Marilyn Gray’s Testimony
I grew up in a family where there were four step dads, alcohol, domestic abuse and drama happening 24 hours a day; my childhood was filled with trauma and terror.
In childhood pictures of me, my body language and eyes tell the story.
There were so many rules, spoken and unspoken. I became hyper-vigilant and learned how to put on masks and become a chameleon to fit the situation.
So many evenings I would hear the yelling and screaming coming from another place in the house. I was confident someone was going to get killed.
I found safety, protection, and value during my school years. My twin sister (born 7 minutes before me) was a built-in companion and friend – most of the time. We acted out our rage between us because we didn’t have any other place to express emotions. I still have scars from our fights, but we were the best of friends at the same time. Sound confusing? Absolutely normal to me!
My Role: Peacekeeper
My role in the family was to keep the peace at all costs – a role I kept into my adulthood. I was not involved in alcohol, drugs, or sex during school. That didn’t happen until I graduated. During my growing up years, I am so grateful for the people God put in my life to love me and encourage me – I don’t know what my life would have been without them. Don’t get me wrong, I have three sisters and a brother that I really love today. It was just hard for all of us.
I eventually did go for the party life. Drinking, all sorts of drugs, and sexual promiscuity were my choices. At the same time, I remained faithful in my workplace – a functioning, dysfunctional woman.
My first marriage ended in divorce after three years because my idea of love was that the guy didn’t drink or beat me up. During that marriage, I had a stillborn baby – Keith Christopher – and I justified the loss as “God’s will.” We got divorced and I stuffed that pain for almost 20 years. My drinking got to the point that I had to drink in order to function.
Looking Good; Dying Inside
Enter my current husband of almost 35 years: Wayne. When we met, the commonalities we shared were drinking, drugs, and sex. (All through this time, I was functioning in my job and getting promotions. It was all about looking good on the outside and hiding the pain and dying inside. Things got much worse.
Our communication as husband and wife was tumultuous, to say the least. We filed for bankruptcy and lost everything; we went from a four bedroom house to a one room apartment. There was not much intimacy or sex happening either, unless one or both of us was drunk or high. At that point we moved from Colorado to Virginia to start over.
One of the many tolls my drinking took was on my body. I was stressed all the time. When I was diagnosed with melanoma in 1989, I handled it as a normal event and kept moving farther into despair, desperation, exhaustion, and burnout.
Clean and Sober
I eventually quit my job and went into rehab – I couldn’t play the game anymore. Wayne and I both got clean and sober on June 27, 1992. So many things happened after that date. Within a month, I was in a head-on collision and injured my neck and back.
Since I was raised in Colorado and Wayne was raised in Nebraska, we wanted to come back to the West Coast. We landed in Olympia, Washington in 1993. One month after arriving, I was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. We knew no one other than our AA buddies. It was scary and traumatic.
I ended up having three operations during 1993-1994, along with chemotherapy. I lost all my hair and gave myself shots almost daily for a year. Because of complications, I ended up in the hospital five times that year.
The First Day of My Life
The last time I was admitted to the hospital, I was so afraid I was going to die that I cried out to God: “Lord, if you save me, I will do anything for you.”
That was the first day of my life. I had a dramatic experience in the hospital for three days. I heard the Lord say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant; you have persevered. I want you to go out and tell everyone the good news of what I have done for you.”
I did, I have, and I will continue to tell others of the Good News about Jesus. We rededicated ourselves and our marriage to God on December 8, 1994.
Since that time nothing about our life has been the same. We pursued healing for our marriage, healing from our past wounds, healing from all the years of walking in shame, guilt, anger, and hatred. We ran after wholeness and continue to do so.
God has done a miracle work in us individually and in our marriage. We know that if He can do it in us, He can do it for anyone. We have been on a fast track for the kingdom of God. We are not the same people!
God is a God of restoration. He has restored for us the years the locust has eaten and filled our hearts with so much love for Him, each other, and for people in our lives. I am grateful to be alive, knowing that every breath that I take, every moment I am awake, I give to Him.