How We Came Out on Top by Darlena Drake Fields
For many years, trying to be happily married felt like climbing a mountain without the right gear, and at times has felt like our Mt. Everest, which is how many couples that we work with feel--like a mountain that only those skilled and determined enough get to conquer.
Phillip and I have only been sharing bits and pieces of our own personal stories with you since we began blogging last year.
However, we are ramping up to do a marriage event soon, so we thought it'd be a good time to share the "story of us".
We could be here for days if I tried to give you the play-by-play of the past 25 years of our marriage.
So, I've broken our story down into 10 bullets points to help you get the big picture of how we went from being in love to being in despair...finding our dream to loosing sight of our purpose...and when we thought life couldn't get any worse, God intervened and we miraculously "came out on top".
LOVE - Ours was a love-at-first-sight kinda of beginning, after meeting at graduate school in our mid-20's. Yep, we knew on the first date that we were "The One." As fate would have it, we "found the one whom our soul loves" in each other, after a history of heartbreak. This cute, little gal from Texas and that big, handsome guy from Virginia met, fell in love, dated, got engaged and said, "I do" at a fairy tale wedding all in 9-months time. After a blissful 2 weeks of honeymooning, we moved our Southern selves to a mega-church in the suburbs of Chicago where Phillip landed his first big job in ministry. We did everything right! We went to the right school, married the right guy/gal, found the right church and landed the right job. So we had happiness in the bag! Riiiiiight.
DISAPPOINTMENT - We hadn't been married a month when the marital bliss flew out the window of our 3rd story apartment window of butt-cold Chicago, and became lost in the incessant honking of the hundreds of wild geese in a tiny pond below. Phillip became convinced that I had deceived him into believing I was his fantasy girl, when sexual issues arose. My fairy tale of being little Wifey-poo to my Handsome Prince turned into mundane, soap opera watching as I was overcome with homesickness. Disappointment invaded our little love nest. We knew the honeymoon phase was long gone, when being slapped in the face by the Northern winds and stepping in goose poop together were no longer romantic, and we secretly began asking ourselves, "Did we really do the right thing?"
LOSS - Even if moving to Chicago was right, it sure went wrong, ending suddenly. It sent us packing back to our college town of Tulsa, OK, where we were offered a place to live with friends and given jobs at the mega-church where Phillip got his start in ministry, and I first laid eyes on him. Shortly after settling, Mr. Wilson, the precious man who took Phillip in as a runaway teen, became critically ill, dying suddenly. It was devastating! Then my grandpa whom I'd grown up with suddenly dies of a stroke. Then, over night, we lost the inheritance from Mr. Wilson on a bad business deal. Life moves on, we buy a house, start a family. Just popped out baby #2, and the head pastor of our church decides to get crazy with his theology, loses his church and, of course, we suddenly lose our jobs. Two moves and 6 major losses in little over 6 years! We felt like we'd been in a boxing ring with blows coming outta nowhere!
TRAGEDY - Shocked and dismayed, and looking for God's plan, Phillip turned to the city streets and started an outreach to homeless men. He housed them, started a business to employ them, discipled them. And I lost him...to homeless men. And I also lost myself in motherhood after, unplanned, baby #3. He began drinking. I became depressed. We had no love, life or money, and losing hope by the day. While concocting a plan to leave him, Phillip gets critically ill with Hepatitis B. So sick, we thought he might die. And I wanted to die, I'd sunk so deep in depression, tormented with thoughts of being a widow with 3 littles. In my despair, I became a bitter cynic, angry with God and the Church. Phillip camped on our couch, plastered to Christian T.V., calling every prayer line that flashed on the screen. Folks stopped coming around, when Phillip didn't get healed, leaving us feeling outcasted, hopeless, and alone. Tragedy was taking its tole.
DELIVERANCE - Then, one day my prayin' momma called saying God had led her to a ministry where she believed we would find hope. She overnighted a book, "A More Excellent Way: The Spiritual Roots of Disease", which led us to the ministry in South Georgia, where we found our deliverance. It was crazy! Phillip was miraculously healed! I was delivered of suicidal depression! Our marriage was restored! We actually had medically documented proof! Unbelievable, I know. We even moved there and worked with the ministry for 2 of the sweetest, happiest years since we married, in the cutest old house, where we got pregnant with baby #4 - our boy! Then, God said it was time to launch our own dream. So, we loaded up the fam and moved to my family's land in Texas, with hopes of building a ministry retreat that would restore people's health and lives--just like ours had been.
SOARING - The big state met us with big challenges - turning a nightmare-on-wheels/trailer house into a home, our boy being born barely alive and an attempt to ruin our reputation. Our boy turned out fine, though! We got our bearings, then took off in ministry. Phillip was speaking across the nation telling our story of healing, then wrote a book that increased the invites. At home with our babies, I developed quite a prayer life, having extraordinary encounters with the Lord. Then folks just started moving to join us. Then, boom! We have a staff. Boom! We have a church. Just before a big build move, God shut it all down and rerouted us back to Georgia, where we wrote book #2 that got us invited on T.V. people - the Sid Roth, It's Supernatural show. And boom! He's not only promoting the book, but interviewing me live, on air, about my God encounters! It was a shot literally heard 'round the world. Boom! We're asked to Pastor a church. Boom! We broke ground on our 1st new home. Yeah! We were soaring high like we'd been shot out of a dang canon!
CRASHING - I used that illustration, because cannonballs fall hard, obliterating everything in sight - exactly how we fell from success. lt went a little like this...Folks in the church started going cray-cray. Our kids started going cray-cray. I went cray-cray. And Phillip checked out. I can't share the church folks crazy stories, but I'm gonna get real with ours. What I'm about to say next is not exaggerated one bit. Our oldest daughter attempted suicide. Our middle daughter started cutting. Our youngest daughter was raped. I was lost in some menopausal, fantasyland, daydreaming of running away to the beach, getting tattoos and dancing on pool tables. Phillip handled the craziness by getting lost in T.V. Land, pounding nachos every night to numb out. As the old saying goes, "Pride comes before a fall." Our pride had us hard at work to keep our crap hidden, if it killed us. 'Cause there ain't much worse for a pastor than his congregation finding out his dirty laundry...to find out that the "1st Family" isn't perfect. I for one was a pro at hiding, I'd been keeping a rage issue a secret from the outside world for over 20 years. Shocker!
DARKNESS - Falling from glory looks like your head in the sand with your vulnerable side in the air. Oh, the shame! For 3 long years, it felt like the open heaven we had been living under just closed slap up and all Hell had broke loose in our new home. The Blame Game was in full force between Phillip and I over who's fault it was. Everywhere we looked in our family and marriage we saw darkness. We didn't know how we'd fallen to this place and we didn't know how to break out of it. Anytime we eluded to what we were going through or tested the waters for help, it seemed either no one could handle it or they had no answers for us. Not even God. As we helplessly watched our girls drift further from Him and our dreams get sucked into the abyss, we just drifted further apart in despair. My secret rage, I'd hidden within the walls of our home only intensified. It was suffocating. We've since come to call this time in our lives, "The Dark Night of Our Soul".
REDEMPTION - There's nothing like being at the bottom of the barrel to turn you to desperate measures. If there's one thing that we can say about ourselves at the end of our lives, it's that we never gave up. Without the other knowing, we started sending desperate prayers up to Heaven. And long story short, God showed up and showed off big! The power of redemption blew the doors off our secret hell and this powerful love burst threw our walls wrecking the darkness. It's hard to find words for it actually. It was supernatural! Like Heaven invading our home. My favorite part of our story is how the redemptive hand of God scooped all the pain of our past into a big pile of S.H.I.T., waved His mighty hand over it, and poof! It turned into something beautiful.
DESTINY - I know this may sound mambee-pambee, or maybe even mystical. But there's nothing whoosy or twinklie about a love that chases you down, presses out everything that doesn't belong to you, like fear, shame or inadequacy, causing your greatness to rise up and take you over. Looking at ourselves through the lenses of supernatural love enabled us to finally see ourselves and each other for who were truly born to be. Finding your your true identity wrapped in greatness gives you the courage to do really brave things that used to scare you to death, like publicly confessing a taunting, 20-year hidden rage problem or repenting to your kids for a shameful addiction that they inherited from you. Yeah, you heard right. Hard things, that had great reward waiting on the other side, that looked like freedom!
That my friends, is how we "came out on top"...on top of the mountain of our redeemed past, called Destiny.
It turned our marriage into a force to be reckoned because it is now grounded in a love that cannot be shaken, a love that empowers each of us to be who we were born to be and our family to become a strong fortress against darkness.
And you too can come out on top!
Redemption and freedom is just a phone call away!
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Not about how fast you get there, it's about the climb