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Overcoming the Past to Salvage a Marriage

When Dave and Lisa married, they had at least one thing in common – a painful, difficult childhood.  Dave was 8 when his physically abusive mother gave up custody.  Landing him in the Oregon State foster care system.

Dave said, “I really felt betrayed and I felt alone, cause I knew I had nobody.” “You live as a guest in other people’s homes.  Part of the household but not part of the family. The way I was looking at myself, or starting to, I wasn’t worth anything.”

After aging out of the system, Dave began a life of drugs and crime.  At 22, he was arrested for armed robbery and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

“It destroys your humanity,” said Dave.  “It’s a hate factory. It’s a place full of anger, depression, oppression. You name it, just about everything negative, you can find it there.”  

When he was released in 1995, he was ready to leave his past behind.  He got a job, and in time met Lisa.  

“She was kind,” said Dave. “She was a genuinely nice person, and I knew that’s what I wanted, somebody that I could be around who had those kind of attributes, who possessed the things that I didn’t.”

Lisa had a painful past of her own.  Several times as a young girl she was sexually abused by a neighbor.  

Lisa said, “I felt like I was pretty much nobody. I didn’t have much self-esteem at all. I felt like I was ugly and I didn’t matter.”

Despite her Christian upbringing, she was promiscuous, and got pregnant with her first daughter at 18.  Still unmarried at 27, she had a second daughter, and desperately wanted a husband.

“If you’re not married, you’re not worth anything,” said Lisa. “A man, a woman and children - that’s a family. If I could just get that, everything would be okay.”

Then she met Dave, and 8 months later the two married.  

“I was like, almost breathing that sigh of relief thinking, “okay, here it is, we’re going to be good. We’re going to have the house, we’re going to have a picket fence, we’re going to have, maybe have another baby,” said Lisa.

Dave said “It brought me a sense of peace and belonging, somebody loves me. Somebody actually wants to be part of my life and has opened their heart and allowed me to be a part of theirs, call me daddy.”

Shortly into the marriage, Dave decided to look for his real mother.  In doing so, he needed a copy of his birth certificate from the State of Oregon.  But they found no record of his birth.  

“I was now put in this position to where I don’t really know who I am,” said Dave. “I don’t know when I was born, where I was born. I don’t know anything. So, everything that I believed to this point has been wiped out.”

The only way Dave knew how to cope, was to drink.

“It numbs you, makes you forget,” Dave said. “You can put it away for a while.  But unfortunately, as you keep drinking, you need it more. And so that took over my life.”  

As his drinking got worse, he started verbally abusing Lisa. He failed several attempts at rehab, even though he saw what it was doing to his family.         

“It was hard to look in Lisa’s eyes and feel any kind of self-respect or worth. Because I knew in my heart that I’d betrayed them and I blew it,” said Dave.

When Dave started using drugs, Lisa moved out, and again, Dave was on his own.  

“That spiraled everything downhill.  I got to the point where I could no longer cope. You know, Lisa and I were completely separated now. and I lost the will to live,” said Dave.  

So one night in 2003, Dave committed armed robbery.  Instead of fleeing from the police, he got into a standoff with them.

Dave said, “That night was about committing suicide by police. So, it wasn’t my intention to go to prison. It was my intention to die.”

Using non-lethal force, police were able to disarm and apprehend Dave.  Sentenced to 7 years in prison, he wanted nothing more than to get his family back.  

“If it’s ever going to happen, I’m going to have to do something. I have to take a step,” said Dave.

Dave started attending an anger management group, led by a Christian volunteer.  He learned that to overcome his past, and salvage his marriage, he needed a relationship with God.  

Dave said, “I just said, you know what, all right God. We’ll do it your way.  My way’s obviously failed. Look where I am. So I don’t want to do it my way anymore. Let’s try it yours. I accepted Jesus Christ there and He gave me peace in my heart. He let me know, I got you. I got this. Just trust in Me, I got this.”

Meanwhile, Lisa had started going back to church, hoping to find answers for herself.

“I just had been so numb for so long and not willing to admit defeat,” said Lisa.

So one day in church, Lisa rededicated her life to Jesus Christ.

Lisa said, “I finally just said okay God, it’s all yours.” “ It was almost like arms being wrapped around me and just being there.  And just saying, “you can come back any time. I realized that nobody can take my worth because I’m worthwhile in Him.”

Soon Lisa started visiting Dave in prison, and with God at the center of their lives, they began working to heal their relationship.

“I was trusting that God was making the right moves. This is what He wanted. That He was showing me that He was willing to restore our marriage,” said Dave.

Lisa said, “He had really given his life over to God and he was determined to change. He wanted to be better. He wanted to be a new man.”

Dave was released in 2010 and went home to what would be a happy, thriving marriage, built on God’s love.

“When you walk with God, your walk is made easier because you know He’s there,” said Dave. “You know that He’s standing with you. No matter what you go through, He’s right there. And as long as you keep your eyes towards Him and you have that faith, you still get through it.”

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