Revive Our Hearts Podcast

I Checked the Box

Leslie Basham: As a new believer in Jesus, Vicki Rose tried to get some marriage advice from a Christian counselor.

Vicki Rose: He said, “You need to get on with your life. This is a lot of co-dependent stuff you’re hanging on, and you need to move on. You have every right and reason to divorce and go on.”

I must have gone back to him three times to say, “Is it really true? Did you really say that? Is it really okay? Because the Bible says God hates divorce. So how could I divorce my husband?”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, February 11.

A woman wrote to us in response to yesterday’s program. She described her very difficult relationship with her husband and in-laws, and then wrote,

Listening to your message has made me realize that I need to forgive him and his mother for all the pain they’ve caused me. May the Lord help me to remove all the bitterness from my heart and restore the relationship with my husband. With God, all things are possible.

We’re about to hear more of the conversation that sparked that comment. Here’s Nancy to introduce our guest.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I love hearing stories of God’s grace at work changing people’s lives. It’s been such a joy this week to be hearing a testimony from my friend Vicki Rose.

Vicki, thank you so much for being with us on Revive Our Hearts—for living this story and then for being willing to share it with others so openly as you have.

Vicki: Well, Nancy, it’s so great, first of all, to see you after so many years. We see each other periodically, I think about every five or six years, which is not nearly enough. I’m just thrilled to see you again.

It’s such a privilege for Billy and for me to have been transformed by the Lord, to have our lives changed, to have our marriage healed, to have had all of that happen. We’re so grateful to you and to your family.

Where we would be if it weren’t for coming to that dinner 18 years ago? We would still be out there lost, probably divorced, children, and so on and so forth.

I just love your family. I’m so grateful to your family that you choose to spend your lives sharing about the Lord, sharing the Lord with others like myself.

Nancy: Some of our listeners may not have been with us the last couple of programs, so let’s catch them up. You and Billy were both born into Jewish families and both very lost, very self-centered, very much in bondage to the world and to self and sin.

You married each other with no foundation for marriage or family or personal relationship with Christ, and things went from shaky to totally unraveling. Billy developed a cocaine addiction, and life was crazy and topsy-turvy.

You have these two little children now, and in the process God draws you to Christ by means of a dinner party that my mother was hosting in New York City. She doesn’t even live there, but she had a burden for business and professional people in New York City.

She invited then Secretary of the Interior, Don Hodel, to come and share his testimony. You were invited. You went just because you were a single mom and wanted to get dressed up and go out.

You were separated from Billy, had been for a couple of years. It was just a hopeless situation, a hopeless mess. Both of your lives were in horrible shape.

But God got you there that night. You heard the gospel. And what was your response?

Vicki: My response that night was to ask Jesus Christ to take over my life and to make me the person that He wanted me to be, that He had created me to be. When I realized that the Creator of all the universe had done that, that He had created me exactly the way He made me, it helped me to start accepting who I was.

I had always wanted to be someone different. I had always wanted to be rich and famous, and this and that, like someone else.

It wasn’t until I prayed a simple prayer at that dinner party that night in November 1987 and asked Jesus to take over my life and make me into who He created me to be . . . that thought of becoming the person He made me to be helped me realize that He hadn’t made a mistake when He made me, because God never makes mistakes; I was actually someone He wanted me to be.

I started to even have a small like for myself and a comfort with who I was. Just that was a whole new world for me!

Nancy: And that’s what the Scripture says: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Vicki: That was the first verse I memorized. When I went back to a dinner your mother gave a few months later, I shared that verse with her.

God had indeed done that in my life so dramatically, so quickly, that I started sharing with my children at breakfast (we talked about that yesterday). And they suggested that we pray for their dad.

I really didn’t want to pray for him. I really would have liked to see him dead. But I agreed, for them. I didn’t say anything negative to them about their father.

I agreed that we should pray for Daddy to come to know Jesus. And we did, night and day, morning and night, pray that Billy Rose would come to know Jesus.

But as we talked about, I had gone to a singles and dating seminar and found out that God’s Word said I wasn’t eligible to date, which I wanted to do.

Nancy: Because you were still married to Billy.

Vicki: I was still married to Billy, even though we’d been separated for probably two-and-a-half years at that point, and even though he was living with another woman two blocks away. I heard that God’s Word said I was still married and that God hates divorce.

So two things happened. I chose right then and there that I wasn’t going to date—to the extent that a really handsome young man from Bible study asked me to go to the Philharmonic one night, and at first I thought, “Well, there’s nothing wrong with that, just one night to have a little bit of fun with this guy from Bible study.”

Then I realized, with some help, that that just wouldn’t be honoring or pleasing to the Lord—“just one night of fun” even slightly away from what His Word said.

So I called the guy back up, and I said, “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry if I’ve hurt you in any way, but I really can’t go out. I’m still married, and that’s just not the right thing to do before the Lord. And I really want to honor Him.”

I just have to say a word about that. God has so honored my feeble attempt at obedience back then in how He’s blessed my life, in terms of my marriage being put back together. If anyone out there is struggling through something similar, wondering if just one date or one night out dancing or one “something” isn’t any big deal . . . in some ways it’s not a big deal.

But in the eyes of the Lord who created the universe and who gave His Son to die so that I could be forgiven and spend all of eternity with Him—it’s a big deal when we try to do what He says. And He blesses that.

Nancy: That was really a huge reorientation of your life, to say, “What matters now is that God is honored and I do what is according to His Word.”

Vicki: I had spent my whole life, Nancy, doing things my way. I had a plan. I had my own plan for my life, and I had pretty much gotten what I’d planned.

I wanted to marry. I wanted to marry someone who could take care of me very nicely, and so on and so forth. I wanted children. And all that had happened.

But that was the outward part of the plan. What was really happening is, my marriage was a disaster. My children had a mother who had no idea how to parent them. We were separated after nine-and-a-half years of marriage.

And who knew what the future held? The fact of the matter was that God changed all that.

Nancy: God gave you a commitment to stay in that marriage, as impossible as it seemed, and really in spite of the fact that your emotions did not want to be reconciled with Billy Rose.

Vicki: Well, it’s more like He gave me, not so much the commitment to stay in the marriage, but the commitment to not walk out of the marriage or to divorce Billy right then and there, and the commitment not date anyone else. He hadn’t gotten me to the place yet where I was willing to say, “I’ll go back to the marriage.”

I didn’t think I could ever do that. I couldn’t imagine going back to the craziness and the chaos that we had lived with. I couldn’t imagine how I could ever like or love my husband again or live under the same roof or any of the things a wife needs to do for her husband. I couldn’t imagine any of that ever again with him.

Nancy: But when you realized that divorce was not God’s best or God’s plan . . .

Vicki: I realized that when I read God’s Word. It says, “God . . . hates divorce,” in Malachi 2:16, and I didn’t know that.

I never knew that, even though I had grown up in a church. I didn’t know Jesus as my Savior. I didn’t have a personal relationship, and I certainly didn’t know that God hates divorce.

And, Nancy, as I started to say, I had planned out my own life my own way—my whole life, my own way—and it had resulted in a mess.

So God gently and lovingly brought me to a place of wanting to do things His way. Even if it seemed strange and difficult and not things that I liked, I was willing—because He made me willing, first of all, and because I needed to do it differently.

Nancy: I think it’s important to point out here that there were people in your life—friends, counselors, even pastors—who sized up the situation and said, “In light of the circumstances, you need to get out of this marriage.”

Vicki: That’s exactly right. The counselor who led the singles and dating seminar; I went to see him for clarification on some of the singles and dating business, and he said, “You need to get on with your life. This is a lot of co-dependent stuff you’re hanging on, and you need to move on. You have every right and reason to divorce and go on.”

I must have gone back to him three times to say, “Is it really true? Did you really say that? Is it really okay? Because the Bible says God hates divorce. So how can I divorce my husband?”

He said, “You have biblical reason, and you may do it.”

But there was just something inside me that wanted to do things God’s way, and it said in black and white that God hates divorce. I didn’t want to do something He hates.

I’d done enough in my life that He’d hated up till that point, believe me—many things that I regret and wish had been different—that were forgiven. I had done so many things the wrong way that I wanted to try and do this His way.

Nancy: You told me earlier that you really wanted to take the high ground.

Vicki: Yes. There is a lot of Scripture on marriage and divorce, and there are a lot of different interpretations of what it says.

For me the safest one was the highest ground to stand on—where, when I would end up standing before the Lord someday, I wouldn’t have to say, “Well, I thought it said . . .” or, “It might have said . . . so I did it,” but I could really look at the Lord and say, “This is what Your Word said, and with Your grace I tried to do it.”

Nancy: So now you’re a new creature. You’re a new believer, a young believer.

You’re reading the Word; you’re hungry for it; you’re going to Bible study; you’re leading your kids to know the Lord. And you’re not getting out of this marriage, which many would have said, “You can get out of it.”

But you’ve still got a drug-addicted husband who’s living with a woman down the street, and things are not easy. You’re a single mom. You’re having to work. You’ve got these two little kids. And you said in the last program, “Being a single mom is really, really hard.”

I know a lot of our listeners are in that situation, and maybe not through their own choice. It’s not their desire. But you saw God meet your needs and provide for you in some extraordinary ways during that period of time.

Vicki: We did. At some point I finally said to the Lord, “I’ve seen You as provider in my life,” because He provided in so many ways for me as a single mom, “but I just want to know You as God right now—not as provider, but more of who You are.”

Some of the ways He provided that was further down the road, and that was an amazing thought that the Lord gave me. But I remember one friend, without my asking or anything, dropped off these three large boxes.

We took them upstairs, and they were filled with beautiful clothes. She only bought the best clothes for her children—these beautiful wool coats with velvet collars, and smock dresses and patent leather shoes and blazers and ties and pajamas and snowsuits. I mean, everything that I needed for my children was in those boxes in beautiful condition, almost like new.

I knew that was from the Lord. I love clothes, being an old retail girl that I am. So it was such a gift to have that for my children.

Friends at church would ask if they could take Douglas and Courtney to the park for an afternoon. Well, that is the greatest gift you can give a single mom, to take her kids out and do something with them and give her an afternoon off, because as a single mom, you’re 24/7, 365; you’re it. There’s no break.

So God provided in that way. The kids became friends with these young single girls at church who would do that often. They took them to the beach one day and came home with sand and stones and a lot of things that city kids don’t often get to do.

God provided a prayer partner for me. In the very, very beginning, one of the first young women I met when I started going to Bible study, her name was Vicki also. She said, “Let’s be prayer partners.”

I had no idea what that meant, but every once in awhile she’d call me, and we’d pray on the phone. We’d pray for Billy’s salvation. We’d pray for my strength. We’d pray for all sorts of things.

She even stayed with my children one weekend, and another friend gave me their home to stay in for a little vacation weekend. So God just provided in many ways.

Nancy: And He used other believers. It’s neat to see the body of Christ . . .

Vicki: Yes, the body of Christ, truly. It was new to me, the body of Christ, because the church I’d grown up in wasn’t real like that. It was more important how you looked when you got to church, and what you wore.

But this body of believers truly acted in a way that would be pleasing to the Lord.

Nancy: I’m thinking of that verse in Psalm 68:6 that says “God sets the solitary in families.” God really did that for you when your family was utterly dysfunctional and chaotic. He put you in His family, and you began to experience what wholesome, healthy relationships are all about.

Vicki: I’ll never forget walking in the neighborhood of my church with my pastor’s wife one day. There were some beautiful plants sitting outside of a store, and I said, “Oh, look how beautiful they are!” And she went and bought me one.

It was at a time when I certainly didn’t have any extra spending money for anything like that. She didn’t either, but she went and bought me this plant and said, “Here, this is for you.”

It flattened me to the ground that she would do that. Oh, it just opened my eyes to a whole different way of living and giving to people who are in dire straits.

Nancy: There may be a listener right now who’s not in dire straits, but you know someone who is. God may be wanting you to say, “Is there some way that I can reach out in the name of Christ and be the hands and the heart of Christ for someone in my church or someone in my sphere who is where Vicki was those years ago?”

That was a huge part of God bringing you to trust Him, as you saw Him express His love through His people.

Vicki: Most definitely. And that leads me to talk about how Billy did come to know the Lord.

Nancy: Because you had been praying during this time. Billy looked like this hopeless case; and apart from the Lord, he would have been.

Vicki: Right.

Nancy: But God was at work.

Vicki: There were people who did say, “Oh, forget him; there’s no way.” And my spine would bristle, not so much because I wanted to be back in our marriage but because I started to realize that with God, anything was possible, and that His Word was the truth. He meant what He said.

I left my job at Macy’s based on Matthew 6 and what God said about seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness [verses 33-34] and putting my treasure in heaven [verses 19-21]. I started to realize that the money I was making while I was working—if I deducted what I paid a babysitter to take care of my children and the clothes I needed for work and the transportation to get to work—I really wasn’t earning that much.

I looked at the amount that it was and realized how maybe I could live without that, which was a whole new thought for me—how I could be home with Douglas and Courtney and be their mom full-time.

I started to ask God that if that was what He was leading me to do, He would open the doors. So I did. I was able to leave my job at Macy’s, and I started working part-time at the ministry where the Bible study was held.

This gave me summers off. My father had a house outside of New York City, so I would take the children, sublet the apartment so I’d have a little spending money, and go up and spend two or three months in upstate New York. Douglas and Courtney went to day camp every day, which enabled me to have a really long quiet time with the Lord.

It was interesting because my friends would say, “Aren’t you going to come play tennis with us anymore?” I really had no further desire to ever play tennis again. All I wanted to do was spend the morning with nobody around, reading my Bible and working through a Bible study.

One Saturday afternoon, Billy called and asked if I would come to a baseball game with him. And this must have been the Lord, because I’m not really quick on my feet to think of things, but I said, “Well, we’re going to church tomorrow. If you come to church with us first, we’ll come to the baseball game with you.”

To my utter shock, he accepted. He really was not gung-ho on my new faith when I first came to know the Lord—and I did share it with him immediately.

But he accepted coming to church with me the next day, and the kids and I were so excited. We started praying immediately that Daddy would really hear the message of Christ at church.

Everybody was so kind when he arrived. They welcomed him and came over and shook his hand and tried to make him feel at home. Then we went off to the baseball game that afternoon. We really had a special time. I mean, a family together—there’s nothing better to me.

Nancy: Which you had not been for years.

Vicki: We had not been. We just spent good family time together.

At the end of the game I drove with the children back to upstate New York, and Billy returned to New York. I got a phone call later that night.

Billy said, “I had a wonderful time, and I love you and I love my children. Thank you for coming.”

I hung up the phone, and I just had this overwhelming sort of joy fill my heart and thoughts; not because of what he’d said, so much, but just this sense. I said to the Lord, “Lord, if this is how You’re going to use my life, to be single but separated for however long, and that’s how You can use me to minister to others, I’m there. It’s okay.”

At that moment I completely surrendered to the Lord my desire to have a husband, my need to control everything about this marriage or not. I said, “Lord, it’s Yours. It’s up to You.”

Shortly after that, when Billy came to have dinner with the kids one night, I offered him a Bible. He took it, and he started to read.

Nancy, he started to write me these ten-page-long letters of his feelings and of things he’d never ever shared with me before, and how much he realized he might need God.

That’s what he said. He might need God to help him. He definitely had a problem, and he definitely needed to get sober, and he wanted help.

Nancy: So God was bringing him to the end of himself, as had happened with you earlier. It was about at that point that he got connected with one of these dinners that you had gone to where you had found Christ.

Vicki: I invited him to go to a dinner with me. It was at Christmas time in 1990. That night he prayed and accepted Christ. He asked Jesus Christ to take over his life as well.

Nancy: Did he tell you that he had? How did you know?

Vicki: Well, it’s very interesting. I was working at the ministry at that point. So when the dinner was over, one of the things we would do is go through the comment cards.

We found his, and we saw that he checked the top box, which said, “I prayed to receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior tonight.”

So I was sitting there with your mom and several other people, and we rejoiced and immediately went to prayer. I got home, and the kids were asleep, and my phone rang.

It was Billy, and he said, “Thank you very much. I just want you to know, I checked the box.” And he hung up.

Then the strangest thing happened after that. I received a phone call from a man who was looking for my husband. He was using terrible language on the phone, claiming that my husband was doing terrible things to his girlfriend.

Immediately, I knew that the enemy was trying to take away that amazing joy over what had happened that night—which he can’t. Once a person prays to receive Christ, they are in Christ.

Nancy: So God is in the process of birthing a miracle at this point, yet there’s warfare ahead. I think it’s important that we note this isn’t the end of the story.

You’ve come to Christ; Billy’s come to Christ. But you are still separated. There are still some huge issues in your marriage, in your relationship, in your lives.

But the God who is powerful enough to bring you and Billy to faith is also powerful enough to change your lives and bring you back together again. We want to get to that part of the story, and we will next time on Revive Our Hearts.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with Vicki Rose about God’s power to transform lives. Nancy will be right back to pray.

Maybe you know someone who seems so far from the Lord that they’ll never check the box, the sign of surrender we heard about today. I hope the conversation we just heard has reminded you to keep praying.

The story of Vicki Rose has greatly impacted our listeners. A woman responded to the program we aired yesterday by writing, “I can relate to Vicki Rose. I have no desire of my own to forgive my ex-husband. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, I have to forgive him every day.”

How is that kind of forgiveness possible? Like this woman, can you forgive even when you don’t feel like it?

Nancy persuasively tackles those questions in her helpful book Choosing Forgiveness. This book will show you why it’s so important for you to forgive. It will walk you through the process, showing you how to wipe the slate clean, allowing you to live a life of freedom from bitterness.

When you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts this week, we’ll send you the hardcover edition of Choosing Forgiveness. Contact us at ReviveOurHeartsRadio.com, or ask for Nancy’s book when you donate by phone. Call 800-569-5959.

Today we heard how Billy Rose came to know the Lord. But that didn’t mean his lifestyle changed overnight. Find out how his wife encouraged him to grow and change, next time on Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Now Nancy’s back to pray.

Nancy: Lord we lift up Your name. You are great and holy and good. We give You praise for what You have done in Vicki and Billy Rose’s lives, in their marriage, in their children. You have truly restored the years that the locusts had eaten [see Joel 2:25]. You have given the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; You have given joy for mourning [see Isaiah 62:3].

But it’s been at a price. It’s been at the price of both of them being willing to stop blaming, to stop pointing the finger, and to choose the pathway of surrender and forgiveness and yieldedness and perseverance and commitment to You and Your Word.

O Lord, thank You that You are in the process of redeeming some other Vicki and Billy Roses. We ask You to do it, with thanksgiving, in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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