In 1992 I divorced my first husband and proceeded to drag my three children through the ridicule and mess of a prodigal existence. In the years that followed I spiraled out of control with wild living, honky-tonk frequenting, one-night-stands and lots and lots of alcohol. My life and my heart were a wadded up mess of jumbled emotions, failures, and outright criminal behavior. I’m a pretty open book so I don’t mind telling you that I’m not proud of it, but it remains an honest appraisal of the worst years of my adult life.
In 1994 a very tall man literally lifted me off my feet from a dance hall floor in Fort Worth, Texas and pursued hard after this “used up woman with three kids.” He was younger, cocky and, standing seven feet tall, was head and shoulders above the crowd. He could not be missed. Within months the part of me that wanted to run away and escape the reality of single motherhood chose to move in with this man and took the rest of us-including my kids with me.
I soon learned he carried anger like a weapon, but distributed it like a guided missile in stealth mode. You often never saw it coming. I should have run for the hills the first time he turned those violent tendencies toward me and my kids, but I had burned bridges that left me few places to turn. His hostile nature was buried in charm and sparkling blue eyes and a disarming smile that always apologized.
His family was divided about whether to embrace me and my kids or convince him to get us out of the picture. I thought I loved him – but now realize I had no idea what love looked like or how healthy love could be expressed. Nothing about us made sense, but we were moth to flame with each other. Drawing out the worst and trying to make the best of it.
I lived far from God in those days, but it didn’t keep me from praying. I remember one such day when he and I were driving to his parent’s house for dinner. He had begun to berate and humiliate me in the three blocks from where I lived and his family home. When we arrived at the house, I fought back tears and waited for him to exit the car.
I looked straight ahead as I told my kids, “Don’t get out of the car.”
I locked the doors and sat there believing that it would only get worse if we went inside. He had the keys so I sat and waited. He returned a few minutes later exasperated that I was still in the car with my kids. He opened the driver’s side door with the keys and said, “Are you coming inside?”
“Not until you apologize and assure me that you will stop speaking to me disrespectfully.”
He laughed, a hint of disbelief in the tone. “My parents want to know why you are sitting out here.”
“Tell them it’s because their son is being a jerk.”
He pulled himself together and laughed again. “I’m sorry, all right. I won’t talk to you that way anymore. Now, will you come inside?”
“Come inside kids, it’s time to eat.”
In the kitchen his mother helped me prepare the kid’s plates. She leaned in close to me and said, “You are the bravest person I’ve ever met.”
I remember laughing to myself, Bravest or stupidest? The jury is still out on that…
That relationship unraveled a few weeks later when he arrived to see me in rare form. He had been even more rude and cruel with his words again so I told him to leave, and I didn’t want to see him anymore. He turned around and with a calm that I can barely explain, he pulled back his huge fist and cold-cocked me in the face. The results were explosive. I fell back on the bed in stunned silence while my four year old baby girl stood up and said, “You hurt my momma, leave now.”
She helped me dial 9-1-1 and a few minutes later my roommates and the police, paramedics and neighbors arrived to assist me and care for my children. The results were devastating. Police arrested him as he walked up the street away from the house.
After being transported by ambulance to the hospital, I returned home to my parents and spent the next year going through court proceedings and the usual trappings of a broken/battered woman goes through with the one who stole her heart and broke her life. Then, the facts would have called me a victim or survivor of domestic violence. Not once, but twice.
I prosecuted the man. The meeting with the district attorney revealed that he could be charged with felony assault due to the extent of my injuries, but he admitted that the man would cop a plea to anything misdemeanor. I asked that they make sure that it stayed on his record and that he got anger management help so that steps could be taken to ensure that other women would not end up in the same situation I found myself in.
He was arrested again for stealing a few months later and spent six months in jail. When he got out he came looking for me but I had finally moved on. He still tried to find his way back in, but I would not let him. Fear and pain covered every inch of me when I would answer the phone and his voice would come through the other end of the line.
Scott and I ran into him out at Northside one Saturday night and I felt my blood run cold standing so close to him. It didn’t take long for my old run away instincts to kick in and I did. Scott stood toe-to-toe with him and might have taken it to blows for me if Jason would have persisted. Thankfully we didn’t have to find that out then.
The last time he called my parent’s house was a few months before Scott and I married when my dad told him that I would be married soon and he should move on with his life.
I have not thought of him in years until today. My friend for many years shared a link with me on Facebook. He has been arrested for involvement in an 11 year crime spree of organized burglaries of jewelry stores. His bail is set at one million dollars.
My heart aches for his mother and sisters as I sit here tonight. These women are good people, nice people. His mother has been widowed for around 15 years and I can only imagine that this latest turn of events is very painful for them as well.
I read the news story to Scott tonight and conversed with my old friend on Facebook. I told her that it is still a bit unsettling that I had once considered marrying that man. I am so grateful for the turn of events that moved him out of my life and for my husband, Scott, who is a gentle, steadfast man who loves me without condition. He just loves.
But, still… I understand that Jason has one child and as I have mentioned a family who is hurting over all of this. I pray for them tonight, and for Jason’s heart and soul. That he would find Christ as he sorts out the latest details of his criminal career and encounter the life changing love of a God who can redeem even a career criminal from his own destruction.
Would you join me in praying for them? My family does not understand why I need to pray for people who have hurt me the way this man and even Justin’s dad did. But, Jesus said it all this way:
Matthew 5:43-48 (NKJV)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
I chose by an act of my will to forgive this man many years ago, so I desire him no ill will. My hope is that he will find himself changed on the other side of this self-induced misery.
His name is Jason Kennedy. Please pray for him as often as you think of it. No one is beyond the hand of the Lord.