It was January, 2010 and I’d been in recovery for sexual addiction for almost ten months. I remember sitting in my office, my stomach turning as I thought about the possibility of attempting to take custody of my daughter Elizabeth away from her drug-addicted mother. In my heart, I knew it was the right thing to do but in my mind, fear paralyzed me. You see, although I felt we needed to take custody of Elizabeth, the choice was not up to me. My wife would have to be onboard for this to work out, if she wasn’t onboard, then it wouldn’t matter what I wanted or what Elizabeth needed.
The previous December, I had learned that my last affair partner had given birth to a baby girl. Although I wasn’t 100% sure it was my child because of the mother’s promiscuous lifestyle, I knew that the probability was higher than normal due to the amount of time spent with her; Another (huge) consequence from my sexual immorality. At first, her father called me to discuss the baby and wanted me to relinquish all custody of the child so that she could be raised by her and her family; pretty strange for a father to call to negotiate for his adult daughter. What I didn’t know was that the mother had been using drugs throughout the pregnancy and after giving birth she tested positive for illegal drugs. Initially, I felt God was speaking to me through His word when I read about Hagar and Ishmael being “set free” and God promising to make Ishmael into a great nation, protecting him, caring for him, making sure he was safe. This is what I felt would happen with Elizabeth. Even after verbally agreeing to relinquish my rights, I had a very uneasy feeling. This feeling lasted for almost a month when we finally found out that CPS had been involved in this case and Elizabeth’s mother had actually lost her rights and Elizabeth’s grandmother had taken over as custodian so that Elizabeth’s mother could still “raise” her. I was heartbroken. I felt helpless. I felt that I couldn’t let Elizabeth be raised by a drug-addicted mother in a dysfunctional household. I wanted to do something, I had to do something, but not without my wife being onboard.
We met with our family attorney who filled us in on the legal issues involved with taking a child away from her mother and how difficult it would be to do this; near impossible unless the mother harms the child or is incarcerated, both of which we did not want Elizabeth to experience. So I sat in my office and I worried. At this time, I was listening to a Christian satellite radio station and they had Mac Powell, the lead singer of Third Day giving insight into their song, Revelation. He spoke about how the song isn’t about the book of Revelation or the end of the world, it was about prayer for God to show him the way, to give him a revelation on what he needed to do. I broke down and cried at this point; the weight of this decision tearing a hole in me. Then the song began:
“My life, has led me down the road that’s so uncertain. Now I am left alone and I am broken. Trying to find my way, trying to find the faith that’s gone. This time, I know that You are holding all the answers. And I’m tired of losing hope and taking chances, on roads that never seem to be the ones that bring me home. Give me revelation, show me what to do. Cause I’ve been trying to find my way, I haven’t got a clue….”
I wept and I prayed. I prayed, I prayed, I prayed for God to show me what to do. “I can’t let this little baby girl grow up in that lifestyle, I can’t just sit back idle and allow this to happen to her; allow another human being, my daughter, to grow up to be as dysfunctional as her mother and her father. I need to take action, I need to do something, but Lord, I can’t do this without You and without my wife. I don’t know how to convince her to love Elizabeth enough to want to take custody of her, to endure the difficult battle ahead of us, to keep our marriage together as we struggle to do what is right. I have to answer our attorney soon on what we intend to do. Lord, give me a revelation on what to do with Elizabeth.”
At this time, as I was finishing my prayer, I received a text from my wife with the simple words, “Go ahead take custody.” I couldn’t believe my eyes; I began to weep. How could this woman, who I betrayed, lied to, cheated on, and hurt so deeply want to be a part of raising a little girl that wasn’t even hers, and worse, was my affair partner’s child? The Lord put it on my wife’s heart to love all children and understand that it wasn’t Elizabeth’s fault that she was a product of two very selfish individuals and that she should not have to suffer because of our (my affair partner and I) poor choices. I believe it was at this point that I stopped living in fear of my wife and began living in freedom with my wife. I had feared my wife leaving me for such a long time (I’m codependent as most addicts are) and I knew that her unselfish decision to take custody of Elizabeth was a love so powerful, that it could only come from God. Jesus was loving me through my wife and her unselfish actions. She could have held on to the anger she had for my activities and sought revenge on me, or worse, divorced me because of this other baby, but instead, she showed me a tremendous amount of grace; a glimpse of what God shows me. Her grace, and the grace of God, changed my life forever. It was love and grace that God used to restore me, not anger and condemnation. I am thankful to my wife for so many things, but especially thankful for this.
It was a long and drawn out custody battle that went on for over a year. Back and forth, back and forth, between grandmother and mother and us with tens of thousands of dollars being spent on attorneys and back child support. I don’t know how the Lord sustained us, provided for us, or how He kept our marriage together during one of the most difficult years of our lives, but He did. It’s one thing to be in recovery working a proper program and couple’s program, but it is another to add a custody battle in the mix of it all. There was a lot of prayer involved in this year, particularly from 2 Chronicles 20:15, where the Lord says, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” I learned to turn over this custody battle to God, for Him to do what was in Elizabeth’s best interest, either to be a huge part of our family or to remain with her grandmother and mother. Either way, we were preparing to say, “blessed be the name of the Lord.”
On April 1, 2011 we officially took custody of Elizabeth with visitation by grandmother, a miracle by Texas custody rights standards. It is very difficult in Texas for a mother to lose the rights to her children unless she has really messed up, and I mean REALLY messed up. It’s actually a sad state of affairs that children have to suffer when there are other, healthier people willing to take the role of custodian be it another family member or through adoption. But perhaps that’s what the Lord wanted to show us, that He can do what is impossible, sustain our marriage in the worst of situations and bypassing the laws of the State of Texas.
A couple of years ago, I finally had the opportunity to see Mac Powell and Third Day perform after a Houston Astros game. The photo above shows the band performing the song Revelation but also shows a building in the background outside of the stadium (top center of the photo). That building is the Harris County Civil Court Building where all family law issues are decided. It was in that building that my wife and I took custody of Elizabeth. It is almost fitting that the building is in the background of this photo of Third Day and I don’t think it is a coincidence at all. Elizabeth has a much better life now, because my wife made the commitment to trust the Lord, not me, in all of this. She knew that there was something much bigger than her, me, or our marriage at stake in making this decision. My wife has been more of a mother to Elizabeth than she will ever experience with her birth mother, and she fights to keep her safe, and loves her like her own daughter. That gives me hope. If God can take this mess of a life, transform it, and also transform the wounded heart of my wife, then anything is possible as long as we seek Him in what we do. Next time you listen to the song Revelation, think about this story, and how God has a plan for you and your family. No matter where you are in your recovery, I pray this story gives you hope.
Happy 5th birthday to my Lizzie LooLoo, we love you very much!