By Rose Pauly
Everything looked hopeless.
It was October, 2013, and life appeared bleak. Doug sat in his car and thought about all he had lost. Seven years ago he had fallen in love. That love was deep and marriage followed. But now it was gone…forever. It seemed like yesterday when it all began.
In 2006 he had met a beautiful girl on match.com. Having been through a difficult divorce he was now ready to love again and from the looks of it she was in the same place. She was a New Yorker, and he from Wyoming, but a passing comment thrown out into cyberspace found its intended mark. A friendship developed through e-mail and modern technology worked for good.
After two months of dialogue it seemed desirable to meet face to face. Doug planned a trip to New York and nervously rode the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building, looking for the face he had only seen on a computer screen. He had a backpack over one shoulder and his laptop over the other when she rounded the corner. Her smile stole his heart. His large amount of luggage surprised hers.
A friendship ignited that night in the cool, crisp air of a New York February.
It continued into the months ahead as Zenaida made a trip to Wyoming to visit Doug, experiencing a new world of grazing buffalo and gusting winds. As time went on they both realized they wanted to be together and began a journey, not only into a deeper relationship with each other, but a relationship with God together.
The wedding in March of 2007 was rich in words of commitment, promises to cherish, and vows of love. They were flanked with family and friends who celebrated in amazement as a New York girl and a Wyoming guy found common ground and became husband and wife. Fort Collins, Colorado would be their new home.
But things drastically changed. Time gave its beating.
The stresses of life, the challenges of jobs, personal injuries and family illnesses took a toll. In an attempt to find escape Doug retreated to a world that had gripped him in the past. He found consolation in alcohol and buried his pain in its numbing effects. In the deteriorating state of his life he found himself entrapped in another prison…disreputable online sites.
A tidal wave of despair followed as he found himself in an impossible hole. This dark and desperate place consumed him but he could not move up and out of it regardless of his genuine intentions or resurging resolve. He longed to be free but could not find his way. His shining example to his children had turned to ashes. He knew he was grieving everyone he loved, including God.
Zenaida did her best to stay in the marriage, yet after several years of the troubled relationship, saw no reason to go further as husband and wife. Divorce papers were signed in August of 2011 and the couple moved apart in an attempt to regroup their lives. For two years there was scant communication but finally in August of 2013 Zenaida packed her bags and headed back to New York never to look back. She was determined to get on with her life without Doug.
In this place of hopelessness, Doug cried out to God.
It was all he knew to do. He had made several trips to New York in an attempt to reconcile but to no avail. Things were just too broken. Looking heavenward he poured out his heart to a God he knew was real, even in the midst of his pain. At the moment when it seemed as if discouragement and despair would have their way he felt a strong impression come. It came in the form of words, but they were words that poured fuel on his flickering hope, “This is not over. Zenaida still loves you.”
Knowing that Zenaida’s father had passed away some years earlier, and her mother had just recently passed, Doug appealed to the heavenly Father for a desire that was burning in his heart. He longed for his marriage to be restored. He wanted his life to be free from the chains of addiction, to be the man that his wife needed. Stepping out in a bold place of faith he laid his request before God, “Dear God, You are Zenaida’s Father. Now that her earthly father is gone, You are the one I must come to. I am asking for Your daughter Zenaida’s hand in marriage. Set me free to be the husband she deserves, and restore me to the man I was meant to be.” He prayed every day.
A peace began to take hold of his heart.
The months continued without any outward signs of a break in the clouds. Life was difficult in New York for Zenaida. The doors of employment were continually being closed. She spent all her savings on doctors in efforts to see her youngest son, Andrew, freed from an endless cycle of despair and depression. Discouragement and hopelessness began to set in. Her mother’s heart was broken, her money was gone and she had nowhere else to turn. For both Doug and Zenaida, every light seemed darkness and life only a blur of tears. But God hadn’t forgotten them.
In February of 2014 breakthrough began. Andrew contacted Doug and the two began talking and praying together. The next month, during a severe panic attack, with Zenaida praying at his side, Andrew experienced a miracle. In the middle of the crisis he saw the face of Jesus. The panic attack stopped and the depression broke that day. It was only then that Zenaida found out her son had been praying with Doug. But there were more miracles to follow. She found her thoughts turning often to Doug with a growing desire to reconnect. Soon she couldn’t keep him out of her mind. A new love began to emerge out of the shattered pieces of her heart.
In July Doug came out to New York and picked up his beloved lady and by October the miracle was taking full shape. It is hard to imagine that just a year earlier all had appeared so utterly hopeless. All had been wrapped in futility and loss.
But God in his great love intervened.
What was once filled with darkness, despair and pain, was being rescued and restored by a loving and faithful God. Doug remarked, “I can only summarize by telling how great and beyond amazing is the grace and the mercy God has shown me these past years.”
On October 4, 2014, just one year from the time when reconciliation looked impossible, a wedding took place. Again, words of commitment, promises to cherish, and vows of love were exchanged. Again family and friends flanked the couple, celebrating in amazement as a New York girl and a Wyoming guy found common ground and became husband and wife, the second time.
However, there were some differences this time around.
Both Doug and Zenaida had gone through the desert of brokenness and found life in the God of new beginnings. They received his forgiveness, allowing him to restore their hearts. Freedom came as they surrendered their lives to his healing touch. Their forever commitment was expressed in a tangible way. Tattooed wedding rings. The 5:25 on Doug’s ring bore witness to his heart promise, a reminder of the admonition in Ephesians, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.”
As Doug and Zenaida stood exchanging their vows, the sunlight radiated its golden rays on their faces, framed by the crystal blue sky. The words of How Great Thou Art were ringing through the air, expressing the deep sentiments of their hearts. Those that looked up into the sky saw the gift from God – two bald eagles soaring in circles just overhead. God had provided a fly-over.
Zenaida said of her husband, “I am so in love with him. Now I get to see him for who he is…the man God intended.” “Its just so hard to believe,” Doug spoke softly, looking at his radiant bride. “I am just speechless. There aren't words to express the greatness of God. I can only think of one tremendous, hope filled line from the letter to the Ephesians, which is the only thing that explains all that has happened, ‘But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ…’ Ephesians 2:4”
Miracles still happen.
If you would like to talk with Doug or Zenaida more about their story, they can be reached at: Doug - email@example.com, Zenaida - firstname.lastname@example.org
By Rose Pauly