Chapter 18: She Had to Be First, Period.

This is a guest series by Phil Cate. If you missed previous chapters, you can read them all by clicking on ‘Phil Cate’ under the Categories heading in the right panel. Watch for new installments every Friday.

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Chapter 18
She Had to Be First, Period.

       As I’ve mentioned before, Dad had a tough time relationally; and with Kay it was no different. He had said many hurtful things to her throughout our marriage and there was a good bit of scar tissue there. He did not respond well if she or anyone else called him out on his comments; and Kay did call him out on some things, so theirs was a bumpy path.

       When I was getting sober, I had called Dad and he was very supportive and I could tell he was very concerned about me. I was, after all, very depressed and grieving what I had done and what I had maybe lost.

       He was very thoughtful about certain things; but when I expressed interest in reconciling with Kay, he was clearly opposed. I asked him to allow me the leeway to work out my marriage, but he continued to lobby for me to be leery of Kay. I certainly understood his caution, as Kay and I had been struggling for years and Dad was aware of that, which was part of the problem. Kay and I had both been very careless on who we let into our business.

       As it became clear that I was determined to work out issues with Kay and we began doing so, Dad sent me an email that basically stated he would cut all communications with me; and he immediately did just that.

       Kay and I talked about it and we agreed on something big. We agreed that if were going to make it, we had to put each other first, absolutely first, and let no one come between us. Anybody that was opposed to us as a couple had to be moved off to the sideline, period.

       In an email, I asked Dad for his support of my marriage and to be kind and accepting of Kay. I never heard from him again.

       Dad wasn’t the only one that had been in our ears. We had a fairly long list of people that were opposed to us as a couple. That was probably our own fault. After all, we had bent everybody’s ear with our complaining about each other. We’d had a sick marriage for a long time, and we talked to many and told them how sick it was, and then we all stood around and marveled at how sick it was.

       Many of them, too, had sick marriages, but Kay and I figured out we’d better start focusing on how to get our marriage well instead of staring at its sickness. 

       It’s amazing how that shook up our circle of friends. There were many we had to push aside. We just couldn’t allow people in our ear that weren’t going to be encouraging.

       This was actually great news to me, because this was an unspoken declaration that we were going to work on us, which meant there was an “us”.

       This was a real turning point for us — stop the fighting and start the repairs. Repairs is a word I use cautiously, because our relationship was really beyond repair. We had to change the way we talked to each other and the way we spent our time and our money. We had to completely change the way we looked at each other and our perceptions. We’d need much more than an idea or two; we’d need every tool in the shed to undo what was done and to change our behavioral cycles.

        Since we were separated, we’d spend weekends together, sometimes alone and sometimes with our youngest. We decided to spend every possible weekend together and have no outside activities for a while.

       We spent a ton of time in the car, traveling around the state sightseeing together. While we were driving, we’d play CDs of sermons about all sorts of subjects. It got us both in touch with some very clear new ideas about God’s will for us and some governing principles that could really help us. I’ll get into those in a minute, but we were coming to the conclusion that God had to be at the very core of our marriage. Even more than the core, He had to be the foundation.

       One of the other things this did for us was that we spent a lot of time together as a couple and as a family. Through the years, we had been so individual and selfish in our activities that we had done the “grown apart” thing, like many other couples. We had really been living two very separate and very self-indulgent lives. Being separated actually forced us to try something we hadn’t done in a while — spend all our free time together.

       It reminded me and Kay, too, of what it was like when were dating and couldn’t stay away from each other. How had we gotten so busy that we’d forgotten to enjoy each other? While being separated was a very difficult time, I think the lessons we drew from it were priceless and hopefully enduring. I realized how precious Kay was only by almost losing her. I realized how much I enjoyed spending time with her only by being separated from her. Maybe I only learn the hard way.

       While we were separated, we decided that we were going to get back into church immediately and stay there. We started attending a local church together and afterwards we’d inevitably take our Sunday drive. That’s when I started picking up faith-based CDs from a local church and we’d listen to them in the car as we drove.

       I started realizing immediately that I had been under the wrong impression about a few things. One was that church attendance has something to do with the level of my faith. Don’t get me wrong, I still go to church; but I now understand that the answers for me are principles that are taught in the Bible. My faith is not based on my church attendance.

       Listening to lessons about how to live and cope based on stories from the Bible, I also realized that I had really never known much about who God is or what He wanted from me. Now I was starting to understand.

       The incredible thing was that Kay was listening to these lessons with me and her perspectives were changing right along with mine. Our spiritual maturity, if you will, was happening right there together, and it connected us like never before.

       While it is only my opinion, I will tell you this about churches. If you sit in a pew for an hour, sing a few songs, and leave not quite knowing what to do with what you’ve heard — go find another church. And if you aren’t encouraged to be a community and to work through all the intimate issues and intricacies of life with each other using God and his principles, go find another church. Sitting in pews listening to someone talk (or worse yet, rant) about a doctrine or why you should join a particular church may do something for you, but I doubt it. It did absolutely zero for me. I needed to learn God’s desires for my life and find the tools to carry out those wishes.

       Over the next few chapters, I want to pick just a few of those lessons that I’ve learned in the last few years. The Bible is so long and has so many rich and entangled and frankly juicy stories about so many different subjects and dilemmas that it will be hard, but I will narrow it to just a few that had the most impact in saving my butt. I’ll pick some of my favorites.



Next: Surrender     


Phil Cate is a resident of the Atlanta, Georgia, metro area and runs a small medical equipment resale business. He is available for speaking engagements and can be reached at or by phone at 678-429-0901

Printed by permission from Phil Cate, Mama told me Jesus saved my soul, but who was gonna save my butt??? Confessions, lessons, and revelations of a born rebel, © 2008.

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