Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As you read through the Scripture, you see that it is a great story of God’s incredible, awesome, redeeming love. We see that over and over again, and it’s a joy to see that redemptive gospel story lived out in the lives of real people who have known what it is to come to face their own sinfulness and their own failure, but then to see God’s redeeming love transforming their lives, giving them a new life, and making their lives fruitful and useful.
We’re talking this week with Kay Arthur, who’s a long-time dear friend and has been a great encourager and something of a mentor to me in ministry. Kay and her husband, Jack, are the founders of Precept Ministries International. Kay has written many, many books, many Bible studies; she’s done more than any one woman should have been able to do in a lifetime.
Kay, I admire you; I respect you. Thank you for taking time today, in the midst of a crazy schedule—a book-writing deadline—to share your story with our Revive Our Hearts’ listeners.
Kay: It’s been a privilege, Nancy. I told the Lord . . . after I got saved, I was sitting there, and I was nursing David, our youngest son. We were missionaries on the mission field, and I thought, “God, where were You when I was a teenager?” Here I was working with teens, English-speaking teens, in Guadalajara, Mexico, having my third baby with my second husband, teaching these teens to know God and to know His Word and to love it, and I thought, “Where were You when I was a teenager? Why did I have to go through all of this? Why am I divorced? Why didn’t the first marriage work? Why do I have to have this battle of the immorality that followed my first marriage before I married Jack, before I became a Christian, before I moved from a religion to a relationship? Why . . .”
Nancy: You had a lot of regret there.
Kay: A lot of regret, and just thinking, if someone had been there, like me, and I don’t mean that in a wrong way, but me, on a mission, knowing God, teaching these young girls and young guys the Word of God, then I wouldn’t have done this. I was sitting there, getting more upset by the moment, and God spoke to my heart. I’ve never heard anything audibly, but God spoke to my heart, and this is what He said to me: “I saved you when I wanted to save you,” and that is backed up by Galatians chapter one, verses 15 and 16 where Paul says, “When it pleased God . . . to reveal His Son in me” (NKJV) and then God spoke to my heart and said, “If you will quit moaning and groaning about the past and share it, I will use it.”
So sharing all of this is part of the ministry that the Lord has given me. I look at you, and you were raised so differently than I was, but God has put us together as a body. So we have Nancy over here with this background, and He has Kay over here with this background. Kay’s preference would have been to have had Nancy’s background, but Kay is not her own, she’s been bought with a price, and when it pleased God, He revealed His Son in me.
So God takes both of us, Nancy, as you know, and as you so well teach . . . I feel like I’m preaching to the choir, as they say . . . but He takes both of us, and He puts us together, and He puts us in His Body, so that women who have shaken their fists in the face of God as I did after I left my first husband and have gone out and walked in rebellion and reaped the harvest can still know that there is hope.
You opened up the program by saying that we have a Redeemer. I love that Scripture, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” The One that redeemed us is not dead. The One that redeemed us is the One that died on the cross, was made sin for me and sin for you, because even though you were raised that way, we were all born in sin, so He became sin for us. God brought death; He was buried; He was raised to walk in newness of life. He lives, and because I’m united in His death and burial and resurrection, as Romans 6 says, I can walk in newness of life. We have a Redeemer that buys us out of the slave market of sin and sets us free, takes off the chains, and then gives us this awesome, awesome life.
Nancy: I think what makes the grace of God precious to us is when we see it against the backdrop of our failure and our sinfulness, and that is what I love about your story and the way you’ve been so open to share it. You tell about the past, not to highlight the past, but to say, “This is what makes God look so incredible, and His mercy so rich.”
Kay: That’s right, and you and I have the same passion, and the passion is “in Him we live and move and have our being,” and “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Acts 17:28, Romans 11:36). He’s the epicenter of our lives. He’s the Alpha and the Omega, and He’s everything in between, so it’s all God. So that’s where it doesn’t matter about the blackness of our lives. God shines in that darkness.
Nancy: As you look back on that, those young adult years, that early pilgrimage, which was so dark in many respects, can you see now that God in His providence was using the failure and the difficulties to prod you to Christ?
Kay: After six years of marriage, about six and a half years of marriage, I’m very bad on time, my kids will tell you that . . .
Nancy: . . . and this was marriage to Tom Getz, for those who weren’t with us yesterday.
Kay: Yes, my first husband. I was married at 20. For six and a half years I was married to Tom. We had two sons during that time. He was an engineer by profession. I met him when I was a cheerleader for Case College when I was in nurse’s training. He went in and he was a naval officer, and then he dropped out of flight training, finished the Navy, and then went into engineering, and a job, and then we divorced—on the advice of two ministers. This was after Tom had been to seminary and dropped out of seminary. So two ministers counseled us and never once opened the Word of God.
Nancy: What was happening in the marriage to let them counsel that?
Kay: What was happening in the marriage was that he was depressed. He would get angry and frustrated, but there were no grounds, no biblical grounds for divorce. Even if there are biblical grounds for divorce, and I think you and I hold the same view. Even if there is adultery, I don’t counsel a woman to get a divorce. I counsel a woman to forgive and to work that out and to come back. I know there are times when that is impossible, so I want you to know that . . .
Nancy: . . . but nobody counseled you that way, about forgiveness or . . .
Kay: . . . oh, no. Nobody counseled me anything . . .
Nancy: . . . or trying to make the marriage work . . .
Kay: . . . no. They listened to my story and one said, “You need to separate.” The other one, when we got finished, put his arms around me, kissed me on the neck, whispered in my ear, “You sure are a good-looking girl, Kay.”
Nancy: This is a minister?
Kay: This is a minister. I left my husband and stayed in his home . . .
Nancy: . . . the minister’s home?
Kay: The minister’s home, while I looked for a place, and did everything short of the actual sexual intercourse. Isn’t that awful? I’m ashamed to say it.
Nancy: Let me back up. If you could go back and do that marriage again to Tom Getz, knowing what you’ve learned about the Word of God, the ways of God, the heart of God . . .
Kay: I never would have left him.
Nancy: What would you do differently?
Kay: If I had been counseled properly, and, of course, you could be counseled properly, but if you don’t know God, and there’s not a real respect or reverence of God, because you can have a respect and reverence for God and not know Him yet. But if I had respected the truth, which I think I could have, then I wouldn’t have divorced him.
He was a sick man, but we didn’t know that he was manic-depressive, that’s what they called it in those days. He did hit me once, and I ended up on the bed, and I tasted something salty on my lips, and I reached up and wiped the blood off of my nose, and I just said, “That’s it. You’ve had it. It’s over.” I just grabbed my pillow and went downstairs to, like the family room, and he followed me.
I took my rings off. Now, you’ve got to remember, he got me a perfect diamond, three perfect diamonds, and one was a carat and a quarter. I took that off; I took off a wedding band that I didn’t want diamonds in because I never wanted to take it off. Inside was engraved, “Our love is eternal, holy,” and that was my intention.
I threw them across the room. Well, they were so expensive that Tom was down on his knees (I bring this out in my book As Silver Refined, Learning To Embrace Life’s Disappointments). Tom was down on his knees, crawling around trying to find that diamond, and I thought, “You love that diamond more than you love me.”
That wasn’t true, but sometimes, in the heat of a moment, we get these wrong thoughts. Of course, we’re in a warfare, and of course, until we belong to Jesus, we’re walking, as Ephesians says, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in the sons of disobedience. We know that Satan is a liar; he is a destroyer; he abides not in the truth. So you’re in that mode, and he’s just goading it on.
Tom wouldn’t go to counseling with me. This is where I would have negotiated with him and said, “Look, we’re having a hard time, let’s both go to counseling,” but he just said, “I’ve been through seminary. I don’t need to go.”
Nancy: You said that one of the regrets you have about your marriage is the way you used words as weapons.
Kay: Oh, yes. I can take my tongue and cut you down. I don’t do that anymore since I’ve come to be a child of God and learned what James 3 says about the tongue, but I could cut. That was the way I fought—not with my fists or anything like that—just words.
Words are worse than, well, I won’t say worse than fists, because there are too many women who are physically abused today. If you are being physically abused, let me just say this, God does not intend for you to be a punching bag. It’s not good for you to allow him to do that, so please hear that very carefully. But words stay in a person’s mind. A bruise will heal, but it’s the words that go with it that shape your thinking if you’re not in the Word of God.
So, yes, I would have, but one of the things I’ve learned is would have, should have, could have—they don’t exist. I can’t erase the past. All I can do is learn from it. I love what Paul says in Philippians: “Forgetting those things which are behind, I press forward,” (3:13, NKJV) but he doesn’t just say that in a vacuum. What he says in Philippians, in the context of forgetting those things which are behind, he talks about knowing God. He says, I have counted what was gain to me, those things “I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (verses 7-8).
To know Him, to be found in Him, to know and experience the power of His resurrection, which is what our Redeemer does. He not only buys us out of the slave market of sin, He resurrects us to walk in newness of life.
Nancy: Before you experienced that redeeming love of Christ, you still had lower and further to go.
Nancy: You left Tom Getz . . .
Kay: Right. I left him. I moved back to, like a condo, an apartment, and stood in the living room of my home, literally, and shook my fist in the face of God, and said, “To hell with You, God; I’ll see You around town. I’m going to find someone to love me.”
Now, I don’t want to offend anybody, but that’s what I said—“To hell with You, God.” But what I want you to understand when I said that—I didn’t know that He had gone to hell for me, so to speak. It says in the Apostle’s Creed, “and He descended into Hell and the third day He rose again from the dead.”
In other words, He was made sin for me, and here I am saying, “To hell with You, God.” And God, I don’t know it, but God, before the foundation of the world, said, “To heaven with you, Kay,” because in Ephesians chapter 1, it says in verses 3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him [in Jesus] before the foundation of the world” (NKJV).
So here I am, shaking my fist, my puny little fist, into the face of God, saying, “To hell with You, God,” and before the foundation of the world, He said, “To heaven with you, Kay.”
Nancy: You’re running from the Hound of Heaven.
Kay: I’m running from the Hound of Heaven, although I really don’t know it at that point. I really don’t know it.
Nancy: He’s pursuing you, and you don’t know that.
Kay: He is pursuing me. He has a plan, and when it pleases Him, He’s going to open my eyes. So that leads to a life of immorality. I became what I thought I would never become—an immoral woman. And in those days, it was called an immoral woman—having sex outside of marriage was still not really acceptable in those days. Betty Friedan takes off in the year that I’m saved, 1963, with feminism this and that.
Nancy: And you have these two little boys.
Kay: I have these two little boys, and am trying to earn a living. I’ve left my husband. He’s picking them up every so often and taking them skiing or whatever. I go from one man to another man to another man, like the song says, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.” What happens is I have an affair with a married man. I don’t know he’s married when I meet him. I fall in love with him. We can talk and talk and talk and talk and talk for hours, so there’s that wonderful communication that women really, really desire, and then I find out he’s married. Well, I’m in love with him, and so now I’m doing something that I never thought I would do.
One of the things I tell people, Nancy, is, and I demonstrate it if I’m on the platform giving my testimony. I sunk into a pit that I dug with my own hands, shovelful by shovelful. The thing is that you let one standard go, and then you let the next standard go—because it’s easier—and then the next one, and so you dig into a pit.
Nancy: I’ve heard you quote that saying that I’ve heard others say, that sin will take you . . .
Kay: . . . farther than you ever wanted to go; it will keep you longer than you ever intended to stay; it will cost you far more than you expected to pay. I heard Wayne Barber, my pastor, say that, and I picked it up, because it’s so true.
So anyway, I was having this affair with this married man. When he told me he was married, I was in love with him, and then I found out his wife was pregnant with their sixth child. Then, after a while, is when I began to hear the Hound of Heaven. I began to think, “Some day I’m going to stand before God. He’s not going to be pleased with this.”
That concept was put in my mind by God, and here’s God beginning His convicting work. I was convicted and said that I would never have an affair with a married man because it was adultery, and I knew the Tenth Commandment. I knew the Ten Commandments. I didn’t know much of the other Scripture, but I knew “Thou shall not commit adultery.”
I knew that my parents had both come from broken homes. My parents had a solid, wonderful marriage, but here was that conviction. Because of the Law, then the Spirit of God dealing with me that I’m going to stand before God, I decided that I’d be good, and I thought, “Oh, God, I can’t be good.”
Later on, when I got saved and read Romans 7, I thought, “Oh, you knew what I was experiencing—the good that I wanted to do, I couldn’t do; the evil I didn’t want to do, I did. Oh, wretched man. Who will deliver me from this body of flesh?” So what I was experiencing was the inability to be righteous, because I would try.
I broke off the affair, and I loved this man. I mean, I never loved a man like I loved Jim, but I broke it off. But I couldn’t stop being immoral. I thought, “I’m a slave,” and I was. The Bible says, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin, [but] if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:34, 36, NKJV).
Nancy: That is the power and the message of the gospel, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save, to deliver, to rescue those who were slaves to sin—which is all of us. We’re born in slavery to sin, and God was in the process of, by the power of His Holy Spirit, drawing you to see first that you couldn’t keep the Law. Then He’s going to open your eyes to see that there is One who did, and who wants to do that in you.
You don’t want to miss the rest of Kay’s story as she shares with us how she came to true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in a personal relationship with Him that transformed her life, has given her hope and a new life and a sense of purpose and meaning and the ability to please God in a way that was never possible apart from Christ.
So be sure to join us as we pick up this conversation the next time on Revive Our Hearts.
Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with Kay Arthur about our inability to do good on our own. Throughout this week, her story will show us what it means to move from rebellion and self-righteousness to true faith.
Nancy, it’s an important message each of us needs to be reminded of.
Used with Permission. Revive Our Hearts.