The curse causeless shall not come.
—Proverbs 26:2 (KJV)
The truth is more amazing than fiction, and the story I tell here is true. I began as an emotional failure and an alienated loner doomed to spinsterhood, and became a happily married wife. At first, I offered my story only to friends. It made a deep impression upon them and inspired optimism; they advised me to publish it.
King Solomon’s Descendant
When I was 7 years old, a dramatic vision made me believe that the most important in my life was to love and be loved.
Out of nowhere, there came a bright scene, which lingered for a long time. I smelled the freshness of a river in shadowy woods. A slim young man with dark hair stood on the bank of the river waiting for his chosen one. With a graceful smooth walk, a young woman met him. She wore a white ballroom dress with a fluffy, airy skirt. Her face glowed with a happy smile. She stretched her arms out for an embrace. She was confident in her happiness, in their mutual love. I believed I was to be that girl.
Later, this childhood impression grew into a conviction that the meaning of my life was to love a certain man. I wished to dedicate myself to him and to live by him and for him. However, an insidious voice inside whispered, “It will not work. You will not make it.” I listened to it. Moreover, I believed it.
For long decades, my private life went nowhere. Those I fell for were either indifferent to me or despised me. I felt rejected and hurt.
If I had met my future husband earlier,
either I would have not noticed him
or I would have pushed him away
If my early failures were just random and unfortunate, they should not have repeated themselves every time. I should have been able to connect with someone at least once. I was not ugly. Young men would come up to me in the street to express their interest. Nevertheless, they did not interest me, and I did not have any success with the guys whom I did like. If I liked someone, he would not like me—or vice versa. I kept asking myself, “Why are they not interested in me?” I thought I might have been cursed.
Meanwhile, I wondered why my life experiences did not teach me anything at all. I kept stumbling over the same things. My personal life kept unraveling in the same way. An anguish oppressed me, because the most significant thing in my life was missing, and the only way out I saw in destroying my sensitivity and amorousness.
I hated my birthdays. They triggered my loneliness with an especially acute and poisonous thought that I was another year closer to my grave. About every 6 months, pangs of despair and darkness seized me, and I wanted to kill myself. But something held me back. I used to explain it as an unwillingness to hurt my family and friends, a desire to watch my life through to the end of the “movie”, hoping perhaps later there would be something better.
My slight hope for a miracle also kept me going. I incorrectly imagined what kind of miracle might rescue me. I thought it should be a guy’s love. However, if I had met my future husband, and being the person I was, either I would have not noticed him or I would have destroyed our relationship with my own hands without even realizing it. A saving miracle proved to be better than the love I imagined.
On my 32nd birthday, suddenly, for the first time in my life, I had a premonition and even felt confident that something good was about to happen. I was spending my summer break in Crimea, a famous Soviet Black Sea spa area. I was sitting in a seaside café with my roommate. We were leisurely eating ice cream when unexpectedly a sweet transparent sensation of peacefulness enshrouded me. Two days later, I met an astounding person who changed the course of my life.
I decided to go on a mountain excursion. At the excursion bureau I found out that they had quite a few mountain trips. I hesitated over whether to choose a one-day or a two-day tour to Demerdgi, the most beautiful mountain in Crimea.
My decision to take the one-day trip seemed trivial, but led to momentous consequences.
About 7:00 a.m., our group gathered at a bus station. Two men arrived, a brunet and a short blond one, who were in their early thirties. At first sight, there was nothing special about the short guy. Blond-haired males did not attract me; they seemed bland. However, when he started talking I enjoyed his tour lectures. I began to discover Valeriy’s amazingly unmatched personality.
That day he had left his home at 5:00 a.m., before the buses began operating, and walked 10 kilometers (over 6 miles) to meet our excursion. Most of people in Ukraine at that time did not have cars. I did not expect the excursion to include a bus ride, and so I carried no money with me. Since I did not know anybody in the group, I asked the brunet to loan me some money to pay for the bus ticket. He told me to talk to Valeriy. Valeriy immediately loaned the money to me, an absolute stranger, without any guarantee of ever being repaid. Growing up in Soviet Union, I observed that people generally were harsh and uncaring. Yet Valeriy expressed empathy to strangers and was always willing to help. In all his words and actions, he showed so much consideration for people and genuine care about them. He volunteered to extend our excursion for more sightseeing without charge.
That day, he invited us to go on a 15-kilometer excursion to another mountain 2 days later. I was among the first few who readily accepted this invitation. That trip was not from the excursion bureau, but from the tourist group where he worked. Valeriy toted a very heavy backpack full of food for the entire group. In such small things, he manifested his unselfishness and compassion. Moreover, he was not proud of himself and did not consider his actions to be something special. I would have taken all the credit for them, but he did not. All he was concerned about was how to serve others better.
He was modest, meek and eager not to judge people but to understand them. I did not hear a single unkind word about anyone else from him. Even the tone of his voice exuded sincerity and kindness. He radiated special inner warmth, and I felt a desire to warm up beside him.
He took responsibility for himself; he did not shift it onto others. For instance, he told a story about a past failure, and acknowledged, “I became disappointed with myself.” I heard those words for the first time in my life. Normally, people complain about somebody else disappointing them. They see causes of their misfortunes in others and external circumstances. I compared Valeriy’s behavior to other people’s conduct. Only 15 years later when I was writing this story did I realize that I was like other people.
I always lived in a hurry, being afraid to miss something important or not to make it on time. I was amazed that he never once acted hurried, as if he knew a special secret unknown to the rest of us. A passion to discover his secret blazed up in me.
Also, before meeting him, I had felt an urgent need to find understanding from other people. I dreamed about others understanding me, but I did not care much about understanding them. Observing Valeriy, for the first time, I felt an urgent desire to understand another person.
Before meeting Valeriy, I could not “find myself” and had no idea how I wanted to behave. I felt that I was being myself only when I was alone. In the company of others, a strange power drove me, impelling me to behave in a way I did not want or mean to act. The way I treated others often left an unpleasant aftertaste. I valued honesty, yet openly expressing my feelings to people seemed impossible. True expressions of feeling seemed saccharine to me, and I preferred to hide them under a disguise of rudeness and mockery.
Further, no behavior of people around me appeared satisfying or acceptable. I had not had a model of good behavior prior to meeting Valeriy. I was afraid of other people and did not trust them. I felt like a hunted beast, which they wanted only to wound. Due to Valeriy’s influence, however, I became aware of how many times I unthinkingly hurt people out of self-defense, and I regretted those actions.
He gave me a model of the best. The most admirable part was that his example looked achievable to me. When we think, “I will never be able to do that!” we discourage ourselves. I had a gut feeling that I could relate to people the way he did.
I intuitively started imitating Valeriy and felt immense freedom, as if I had recovered from a long agonizing disease. I sensed a heady feeling of unknown power and control over myself. From that time on, I became able to behave in a way that pleased me. My conduct became friendly and natural. My attitude toward other people changed drastically. Fear evaporated. I began understanding people and caring for them. Scales fell off my eyes. Exciting freedom! Almost everybody around seemed so close to me. I experienced sympathy and warmth toward them and saw friends in them. I came to believe that even those who acted hostile to me could change if I firmly stuck to the ways of goodness.
It was a sheer miracle, because this marvelous transformation happened by watching Valeriy’s extraordinary personality. He was exactly the inspiration I needed in order to be helped—I am sure that if he had been even a little different, he would not have influenced me. Consequently, I became convinced that God had sent me that man in order to rescue me. I started believing in God’s existence rationally. Once a complete atheist, I became an intellectual believer. I decided that God would send me a soul mate, too. I just needed to wait. Back then I did not know the Bible and did not have a clue that merely waiting was not enough.
I wondered what kind of nation gave birth to such a wonder as Valeriy. Therefore, I asked him, “What nationality are you?”
He answered, “A Jew.” I was surprised.
“Why is your last name is so Russian like?” I asked.
“It is derived from my ancestor’s name, Solomon. Have you heard about Solomon, son of David?” he said.
“I read Sulamith by Kuprin,” I answered. (It was a novel about Sulamita, Solomon’s favorite wife.)
“Ah, fiction,” responded Valeriy with disappointment in his voice.
I was intrigued. Not every day do you meet royalty. I also had no clue where else besides fiction I could read about Solomon; perhaps in history books, I thought. In order to learn more about his ancestors I asked a teacher of ancient history where I could read about those Israeli kings. He said, “In the Bible.” I did not expect the Bible to be the source. Not long before that time, I had acquired a Bible out of curiosity because in the USSR it had been a forbidden book for decades. I had started reading it but did not get too far and laid it aside. Now I opened my Bible and found the section about David and Solomon.
The life story of David strikingly differed from descriptions of other famous personalities. It was not glamorized, and it persuaded me with its sense of reality. David piqued my interest. The story of his dealing with King Saul, his deadly enemy, especially impressed me. Saul envied David’s success and made attempts on his life, but fell into David’s hands. David had a chance to kill Saul more than once, but spared him because Saul was the LORD’s anointed (1 Samuel 24, 26). I admired David’s magnanimity and nobility, qualities the world around me lacked, and for which my soul craved. Consequently, I became interested in the Bible.
I Want to Spend My Life, Mending Broken People
The transformation that happened in me was so radical and healing that I felt a passionate desire to share it with others. As a Christian song goes,
I want to spend my life, mending broken people,
I want to spend my life, removing pain,
Lord, let my words heal a heart that hurts,
I want to spend my life mending broken people.
From that moment on, I sensed an ability in me to help people. I was searching for answers about the riddle of my unusual transformation and was trying to discover a method of soul healing.
I was trying to solve a mystery of my unusual transformation and to discover a method of soul healing
My search led me to humanistic psychology1. If psychology is not among your favorite subjects, you might consider skipping this chapter and going to chapter 3.
When I practiced humanistic psychology, I marveled that so many therapeutic principles were similar to Biblical principles. One of them is not using assessment, that is, not sticking labels on people: “He is arrogant,” “You are impossible,” “She is dumb,” and so on, which usually begin with the words, “He (she) is . . . ,” “You are . . .”. The Bible says, “Do not judge.” Because Valeriy did not judge or blame anybody, I felt at ease and safe with him. So, I was able to allow myself to take chances and try new unexplored patterns of behavior.
While searching for the method of soul healing, I discovered that besides giving up evaluating/judging people, humanistic psychology and Christianity share other common things:
- Unconditional acceptance of a person. Therapists should accept an individual entirely the way he or she is now, not the way they could be in future. This corresponds with the unconditional love of God to sinners, in spite of their sins.
- Confidentiality (keeping secret what you have learned about the other person). A similar principle is laid out in Proverbs 11:13: “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.”
- Confrontation. We need to avoid discussing somebody’s wrongdoing with others. We have to confront the person directly. “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone” (Matthew 18:15).
There are many more similarities between psychology and the Bible, and to describe them all in my short discourse is just impossible.
Those and many other things from practical psychology proved the truthfulness of the Bible. I read it occasionally and tried to follow what I found there. My Bible reading was mostly intellectual and did not bring noticeable spiritual changes. I was surprised to find out that God commanded people to keep the 7th-day Sabbath (Genesis 2:3, Exodus 20:8-10). I started reading the Bible as a form of worshipping on Saturdays and avoiding secular work.
As I began using Biblical and psychotherapeutic healing principles in my life, I experienced significant success in dealing with people.
As a teenager, I suffered because of misunderstandings and broken relationships. When I wished good things for people and they suspected me of evil, my pride was hurt so much that it seemed too humiliating to explain myself. I preferred either to keep silent (Let them think what they want, I’m not like that, I am superior); or to break relationship and burn the bridges (I don’t need such “friends”); or to behave rudely in order to make them think even worse things about me (Let it hurt even more!). It is obvious that I was hurting myself, but at that time, I considered myself a victim of other people’s evil intentions.
To the company of people I preferred books. I was an avid reader. Not only did the lives of characters enthrall me, but I also believed that writers possessed special wisdom and could prompt people to act properly and to build their lives well. However, how can we distinguish what ideas and descriptions are realistic and truthful, what will work, and what is merely a fruit of their imagination—fiction? The genres of belles-lettres we call fiction for a reason. The word means counterfeit. Will in reality everything turn out as a novelist wrote? That is a big question.
Truthful description of real experience separated from assumptions, is able to heal pains and mend broken relationships
Getting acquainted with humanistic psychology, I increasingly acquired real, successful and properly evaluated experiences. I came to a realization that my failures occurred mostly because of my pride and harshness. For instance, when someone reprimanded me, I frequently protested silently by thinking, “It’s none of your business. What counts is that it suits me.” Generally, when conflicts or misunderstandings arose in my life, I had a tendency to take the attitude, “I don’t give a rip.” I thought I did not care about myself. Later it dawned on me that I did not care about the others also.
Humanistic psychology offers constructive ways for solving conflicts by taking responsibility upon ourselves. For example, instead of withdrawing, we have to establish contact by confronting a person directly, expressing what makes us unhappy by conveying reliable information. We must exclude evaluating, labeling, or judging their personality, and use objective descriptions of observed behavior. When a psychologist helps a client separate subjective opinions and assumptions from facts, misunderstandings are cleared up, pain is healed, and broken relationships are mended. This approach contradicts most of the common views and positions held by many writers. My favorite novels often described how characters kept silent, hid their love, and rejected their loved one if he or she proved disappointing. Those characters cherished their own pride. One of my favorite poems was by a famous Russian poet, Mikhail Lermontov:
They loved each other for so long and tenderly,
With deep yearning and insanely stormy passion;
But they avoided confession and encounters.
Their speeches were empty and cold.
They parted in speechless and proud suffering,
The precious image they saw in dreams.
Death came. They met beyond the grave,
But they did not recognize each other.
I thought I was looking for mutuality, but in reality, my passions were feeding my pride and led me to loneliness.
My experience in psychology, based on humanism and objectivity, taught me to value the truth over fiction. I saw that objective reality has incomparably greater value than any attractive feat of imagination. I lost interest in fiction. I started preferring scientific research and honest descriptions of events that took place in reality, such as biographies and testimonies. It was one of the reasons why I began to hold the Bible in esteem. I am narrating this story because it happened to me in reality, not in a writer’s imagination; and I am trying to be as objective as I can.
I shared my discoveries with other people, helping them to fix their broken relationships. Sometimes the effect of psychological intervention was so striking that it seemed magical. A depressed, brokenhearted person would come to my office. He saw life as black and joyless, as if everything around him was bad. A short time after dealing with the problem, they would be transformed; a radiant smile would light their face, their soul would blossom, and they started seeing colors in life again, noticing good and worthy things. I kept being marveled.
People who went through therapy were amazed that they knew so little about such effective ways of help. Those who heard about somebody’s healing experience second hand sometimes reacted with skepticism, asking, “Is it some kind of hypnosis?” There was no hypnosis. Everything is so plain; you love and accept a person, listen to them attentively, exert self-discipline and stick to some rules.
These and many other things from practical psychology testified in favor of the Bible as a reliable source that conveys the truth. I read it now and then and tried to practice things I drew from it. For example, I learned that it is necessary to witness about Christ, so I started doing it.
* * *
Such a wealth of knowledge and experience seemed as though it should make my personal life smoother, but that did not happen. It was still hopeless for 6 more years. I already experienced a long chain of disappointments searching for a husband. By the age of 28, it “dawned” on me that since nothing went right in my personal life it was probably due to a set of wrong principles that was guiding my choice of life partner. Perhaps, I should seek the one who loves me, I thought, not whom I love. Consequently, I married a man who apparently loved me. Nevertheless, I was wrong. After my son was born, the marriage ended.
Dear Tatyana, Thank you very much for the openness. Blessed is the Lord who directs His children in such a way. Such autobiographies inspire a lot. My opinion, this is the true meaning of Humanistic Psychology, that a therapist walked the way of actualization himself, and his life experience helps to alleviate the way of his client, because the helper knows the practical subtleties and pitfalls.
Cabbage and Ten Dollars
In 1993, I got pneumonia and went to Crimea to a health resort. There I shared a table with a husband and wife from Russia, Tolik and Irena. They were open, sociable young people with a friendly and tactful sense of humor. There was nothing special about their appearance, except that Tolik had a slight limp. We enjoyed visiting—we talked about different subjects and joked. I liked they did not pressure me about religion.
At the dinner table, I kept lamenting that I wanted cabbage salad and the cafeteria did not serve it. A week later, I brought a cabbage for supper. And just that evening, the cafeteria served cabbage salad. Tolik remarked, “You didn’t believe God knew your needs and would supply them, did you? The Bible says, ‘Ask, and it shall be given you.’”2
After thinking about his words for a couple of days, I approached Tolik with a question. “In your life you probably had periods of distress, loss and disappointment. How do they relate to God’s care?” He replied, “When I was an unbeliever I thought the same way.” Irena added, “Tolik had a spine disease that the doctors considered incurable. It confined him to a wheelchair. One night we both prayed until dawn, and in the morning he rose up and walked. Just a little limp remained.”
Their witness impressed me. I requested permission to ask Tolik some questions about the Bible, and they invited me to their room. That night Tolik washed my face with water, recited some prayers (I can identify Psalm 91 now), asking the Lord to heal me. I spent more than 2 weeks with them, praying and studying the Bible. I felt better every day. I had an impression of being born anew. Over the course of these 2 weeks, Tolik taught me to pray and read the Bible.
I confessed to him and Irena that I normally did not trust people, who suggested religious help, because I always felt sure they wanted to use me. Yet, this time, when I shared my personal troubles with Tolik and Irena and wept, Tolik embraced me and wept along with me. I was deeply touched by his compassion. It opened the door of my heart to trust, as if a dam was broken, and I was flooded with warmth.
Irena asked me, “Do you believe now that Tolik doesn’t need anything from you?” Oh, yes, I believed it! Irena added, “Do you know how Christ is rejoicing this moment because His daughter has come to Him?”
Uninvited tears pinched my eyes. I sensed an emotional connection with the Lord. That moment I saw in God someone close, who was really concerned about our lives.
* * *
God healed me spiritually, mentally and physically. I sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit all the time. For instance, though no human told me anything of the kind, I discovered that rock music is incompatible with the peace of mind. One night as I accompanied my roommate to a discotheque, the peace left me. I ascribed this effect to the music.
My faith grew to the extent that after our Bible study at midnight, I felt no fear while walking home past an empty field, where 2 days previously somebody was murdered. I was confident that the Lord was guarding me because I was doing His will, studying His Word.
From then on, I read the Bible regularly and prayed every evening, as Tolik and Irena taught me. Holy Scripture revealed important truths to me; in particular, that morning is a better time for devotion, it gives inspiration for the upcoming day. “But unto thee have I cried, O LORD; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee.” (Psalm 88:13).
God’s Word instructed me to pray about my soul mate, asking the Lord to send me my life partner: “yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” (James 4:2). Just waiting for His intervention is not enough. Another helpful nugget related to 2 people, not just one, praying: “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:19). So, I myself began praying, asked my classmate to pray for me, and began waiting with greater confidence for positive results.
The Bible helped me solve a very difficult problem. I lived in housing provided by a family member, Anna. We did not get along at all. Anna was interfering in my attempts to teach my son different chores. (To protect Anna’s identity I omit specific details. For the same reason, I changed some names. I am not out to embarrass others; I just want to share my successful experience and point to a better way.) Anna would angrily interrupt me when I asked my son to make his bed or clean up after himself, exclaiming, “Is it too hard for you to do it for your own child?!” thus sowing seeds of disobedience and disrespect in his mind. So his typical response to my requests was, “You are the mother. You should do that.” I recognized the fruits of Anna’s influence. I wondered how to raise him without harmful intervention.
My relationships with my friends suffered, too, because of Anna’s intrusion. She intimidated them. When they would come, they saw her tightly pursed lips and heard her clearing her throat in discontent. Consequently, they preferred meeting me elsewhere.
I dreamed of independent living. However, the only step I saw as the solution contradicted public opinion; very few supported me and I was afraid of condemnation. Those supporters advised me to sue her. I considered such an action unacceptable.
Gradually, a verse in the Bible spoke to me. I had been pondering over it for months. It occurred in 4 different places in the Bible and pointed to the same solution, to move out and leave everything behind. Finally, I realized that God’s will for me was to take that step. Awareness that the truth and God were on my side emboldened me. I made up my mind to move out. My 7-dollars-per-month salary did not allow me to implement my plan, though I worked at 3 jobs and carried 2.5 teaching loads. To rent even a one-room apartment cost at least 10 dollars a month. Soviet housing standards count rooms, not bedrooms in apartments – one-room apartment has only one room, which serves both as bedroom and living room. Ukrainian money is hryvnias, but because of its inflation landlords demanded US dollars.
I was asking God to help me fulfill His will. In a couple of years, the financial situation in Ukraine changed. My salary in hryvnias remained the same, but the currency exchange rate improved; in dollars it became much more. This opened the door for me to move.
Financial barriers vanished, but emotional barriers bound me like shackles. Breaking them was not easy. When I finally implemented my plan, Anna reacted the way I feared. Her rage like molten metal was burning me with red-hot splashes. She accused me of treachery, though I had not promised her anything. She tried all kinds of measures to reverse the course of events, even threats to summon my ex-husband from a different city.
I did not give up. Some people admired my courage. My example encouraged my coworker to undertake the same step in a similar situation. However, I cannot take pride in my decision—there was simply no other way out of the desperate situation. The first commandment has a special meaning for me. “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:2-3). It was God who led me out of the house of bondage. Interestingly, He first brought the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, and subsequently entered in the covenant with them. Christ not only preached the Gospel, but healed the sick, cast out demons, fed the hungry, served people. I understood the Lord first reveals His love tangibly, and then invites to follow Him.
Some of you may feel uneasy reading about my faith. For years I was afraid of such “religious” stuff. Once when I was looking for a mate in personals ads, an American answered one of mine. In his letter he wrote, “I love Jesus.” It was unclear and thus unpleasant to me how it was possible to love someone whom you cannot see or hear: 72 years of atheistic Soviet history left noticeable patterns, ugly scars and emptiness in the hearts of many Soviets, including me. The situation in the United States is not much better; secularized culture does the same to the Americans. Soviet propaganda and the American media have been bombarding us for so long with reports with no place for God in them, so that we are saturated with prejudices against faith and believers.
In Soviet Union I was taught, “Only illiterate uneducated grandmas could believe such fairytales, but educated people do not buy this stuff.” However, how can we know that God does not exist? A prejudice is an idea formed before meeting somebody or something related to it. How can we know something for sure before becoming acquainted with it?
After my resolute step, my new life started. My relationship with my son improved. I managed to involve him in household chores, and I enjoyed unimpeded fellowship with my friends. In a few years, Anna showed encouraging changes too. Once she was talking with her acquaintance, Zoya; Zoya complained about her nephew, who behaved the same way I did. Anna commented, “If a person leaves, it means he feels awful there.” Actually, Anna sympathized with Zoya’s nephew and indirectly with me. “When a man’s ways please the LORD, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7). My independence allowed me to make riskier decisions, which were waiting ahead.
What Has He Seen In His Life?
Seven months passed. One day I came home from work and turned on the TV. It showed an American preacher who just arrived in our city. “Shall I go?” I wondered. At least I could listen to good English. I did not expect much, reckoning arrogantly, “What can such a young guy tell me? What has he seen in his life?”
Nevertheless, the influence of Lowell Hargreaves’s personality was powerful. He had true faith, and practiced what he preached. Theory does not impress me; no matter how persuasive it is, unless the people professing it follow their own teaching in everyday life. After his conversion, Lowell realized that stealing food from the college cafeteria was wrong. Since restitution for the damage caused always follows true repentance, he decided to go to the cafeteria, to apologize and pay for the stolen food. “Satan had a long list of reasons why I shouldn’t go there,” he related, “like, ‘Imagine how embarrassing it will be for you.’ But I told him to shut up. I arrived at the cafeteria and announced to its director that I became a Christian and repented of stealing food. She replied, ‘I know many students steal, but you are the only one who came and pled guilty.’”
True repentance is followed by the restitution for the damage caused
Earlier, I had doubts regarding the trustworthiness of the Bible. Lowell suggested for me to study an English language Bible course which provided additional interesting information. The facts about who wrote the Scriptures, as well as when and how, attracted my interest and served as weighty proofs in favor of its reliability. It had been written during 15 centuries by about 40 authors from 3 continents and different strata: kings, commanders, priests, scholars, shepherds, farmers and fishermen.
The exact historical fulfillment of a prophecy from Daniel 2 fascinated me. Daniel recorded it 600 years before Christ. It forecasted the development of civilization for more than 2000 years ahead, indicating what kinds of empire will emerge after the fall of Babylon to the present day. It said that after the collapse of Rome there would be no more world empires, just a “divided kingdom” (Daniel 2:14). It became obvious that the Bible is not a fairytale—a human could not make that up.
When I looked at the starry sky, I gave deep consideration to the words of the evangelist. “If God can operate the universe and movements of each star and planet, isn’t He able to direct your life?”
Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. Why sayest thou… My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. (Isaiah 40:26-28)
I had already tasted personal growth. Becoming better, growing in Christ, attracted me like a magnet. Most importantly, I found out how much the Lord loved me: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever [this means also me and even you, my beloved reader] believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). He loves us more than His life. He did not just leave records about His love, but proved it in deed. Christ voluntarily gave His life for our sake. Faith and regret for the evil I did came in my heart. I secretly dreamed of such love. I found something real, an invaluable treasure. I sensed like I had left a stuffy room with stale air for a cool evening garden, and was inhaling pure crisp air filled with fragrance of freshly cut grass.
I reflected on my own situation. All my life I had had very difficult relationships with Anna. At one Gestalt therapy group session, a psychologist worked with a woman who had a similar problem and told her, “Your aunt is dragging you down to the grave along with her.” I was terrified that it could also apply to me. I did not want to believe it. When my views became soberer, I admitted that he was right. Surely, Anna’s actions and words were destructive. I used to suffer with pain, blaming her for making my life a nightmare. She later confessed that she used to wish me dead. I was angry and afraid. My reaction—rage—was natural, yet not helpful. “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15).
Without my consent, she could do nothing to me. There is always a choice to not give in and disagree to be tormented. We can choose peace and compassion to those who provoke us, because we bear full responsibility for what goes on in our mind. I could choose not to yield to anger or to hurts. Nevertheless, back then I did not know that and lacked the strength to resist destructive influences.
During Lowell Hargreaves’s sermon, “Freedom from Fear and Guilt,” I experienced repentance. During the sermon I finally realized the evil I had caused Anna, and admitted my sin. Before that I considered myself her victim, simply defending myself. I understood the necessity to take the next step, to ask for Anna’s forgiveness.
It was hard. My pride would not allow me to apologize. For several days, conflicting feelings tortured me. I could not make a decision.
The new truths caused a severe struggle in me because, for one thing, by my nature I am very distrusting. This distrust was in a way of accepting the Bible fact that God will never deceive or abandon and will always help.
It was harder to grasp the second reason. My unbelief was caused by my many sins, such as my strong dependence on destructive evil forces. I considered myself better than others. Pride and desire to exalt the self is the very first sin of Lucifer (Ezekiel 28). Pride led to my broken relationships with Anna: “Only by pride cometh contention” (Proverbs 13:10).
How wonderful that the Lord loves all the sinners, even those as entrenched as I was. It does not matter how sinful we are. The Lord is capable of performing miracles, to save and cleanse anybody. Such unfathomable love depends only on the love-abounding essence of our Redeemer, and not on our deeds. I was bogged down in sins, envying, hating, gloating and lying. Nevertheless, my Heavenly Father still loved me, for “God is love” by His essence (1 John 4:8). This love is selfless, faithful and sacrificial. “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee” (Isaiah 49:15).
During the evangelical program I fought a hard battle with conflicting feelings, thoughts and motives. God’s splendor and fullness attracted me, as well as the hope of life in a world without evil. On the other hand, I needed to make a crucial decision and change my life. I realized I had to believe not just inwardly, but to act upon my faith, and follow Christ. Obedience involved future problems.
Most Soviets were atheists and considered Protestants “sectants,” third-rate people. Years before, I sincerely tried to discover signs of insanity in my classmate’s sister, who joined a Protestant church. Now, my fear of looking just as crazy and being rejected because of it was holding me back. I did not want to join a “sect” or a cult, as it might have been called in the United States, and to become an outcast. Through this, I realized my strong dependence on human opinions. My former motto, I don’t give a rip, just concealed my fear of rejection under layers of scorn and the illusion of independence.
My third reason was that I wanted to be faithful to the Lord and to please Him. This meant keeping the Ten Commandments, including the 4th one about resting on the Sabbath. Refusing to work on Saturday meant possible conflicts with the administration and loss of my beloved work, and I just could not imagine my life without my job.
I also realized that I had to be baptized for real, the way Christ was, by immersion in water. I desired to be baptized into Christ, but joining a bunch of imperfect strangers gave me chills. I was afraid they might force on me their way of interpreting the Scripture. I counted only on myself, failing to believe that God would continue leading me and revealing all I needed.
I stood at a fork in the road: one road meant to believe that the Bible was right and to radically change my life; the other meant a decision that all this was nonsense and to keep living the old way. My scientific mindset demanded incontestable scientific proofs of God’s existence.
However I began discovering conflicts in my outlook. To believe both in God, who created people in His image, and in evolution, which declared humanity originating from monkeys, was absurdity. A question disturbed me, “How about the biogenetic law of evolution by Haeckel (recapitulation theory), which I taught?” This law claims that human fetuses, during intrauterine development, repeat the stages of evolution. At that time, I found no answer. The problem was not in scientific proofs, but in the heart. The Lord answered this question later. In America, learning about creationism, unknown in ex-USSR, I discovered that Haeckel falsified drawings of fetuses, and his fraud was uncovered.3
For several days, opposite spiritual forces were pulling me in different directions and wearing me out. The Holy Spirit prompted to ask Anna’s forgiveness, but the spirit of pride whispered insinuatingly, “It’s so humiliating, don’t disgrace yourself!” Stephen, the first martyr, identified this attitude as such: “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51).
My vitality was leaking out of me in a trickle-like liquid as from a cracked jar. Finally, in my class, I could not keep my thoughts organized anymore. I apologized to my students. My faltering was a sign to me, saying, “No more procrastination!” At home I wrote an apology letter, delivered it to Anna, and felt enormous relief. Though she did not change, I sensed that my conscience was clear. She still maintained her harsh and scornful attitude, mocked my faith, and even blasphemed God in her rage.
Changes in our relationship did not happen until 5 years later. Here is her recent letter:
I’m won by the loving, caring relationship between you and your husband. It is worth living for . . . I’m thankful to your friend for bringing me to your church. We came early so I managed to walk around, and see the people. I recognized they were involved not in frivolous stuff (as I imagined earlier), but they were solid, worthy people with dignity, with fair and open faces and eyes. Average Soviets lack that. Their enthusiasm and serious attitude toward the Bible astonished me. Worship service was enlightening to me. I wasn’t able to comprehend this teaching and questioned it before. But it turned out to be true or close to the truth. Now I feel very sorry for my skepticism and disrespect. Your friend gave me a book about Christ. I’m reading it daily and growing. Thanks to you and your friend for teaching me.
Considering Anna’s pride, for her to admit that she was wrong and ask for my forgiveness was a miracle.
One more subject disturbed me. Christ said, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matthew 19:9). A thought startled me, “Could the Lord be against my getting married? He forgives treachery and murder and gives a chance to start afresh. Won’t He forgive a mistake in choosing a former spouse?” The article “Divorced Once—Single Forever?” convinced me that God is not merciless.4
Democratic Union and Vanya’s Prayers
What helped me to decide in favor of Christ? I asked myself, “Do I want God to exist and everything He commanded to be the truth?” I answered yes. These ideas were from the Lord because they fit His Word. “Jesus answered them, and said, ‘My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent me. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself’” (John 7:16-17).
I went through a similar struggle in 1989, while spending 3 months at the Continuing Education Department in Moscow University.
Once, coming out of subway, I noticed a guy in front of me sticking homemade advertisements on walls and columns. A station attendant immediately tore one of them off. I got curious, and when he stuck the next ad, I approached and read it. It said, “An opposition party, ‘Democratic Union,’ holds its meetings at such-and-such an address.” In the 72-year Soviet era, only one party was known, the Communist Party. Hearing about an “opposition party” was very unusual and somewhat scary. “It’s probably illegal,” I guessed.
I called the number from the tab and asked for directions and their visitation requirements. I imagined they might check IDs. There were no requirements. Going there was risky, and I am not a daredevil. I just realized our society needed change, and had a hunch that their program might contain important truths. I imagined my son asking me later, “Mom, where were you when our future was at stake?” I also felt I should get acquainted with this party and make a decision about it.
The Democratic Union Program looked very attractive on paper. The Communist Party Program looked, on paper, not too bad either. A Westerner might be surprised to learn how many Biblical principles it contained: unselfish help, loyalty, sacrifices for higher cause, caring about parents, chastity, modesty and hard work.
Nothing good can be built by hatred and resisting evil with evil
At the first meeting, the DU members’ love for the nation and readiness for self-sacrifice earned my respect. Its leader, Valeria Novodvorskaya, from early youth, chose to stand for civil rights and paid for her commitment with imprisonments and hunger strikes. They injured her health; she looked 20 years older than her age. (Westerners do not know much about the persecution of dissidents during Gorbachev’s rule either.) A visitor tried to talk her out of participating in the next public meeting. The authorities did not sanction it, so it threatened to end up with her next imprisonment. “Valeria Il’inichna, perhaps it is not necessary . . . Could you just wait a while and gain strength?”
Novodvorskaya confidently answered, “By sitting behind the stove nobody gains strength.”
Her self-denial and patriotism earned my great respect, as did her courage and ardent dedication to a noble cause. Nevertheless, among many members I noticed a burning hatred of communists, not just of the ideology, but of the people themselves. This passionate intolerance pushed me away, because I was sure nothing good could be built by hatred.
At the evangelical program, I seemed to hear my son’s voice again, “Mom, where were you then?” Compelling Biblical truths appealed directly to my conscience: with whom to be, on whose side, on the side of good or evil? Whom to serve?
Attempts to accomplish something by myself took extreme energy, frequently with no avail, but when I prayed, there came answers
Later I realized that to decide for God, someone had to pray for me. Who could that be? There were just atheists around me, starting with my family: 4 generations of communists. Recently, however, when the Lord sent me a friend in my congregation, I seemed to find the answer. First, I had no friends in my church, but later I found them in another congregation. I did not ask God for friends, simply waited. More than once I observed that attempts to accomplish something by myself took extreme energy, frequently with no avail, but when I prayed, there came answers.
I told my new friend, Antonina (Tonya), how in my psychology training classes I had a Christian student named Vanya. This happened before I met Tolik and Irena. Vanya noticeably differed from others by his behavior and attitude. In our class, he shared his testimony—at a store, a woman in line behind him treated him rudely and he prayed for her. To pray for offenders was unheard of in the Soviet environment. When somebody was rude, all the people I knew lashed out because the other party “deserved it.”
During a “shipwreck” training exercise5, which requires making a decision about what vital things to take on a life raft, most of the groups quarreled and made threats like, “We’ll feed you to the sharks.” Vanya turned out a leader in his group, and a rare atmosphere of cooperation and mutual respect was established. I was displeased when he read from the Bible, though. My previous infrequent encounters with believers boiled down to them preaching to me, quoting Scripture as if it was nothing but a bunch of rules. Those rules seemed to suppress human will; you cannot do this or that. I love freedom and cannot stomach compulsion. Their preached Bible verses reeked of something dusty and musty to me. Despite my prejudice, Vanya’s personality opened me to a fresh wind of magnanimity, nobility, and let in the bright beams of God’s love for people and respect for human freedom.
Vanya spoke about our classes, “Here we learn to love each other.” My friend Tonya figured him out. She said it had to be Vanya who prayed for me. I was so delighted! How I would like to meet him again and thank him for what he did for me.
When my faith increased so much that I grew fond of the Lord, I realized another obstacle on my way to marriage. Wild thirst for being loved, bordering on derangement, still tormented me. It was an evidence of idolatry. God warns, “You shall not make for yourself an idol . . . Thou shall not worship them or serve them” (Exodus 20:4, 5).
I was attracted to vulnerable and soft men. As I noticed their mental anguish, I felt such a burning pity that I lost control. My insides would become tense and quivering, empathy for them would fill me, and gradually I would fall in passionate obsession. I was too dependent on a man and his opinions. Being infatuated with someone, I adored him so much that I borrowed his tastes and views. My individuality and will would dissolve in his. A girlfriend warned me, “You’ll become a copy of your husband.”
Once something similar to reciprocity occurred, and my worship for that man reached such a catastrophic degree that I was ready to commit a crime. I considered it a necessary sacrifice on the altar of love. “How well you set your course in pursuit of love! And so you have schooled your ways to wicked deeds” (Jeremiah 2:33 NJB). What self-deception! As a preached put it, “How dumb you can be and still breathe!” Fortunately, he broke off the relationship before that happened— thank God!
Later I realized that love and worship of the Lord should go first. Idolizing humans is dangerous. I put God in the first place and decided, “I’m ready now, and nothing will prevent me from marital happiness.” Nevertherless, the Lord kept working on me and removing other obstacles, like ungodly dreams and wrong imaginations. Integrity and purity should start from thoughts. I did not even realize how I was defiling myself by not being able to control my thoughts.
Integrity have to start from our thoughts
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).
The Lord wants us to be safe by being completely free from evil; therefore, He calls us to control what fills our thoughts. He is powerful enough to deliver us from any evil, if we cooperate.
After my baptism, God gave me a wonderful gift: I stopped being interested in men and they stopped noticing me. I thought, “Probably, I’m ready now; no more obstacles left.” I had a way to go, though.
Blessing and Curse
A friend gave me a book Blessing or Curse: You Can Choose by Derek Prince. It mostly agrees with the Bible. It provides an identifying mark of having a curse as absence of success: “And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee” (Deuteronomy 28:29). This happens when people break God’s laws.
On a cold December day I read it, a miracle took place. For 5 days, all the radiators in our apartment were dead. Our apartment was at the end of the heating system; neighbors were not affected. Housing maintenance and heating system office could not find the cause of the failure. On Sunday morning, about 11:00 a.m., I was reading Prince’s book and realized I must destroy my Magic and Occult book.
Identifying mark of having a curse according to the Bible is absence of success
I wanted to get rid of that book by selling it, for it was expensive. I was also hesitant to do so, because other people would read this devilry. Prince’s book motivated me to burn it, but I felt sorry to lose the money. It dawned on me that the book could be an obstacle to the Lord’s help. I knew that it was garbage, but my love of money hampered me. “For the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).
Finally I decided to destroy the book. About noon, I burned it. Other ungodly books suffered the same fate, Fortune-Telling of the Nations, Opening of the Third Eye, and so on. At 2:30 p.m. I touched the radiator, and to my joy it was hot. I assumed that repairmen had found and fixed the malfunction.
On Monday morning, a plumber came to check on me. I said, “Everything is OK. The radiator is hot.”
He was surprised. “Why is it hot? We haven’t done anything yet!”
Prince’s book drew me to rethink my private life. First, I saw yet one more cause of my pessimism toward marital happiness, coupled with rooted unbelief. When I was a teenager my relative, Igor, repeated with contempt, “You, jerk, who needs you?” The worst part was that I believed him. In fact, he cursed me. His curse stuck.
I could see manifestations of this curse in many instances throughout my life. When I was 20, I went on my first foreign trip. In Czechoslovakia I met a man from Greece, Nickolay. He influenced me immensely. Nobody ever understood me, but he understood me from the very first moment. I admired his superiority in many areas. Such dignity and love of freedom I had not encountered anywhere else. When the Junta regime just started in Greece, Nickolay refused to stay there and asked for political asylum in Slovakia. He was fluent in 6 languages and his Russian was accent free. His phrase was etched in my soul, “A man is as many times a man as how many languages he knows.” The day I met him I felt so overwhelmed that I kept saying to myself, “It cannot happen to me; such a man just cannot notice me.”
Another time when I was corresponding with an American, a very attractive person, I pined with inferiority, “Why is he so young and handsome?”
All my life I used subconscious tactics to destroy good in order to confirm my belief in nobody needing me. Cynical disbelief in the possibility of mutual love tormented me. I was smart intellectually, but foolish spiritually. My lack of wisdom is obvious now. “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.” (Proverbs 14:1).
Feelings that I mistook to be my unselfish love masked my selfish desire to be loved. I approached love as a consumer, not a giver. Is there anybody who can love unselfishly without knowing God? If I received no reciprocity, I cruelly got rid of my attachments. The reason was my fear of rejection. I preferred to hurt myself, finding gloomy satisfaction in the illusion of being in charge. The devil, “murderer from the beginning,”6 manipulated me like a puppet. Unselfish love is not afraid of rejection—it rejoices when the loved one is happy, not necessarily with you.
Secondly, I had been constantly damning myself. When I goofed, I called myself names, like “fool,” “stupid,” and so forth. Those were manifestations of pride, wounded pride. It was hard for me to cease torturing myself. Without divine support, I was not able to do it. On the one hand, my long-term self-torturing habit and fear of rejection were sucking me into a bog. I was addicted to painful sensations, like an alcoholic. On the other hand, I experienced divine love, God’s gentle and firm hand, pulling me out to “a spacious place”7. Thus, overcoming was getting easier and easier.
Thirdly, in my youth, I dabbled in spiritualism “for fun,” thus walking on the enemy’s territory. My girlfriends and I once gathered at midnight and called upon “the spirit of Alexandre Dumas,” our favorite writer and asked him about our future. Bible forbids turning to the dead (Leviticus 19:31) and calls it a sin (Exodus 34:15-16). We had no idea who we dealt with that night; it was a demonic spirit, not a beloved novelist. The Scripture calls communication with other gods or spirits “whoring” or “prostituting” (Leviticus 20:6, Isaiah 8:19). It is similar to having sex with one who is not your spouse. Practicing the occult opens doors to the devil, and we give him permission to work in our lives. He has a honey-sweet tongue, but a heart of gall.
I also called on psychics for healing. Psychics deal not with Christ, but with other spiritual forces, so called “cosmic” ones. They ignore God’s principle, laid out in His Word. When they “take away” curses, they return them to those people who sent them. But the Lord says, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
My colleague, a psychic, once told me that she saw with her extrasensory perception a tiny tumor in my body and offered to treat it her way. I gladly accepted her offer without realizing the spiritual background of it. Ignorance is harmful. In several years the tumor grew so big that conservative treatment did not help. She herself was not a problem; she performed many good deeds and cared about people. The problem lies in our spiritual battle between good and evil. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). We must have no enemies among people. God admonishes us to love them, even those who wronged us.
The 4th cause of the curse: The Lord told Abraham, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee” (Genesis 12:3). Christians are Abraham’s heirs (Galatians 3:29). If we judge or condemn God’s children, we inflict curses on ourselves. Quite often, I judged believers for their wrongs. I failed to recognize that I was committing sins also, just in a different sphere. Ironically, I considered myself better than them.
God loves us the way we are. He teaches us do the same: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you” (Romans 15:7, NIV). Christ accepted us as we are, so we have to accept others as they are, without condemnation. The Holy Spirit convicted them of certain sins, but they are still unaware of others, the same as we are. Whom did I hurt by holding grudges and condemning Christians? Only myself! Those people were unaware of my feelings, and I just drew damnations on myself.
Another cause for my curse was that I prayed to images. The second commandment warns us against it:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments (Exodus 20:4-6).
Rewards for keeping or violating this commandment are passed to many generations. I remember my great-grandmother breaking this commandment by kneeling before icons. She sincerely believed it was godly. I am sure many Christians sincerely believe the same, bowing down or kissing icons and statues. It does not matter how sincere we are, sin is still wrong. I assumed based on Ukrainian folk traditions that my many ancestors were falling down before icons. Thus, I probably had hereditary curses.
Obeying the second commandment is so beneficial that blessings are bestowed for thousands of generations. About 3000 years and 100-150 generations separated Valeriy from his forefather David, whom the Lord called “a man after Mine own heart” (Acts 13:22). The personality of Valeriy, who was warming others with his magnanimity, was an object illustration of the truthfulness of God’s promise to bless dozens of generations.
A step towards deliverance is forgiving those who cursed you
Scripture showed me an opportunity to break my curses, and they had been removed. Those destructive feelings no longer control me.
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13-14).
Another condition for deliverance is forgiving those who cursed you. “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). To return to the example of Igor, it was easy for me to forgive him, for I loved him. Why his curse worked, I understood only recently while telling my husband about my childhood. “An undeserved curse does not come to rest” (Proverbs 26:2, NIV). The Holy Spirit reached the depths of my heart, where the root of the problem sat.
I recollected bad deeds I did to Igor many years ago. Being a teenager, feeling too shy to express my affection for him, I sneered at him. Many years later I realized how humiliating my mischief was for Igor. No wonder he hated me and wanted revenge. When I learned about his crush on his classmate, I tricked him into writing a note: “Katya, I love you. Igor.” Then I snatched the note and teased him threatening to show it to Katya. It was cruel, and I reaped what I sowed. My girlfriend did exactly the same to me: she took away my similar note and threatened to hand it to the guy I was enamored with.
My relationship with Igor is another amazing gift. I wanted us to be friends. However, for long decades I received only neglect, contempt and name-calling from him. His typical statements were, “Don’t waste my time. Don’t you have work to do at home?”
But about 10 years ago, it occurred to me that asking Igor for help was wrong. I stopped disturbing him with my requests. I tried to help him when he asked. Such opportunities occurred rarely. I even asked a psychologist for counseling. He told me, “Your conduct is right—just wait. Who knows what problems trouble him?”
There is a difference between facts and opinions. Fact does not depend on our prejudices or doubts
When I found the Lord, I began praying for Igor. Some changes in our relationship took place immediately. After my baptism, he stopped scoffing me; he just ignored me. A few years later he became open with me and shared his intimate feelings, though being drunk. He told me about reading the Bible. He even offered help without my asking for it. I was so excited and grateful to the Lord.
All that time I had been praying diligently asking the Lord to send me my soul mate. At some point while praying a firm confidence came to me that my Heavenly Father heard me and answered me; He had a husband for me already. It was just a matter of time and circumstances to meet him. I did not know if I had to continue praying after the Lord had heard me and had answered my prayer. So I asked a veteran church member what to do in such a case. She did not know. I decided to act based upon what is written in the Bible, to be “continuing instant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). I was thinking, “It does not make any sense, there is the answer to my prayer already, but since the Bible says to continue in prayer, I will keep on praying.” And I continued. Much later I realized that I should have done it differently. All that time I should have thanked and praised the Lord for the answered prayer.
* * *
You may not believe me. Yet my account is still true. There is a difference between facts and opinions. Fact, objective reality does not depend on our opinions, attitudes, prejudices or doubts, which may or may not be true. Fact—truth—is real, no matter what.
What is truth? Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “the state of being the case: fact.” Dahl’s Dictionary defines it thus: “Truth is everything that is correct, real, accurate, just; everything that exists, is truth.” Truth is not what we think, but reality which exists objectively, independent of our thoughts and feelings. Reality does not depend on whether we believe it or not.
In order to have an example, answer this question: “If we consider a bird’s wings its legs, how many legs does it have?” Write your answer down or pronounce it aloud. Many of you might answer 4. Yet the answer is 2. Just because we called wings legs, they did not stop being wings. Because we consider A to be B, A did not stop being A.
If we don’t believe the truth, we hurt ourselves: false information guides us, we act inadequately and make blunders
What changes when we have wrong ideas? We become deceived; we act inadequately, make blunders and harm ourselves. We buy lies, and false information guides us. Thus, we use inappropriate means and experience failures. It is like trying to find an object on a false map. Can we get to a destination by using such a map? If we do not believe the truth, we hurt ourselves.
I emphasize again: whether we believe the truth or not, reality does not change. The truth is God exists. His existence is not verifiable directly, through our senses; we cannot see or touch Him. However, we can learn about Him indirectly, in mediatory ways through His creation, through the effectiveness and truthfulness of His Word and through His deeds in people’s lives and hearts.
We have a genuine map for our life journey in the Bible. It is 100% true. A truthful source is of the greatest worth: “A true witness delivereth souls, but a deceitful witness speaketh lies” (Proverbs 14:25). Just for this purpose, I supplied references to sources so you can check the reliability of scientific research and the facts provided. You do not have to take me at my word—check it out, make sure it is true!
Let us esteem the Bible as it deserves. If you want to be a good navigator on your ship, search this map, use it properly, and you will experience victories.
I am immensely grateful to you for your book. I found it in Russian language and have read it all at once. Recently 3 other girls and I started meeting together in a prayer group and pray about our life partner, and soon after that I came across your book; it has been a great support for me in our prayers. I told all the girls in our prayer group about the book, and they started reading it also. Thank God and you for your experience! I am very happy for you and your spouse. This is a true happiness. Blessing to you and your husband in the Lord!
For many years, without faith, I did not allow the Lord to help me. Once my “atheistic” student complained that God was insensitive and unwilling to help. “Did you ask Him for help?” I asked. He was speechless; his stunned face showed he did not. This is a common mistake. I was the same way till the Lord opened my eyes. When I started asking Him to help, He began showing me my obstacles and helping me to overcome them. For instance, I was aware that my deliverance from fear of rejection occurred only in my mind, outside of any relationship with a man. I guessed “field tests” were necessary. So my Heavenly Father arranged them for me.
In summer of 2000, I had to go through unknown suffering, facing death. The tumor the psychic tried to “heal” grew rapidly. Doctors said it required speedy surgery. Post-Soviet hospitals are very different from American ones. A number of damaging factors took me to the verge of death. This experience changed my outlook in many areas; numerous feelings and motives became obvious to me. One of them related to Alexandr (Sasha), a man whom I met 5 years before at a Black Sea resort. I fell in love with him.
When I first saw Sasha, I was stunned with admiration. He exuded a glow, pure and a bit cool. I felt something elevated and distant in him. I could not define what caused this impression, either his seemingly handsome appearance, his entrancing voice, or something virtually imperceptible. The Lord revealed it to me in summer of 2000. I will relate about it later.
His gentle intonations, clear correct speech reminded me the transparency of a brook. His lofty speech was worthy of a skilful writer, and reached the secret depths of my heart. We began visiting as friends. He shared his personal failures with me. In his early 20s, he suffered an unfortunate love. Since then, his relationships with women lacked affection, because he avoided attachments.
Sasha reminded me of a white rose. I felt a desire to give him such a rose. Before that, I never presented flowers to men except on birthdays, to doctors and teachers. Unfortunately, there were only red roses in the market. Florists did not sell individual roses, either, just bouquets. I picked the most beautiful flowers, came to his office, handed him the roses and said, “This is for you.”
Tears welled up in his eyes. “Oh! Thank you. Nobody ever gave me flowers before. . .” I felt ecstasy.
The next day he told me, “I feast my eyes on those roses. This morning when I walked to my job, I imagined how they wait for me here. How beautiful they are! This one reminds me a gentle girl, that one a mature woman. And the third one looks like a funny old lady.” What a delight it was to please him so much! Women, whose conventions and fears prevent them from presenting flowers to their loved ones, lose so much.
I wrote to Sasha confessing my feelings, and handed the letter to him. After he read it, his face expressed pleasure. He answered, “I have a girlfriend. I can’t allow myself anything else.” Yet I knew this already, and I also knew that he did not love her.
I promised, “I will wait for you.” I knew relationships without love are short-lived. Experiments demonstrated their maximum duration is less than 5 years.8 (Now here was some research with practical applications!) In comparison with long decades of indefinite waiting, it did not seem hard to wait for just 5 more years, knowing whom I was waiting for. Jacob had waited for his beloved for 7 years: “And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her” (Genesis 29:20).
Sasha argued that it could take a long time. I interpreted his objection as a polite desire to avoid hurting me with truth about his lack of interest in me, so I said, “Sasha, if I’m not your type, tell me plainly. I need the truth, not politeness.”
“It is not about politeness. When I date someone I cannot allow other relationships.”
Sasha’s fidelity stirred my deep respect and pleasant amazement. He became even dearer to me. To my regret, I previously encountered mostly men’s dishonesty and double morality. I do not want to offend men, but I had met so many males who disregarded fidelity, were ready for affairs, and bragged about cheating on their mates. Consequently, I lost faith in the existence of an honest man, whom I could love and who could love me.
How did I know those men cheated on their wives? First, I had many male acquaintances and friends who spoke frankly with me. Many people told me things they never told anybody else. Their openness was a reason motivating me to become a psychologist.
Why did people trust me? I did not scold or condemn them when they shared something negative about themselves. I kept their confessions secret. Confidence that our secret will not be disclosed makes us feel safe and allows to be sincere. My friends would say, “When you talk about others you mention no names, you just say, ‘my friend did that’ or ‘my acquaintance said that,’ thus I can trust you.”
Further, sometimes the husbands or boyfriends of women I respected pestered me when their mate was not around. Burning resentment seized me for those deceived women, as if those men splashed slop in my face. I felt deep disappointment in men. Their behavior seemed the height of betrayal to me. Increasingly, I believed that loyalty and men were incompatible.
Meeting Sasha, however, I started believing in men’s fidelity. The encounter with him left deep traces in my soul. His influence on me appeared unique. After encounter with him, my personal life turned around, as after a dark night the first rays of a rising sun dawned. Nevertheless, while dealing with him, I suffered bouts of fear—fear of rejection. So, I tried hard to drive Sasha to turn me down, to avoid teasing myself with unrealistic expectations. Underneath, there was a layer of impatience and unbelief.
I left for home and occasionally phoned Sasha, but in 6 months, I stopped. In our last conversation he asked me, “Are you going on vacation to our city by chance?”
“The only thing that attracts me there is your company,” I admitted frankly. He was silent. His lack of a positive reaction I interpreted as lack of interest in me, “as was needed to be proved.” I blurted, “I won’t call you any more,” and hung up. I was seething with insult, thinking, “Why did not he tell me the truth right away? I surely asked him for honesty!”
Being offended is a transformed anger. “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).
Five years later I started thinking about Sasha again and saw things differently. I was flooded with memories of our conversations and perceived his behavior in a new light. When my wounded pride hushed, I realized that his not answering me 5 years ago was not just politeness.
I recalled Sasha’s sincere joy after he read my letter. I could not credit this joy to myself until now. I used to think before, “He is pleased just because someone is interested in him. It probably raises his self-worth.”
* * *
Clearly, my perspective had to shift, my interpretation of Sasha’s feelings sprung from my “everything-or-nothing,” “either-or” principle. Yet this principle works only toward God and sin. It means 100% commitment to the Lord and resisting any sin. However, in many other situations, including my desire to be loved, this principle is faulty. It impeded valuing small blessings, and skewed my perspective. “For who dares make light of small beginnings?” (Zechariah 4:10 NET).
The Bible teaches “to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11, NIV). This counsel contains great wisdom. If we react “naturally,” we depreciate what we have. Grass seems greener on the other side. We envy someone’s success and prosperity. We believe if we had what they had, we would be happier. If we receive it and keep reacting “naturally,” annoyance gnaws and happiness escapes us. For instance, who among us is still excited about last year’s birthday gift?
If you even find the man of your dream and marry him, having this attitude you will soon start taking him for granted, stop appreciating him and won’t be happy with him any more. You may not believe me, but I proved it by experience. It is for your benefit to believe God’s Word rather then check it by your own experience. To develop contentment in yourself is very important. It is a guarantee of being happy in your marriage. “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). To be content with what we have right now is a great gain! To be discontent with what we have now is a great loss. Why are we not content?
We use a faulty comparison scheme. Comparing ourselves with others, we look for areas where we are deprived and focus on how they are better off. Many people compare themselves financially to wealthier neighbors, CEOs, or movie stars. Based on our false initial premise, we consider ourselves worse off, or even the worst. Such type of comparison could be called “unhappy”, “non-contented” (we are not happy with what we have) or “unthankful” (we do not express thankfulness for those good things.)
What will happen to our mind and emotions if we focus on our benefits, not losses?
Yet how often do you hear people comparing themselves with residents of India, who live in carton boxes, or African children swelling of hunger and rejoicing for having a roof over our heads and a piece of bread? When we lose something, we recall times when we still had it and feel sorry for the loss.
Is it right to use “unthankful” comparisons? The Bible has the answer to this question also. “We dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12, NKJV).
Comparisons with others did not give me peace of mind. I was asking myself, “Why do criminals thrive, but I suffer? Why do homely cantankerous women have husbands, while I am better looking and friendlier, yet pine with loneliness? Why do my peers have comfortable homes, but I rent an apartment with a shared and collapsing outhouse?” Such comparisons are destructive. However, there are alternatives. Faulty viewpoints we can change by noticing our benefits, areas in which we are better off. It does not mean, “I am better than others” though.
What will happen to our emotions if we seek our benefits, not losses? It is not hard to see. I started comparing my life with Jesus’ on Earth. He did not commit sin, but I did. He had “no place to lay His head”9, but I have. Then I experienced what John the Baptist spoke of, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). It gave me relief.
Try to answer this question, “For what things can I thank God?”
Scientists studied 100 invalids with spinal trauma and found that 2/3 of them discovered positive side effects in their injury: becoming better, perceiving others as more important, valuing soul more than body, increasing level of self-conscience, and more10.
When I felt bad, I practiced this rule: I searched and found meaning in negative situations, and experienced joy. Psychotherapists advise unhappy people to list their blessings. I am pleased to meet people who suffer from agonizing diseases yet say, “I’m blessed.” They do not focus on their losses but rejoice in what they have. Remember, clues to happiness are written in the Bible: “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). For instance, in an everyday context, do not get upset over missing things, but instead be grateful for what you have already received.
Please, understand me correctly. To be content is not to stop desiring to achieve more. We are not only allowed to pursue a better life; we should. In this pursuit, we simply must not devalue things we already possess, and we must allow ourselves to experience contentment with our achievements. As in the example with a glass of water; pessimist views it as half empty, but optimist as half full.
In the light of that summer’s events, I realized how important it was to appreciate the smaller blessings in Sasha’s attitude toward me. I reconsidered other situations, such as his joy about the roses. It deeply moved me back then. Nevertheless, my “everything or nothing” blockage choked my ability to savor those precious things. Later, those little details became indicative of Sasha’s warm feelings to me. I meant something to him. It felt so good to realize that!
It did not occur to me before because of the ingrained curse, when I believed I was unworthy of his interest. The Lord was changing my thinking, transforming me “by the renewing of my mind.”11
When we first met, there was no interest in Sasha’s eyes. His gaze was turned onto himself. It told me clearly that Sasha did not see or understand me, and I was upset. The picture changed at the end, when he came to our room to visit. His glance became alive and direct—he finally saw me. I am so thankful for those moments. I treasured them as the most precious. His touching, chaste farewell kiss tasted like a fragrant bud in my soul. I am persuaded this happened only because I prayed and believed in changes for the better.
I found my soul mate only because I kept choosing the Lord and walking in His path, not because I was better, but because I submitted to God and listened to His guidance. Many of you could be better persons than I was, but you are struggling, you do not experience abundant blessings and wonder why? One of the main reasons for my success – why I was able to find the man of my dream and to marry him – is this: I finally understood that I by myself am unable to reach my goal, I needed God and His help, thus I relied on Him completely. The Bible calls it “to humble yourself,” “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). This is so simple, but many of us are slow learners.
On this path to my dream I stumbled, but got up and kept going.
I started feeling an urgent need to contact Sasha. The Lord revealed to me the cause of his failures. I saw similarity between us in the same paralyzing fear of rejection behind his anguish. Sasha avoided cordial affection to feel safe from rejection. If he got married, but did not overcome those feelings, he would be living his life on a barrel full of gunpowder. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Explosives have to be rendered harmless. We can build stable relationships only if we are liberated from fear and love another person regardless of their attitude to us. It means acquiring a love-abundant essence.
Fear of rejection is rooted in a low love level linked to low self-worth, when people do not care about themselves and others. Besides, to be able to love we have to experience somebody really loving us first.
Stable relationships can be built only if we get rid of fear and we love another person regardless of their attitude to us
I sensed the Holy Spirit urging me to write to Sasha and help. I figured since this desire was strong and lasting, this matter had to have significance for him, too. I knew I ought to inform him about my discoveries, but I felt ashamed. I had promised not to call him anymore. After accepting Christ, I took my promises even more seriously. “Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:5).
I wrestled with the issue for 2 months. I searched for a way out and asked my pastor for advice. He encouraged me, saying, “You are not pursuing a selfish interest, but want to serve the Lord and help this person.” So I wrote, and asked Sasha to forgive me for breaking my promise because the matter was important. Even if he did not feel he needed my help, I believed God and obeyed His voice. Obedience is always for our good because the Lord takes into consideration everyone’s interests.
God helped me to overcome a number of other “unconquerable” addictions and passions. I was a chocoholic, devouring chocolate in immeasurable quantities. Starting a box of chocolates, I could not put it down. So I understand alcoholics and sympathize with them. I used to be a sugar and coffee addict, overeating cookies and candies, taking caffeine (a drug), as though I could not live without them.
During years of communion with God, I developed self-control. When I asked the Lord for help, I received strength to overcome, and with every attempt, overcoming became easier and easier. It seemed to me that my impulses grew weaker and drives decreased. Passions did not control me anymore. I saw an alternative—to resist them, to not give in to them. I came to believe I really had a choice. I could choose to not go with the flow, but refuse to do it.
Have you ever managed to accomplish something good, that you could not do before? Remember what you felt? I felt as if my wings grew out. I sensed what real freedom was about. The thing that held me with a death grip loosened. What an exciting sensation of power over myself! “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Proverbs 16:32).
I tried to predict when I would encounter my future husband. Knowing God’s mercy, I guessed it had to happen shortly. Could it be Sasha? I asked the Lord but He gave no answer, prompting me to contact Sasha.
Alexandr used to be an unbeliever. In response to my witnessing, he argued that he believed in people. Christ warned believers, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14). God cannot contradict Himself. Thus, only 2 options followed: either Sasha was not my match and my mission was only to help him; or the Lord would soon convert him.
Several days after mailing the letter, I phoned him. A child’s voice answered the telephone. My heart sank. A killing thought, “He’s married!” rushed through my head. When Sasha picked up the phone, I asked as calmly as possible, “Is it your child?” “No, it’s my niece.” My heart jumped with joy. There was a hope! I asked him if he received my letter. Sasha answered, “Yes, and I read it entirely.”
That phrase had a special meaning to me. I asked him not to read the attachment if he was married. So he had to be single.
His voice exposed how deeply he was moved. He expressed a desire to come to me for psychotherapy. His trust touched me. A hope for mutuality glimmered. I was excited to talk to him, though still overcome with pangs of awkwardness and fear of rejection, but it was easier to cope with them. He promised to write back. I waited for the Sasha’s answer, pining with impatience and uncertainty.
At this time, something remarkable occurred. I went to church for a Christian College class that brothers and sisters from the whole region attended. I sat behind a visiting brother at an angle. While passing him, I did not notice anything remarkable. However, when I sat behind him and saw his profile, I noticed a striking resemblance to Sasha: same build, height, haircut, hair color and facial features. Fantastic! He looked like Sasha’s twin. This resemblance depended only on our seats. God obviously tried to tell me something. I pointed this visitor to my girlfriend Tonya, who heard much about Sasha. Her face twisted with disappointment. “I couldn’t imagine he is so ordinary!” His appearance seemed toneless to me also, thus Sasha attracted me not with his physical features, but with his internal qualities, revealed in a mystical way to me.
I waited for Sasha’s letter and worried that it got lost. A month later, I wrote to him again. I told Sasha that soon I was going abroad on a business trip. I phoned him from Borispil airport before my flight. I needed an answer. Sasha’s mother answered, “He’s around, just stepped outside.” My next attempt to get through failed. It hurt, as cutting my flesh. Nevertheless, I believed I must get over my pain, and the Lord knew where He led me. These “field tests” tempered and prepared me for the upcoming amazing events.
Coming to America
In 2000, I won a tough competition, received a Fulbright research grant, and in the fall went to the United States. I had no friends or acquaintances there and felt very lonely. In a strange environment, it was hard. Everything around was different: the language, people’s behavior, houses, plants, food and scents, to list just a few.
There were no Soviet-style tall 5- or 9-storey apartment complexes. Churches were built almost on every corner, and along the streets were virtually no sidewalks. Why would people need them in a land that moves on wheels? Everything was drowning in greenery and flowers. There were virtually no lawns in Ukraine, except around the Communist party committee and city authority buildings. The Soviets had a joke, “How do you find Communist party committee building? By the lawn.”
I was charmed by the neatly trimmed lawns and intricately composed flowerbeds in front of American houses. I saw towering cypresses, magnolias, flower garlands hanging out of pots, and plants decorating porches and peeking out of planters. New elements surprised me: amusing life-sized statues of animals, white-tailed rabbits, spotted deer, mallard ducks and imposing geese. Along the streets grew redbuds, azaleas, Oriental cherries, forsythias and dogwoods.
It seemed that surprises waited for me everywhere. Even in the city, wild berries grew, and squirrels and rabbits ran around. Robins, finches and sparrows chirped, and songbirds (mockingbirds and cardinals) sang exuberantly. In Ukrainian cities there are no rabbits; squirrels are rare; birdsong is barely heard.
American food presented a challenge to me. My greatest disappointment was bread. I could hardly find “normal” bread with the hint of sourness, dense, elastic and nutritious. Store shelves were swamped with fluffy, foam like sweet loaves, generously flavored by sugar, honey, or other excesses as cinnamon or nuts. I had difficulty calling it bread. It melted in your mouth, left no satiety, and when pressed between the fingers, it transformed into a paper-thin layer. Some locals nicknamed it as “fog” or “wonder bread”: “You wonder where bread is. You ate it and wonder where it has gone.” I missed Ukrainian bread for several months and even asked my family to send it to me. Imagine my delight finding Ukrainian bread at the Russian store, “Русский магазин.”
I expected a shift in smells. Long time ago I noticed that countries differ in odors. I could distinctly smell exhaust stench in Prague’s streets, aromas of pistachio ice cream and soy sauce inside. American streets, in spite of heavy traffic, are surprisingly void of automobile exhaust. Inside residences, bathrooms and cars deodorants and air-fresheners are used. Scented candles or potpourri were novelties to me.
The conduct of Americans was strikingly different, too. Passersby, even drivers, smile and wave at me. Strangers offer help. I heard from so many people, “How may I help you?” I never heard these words in my home country. I was baffled, not knowing what to make of it. Was it mere politeness, or a sincere desire to assist?
This diversity of new impressions, despite their primary positive tone, had a devastating effect on me. I felt like an uprooted tree. I desired something familiar, which could serve as a baseline. The azure firmament was the same. The sky became such a base to me. I frequently looked up, recalling Psalm 19:1-6:
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath He set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; (Ps 19:1-5).
I felt the Creator’s support flowing from the beauty of His creation. I also longed for support and fellowship among people, hoping to find friends at church.
On the first Sabbath I went to church. I tried to get there on Friday night, but the building was bolted and dark. In Ukraine we had many services: morning and evening on Saturdays; Sunday, Wednesday and Friday nights; Bible institute on Mondays; Sabbath school teachers meetings on Tuesdays; small groups at people’s homes on Thursdays. In America, there were only Sabbath morning services and prayer meetings on Wednesday nights.
In Sabbath school the teacher, Richard, mentioned Hebrews 12:15: “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” These words cut like a scalpel, pointing to a bitter root poisoning my soul because of my resentment toward Sasha for not answering me. Richard’s words drove me to get rid of that root. I humbled myself and forgave Sasha. Humility is good. “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).
I wanted to express my gratitude to Richard for the help, but felt uneasy. Other brothers and sisters came up to me, introduced themselves and greeted me, but he did not. So I experienced unpleasant feelings toward him, akin to, “Stay away from him, he could hurt you.”
After the service, everyone was invited to a fellowship lunch. I sat opposite Richard and beside David, who preached that day. David examined my Bible and addressed Richard, “Have you ever seen a Russian Bible?” and suggested looking at it. Richard did not respond. I disliked that. It is natural to look at something unknown, and I was sure Richard had not seen a Russian Bible before.
Richard entered the conversation only once, “I met people from former USSR. They were astonished how wealthy America was.”
I asked, “Were they unbelievers?”
“Why were they so concerned about material things?” “They were new converts.”
I assumed he considered Soviets jealous of money.
Instead of judging, the right approach is to acknowledge our feelings instead of speculating about other people’s thoughts
I did not notice how I broke the “avoid assessments” principle, which the Bible states this way: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:17). I could not read his mind. “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?” (1 Corinthians 2:11). The right approach would have been to acknowledge my feelings instead of speculating about his thoughts—when he manifested no interest in me, I felt uncomfortable and apprehensive.
During next Sabbath school lessons, I noticed I liked Richard’s way of thinking and attitude. Many of his ideas seemed unique, caring, just and responsible. His views on the Bible, life and human relationships appealed to me. Once he expressed his difficulty forgiving himself. This hit very close to home. He also manifested independence, flexibility, gentleness and other things I craved. Another time he noted, “People have problems when they try controlling each other.” I, too, valued personal freedom and responsibility.
My American pen pal once wrote to me about her visit to a dental hygienist. Dental hygienists were unheard of in Ukraine. I linked teeth cleaning with the wonderful quality of Americans’ teeth and decided that if I ever go to the United States, I would have it done. I based my judgment on overseas travelers and did not suspect that not all Americans had excellent teeth. I inquired at church about dentists among the members in order to keep the tithe in church. They had 2 dentists, John and Dick. Unbelievable! Two dentists for 100 members, and in my home city in Ukraine amongst 500 church members there was none. I researched the fees in both offices and chose John’s office because it was cheaper.
Before my visit a filling came out, and during the hygiene procedure, so did another one. They estimated two fillings for $130. My month salary was $40. I was upset. The Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I did not know what to thank God for. However, Christians must “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7) and believe “that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).
Yet why did the Lord allow that? Could He be testing me on greediness? I prayed and asked for help.
I did not see John in church, though. I heard rumors that he started attending a different church. I jumped to conclusion that he drifted away from the truth. I believed Adventists’ teachings were the closest to the Bible, and so I asked whether John returned his tithe. They did not know. I was disappointed.
Someone pointed out to me another dentist, Dick—the same Richard who was the Sabbath school teacher.
I did not want to see him because I thought he mocked me in his heart, and even sometimes to others; one time he said, “Now we’ll have a gift of tongues.” I felt like an inanimate object, discussed without caring about its reaction. When the local conference president arrived to discuss appointing a new pastor, Richard suggested to him, “Bring her to Washington.” I was indignant, thinking, “If you want me to visit Washington, why don’t you bring me there?” I kept silent, though, and remained estranged from him.
I decided to inquire about his charges anyway, hoping that he could give me a discount because he knew me. Next Saturday I approached him and said, “I have a non-Sabbath matter. How may I contact you?” I read lively interest in his eyes. It perplexed me. He scribbled his number on a sticker, which I did not put with other papers, but by some reason stuck it to the kitchen table frame.
That same Sabbath another amusing episode occurred. From Ukraine, I had brought audiocassettes with soundtracks of Christian songs, which I wanted to sing at church. I had a 220-volt player, but could not find a power converter. I came up to the brother who was in charge of scheduling and said, “I temporarily need a tape recorder to practice singing.” He promised to arrange it. That morning, Richard came up to me, stuck a new tape recorder in a sealed box into my hands, muttered, “Enjoy,” and started a swift retreat, then stopped, turned back, briefly explained how to use the microphone, and withdrew again. He looked squeamish dealing with me. I made an assumption about his attitudes (i.e. judged) again, though I could not know his mind.
After the sun set,12 I made up my mind to call him. I had not a slightest wish for it. A strong inner resistance hindered me, something resembling fear or embarrassment. I prayed fervently, confiding to God, “Let Your will be done,” and dialed the number.
From the first moment I felt an amazing easiness and rare contact with Richard. Usually when Americans mumbled something I felt uncomfortable asking them to repeat. When he started talking too quickly, it was easy for me to ask him to speak slower. I let him know about my lost fillings and asked about his charges. He said, “I’ve met people from the ex-USSR and know that charges in our countries are incomparable. Let me be a missionary.”
He described where his office was and asked, “Do you have a way to get there?” I explained, “By buses.” He suggested picking me up next day and taking a look at my teeth.
The next morning he called from the lobby of my dorm. He brought me to his office, made a panoramic x-ray and a computer chart. On the chart intact parts of my teeth were represented as white, while the damaged ones were red and green. What a surprise!
Before my trip, I spent long hours in a dental office, and believed that I’d been seen by the best dentist in town, who did a great job. Now I discovered my mouth was full of rot. Richard explained, “Soviet-style gold crowns are considered temporary. They don’t seal properly, so food crowds under them and the teeth decay. I can replace your crowns with porcelain ones for free.” Wow! I was thrilled because of this brilliant perspective. I never liked gold crowns, I just could not afford having porcelain ones.
That day he filled one tooth, which hurt. He explained, “I work with an assistant. My staff will contact you and schedule your appointment. You’ll complete the treatment before you leave.”
Suddenly, I felt that he might like me. Men like him had had sexual interest in me before. In past, those men had been unbelievers and probably saw me only as a sexual object. I told myself: since Richard is a Christian, he should not think that way. I felt cognitive dissonance and prayed again—and as I reflected on the problem, I realized that something that had happened 3 months before in Crimea could help me solve this puzzle.
Where Is Your Exquisite Body From?
Meager rays of October sun vainly tried to warm up cooling earth and Black Sea. I was sunbathing at a beach, thirstily catching hints of warmth and glimpses of sunshine. My heart was still hardened to the Lord and I did not realize wearing bikini was ungodly.
I met a guy’s eyes. He was about 30 years old, and his look was one of “those.” I knew he was going to pester me now, and became tense. He approached and asked, “Where is your exquisite body from?”
I boiled with anger. The words, “none of your business,” were on the tip of my tongue, but I was looking for a more polite way to rebuff him. That moment the Holy Spirit convicted me, “Where is your love for your neighbor? Where is Christian humility?” I felt ashamed and repented. I started relenting gradually and answered almost calmly, “From God.”
“Do you mean you do not do anything yourself?”
The Lord needs our cooperation to accomplish His will, it does not execute automatically
I already looked at the guy with different eyes and saw not just lust, but sincere interest in finding out truth.
“What kind of exercises do you do? Freely standing?”
“No, just regular morning exercises.”
“Is it all?”
“Why, are you a doctor?”
“I’m worse than that.”
I wondered what could be worse, perhaps an artist. I said, “I eat by the Bible and the Montignac method, I mean I avoid harmful things.”
“This is already closer to the truth.”
His glance fell on the book I was reading about the Holy Spirit. He hastened to terminate the conversation, “Have a good time.”
“The same to you,” I replied. He left.
A light came on. The problem was not in those men, but in me. I suspected bad in them. I was messing up my life. I called my way of treating them “cutting down the haughty ones.” I did not recognize my feelings. I avoided taking personal responsibility and statements with “I,” which contained information about me like, “I want to humiliate them” and “I hate them.” Instead, I used accusing formulas with “they”: “They are such-and-such,” “They require a lesson,” and “They must be put in their proper place.”
I started seeing this picture only at this moment in Crimea. By treating those guys harshly, I believed I was being fair, giving them what they deserved. I left them no chance to talk. I am sure many of my suspicions were right. However, that is not the point.
I did not recognize or accept my feelings. Anger about their sexual intentions poisoned me. Cruelty and burning thirst to punish them would overtake me. After sticking their face in mud, I felt gloating delight. An unidentified force drove me to scoff and hurt them.
Later, I identified it and my slavery to it. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, I admitted that I liked some of those guys, but blocked any potential for contact by feeling offended. Recognizing the same feelings toward Richard, I understood why the Lord arranged that meeting in Crimea: to cleanse and prepare me for the future.
Where did such a stinging reaction come from? I see its root in my meeting with a man from Greece in 1975, which strongly influenced my life. Before the episode on the beach, I admitted only his positive influence: Nickolay made me think critically about the Soviet way of life and ideology. I was not aware of me feeling insulted, though, when he suggested having sex. So, for years afterward, when I met guys with similar behavior looks, I believed they needed just sex. Thus, I did not need them. I even blamed them for hypocritically hiding their intentions—at least Nickolay had been open enough to honestly reveal his motive. Yet, it was my fault, when I was judging them. “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” (Matt 7:3,5).
I attributed to those men motives that I could not know for sure. I should have paid attention to my own feelings and actions. What a poor psychologist! I am so glad that God is a “Wonderful Counselor”13, Who shed His light into my weary heart, made me feel sorry for my stinking thinking, and freed me from it.
That summer the Lord helped me in other respects. On the train on my way to Crimea, I met a former frontline officer from Afghanistan war, Viktor. He would be an eligible man for many women: courageous, reliable, modest, attentive and generous. There were some “buts”: married, aloof from God and not too sensitive according to my standards. We spent many hours talking.
Viktor complained about his second wife. “She doesn’t love my daughter from my first marriage. I can’t take it in stride. I am going to divorce her.”
“Does she have a right not to love your daughter?” I asked.
“I don’t demand anything complicated from her,” Viktor argued.
I tried to persuade him not to destroy his marriage. “You need to save your marriage. Try to find constructive means to solve the problem.”
“Do you believe in God?”
“Yes. Once in Afghanistan, we were encircled. Out of 17 people only 4 survived. I prayed and they sent a helicopter to rescue us.”
“God can help you to solve your family problems, just believe Him. If He was able to save your life, isn’t He able to save your marriage?” My persuasion seemed to work.
Later Viktor asked me to autograph my book for him. When he left the compartment, I was figuring what to write and thought about my favorite passage from Jeremiah 29:11-13:
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray top Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”
Nevertheless, I was aware that God knew better than I who needs what, and I chose to ask Him. Immediately, 1 Corinthians 13 crossed my mind. I was surprised. Why would such a tough guy need words about love? Anyway, I obeyed the Lord. Viktor came back and in a minute asked me, “Tell me about love.”
I let him know what had happened and read that chapter to him. It turned out he had never read the Bible. He asked me to write down those verses on the title page for him:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV).
He was charmed by me. Many times Viktor repeated, as if trying to talk himself out of a truth, “Miracles don’t happen.” He asked me suspiciously, “But you are a normal woman, aren’t you?” Is not that strange that integrity nowadays seems abnormal?
I explained, “Before God changed me I was unbearable: intolerant, caustic, stubborn and rancorous.”
Viktor asked, “Why didn’t God give you a husband?”
I said, “He will, because He promised. I have prayed about a husband for more than 6 years. Sometimes it seems like I’m ready. However, later on, something bad comes out of me capable of ruining both. Why should I mess someone’s life? Now I feel I would be married soon.”
“In a half a year, or a year.”
I found meaning in meeting Viktor. Besides witnessing to him about Jesus, it benefited me, too. It helped me to overcome the pain of Sasha’s silence. I realized that decent men exist, that such a man can value me as a human, not just as a female, and the Lord would give me the one I dreamed of.
I enjoyed the book very much. I am impressed with your honesty. I just needed a gulp of fresh air, and I got it!
Through this story I realized that I was emotionally dependant on my father, later on men because of my desire to recompense his neglect. I behaved with man this way, – I drew them out of their shell to be open with me, and if I don’t like something about them, I just dump them without explaining anything (the same way as my father did to my Mom and I). This has been my subconscious tactics, that way I was trying to avenge them for how my father treated me.
Now when I am able to understand my behavior I want to be healed from it. I don’t know why but I am afraid of my Dad, he always was remote and unreachable for me, and I always desired to have his acknowledgement. Naturally the same way I viewed God for a long time. It is good that now my attitude to God changed. The Lord touched my heart and healed some of my wounds. I am glad how He just carries me in His arms! He sends me people through whom I can know His love! Thank you.
Let me return to my conversation with Richard. I was amazed with his incredible gentleness. I even felt he could love me. I never had such confidence before, and what made me think this way is still a mystery to me. Immediately a puzzling thought appeared, “It is too easy.” The answer to this puzzle came later: I devalued easily attainable relationships with men and unconsciously sought the ones that were hard to achieve. No wonder I had hardships in relationships with men.
I assumed Richard was married. At Sabbath school, he sometimes mentioned problems with his wife. He conducted himself as not needing anybody. So I behaved with him naturally.
One time, at his office, I told him about an American psychologist who taught a course in Ukraine and tried introducing local audience to American humor. In his lecture he declared, “I was warned that Ukrainians don’t understand American humor. But I want to try.”
With a projector, he showed us a caricature. His interpreter translated carefully. Dead silence in the audience. The lecturer did not give up, “Let’s try again.” He showed us another cartoon. Deafening silence again. In a while he made another attempt. Same reaction, that is, no reaction at all.
“Language and cultural differences hindered people,” suggested Richard. I liked that he related to the Ukrainian mentality respectfully. Many people in his shoes could have explained that foreigners not understand their native humor because of their dumbness.
On the way back in his car we discussed church life in our countries. I asked Richard what kind of devotional book they were using that year. He said these books differ. I thought he was lukewarm spiritually because he did not read devotionals, and that displeased me. I jumped to a conclusion again. I did not grasp yet that most important reading for Christians is the Bible.
During the week, I thought back on our meeting. Richard did not fit any category and it perplexed me, yet gratitude for his magnanimity and generosity was growing in me. I decided to give Richard a Soviet cartoon book for Christmas. I brought it to sell expecting a good price. First I picked an ordinary greeting card for him. At that time I could hardly figure out what kind of person he was. But later, I was discovering new mental and spiritual depths in him, and my feelings were changing to love.
The most important reading for a Christian is the Bible
I started doubting that he was married, but I did not want to ask anybody in church, unwilling to disclose my feelings. I realized that the greeting card was too common and did not fit him. I found another one, with three wise men on it. Next Sabbath he preached about magi and mentioned that this topic was special to him.
While preaching, he was worrying. I attributed his emotions to myself, as evidence of his interest in me. At the break, he came up and suggested bringing me to a Christmas party at a brother’s home that night. I accepted his invitation with delight.
After the sermon, a nuisance occurred. Richard was standing at the door, greeting worshippers. I lingered, visiting with different people. The last one was Frank, a former marine, on fire for God. We agreed to fast and pray for our friends and were discussing when to begin fasting. Frank suggested, “Let’s do it tomorrow.” That moment Richard came and heard these words. I saw something touching in his face. I was pleased he came up, and was also eager to start fasting soon. I answered Frank, “Maybe today?” I remembered about Richard’s invitation but forgot that parties in America involved eating.
The words came out of my mouth that marred everything, “Oh, I forgot about the Christmas dinner tonight.” Richard’s face changed color. I felt sorry for blurting that, but went blank about what to do. Richard told me what time he would stop by.
I planned to talk to him on the way to and during the party. However, my expectation did not come to pass. In his car, there was another church member, Sue. She had no vehicle.
During the Christmas service the host read stories about Jesus. He stumbled over a difficult word, and Richard helped him to pronounce it. I admired his erudition and esteemed his knowledge highly. He did not come up to me the whole evening, staying with brothers in the kitchen. Sisters, children and I were playing games in an adjacent room. Sometimes I caught snatches of his phrases, and I inferred he liked talking. I would have listened to him with pleasure.
I found plenty to talk about with Sue. I was annoyed with Richard ignoring me. Only once, passing by, he observed, “You two are having a good time together.”
“Yes,” I replied. “How about you?”
“Me, too.” That was the whole conversation.
In the car Richard and Sue talked and I mostly listened. Sue shared her marital problems. Richard mentioned his shock 4 years ago when he returned from work to find his wife and a half of the furniture had vanished. He laughed; his tense laughter showed that his wound was still sore. I felt compassion and thought, “How is it possible to survive after that?”
He also talked about dating someone. “She is a good woman,” he commented, “but I learned she had just recently lost her husband and needed much more time to adjust.” Sue and Richard agreed that it was hard to figure out what kind of person fits you better.
At that moment, I felt a need to interject. “You talk like there is no God. Why not rely upon Him?” After a pause, they agreed.
How to Charm the Right Guy
I was glad to learn that Richard had no wife. However, I did not know whether they were divorced or just separated. He called her “my wife,” not “my ex-wife.” Before that I needed nothing from him and felt almost at ease. Now I became more interested in him and tense. The old fear of rejection started creeping up and tormenting me as Richard ignored me. I desired so much to have a relationship with him! I was running out of time and felt so sorry. I pleaded the Lord for help.
I knew that prayers had to rest on God’s promises. Being guided by human reasoning is dangerous. We need to learn His will from the Bible. I digested a lesson of wasting 6 years, assuming that God should provide for my needs without my request.
To learn God’s will is better from the source – the Bible; being guided by human reasoning is dangerous
When I still knew the Lord poorly, I received a more serious lesson by asking Him for things that contradicted His Word. In a stressful situation, at my limit I asked Him to help me to hold on, and bargained by letting Him send me any trouble, except hurting my family. In fact, I called trouble on myself, opened doors for the enemy. Soon I got pneumonia. At that time, I had no idea what a loving and merciful Father God is. We do not need to bargain or pay Him with our sufferings. He does not want us to be tormented to get His help. His help depends on His name and His Word. He does it for His own sake, because “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and because He stated certain things in His word and He is going to keep it.
Thus, I was searching the Bible for promises on which I could stand while praying for my soul mate to be sent to me. God’s promises have conditions. I already knew one: “Ask, and it will be given to you.” If we ask, God gives us “the petitions that we desired of Him” (1 John 5:15). The things asked have to correspond His will; “If we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us” (1 John 5:14).
Without knowing the Lord’s will it is easy to mess things up. We may ask Him for something that He cannot give. People ask God to bless common-law marriages (cohabiting with somebody) or intimacy out of wedlock (fornication). God cannot bless sin. “But fornication, and all uncleanness . . . let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints” (Ephesians 5:3). People can fool themselves by excuses and self-deception. The Bible clearly says that sex is meant only for marriage; otherwise it is sin. In one instance, a lover abandoned my girlfriend, and she was praying for his return. Yet such prayers are useless because God cannot contradict Himself. I advised her to make a commitment to keep chaste until marriage, and the Lord would bless her.
So I kept searching the Bible. To my delight I found the Scripture: “Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in His ways. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house” (Psalm 128:1, 3). Those who revere God and obey Him have spouses and houses. I already walked in His way and believed I met those conditions; therefore, I could be sure that the Lord would fulfill His part.
At that time, reading the Bible in English I found another promise: “God sets the lonely in families14 …; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land” (Psalm 68:6, NIV). I had experienced the scorch of the desert sun as an unbeliever estranged from God.
However, Satan had not fallen asleep. His next attack was disguised as friendly help. Sue asked me, “Do you want to get married?”
“Yes.” I did not hide it.
She encouraged me, “Then you have to date somebody.” Do you notice carnal wisdom? In order to get married we need to seek God, not to date somebody. When He is found by us, He will add everything we need to us, including happy marriage.
I replied, “I can date only a Christian. I take seriously a warning from 2 Corinthians 6:14: ‘Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.’”
She mentioned Richard was the only single man in our church, and asked, “Do you like him?”
“Yes, I do”, I admitted.
She observed, “You will make a good couple.”
Soon she gave me a book about charming the right guy. It contained “unfailing and tested-by-time” rules. Most of them were not to my liking, being based on concealing feelings and pretending to be indifferent. The book mentioned specific actions, like do not give him your business card (I panicked because I gave Richard my card), do not call him, be the first to stop conversations, decline date invitations unless given 3 days ahead.
These prohibitions sickened me and seemed manipulative. I also took into consideration cultural differences. Perhaps such actions were accepted in America, and a different behavior would be misunderstood. This book brought me only suffering by intensifying my reluctance to open up, and meanwhile I was also praying about its approach.
Manipulation is immoral; it treats people as things; it provokes them to pay back with the same coin
One day I realized it contradicted the Bible and my worldview. Lies (sins) and pretence between a man and a woman undermine trust and ruin the relationship. I wanted to be loved the way I was. In addition, it is impossible to pretend your whole life. If we want our future husband to be a friend, we should learn to be sincere and take risks. Later the Lord sent me another book15 on how conventions and fears impede relationships. Thus, I managed to reject the Sue’s garbage.
It matters what kind of relationship we want to build. Affection and passion can be achieved by games. But if we seek real love, we can build it only on honesty and trust. Using another person for selfish purposes is manipulative. Manipulation consists of attempts to control people, to treat them as things, and it is immoral. It is also a boomerang—when people notice that we use them, it provokes them to pay us back with the same coin.
We have to treat loved ones the way we want to be treated—respectfully, equal in rights and as valuable persons, not as objects. This principle Jesus spelled out in “the golden rule of Christianity”: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31).
Charm Is Deceptive, Beauty Is Skin Deep
Many things hampered me. I kept asking God for help, knowing that He helps when we ask according to His will. “This is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” (1 John 5:14-15). There is no point in asking anything that contradicts His will written in Scriptures. What is His will about the divorced ones? “‘I hate divorce,’ says the LORD God of Israel” (Malachi 2:16). “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mark 10:9).
For me it meant to pray for Richard’s union with his ex-wife. Oh, how I did not want to do it! I resisted. A desperate inner battle raged. However, I knew I could not pray in pretence hoping God would not take my words seriously. Finally, the moment came when I humbled myself and I prayed, “Lord, You know my heart, You know how I want to have real relationship with him and how I do not want to relinquish him. But You also are aware of our needs better than we are. Please, do everything as You want; it will be better for us. But if You want us to be together, then do it. Let Your will be done, not mine.”
My prayer was not blameless. Regarding prayers about divorced spouses, the Lord did not wish their divorce. But does He always want them to reunite? There are cases, when He is against it16. Therefore the safe way is before rushing with prayers, being not certain what and how to pray, to ask God in order to avoid blunders, “Help me to understand, what Your will is about this matter and show me how to pray about it.”
The first time praying this prayer was very painful. Afterward it became much easier. Later I realized why this was necessary. God needed to test my faith and to lead me a step further in sanctification. The main point was not actions, but motives. The Lord does not need to deprive us of good things. He just wants us to be willing to renounce them for His sake. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). When I chose heavenly things first, God added earthly.
I admired Richard’s personality, but his appearance irritated me. I always liked trim men with thick hair. Men with just slight stoutness or baldness did not exist for me. Richard had a fair amount of fat and shaved his head. His manner to sit lounging in a pew crossing his legs, ankle over knee, exasperated me. It looked arrogant. I was aware that appearance is not essential; the main thing is what is inside. Nevertheless, emotionally I preferred nice-looking men. A passage from the Scripture finally reached my heart: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).
Again the Lord took care of me by directing my eyes to the truth and changing my views. Enmity to our neighbor is sin.
I could not identify causes of my hostility to Richard, and I desired to get rid of them. As usual, I prayed. God revealed two reasons.
First: I had a spirit of pride, and Richard’s appearance convicted me. I projected my attitudes on him. Projection is a defense mechanism, which causes people to overlook their own attitudes and to see them in other people instead, regardless of those others really having those attitudes or not. When people overreact to certain manifestations, it is a clue for them having a projection. Another indicative is avoiding I-statements and using you-, he-, she- and they-statements, pointing fingers, i.e. shifting responsibility to others. Individuals with projections tend to accuse and judge others. When somebody points out our defects linked to our unconscious feelings, we take critique as an affront and get offended.
Perls described how projection works, “The projector does unto others what he accuses them of doing to him”17.
How can we overcome projection and approach those people who have it? Generally speaking: to accept and love them, to be friendly, to earnestly desire to help them, and to convey gradually objective facts (not our assumptions), which we observe in their behavior. The results will amaze you, if you are patient and consistent.
Those feelings, which I did not accept in myself, I projected onto Richard. If he really had them was dubious. My negative feelings really existed.
The second reason of my hostility was this: Richard’s shaved head and manner of sitting reminded me of Gestapo generals from Soviet movies. Strong negative emotions were linked to this image. I continued praying and my enmity left. Praise the Lord!
I needed prayer support and asked a Christian lady in Ukraine to pray for me. “If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19). She asked her congregation to pray for my situation too. I am sure these prayers made a difference.
A Person Needs Very, Very Much to be Loved by Someone
Richard made no move to get closer to me. Pride, shame, resentment and fear of rejection bound me. Satan whispered, “He immediately believed in bad things about you without checking them. Do you need such a man? No. Stay away from him!” I listened, not realizing whose voice it was. Somehow I liked Richard’s restraint and reserve. When men quickly manifested interest in me, I disliked it. Since they did not know me, I assumed that only my appearance attracted them. Personality is very important to me, though. So in Richard’s reserve I read selectiveness.
I wanted to leave a letter for him before my departure, confessing my feelings. It was an unconscious, petty desire to take vengeance, to hurt him (classical neurosis), when he could not reach me and would feel sorry, such as, “See what you have lost!” Nevertheless, God pulled me out of that ditch too.
I attended a course on death and dying at the university, given by a Methodist pastor. I desired very much to take his class, but missed the first one by being too carried away with reading a book. For the next class I arrived just on time.
We attended cemetery and answered a questionnaire that day. I got burned over a question, “If you knew that today was your last day, what would you be most sorry for?” The ice in my heart melted; I burst into tears feeling very sorry for not telling Richard about my love. How petty pride and fear were in view of eternity! I experienced a desire to find a way to ask Richard to forgive me for hurting him. I failed to recognize that his hurt showed that I mattered to him. I overlooked this encouraging factor, instead being concerned with his apparent indifference.
How to convert my decision into reality? I prayed and made the first modest step related to singing at church.
Tatyana, I did not understand what bad things Richard believed about you, how you hurt him and why you asked for his forgiveness.
Oksana, I thought that my words could have meant
1) that I forgot about his invitation, i.e. he is not of interest to me. We remember invitations of those who matter. I could have been offended in such a situation, because such forgetfulness would have meant that they don’t care about me.
2) that I did not really forget but was playing a game showing indifference and trying to entice him. It is unpleasant to me to be an object of such games.
My singing before an audience is God’s miracle. In my teens, I dreamed to become a singer, but had a panicky fear of the stage. Every time I had to sing in public, I would have a cold. My father served as a director of the philharmonic society, but it did not help. I did not dare even hinting to him about my desire.
God arranged things so that I had to get used to the stage gradually and overcome my fear. I was elected as an assistant to the church choir director. Soon she moved. I had to conduct the choir during worship services. First, we sang on the balcony. My fear of the public drew me to stay out of sight. The pastor pressed me to move the choir to the front. I begged him to allow us to stay where we were. He remained adamant. So I had to conduct the choir in front of everybody and did not die of “concert anxiety.” This helped me to partly overcome my fear. After that, I sensed my ability to sing before people.
For my debut, I chose a Friday night service with smaller audience. When I was singing, my knees shook uncontrollably. The next time, I felt much calmer. At last, one day, I was able to sing on the Sabbath with the church full of worshipers. Thank you, Lord!
Some people explain failures by lack of desire, and success by passionate eagerness. Presumably, if we want something strongly enough we will achieve it anyway. A brochure on business success said that we should burn with all-consuming passion for wealth, to be ready to do anything, and riches certainly will fall upon us like a bolt from the blue. This is not true. Following this logic, a lack of strong desire caused my failures. Actually my desires to sing and to find mutual love were passionate to the point of distraction. However, faith and wisdom were absent. Christ gave them to me and fulfilled my cherished dreams.
I wanted people in the American church to understand what I sang about. I was making translations from Ukrainian and Russian into English and needed editing. Considering Richard’s erudition, I asked him to edit my translations. I secretly hoped it would make us closer. He responded readily and edited them skillfully. Nevertheless, the desired intimacy did not happen. On the surface everything remained the same.
The next hindrance appeared unexpectedly. I was working on a translation. The song’s words in Russian sounded harmless. After translating it, I was horrified. In English it sounded different, as if I, not somebody else, needed love. In addition, as if I needed his love. I writhed with pain and pride. I earnestly did not want him to know about the depth of my feelings. I was afraid to get hit where it hurt.
I fasted and prayed for 2 days. My writhing vanished and great relief overtook me. I stopped being ashamed of my feelings. I sensed I had a right to experience and manifest my feelings. Even if somebody noticed them, that was OK. I even thought Richard might decide I meant his need for love, and cut me off. However, I am not responsible for his reaction. I calmly gave him a floppy disk with the text. He edited it without obvious reaction. Later Richard told me that editing helped him to think about me more and gave him an opportunity to get to know me better.
I describe not all that hindered me. I prefer not to mention some obstacles in my heart, but the Lord cleansed me of that garbage, also.
The destiny of the ill-starred song was remarkable. Several times I planned to sing it, but it did not work out. After I finally did, a stranger approached me, handed me a note, and said that God inspired him to write it for me. I quote:
I am a visitor to this church, and God wanted me to be here today. Before the service I read the words to your song. They described what I feel in my life at this time. As I was reading, the tears began flowing, and when you sang this song, the feeling of that song was so strong, that it sounded like my life at this time. Thank you so much for your song. May God be with you through your life.—Mitch
I shivered; his words touched me. Singing this song that very day was a powerful witness for me also. Here are the words of that song.
My heart is sad for some reason,
I wish someone was here beside me.
A human being needs very, very much
To be loved by someone.
It is impossible to live without love,
Life is empty, the world does not look nice at all.
A human being needs very, very much
To be loved by someone.
If your life happens to be very, very hard
And you lack strength for something,
Recall that somebody needs to be loved
Not by anybody but by you.
If Your Brother Has Something Against You
I left a signed package with the cartoon book for Richard on the hymnal rack in front of his pew to avoid direct contact. He did not notice it. The next Sabbath I put it in the lobby in plain sight. After that, he came to me and with trembling voice asked if I wished to share that book with anyone else. I answered, “It’s my gift for you, it’s up to you.”
His voice and childishly offended face struck me, reminding me of other people’s similar reactions. They behaved this way when they doubted my good intentions or suspected a threat. I felt a need to apologize for offending him. It still seemed too shameful, though.
During Sabbath school someone said, “God will never let you down.” I assumed it meant I would not have to apologize and feel embarrassed. I imagined the Lord could provide an opportunity for me to casually mention the situation and explain myself. However, two Scriptures kept knocking on my consciousness, “if thou… rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;…go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother…” (Matthew 5:23, 24); “Confess your faults one to another… that ye may be healed” (James 5:16). I felt the weight of guilt pressing me, and decided to obey God and get rid of the burden. No matter how stupid I looked, I must tell Richard the truth. Considering my imperfect spoken English and nervousness, I chose to write.
I tried finding an easier way and prayed, but the Lord considered differently. After I gave you that book and you came to me, I was struck with your facial expression and trembling voice. Other people reacted the same when they did not believe my sincerity and suspected something bad. I wondered: How could I hurt you? Perhaps when we were talking with Frank deciding when to start fasting and I said I forgot about Christmas dinner. I remembered about the party but did not think it included meals. My mind still didn’t operate well. This summer I had post-traumatic stress disorder. I had anxiety, insomnia, could not memorize last fresh data. Doctors said I wouldn’t be able to work for 1-2 years. God created a miracle by restoring me so quickly. Now virtually all symptoms have gone. I only still mix up words, days, etc.
I just can’t imagine what else could hurt you. I feel bad about it. Matthew 5:23, 24 and James 5:16 made me restless. I wish to be blameless before the Lord and you. “If we walk in light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another” (1 John 1:7). Avoidance and tension means there is no light. Please forgive me. It’s not my merit, but God’s. On my own I’m quite harsh and proud.
I want to clarify why I gave you that gift. I was very thankful not only for your magnanimous mission. You helped me before. When I came to this church the first time you used Hebrews 12:15 in Sabbath school. It made me admit that bitterness was poisoning me for several months. You helped me to get rid of that root. I was so grateful that wanted to tell you, but felt awkward because you didn’t say hi or greet me in your congregation. I hope it’ll help. If it doesn’t you know better. Look forward for your answer. God bless you.
Next Sabbath I waited with trepidation for a convenient moment to hand him my letter. I wanted to do it earlier to have enough time for an answer. On the break, Richard did not leave the sanctuary, visiting with brothers. That day I did not sing, so had less pressure, thank God. After the service, there was a fellowship lunch. I intercepted Richard on his way to the basement and told him, mixing my words, that I needed to apologize and I wrote about it. I handed him the letter, trembling with uncertainty, and escaped to the kitchen.
During the lunch, he sat next to me. I was nervous and pleased. We chatted casually about the food. Then I tried opening a stubborn kettle lid, and he came up and helped me. Later on, I was talking to an elder. Richard approached us and joined the conversation. All his actions happened for the first time, and I felt immense gratitude to the Lord. They meant Richard forgave me. Though his actions did not meet my expectations, I was overjoyed.
I lingered for some time hoping he would suggest following me home. He did not. It turned for the better—I needed solitude, and at home I prayed and wept without knowing why. Later I felt an urge to visit a nearby cemetery. I spent about an hour there, drowning in tears. Those tears were so sweet and brought great relief.
I first visited this cemetery 2 months before. In general I hate cemeteries—they provoke anguish, hopelessness and despair. These feelings were instilled when I was an atheist and believed that death is nonexistence forever and irrevocable loss. After receiving faith, my attitude toward death changed. Nonexistence is only temporary for believers, with the resurrection and meeting Christ beyond it. My attitude to funerals changed, too, 2 years earlier when I had to attend a Protestant funeral. Behind the family’s sorrow shone a distinct hope to meet again. Their reaction drastically differed from inconsolable mourning and weeping I observed in communists, unbelievers and Orthodox Christians.
My attitude to cemeteries still remained inimical. When I was seeing the American cemetery from a distance, something attracted me there. So one day I had taken a stroll there. The graves differed from Soviet ones; no fences around them, no knolls, photos, or splendid monuments. Gravestones were modest, light gray; many had Bible verses, such as, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:25-26). Numerous graves were from the 19th century. Graves in Ukraine are less than few decades old. An epitaph moved me, “Nothing in my hands I bring; simply to the cross I cling.”
The general attitude of this cemetery was peace, light and hope for resurrection, in striking contrast to Soviet graveyards. When my university supervisor took an interest in what impressed me most in the United States, I shared these impressions with her. She suggested attending the “Death and Dying” course. In this I saw the hand of God too, how He led me in the right direction.
I recognized His fingerprints in other circumstances, too. For several years I had tried winning a Fulbright scholarship and coming to America. I asked the Lord to bring me to the university where He wanted me. In 1997, I was close to winning. There were 18 awardees, and I won a place on the list of alternates being number 21. I was upset, but positive that it was for the better. I found out why later. My supervisor, who picked me, worked elsewhere. Three years before, I would not have met my husband. At that time he had no plans to move to Virginia, either.
After that remarkable Sabbath morning, I spent an amazing night. I did not get a wink of sleep, and I was groaning all night. I felt inexpressible, unique pain close to pleasure, piercing me to the deepest. In my letter to Richard, I uncovered vulnerable spots in my soul, expressing my feelings. In my youth I used to thoroughly cover my affections. Letting men know about my interest felt so unbearable and humiliating that it seemed easier to undergo execution than to confess. In fact I valued pride more than love, but did not admit it.
In my early 30ties, I met a man with whom I first felt safe. Undoubtedly, he would not hurt or mock my feelings. Losing him seemed worse than disclosing my love. I still received a blow—he did not need me. I had to lick my wounds for decades. So with Richard I expected the next blow, but, oh, wonder!, my sore spots remained undisturbed. Moreover, a balm was applied. I felt peace and acceptance. I even sensed his pain as mine.
I had an amazing real hope that we could make it together, due to God. My previous relationships with men were hopeless, full of despair, rejection and self-punishment. I realized why I went through past pangs of unrequited feelings and later fruitless confessions, which brought chagrin. The Lord wanted to deliver me from hurts, but first I did not listen to Him, and later listened too little. I had to learn to overcome obstacles in self-disclosure put up by pride. God is good. I could not have done that without Him.
Next Sabbath, while I was listening to the musical interlude in the service with my eyes closed, Richard came up to me and handed me a folded sheet of paper. I jolted out of surprise and was frightened that he was returning my letter. Reality turned out more wonderful than imagination. He wrote me an answer.
Thank you for your letter. I apologize for not understanding and being more gracious toward you. God blessed you with tenderness of heart and sensitivity to others in helping them. You are more alert to possible problems than I am.
I thought you were just loaning the book to me, I don’t know why. I know I’m recovering from my divorce about 2 years ago. I was married 30 years and am still learning how to make better relationships. You did nothing wrong. We just had a misunderstanding.
If you have time on a Friday, I’ll be happy to take you to our church world headquarters near Washington, DC. There may be other fun things to see while we’re there. It’ll be good to plan ahead for this trip. I would make every effort to be back home for Sabbath.
Sincerely in Christ,
My heart was singing with joy when I read those good words. I was especially delighted with the prospect of further fellowship. I agreed to go on the trip, and said any Friday would do.
At the break, Richard spoke about our trip. His voice was trembling—he was nervous. He mentioned Soviet people who went to attend the General Conference and on their way back home, Soviet customs did not check their luggage. This information seemed out of place, and coupled with his nervousness, showed that he was vulnerable and inexperienced with women, as well as is interested in me. I felt compassion and thanked the Lord for keeping Richard away from evil and female predators. Such sensitivity and purity of heart could be maintained only through unity with God. Without His protection, a heart, confronting the evil of this world, had either to break out of pain or become calloused in self-defense.
Our trials had positive side effects. Richard had passed through difficult times, and once, he saw no sense in continuing living. Because of that experience, I wanted to show kindness to him to warm him after those years when he endured coldness and cruelty. If everything was easy for me, I could have abused my power over Richard, especially considering his vulnerability. How great that God turns even our grief to good when we cooperate with Him. “All things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).
My tendency to power abuse disclosed nasty things in me, related to my passionate desire to “cut down haughty guys.” Admitting such things for no reason is impossible. We focus on protecting our image and put up a facade.
The fever pitch of my negative feelings for impudent guys could be explained by my own similar attitudes and character traits. Often in such cases projection works; we accuse others of what we are guilty of. “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things” (Romans 2:1).To dare to look into the dark corners of our hearts, we need God’s love and our trust in Him.
He showed me my next problem, another projection: if circumstances allowed, I would have treated men exactly as they treated women—insensitively, carelessly and harshly. It was a hard truth for me to swallow. I considered myself sensitive and compassionate. Facts that contradicted this image, I denied.
I was nervous and felt like a novice. To reduce the nervousness in my next message to Richard, I suggested simply being friends.
I copied materials for him from the “Death and Dying” course. I was sure that they would be of interest for him. I suggested taking a walk in a park near the church. He agreed, but the weather was not favorable.
He invited me to Washington museums, to a religious liberty forum, and to a classical musical concert at a nearby church. Our trips happened once a week, on weekends. It pleased me to spend time with him. All my life I dreamed about such a wonderful, platonic relationship, where nobody bothers me with indecent suggestions. I felt like a teenager. Richard later told me he felt the same. I presented daffodils to him. He brought me two dozen roses. I felt sorry only for seeing him so rarely.
Later Richard told me that his friend asked him whether he wanted to marry me and keeping in mind that I had to leave the country soon, he answered, “No. We are just friends.”
I was ready to see him daily, but our intensive contacts also wearied me out. My feelings for him were rather strong. In a Washington museum when we were examining minerals and gems, Richard stood next to me; I felt ecstatic with delight that he was so close. I sometimes felt negative emotions. The problem was not in Richard, but in my perception; those trifles were neutral. I prayed for deliverance, and the Lord removed my dislikes. They also served as safety locks, keeping me from unrestrained passion.
An appreciable shift occurred after Richard invited me to buy food for our trip to the general conference. At the store, we spent about 2 hours together. He told me about his divorce. I felt warmer toward him—his attitude to life attracted me even more. I learned that his divorce did not happen like a bolt out of the blue, and that he had stopped grieving for his ex-wife. He became even closer to me.
The next revelation came at an Adventist bookstore on our way home. As Richard considered a landscape in the art section, he did not restrain his tears. His sensitivity touched me. Earlier I noticed his tenderness and sensitivity in relationships with people, and now to nature and art. These qualities I highly esteem in men.
Our relationship reached a new level when Richard suggested learning a duet for church. I saved his voicemail with his invitation and listened to it daily. I quickly learned the song, eager to start practicing and seeing him sooner and more often. We began practicing at the church 2-3 times a week. Our joint activity was invaluable. We were not just talking about remote subjects (other people or our past), but were doing something together at the present time.
During one of our practice sessions, we were singing and recording on audiotape. I observed that Richard sang off key. He objected. When we listened to an independent witness (the recording), he admitted his mistake and remarked, “Humbling experience.” I appreciated his openness to the truth and readiness to admit unpleasant things about himself.
Richard became even more candid with me throughout this time. He confessed that my occupation some years ago could have been a barrier. He had biases against psychologists. He trusted his mother, who called them “a bunch of nuts,” and his college psychology professor was an obnoxious person.
Yet some years back Richard experienced a nervous breakdown and had to undergo psychotherapy. It helped him realize that he could not separate other people’s opinions and emotions from his; when somebody blamed him or was angry, he suffered from guilt. In therapy, he learned to separate reality from subjective impressions, and ceased to react defensively.
He realized that he was not responsible for other people’s feelings, he could only control himself; others could not force him to experience anything, either. Therapy made his reactions healthier and more mature, and his prejudice against psychotherapists disappeared. If he had remained dependent on others’ opinions I could have hardly become interested in him. In this area God also prepared our encounter.
In the World of Dentistry
It was March already, but nobody from the dental office had called me yet. In April I had to go home. I felt uncomfortable reminding Richard about his promise, and started worrying. In December, I rashly notified my family about the forthcoming free treatment of my teeth. Now I imagined my mother’s reaction should nothing be done. Considering her contempt for Protestants, she would have become even more hostile and prejudiced against them. I struggled and asked God for help. An idea appeared to tell my mother that I refused the generous offer because the situation became delicate.
A remote event with a dentist helped me to make this decision. At that time 4 years ago it seemed just a nuisance.
Four years ago my atheist relative, Kira, demanded to give one of my students an A instead of a B. Kira’s friend worked for this student’s father, a dentist. This friend, Lilia, used to treat my teeth. Kira saw nothing bad in lying, and tried to make me feel ashamed by saying, “You owe Lilia because she helped you.” I felt uncomfortable turning Kira down and impairing my relationship with Lilia. Yet Kira was pressing and reminding me about my worthless teeth, which needed a good dentist.
I clearly understood that the Lord is against falsifying grades. I decided to better enter the Kingdom with rotten teeth than to end up in the lake of fire with beautiful teeth. “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire” (Mark 9:47).
I had to survive Kira’s rage and an unpleasant encounter with Lilia, who came to my workplace to plead for that student. She was trembling, being afraid of her boss. I felt awkward. I was sorry that Lilia failed to see on Whom we really depend. I announced, “Lying is sin, and sin leads to nothing good.” She objected, “It is a holy lie.” I tried to explain that the devil is the father of any lie. Hearing about sin and basing choices on the Bible was strange for an atheistic society. She was upset with my persistence. I hated to upset her; nevertheless, I knew Who was right, who was deceived, and Whom to listen, if we want good.
Saying no to people was always hard for me. I reacted to the suffering of others painfully, especially when my actions hurt them. Without the Lord, it seemed that making people upset was terrible. My conscience was saying, “Falsifying grades is wrong,” while my feelings were saying, “You are guilty for hurting Lilia.” Such situations used to traumatize me.
Reliance on God’s Word became my guideline, helping to solve similar “unsolvable” problems. I took God’s position not to deceive. His position is always for the good of everybody, even those who are upset. This step helped me to stick to heavenly things and be prepared for the future. Reflecting further on giving up porcelain crowns, I realized it would be better to broach the subject with Richard. He might have fair suspicions regarding my motives for entering into friendship with him, so for him to rule out mercenary motives, I should deny my selfish interest.
Without my past experience with Lilia, I doubt that I could have declined the attractive once in a life time opportunity of high-quality, free dental service; I might have simply reminded Richard about his promise, and he would have suspected me in using him. Instead, I e-mailed him a card, refused the treatment, and explained why. E-cards are good because the server sends a delivery confirmation.
My actions were not in vain. Later Richard said he had dated a lady who asked him to pay for her children’s tuition. He recognized that she had used him and left her. Again, God led me in marvelous ways, unavailable without Him.
I was looking for a big luggage bag on wheels. I asked Richard to help me in my shopping. We checked some stores. Wal-Mart had a nice bag, but not big enough, so Richard suggested looking at his duffle bag at his place. His house was in a picturesque, quiet neighborhood. He apologized for the mess. I comforted him saying that I do not keep the best order, either. I liked his abode, which was modest and simply furnished. Several times he complained or apologized for the large size of his accommodation; he rented it for the whole family. The house did not seem big to me; it had tiny bedrooms, a spacious living area, but the front door led into it, so it felt like a hallway. No walls separated it from the kitchen, only a counter. Soviet kitchens were completely separate rooms.
The duffle bag turned out to be too small.
Soon I was waiting for Richard at home for the next rehearsal. He showed up with a huge bag, his gift for me. He said, “You are special,” and embraced me. I was frightened, felt awkward and avoided his embrace not realizing why. Yet for the rest of the day, I kept thinking about it and finally understood the grounds. His praise sounded like an evaluation based on what he knew about me, and I was aware that he did not know me fully.
When somebody evaluates me, I feel as though I am on trial. A voice whispered, “If he knew everything about you he would have had a different opinion of you.” I felt like a cheat, failing to distinguish whose voice it was. In due course, I realized it was Satan’s, instilling groundless guilt. I deceived nobody and did not try to hide anything. Moreover, knowing everything about a person is impossible.
The next day we touched yesterday’s episode, and I explained the reason for my fright. We stood beside a window of my room, facing one another. Richard said, “I care about you.” These words sounded like a confession. It was difficult for me to utter, but I said, “I care about you, too.” He answered, “I know,” and added he was thinking about marrying me.
“But she is from a distant country,” he said, “and I don’t even speak her language. I wouldn’t be able to live there.”
“How do you know?” (I thought, “You didn’t even try”). He pondered a while and reasoned, “Significant events would wait for you at home. Once in a church two young people who spent several years overseas became its leaders.” He said we must make one step at a time.
His reasons seemed fair and wise. In choosing a life partner we should thoroughly weigh and prove as much as possible.
He added, “You may find someone in Ukraine.”
To me it sounded like, “You are not that important to me.”
I became sad. I agreed reluctantly and thought, “Perhaps, the Lord brought us together just to prepare for something different.”
I felt increasingly freer with Richard. My confidence in his feelings grew, and I was opening up more. When he embraced me the next time, I did not resist and expressed in my hugs and kisses the warmth I felt for him. I felt he was as hungry for warmth as I was. After that he became more active.
He asked, “Will you marry me?”
I answered, “I’d like to, but we have to get to know each other better.” Richard proposed to me, but I did not even understand it.
On April 8, we were at his place. He showed me a stack of photos: pictures of nature that he had taken, and some family and childhood pictures. They impressed me strongly. His photos of nature depicted field flowers, trees, scenes of fields and mountains.
They were delicate, fresh, heartfelt, and full of texture. I could see the subtlety of Richard’s soul in them, how he ingeniously noticed creation’s beauty. His childhood photos embodied a fragile and defenseless child. I thought, “It would be really hard for him to live in the severe post-Soviet environment.” His gentle, pensive and kind glance on his graduation photo won my heart.
I admired his beauty.
My last doubts melted away. That day he repeated his question about our marriage, and I answered yes.
When and Where to Marry
We planned to get married at an unspecified time in the future. We agreed he would come to Ukraine next summer. I did not want to be hasty. We were friends for only 2 months, and I was impressed with a Christian book that advised its readers to date your potential spouse for at least 6 months and be engaged for another 6 months. In the Bible were opposite examples, though: Isaac married Rebecca the same day he first saw her, because God found her for him (Genesis 24).
I was getting ready to leave on Sunday. I submitted my research report to the Fulbright committee on Wednesday. I also showed Richard items in my documents concerning my student visa: it required a 2-year stay in Ukraine without the right to enter the US.
On Thursday afternoon, I was packing my luggage. Richard called the university, finding me there without having my number. He told me he had spoken with immigration lawyers and needed to meet me urgently. He recalled what had happened to his brother, who married a Filipina in her home country without consulting lawyers, and only in 16 months was she allowed to enter the United States. Therefore, Richard decided to confer with lawyers first. They advised him to get married here.
I was far from rushing into a wedding. I already made up my mind to return home. I deemed my teaching my main service to God, and I was not ready to teach in USA because of language and cultural barriers. I also burned with desire to share with Ukrainians the things I learned in America. The prospect of staying—though I had once wanted to live here—no longer put a spell on me. This country meant much to me; I owed it the honor of doing my favorite job. Carl Rogers visited the USSR in 1986 and taught at Moscow University. I was blessed to attend classes taught by his disciples. Humanistic psychology brought great fulfillment to me because it really does help people. And thanks to an American evangelist, I came to know the Lord better. So I dreamed of getting acquainted with Protestant culture and the best of psychology.
I had spent many years undertaking numerous independent (without God’s help) and vigorous attempts to leave Ukraine. They all failed. When I believed in God, my attitude toward Ukraine and foreign countries changed. He showed me that America had many specialists like me, but Ukraine had few, and I saw greater advantage to serve people in my home country. The Lord knew better where I needed to be. So I entrusted my path to Him.
Once, I asked Richard, “What attracted you in me?” He answered, “You are bright.” Men usually reacted to my intellect negatively. Yet if I had burned with a desire to immigrate to America, it would have pushed Richard away. I remember his reaction when I asked him to advise my nephew on how to get a job in the United States. “A-ha-a! He wants to emigrate!” In Richard’s tone I heard, “I dislike when people run away from difficulties in their home country by pursuing an easy life overseas.” Later I asked him if my guesses were correct. He said they were. He also knew I had no intention to emigrate.
Waiting for God’s answer to my prayers for my soul mate, I had not sat idly by. The Lord helped me to achieve significant professional success and become an expert in the field of Psychology. In 2000, through miraculous events, He helped me, an unknown provincial author, to publish a psychology manual at a prestigious publishing house in the capital, and even to receive a permit from the Ministry of Education just 3 days after applying, though I had no acquaintances among the authorities.
My colleague, a famous author, submitted a textbook to the same Ministry. He had already published many textbooks; an international bachelor board accepted his curriculum and he knew a deputy minister personally. He complained that his book had been sitting there for months without approval. My manual also mattered, because while trying to win a Fulbright grant I discovered the board esteemed major publications. During the “winning” interview, when I mentioned my book being in press at the publishing house, I noticed approving nods and glances among the panel members.
There were more hindrances to our marriage. My past sins made me feel unworthy of such a man. Richard kept the commandments from childhood, but I had wallowed in the mud. I planned on writing him a confessional letter upon my arrival in Ukraine. Besides, I knew my return was fraught with difficulties on the way to our union.
I foresaw the high likelihood of repeating the old sad scenario. In the pre-Internet era, I corresponded with an American; when our relationships went beyond friendship, our telegrams, phone calls, letters (all means of communication) got blocked. Relationships stopped. I let Richard know about that. I believe all that happened for a reason and affected our decision. I was afraid to lose Richard. But the main obstacle was not knowing what God wanted. So Richard and I agreed to fast and pray on Friday to seek divine guidance. I am positive that our fasting and prayer played a crucial part, for the Lord removed all the obstacles, old and new.
What a Happy Woman!
I warned Richard that I needed to send him an e-mail about a serious matter. On Friday morning, I went to my office and poured out my soul, describing disturbing things. I received a marvelous e-mail back: the Lord forgave me, and Richard held nothing God forgave against me. He asked me to forgive myself. I wept from relief and joy that I had found such a precious soul, whom I had been searching for all my life.
In his sermon about winners, Richard mentioned how the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery and said to Him:
“Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?”… But Jesus…said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one…: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst… Jesus… said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:5-7, 9-11)
When Jesus told her to sin no more, He gave her permission to begin a new life. I needed this permission also, since forgiving myself was extremely difficult for me. How sad that many people suffer not allowing themselves to live a new life, and not believing that Christ permitted them this fresh start.
Many people suffer because they do not allow themselves to live a new life, and do not believe that Christ permitted them a fresh start
Richard tried to find a pastor to perform our wedding. His best friend, on whom we counted, suddenly got ill. Our pastor had a rule to marry couples only after their extensive premarital counseling. We had no time for that. The pastor from the church where we attended a concert agreed to marry us, instead.
We visited a jewelry store to try on my engagement ring. I thought about the person behind the counter, “What a happy woman!” It took me a few moments to recognize my reflection in a mirror wall.
On April 14 we sang our duet in our church. Photo #4 was taken that morning near the church. The wedding ceremony took place the same Saturday night in a chapel in Waynesboro. Several friends attended. Richard brought 4 dozen roses; the pastor was surprised to see so many flowers at a wedding. On our first anniversary, Richard presented me with 6 dozen roses.
And so our happy life together began. My doubts and worries left. The Lord fulfilled my most daring dreams, I felt like Cinderella who found her prince. Richard kept repeating, “I never imagined life can be so wonderful.” He thanked me for helping him to become a better person.
I always considered marriage very serious. I never imagined it could be so much fun—and fun did not have to exclude seriousness or problems. Satan went nowhere.
We encounter hardships. Richard lost his practice, went through bankruptcy, and for long months found no job. When I had lived in Ukraine, I never experienced such difficulties or heard of them. Experiencing them now, first I could not sleep. For months, all 3 of us (my son arrived by that time) were unemployed without rights for allowance. Later Richard found a temporary part-time job as a laborer with earnings below poverty level. Some called it a tragedy. However, the Lord sustains us, and teaches us to appreciate spiritual things above material. The situation worsened, but faith and closeness to Christ helps us not lose heart. I am sure that out of injustice God will make something beautiful.18
It is important to remember, that God has the answers to all the questions and ways out of any dead end. We have to focus not on our problems, but on the solution (Christ), “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). When we turn to Him, He sends help.
“Success in marriage is more that finding the right person;
it is becoming the right person.”
— Lottie Krogh19
God is faithful; He keeps His promises, in particular this one: “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:4-5). These words are engraved on a plaque decorating our kitchen bought on our trip to the General Conference.
God has done this for me. I believe He will do the same for those who need a soul mate, because “He is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). He has no favorites. He is Almighty: “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
By this world’s philosophy, at my age of 45, I had no chance for marital happiness. In the prime of my life, I found no mutuality. With wrinkles and graying hair, my chances were steadily going down. Statistics say that for every two older women, there is only one man roughly. After my baptism, the circle of potential candidates narrowed more, because I needed only a Christian of the same faith. In post-Soviet society, Christians made up only 1% of the population; Protestant churches have only 40% men. What did it mean by the laws of this world? My goose was cooked.
However, God does not grade on a curve. He is not bound by statistics and cannot be caught off guard. Can you picture Him reacting like that? “Oh, I’m sorry. I just couldn’t imagine this woman would eventually turn to Me and start asking for a husband. Indeed, I said, ‘It is not good for a man to be alone,’ and promised to settle the lonely in families, but I just ran out of good husbands!” Does that sound like the Almighty God? Not at all!
It was as if God was saying to me, “Finding your soul mate, Tatyana, was impossible for you, but not for Me. Indeed for God all things are possible!”
God does not grade on a curve, He is not bound by statistics and cannot be caught off guard
There is time for everything. I relied on His Word. The Lord had to do major work in me to prepare and change my inner self and outer circumstances. I am certain that only God could have arranged our successful encounter. I could not see beyond my nose. For example, Richard’s stoutness repelled me. Nevertheless, the Lord impressed Richard soon after our marriage to follow a low-glycemic diet by Montignac and he lost 50 pounds. We have a happy family now. If I had continued living by my own understanding, it would not have happened.
Dear Tatyana! Two of my Christian girlfriends who are over 30, experience hard times in their private life. Her mate left one of them for another woman. But she already considers it a blessing since they just lived together. My girlfriend met Jesus after she lived for 2 years with this man, and he did not want to marry her. He did not want to go to church either, but did not forbid her to go there. Her statistical chances to get married are insignificant, especially in Ukrainian congregations, where 70% of members are women, and men, as a rule, are married. My other girlfriend desires to have a family, but just cannot find the right guy. She is very intelligent, mature and active. They both worry a lot. I, certainly, comfort them as much as I can. I gave them the link to your story. They have read your book and have become considerably (!) more cheerful. They received hope!!! That is how you help people! Thank you so much!!!
Alla K., 2007
Tatyana, remember I wrote to you about my two girlfriends who had problems with men? Good news: one of them just got married, and I attended their wedding. Her husband is 44, she is 35. They are getting used to each other bit by bit. May God grant them happiness!
Alla K., 2008
I walked toward my life partner for 39 years. I pray you won’t have to make such a long and tough journey to your soul mate.
Good news about personal responsibility is: we can change ourselves with God’s help; if others were responsible for our hardships, it would have been hopeless
You may notice that the source of most of my troubles was me, myself and I. The good news about personal responsibility is that we can change ourselves with God’s help. Praise the Lord for that! If others were solely responsible for our hardships, our situation would have been hopeless. Our real enemy is inside—our selfishness, pride and unbelief. In other words, sin. From sin, there is only one escape: Christ. “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). On the cross, Jesus paid the costly price for our liberation; He purified us with His blood and enables us to live fulfilled lives by His grace and truth.
In our Heavenly Father’s plan, He has the best life partner for many of you. The devil blinds us and causes us to overlook real diamonds, calling them glass. We do not believe God because Satan, “the god of this age has blinded” our minds “lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto” us (2 Corinthians 4:4). He offers seemingly sound ideas, but they lead to pain and disaster.
One of those is the “sampling” idea: supposedly we need to “sample” or “try” numerous partners by dating or sleeping with them before finding the best for us. Wrong! Relying on our senses is carnality, which leads to destruction. “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). You do not have to “try”; with God’s spiritual guidance you can hit the bull’s eye right away!
Another facet of this deception is harmfulness or the impossibility of temperance; allegedly without having sex you are inferior. Wrong! Sex has no independent value. It is an addition to or the result of a happy marriage. How wonderful it is to wait until the wedding day and receive intimacy as a gift. You prize physical intimacy as unique, meant only for two of you. You feel confidence in your husband, knowing he is yours alone.
When I came to Him, a new life, a better life, began. Its years are saturated with meaning and so much good; they last so long! Before that, years were flying by like mileposts passed by an express train. Now I think, “I spent just a few years with the Lord, and so much already happened!”
I can see how through me He pours streams of blessings on people around me; how God gently convicts, instructs, stops, or allows me to think things through. When I ask for His help, I receive it, and higher motives rule me. These motives I could not imagine before, as though they were from a blissful fairy tale. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him—but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
Seeking average and mediocre (not better) standards, this world is gradually sinking. I used to descend along with it, while degrading morally and paying for that with unconscious pain and conscious cynicism. Now I notice how I am growing, being transformed, and thanking the Author for that. I invite you to this better life.
2 My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
4 I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
8 O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
9 O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.
10 The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing./strong>
17 The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
18 The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.
22 The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate. (Psalm 34)
Finding My Soul Mate
Copyright © 2017 by Tatyana Noel
Unless otherwise noted all the Bible quotations are from King James Version
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: King Solomon’s Descendant
Chapter 2: I Want to Spend My Life, Mending Broken People
Chapter 3: Cabbage and Ten Dollars
Chapter 4: What Has He Seen in His Life?
Chapter 5: Democratic Union and Vanya’s Prayers
Chapter 6: Blessing and Curse
Chapter 7: Field Test
Chapter 8: Coming to America
Chapter 9: Teeth Failure
Chapter 10: Where Is Your Exquisite Body From?
Chapter 11: Trapped
Chapter 12: How to Charm the Right Guy
Chapter 13: Charm Is Deceptive, Beauty Is Skin Deep
Chapter 14: A Person Needs Very, Very Much to be Loved
Chapter 15: If Your Brother Has Something Against You
Chapter 16: Letter
Chapter 17: Joint Activity
Chapter 18: In the World of Dentistry
Chapter 19: Proposal
Chapter 20: When and Where to Marry
Chapter 21: What a Happy Woman!
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- Humanistic psychology emphasizes the possibility of personal growth and states that persons can be in control of their destiny. One of its founders, Carl Rogers, enjoyed prolific and successful experiences in resolving people’s mental problems. He believed that only the client knows what his problem is and how to solve it—the therapist just has to arrange the right conditions. Success in therapy depends on warm, trustworthy relationships between the therapist and his client. During my many years of practice, I proved Rogers was right about it. [-]
- Luke 11:9 [-]
- Pennisi E. (1997). “Haeckel’s Embryos: Fraud Rediscovered,” Science, vol. 277, p. 1435. [-]
- Robert Johnston (1994). “Divorced Once—Single Forever?” Signs of the Times, February 1994, pp. 24-27. [-]
- Kjell Rudestam (1982). Experiential Groups in Theory and Practice, Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co. [-]
- John 8:44. [-]
- Psalm 18:19, NIV [-]
- Nancy Van Pelt (1997). Smart Love. A Field Guide for Single Adults, Fleming H. Revell Company. [-]
- Luke 9:58, NIV [-]
- Wade C. and Tavris C. (1990). Psychology, NY: Harper and Row, p. 549. [-]
- “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). [-]
- In the Bible, day begins in the evening: “And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day” (Genesis 1:5, NIV). The fourth commandment of Decalogue orders people to have rest on Sabbath (Saturday) and not to be engaged in ordinary activities (Exodus 20:8-11). The biblical Lord’s day starts at sunset on Friday and ends after sundown on Saturday. [-]
- Isaiah 9:6 [-]
- In Russian Synodal translation this reads in homes, so it was not as clear to me as it is in English. [-]
- Powell J. (1969). Why I Am Afraid To Tell You Who I Am? Niles: Argus Communication. [-]
- When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). [-]
- Fritz S. Perls (1973). The Gestalt Approach & Eyewitness to Therapy, Ben Lomond, CA, pp. 40-41. [-]
- And He did. I added this note in 2007. [-]
- Lottie Krogh (2003). “The Home Builder,” in The Best Things I Ever Did for My Marriage: Fifty real-life stories, by Nancy Cobb and Connie Grigsby (eds), Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, p. 229. [-]