I was overseas and alone in a hotel room when I realized I no longer wanted the “American Dream.” For me, it had become a nightmare.
I had everything the world said would make me happy—an education, successful career, material wealth, expensive cars, a large home, and a beautiful wife and kids. Yet, I was miserable. And the more I acquired, the less content I became. I had no joy in my life.
I had been out drinking that night. It passed the time during my overseas travels and temporarily filled the emptiness in my heart. I fell asleep in a drunken stupor, but around 4:00 a.m., I awakened to the sound of the television, broadcasting a story about an American corporate executive who had just escaped his kidnappers.
I knew about this man’s plight. A local tribe had taken him from a region where I often traveled. Other executives and I had been warned about the danger of being held for ransom there. This man had been in captivity for a year—in fact, we’d thought he was dead.
Tears flowed down his face as he talked about his ordeal, and then he shared how he had come to know Jesus during his captivity. He told the interviewer that he was heading home to ask forgiveness from his wife and kids for the life he had lived on the road. He hoped to rebuild his family.
His story struck me to the core. I lay on the bed and thought, “Oh my Lord! That’s me!” It was like I had looked in a mirror. I, too, needed to ask forgiveness from my wife and children for the life I’d been living. I also needed to ask God for forgiveness.
I had been so full of greed and inconsideration toward others, especially my family. Overwhelmed with grief, I fell on the floor, repented of my sin, and surrendered my life to Jesus. A sudden, new, and deep desire to love God and my family instead of things rushed over me.
I had asked Jesus into my heart as a child. I was raised in a Christian home with a long lineage of dedicated believers; I knew about God and truly did love Him. But then, when I was 16, I became rebellious and prideful. I strayed far from the Lord and traded His good plans for my own.
I made a big mess of things in the process, and my home life was in shambles. I had been so concerned with making money that I had forgotten about the needs of my wife and children. I hadn’t cared for them as God intended (1 Peter 3:7).
My life had been about owning stuff, not loving my family. And in the end, all that stuff owned me. It doesn’t profit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his life and things of true importance—like his family, health, and most importantly, his relationship with the Lord (Mark 8:36). I was determined to make amends and lead our family down God’s path.
I came home, quit my high-paced traveling job, and worked on rebuilding my family. I became passionate about the Lord and began devouring the Bible and serving others. But my marriage didn’t survive.
We divorced, and I quickly remarried. It wasn’t long, however, before I realized that I had gotten ahead of God, and that marriage ended as quickly as it had begun. And now I was in financial ruin.
They say hindsight is 20/20. I know now that if I had asked for God’s guidance, will, and wisdom in my relationships, I could have saved myself a whole bunch of heartache (Proverbs 3:5–6; James 1:5). But at the time, it didn’t occur to me to bring Him into those decisions. Instead, I followed my natural desires and human reasoning.
Those two failed relationships left me broken and bitter toward women. I was determined to remain single for the rest of time. But then, one day, God’s Spirit spoke to me. “Ron, this single life isn’t for you.” He began to show me that if I followed His lead, He would give me a godly wife who would bring me much joy. I just needed to trust Him and wait for His choice for me. His timing would be perfect.
After a season of prayer, I joined an online dating service. My dating profile was straightforward: “I am a believer in Jesus Christ. If you are not a believer, don’t even respond to this profile.” Many women responded, but it didn’t take long to realize that they were not faithful followers of Jesus. The Bible teaches that we can identify true believers by their fruit (actions). People who genuinely love God should exhibit characteristics like love, joy, kindness, patience, gentleness, goodness, self-control, and faithfulness (Galatians 5:22). There should be no selfish ambition and impurity.
But then, one day, a woman named Sandra emailed me. We communicated for a while and then decided to meet at a Christian retreat. It turns out Sandra was just as serious about her relationship with the Lord as I was, and she had the fruit to prove it.
Sandra loved the Lord with all her heart, and she shared my passion for serving others. (See her story on page 16.) Soon, I knew that Sandra was God’s choice for me, and we married before the Lord. The last 17 years have been quite an adventure as Sandra and I have sought God’s will for our lives. He has used us in ways we could never have imagined, especially in the prison system.
God in our marriage has kept us strong. Ecclesiastes 4:12 teaches that a three-stranded cord is not easily broken. I have witnessed this truth firsthand. Today, because of God, my marriage is beautiful, joy-filled, and strong. Take it from me—relationships built apart from God’s strand of grace and love will eventually break.
If you are in a relationship right now, I encourage you to bring God into the center of it. It’s not too late. And if you desire a relationship, don’t rush ahead of God. That will only lead to heartache. Wait for God’s gift. It will be good, and it will complete you. In the meantime, draw close and allow yourself to be changed by a loving and living God.