go.

In 1978, my dear friend, Gary Bassett, came from New Mexico to live with me in Hayward. His companionship and fellowship was heart-warming. We had daily Bible studies together and had many friends and workers in our apartment in Hayward and had golden days together. Gary filled emptiness in my life that Claudia had left and I never seriously thought about remarriage during the 6 years that we lived together.

In 1984, I moved to Mountain View to be closer to my job at House of Printing. Gary moved back to New Mexico and I had a cast of different professing roommates in the San Jose field: Jim Robinson, Roy Farkas, and Rocky Geiser.

In 1989, my youngest son Galen, who was then 19, moved from Ohio to live with me in San Jose. A year later, he professed and it was like a dream come true. I had prayed so earnestly for both my sons and then in 1990, my oldest son, Jason came to live with us and he professed. I felt so blessed. Then a year later, Gary Bassett came to live with the boys and I and I had my sons and my dear friend all together with me. It seemed almost too good to be real…and it was.

In 1992, Gary, Jason, and Galen all got married and left our 4-bedroom home in San Jose. I instantly started suffering from severe, “empty nest syndrome,” and felt a profound loneliness.

For many years, I had a friendship with Betty Stanton from San Antonio, Texas. We would see each other occasionally and we kept in touch by letter and phone calls. Betty’s brother, Bob, had professed in the same meeting in Mississippi that Claudia and I did and I had met Betty at a convention in Mississippi in 1971, just weeks after Claudia and I divorced.

Betty came from a divided home. Her mother was staunch Lutheran and her dad was as hearty and zealous in Truth as anyone I’ve ever known. Betty had felt called to the work and offered while she was still in high school. However, as a child, she had polio and was crippled in one leg, much the same as Lily K. Hubert Childrers, the overseer in Texas at the time, didn’t think Betty would have the strength for the rigors of the work, so told her it would be best to pursue another calling. It devastated Betty because she felt truly called. A few years later, Hubert Childrers changed his mind and told Betty they had a place for her. However, Betty did not feel able to go at this time. Betty has always had the heart of a worker. She is one of the most Godly women I’ve ever met and has a very high standard. Her only fault, as I look back now, was falling in love with me and being willing to marry me. I’ve always felt that I married the wrong woman at the right time and the right woman at the wrong time.

In 1995, my mom suffered from another heart-attack and I flew back to Denver to be with her. It was obvious that she was going to need long-term care and I wouldn’t be able to give it. Betty was out of work at that time and I asked her if she would be interested in coming to Denver to help take care of my mom. She said she would be willing and I would be there with her for a few weeks before I had to fly back to California to return to my job at House of Printing. I paid her for helping take care of my mom.

During those days that Betty and I worked together taking care of mom, it was obvious to both of us that we had fallen in love. I asked Betty to marry me, not really thinking ahead to the future. In a moment of weakness, and on impulse, we got married in March of 1995. The day we married, heaven was shut to me. I lost my peace. I not only knew I had done something very wrong, worse, I didn’t seem to care.

Looking back now, I can see that I was acting on emotion rather than reason. It was a choice that I would regret deeply for years. I became more and more miserable and unhappy, although Betty was a perfect wife. We lived in Ceres, California and at that time, Rob Newman and Tom Fredgren were in our field. No one had to ask us not to take part in meeting…I knew I was wrong and didn’t take part.

Betty, being from Texas, where cases of divorce and remarriage are handled differently than California couldn’t understand why so many of the friends in that field shunned us. I learned a valuable lesson from our friends that loved us and were kind to us, and others who refused to even come in to our home. Kindness is always in season. Kindness neither condemns nor condones. Kindness leaves no scars.

For years, I had always been very close to Dick Middleton. When I married Betty, he was the first worker I told. He was devastated and felt he had failed me and let me down. We had a talk at a Denny’s in Mountain View and I will never forget that visit. He asked 3 things of me: (1) Don’t stop going to meetings. (2) Don’t get offended if others should turn their backs on us. (3) Please remember, he said, “I can’t stand behind you as a brother, but I will stand beside you as a friend.”

Uncle Dick kept his promise and once, when we were at Mountain Ranch for convention, we were sitting at a table outside having lunch, and although no one would come and sit by us, Uncle Dick got a tray of food and came and sat with Betty and I and visited with us. Roy Farkas also sat next to Betty and I at convention often times. No one I know has a clearer conviction against divorce and remarriage than Roy and yet he was kind to us and was a friend to Betty and I.   

There were many Sundays that I didn’t want to go to meeting. Each time the emblems passed me by, I felt condemned. Sundays were miserable for me. Often times, I would lie in bed early Sunday morning and think I was not going. However, Betty would always be up early, reading and praying and she would always go to the piano and softly play hymns. This always softened my heart to be willing to go, if for no other reason, for her sake.

Herein lies a revelation I’ve often thought about. Had I married Jeannie, a beautiful woman who had many wonderful qualities, but wasn’t spiritual, I think my conscience would not have had the power it did.  Marrying Betty, who is a very Godly woman, kept me close to the Will of God, even while on the outside of it.

From the year we married, 1995 on, I felt more and more miserable and my conscience condemned me and I had no peace or joy. Others in our meeting at Wainwrights could see it.

2001 was the great turning point in my life. Nick Enrietta, who knew both Betty and I very well, invited Betty and I to go with him from Elizabeth convention to the Vietnam Vets reunion in San Antonio in July of that year. While there, Uncle Fred Allan, who had brought the gospel to Vietnam, and Phyllis Munn and Bonnie Dalhin, the first 2 sisters to labor there, all asked us to pray for the work and friends in that country. I was faithful in doing this from that time on.

Another thing I started to pray for at the reunion, and every day forward, was for God to grant me the willingness, the power, and courage to get right. For the first  time in the seven years Betty and I were married, I felt like my prayers were finally getting through to heaven.

In November 2001, my job at House of Printing was terminated after 20 years. I had seen this coming and had renewed my teaching credential to prepare to go back into the teaching profession.

However, as I was at a turning point in careers, I felt I was also at a turning point personally. Also, at this time, AMTRAK had given me a free pass to travel for a month for free. In order to sort things out, I decided to use this pass and travel before I settled in to finding a teaching job. One of the stipulations of the AMTRAK pass is that I had to travel also on at least one route in Canada. My mom had a cousin in Victoria in British Columbia, so I planned a trip there to ride a train that went up and back on Vancouver Island. It was on that trip my life made a U-turn.

The train from Victoria, up the island, a 6 hour trip, turned around and made the 6-hour trip. It was on the way back that it came fully in my heart to make a U-turn also. It was on December 22, 2001 that I purposed to get right with God. God gave me confirmations that He would deliver me from the mess I’d made of my life. Someday, Richard, I’d like to share in person more about these confirmations.

The next day, in a hotel room in Seattle, while on my knees, God made it very clear to me that he would give me the power and the courage to get right. And, while on a train in Washington, headed back for Modesto, I wrote Uncle Dick a letter telling him that I had come to the end of my rope and wanted to get right. I asked in the letter, what I should do.

When I got back home to Betty, our relationship had changed. I moved to another bedroom and we never slept together from that time on. I didn’t tell her right away that we had to separate as I was waiting for a reply from Uncle Dick. Weeks went by and there was no letter or call from him. Maybe he hadn’t received my letter.

In February of 2002, when I couldn’t wait any longer, I called Uncle Dick and he said he had received my letter but just didn’t know what to tell me. He said this was between God and I. I asked him what I must do. Should I get a legal separation, a divorce, or what? He said he had prayed about it but no answer came. This was between me and God.

I started looking for teaching jobs and did substitute teaching while waiting for a full-time job to open up. I still hadn’t told Betty why we had to sleep apart. Finally, feeling I had totally withdrawn from her, Betty demanded an answer. I told her, for the first time, that when she and I married I had lost my peace and each year I was just getting more and more unhappy. I told her she and I had to separate. Betty was crushed and devastated. She asked what she had done wrong. I told her, that was just it; she had done nothing wrong except marry me. She had been a perfect wife. I could not imagine a woman more ideal for me than Betty.

In the spring of 2002, I applied for a summer school teaching position at Waterford High School and received it. I told Betty that once this job was over, I would be moving out of our house in Ceres. This was to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. After my teaching assignment was done at the end of the summer of 2002, I told the workers in our field, Claudia T. and Lily K. that Betty and I would be separating. Lily told me she had been praying for that day ever since she had heard Betty and I married. Lily had spent about 6 months in San Antonio for some of her medical training before she went into the work and she and Betty were very close ever since those days. God could not have put anyone more supportive for Betty in that field than Lily.

On a Sunday night in the summer of 2002, I kissed and hugged Betty goodbye and we wept in each other’s arms for a very long time. This was the saddest day in my life. As I backed out of our driveway for the last time, I just sobbed. I felt I didn’t want to live any longer. I could not have peace with Betty and I couldn’t see how I would ever have a day of joy again in life. I wept all the way to Bob Pfister’s home in San Jose where I would live until I left for Vietnam in 2003.

My first morning at Bob’s, when I got down on my knees to pray, the overwhelming, and very strong and REAL presence of God came back to me with such force that I wept on my knees for hours. My peace, after being gone for 7 years, came back. It was as if God had thrown a spiritual quilt around me and comforted me like never before. Having God’s help to get right, and then having God’s peace for the first time in 7 years just overwhelmed me.

Although I still didn’t have approval from Uncle Dick to take part, that didn’t matter. What mattered was that I was right with God and had true, unspeakable peace. I called Uncle Dick to see if I could take part and he said he would be going to Seattle to have a meeting with the older brothers from the west coast and from Canada and they would discuss my case, as well as other issues. When Uncle Dick came back, he said they had discussed my case but there was a difference of opinions about my case. Some brothers said just separating from Betty was sufficient to me made right. Others said a legal separation was the right thing to do while others said a divorce was necessary to get right. Uncle Dick, once again said he didn’t know what I should do. It was up to me and God, he said again.

In desperation, I prayed and God said a divorce would prove to all, including myself that Betty and I were no longer man and wife. On March 12, 2003, I decided to file for a divorce. It was the right thing to do and it removed all doubt in my mind that Betty and I would no longer, in any sense, be man and wife. While living at Bob Pfister’s, I worked at substitute teaching while applying for full-time teaching positions.

Once my good friend John Parish came to spend a few nights with me at Bob’s home and in the kitchen one night, he said God is a debtor to no man and what I did would be blessed by God. What more blessing could I have besides peace, I thought.

In May of 2003, I’d heard that there were teaching positions open at a school in Hanoi. I sent an email to the school and shortly after, an email arrived from John McCracken that began, “Welcome! Welcome to Vietnam! We have a teaching position open for you.” Little did I know that John was a worker and the school was used for meetings. While this door opened, no teaching positions opened in San Jose. I had prayed for Vietnam every day since the reunion and now I had the opportunity to go help answer some of my own prayers.

Perhaps you would know Richard, why the 4 years I spent in Hanoi were the happiest years of my life with the exception of this one. Seeing my mom profess in September 2007 and seeing her pass on in February of this year, has given me tremendous peace, joy, and comfort. God has blessed me richly and I can say a hearty AMEN to John telling me that God is a debtor to no man.

And, herein, I caution myself that I can still slip through the ice at any time if I ever stop watching and praying. My relationship with God is deeper now than it has ever been but I still don’t trust this wicked heart of mine. I most often pray that God would save me from myself. It is not those things outside of me that I fight so much as that which is within me.

In writing this, it has given me a clearer picture of divorce and remarriage and of my own relationship with God. I’ve been on my knees many times while writing this and doing this makes me just want to thank, glorify, and praise God for His unspeakable gift of Jesus and what He taught about all things, including divorce and remarriage. The scriptures are so clear to me on this. My own experience confirms the words of Jesus. Some may argue scripture, and there is a division amongst us. However, one can never argue with a person’s peace. Peace, beyond understanding, has a price and I never want to lose my peace again.

Before I put my head on my pillow tonight, I once again will thank God for giving me a conscience that dictates doing the right thing. The more I obey my conscience, the more it demands of me. The way gets narrower because of it. But, the joy and peace increase. As you so aptly put it when you were staying with me in Hanoi, death produces life.

As divorces and remarriages increase alarmingly in America, they are increasing amongst our fellowship also. There is a clear standard and in time, I pray and believe that there will be but one standard on this issue: divorce and remarriage is wrong. No society is stronger than the families within us. The families are the cells that make up the whole body of a society. A society is only as strong as the families within it. God’s standard is for unity.

You can see the wisdom, guided from above, that Uncle Dick used. It MUST be up to the individual to decide what steps must be taken to get right with God. No worker in California ever told me I couldn’t take part. No worker suggested that Betty and I separate. However, after I filed for a divorce, Uncle Dick and I had an unforgettable visit about all this and he asked me whether or not workers are right for asking people not to partake if they are divorced and remarried.

Richard, although to me, the issue of divorce and remarriage is very clear, a person who is divorced must want, from the depths of their heart to know the truth and be willing for God’s will and keep the same standard. You and I know that if there are two standards, God’s standard is always the higher of the two. It is a higher standard for a divorced person to remain single than to remarry. The Holy Spirit has made it very clear to me in this experience that I need to remain single in order to please God and do His will.

If there is one issue Satan is attempting to use to divide our fellowship and sow discord amongst brethren, it is this issue. I do not know any other reason that there would be division among workers about this issue. Leslie White wrote a letter to all the workers on the Colorado staff apologizing for mistakes he made while here in this state. Although he did not specifically mention this issue, I feel he wishes now that he would have handled these cases differently.

Although this is just my experience, I feel it underscores the heart of God on the issue of divorce and remarriage. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share this with you.

 

With sincere appreciation and divine love,

your brother,

David

 


 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


My Dear Brother Mel,

YES! If my experience can help ONE person, one soul, it will all be worth the pain of the past. The peace in my soul far outweighs the pain of separation from a beloved dear woman. People can argue scripture and justify themselves but no one can argue with our peace.

Thanks for considering my experience worthy of being shared…

Come visit me in Hanoi whenever you can…

With love in Him,

your brother,

David