After 9 years in the NFL, it was transition time for our family. We had finally finished building our home. We continued our endeavors to add to our brood of boys, and were waiting to see where God was calling Kabeer with career and ministry. In 2014, surprisingly, God gave us a beautiful baby girl, added to the mix of our testosterone-filled home of little men in the making. This had major significance to what was in store for our future. I had no idea how much, but it did. (Another story in itself, but left for a future date.)
It was sometime in 2015 when Kabeer decided to pursue his Certified Financial Planning license. He had warned me of how grueling, time consuming, and difficult it would be to take on this feat. “Eileen, I’m going to be eating, sleeping, breathing the CFP for two years. Are you sure you want to do this?” I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to support him. No matter what, I was in. “If this is where God is leading us, then let’s go. Whatever you need, whatever it takes, let’s do this.” Little did I know what would come along with this pursuit and how almost literal his warning was— the constant head in the books, the late, late nights in the office, the halting of the weekly date nights and family movie nights. All things “non-CFP-related” were on hold — physically, emotionally and spiritually on pause.
For any adult with a job and family, going back to school is no joke. No matter who you are, it’s going to affect family life as you know it. In our situation, however, it went to a whole other level. In almost everything Kabeer pursued, he went all in with no turning back. If there was a challenge, he would take it head on. When people doubted him, he loved to prove them wrong. It was actually that kind of determination that made him so great at football. He was told he was too small, too light, not good enough to be a defensive linemen at the highest level. Well, challenge accepted. He proved all the naysayers wrong. He made it to the top.
When it came to money and finances, it was no different. From a young age, he had a knack for that kind of thing. He was a saver, he loved to grow his money, he was disciplined, and to the penny, kept track of everything he spent. That carried over to his Packer days. No splurging on vehicles, no properties in different states, no spontaneous traveling, no lavish lifestyle. He was a simple man, good with money. He also loved helping people with their finances, so it seemed to be a natural transition for him to go from football to finance management. Odds were stacked against him though — a late start in pursuing this new career, mounds and mounds of books to tackle, and a chaotic life with kids ranging from toddler to teen. If anyone was going to take this on, it was Kabeer. That was his drive. Once again, challenge accepted.
As I said, I committed to being all in, no matter what. For over two years, the CFP took over our lives. It seemed that everything revolved around it. While Kabeer studied, I tried holding down the fort by taking on more responsibility that used to be divided in two: school drop offs, cooking, laundry, homeschooling two little ones in the morning while keeping the baby entertained. Mid-days consisted of school pick-ups, drop-offs to sports, dinner, evening help with homework, bedtime prep, and prayer before bed. Tack on meals and anything else Kabeer needed throughout the day and by the end of it, I was pooped.
It was hard and it was a lot, but I loved it. I felt like I was made for it. I loved the role of a wife and mother and considered it a privilege to be those things for my family. Unfortunately, the CFP stress changed all that. With very little emotional connection, lack of downtime, lack of TLC, and lack of sleep, my tank was emptying at a rapid rate. Over time, it just took its toll. From my perspective, in my ex-husband’s eyes, I could always do more, I could always be better, I could be more submissive, I could be a better helper. I could be more driven, just like he was. Long articles and emails were sent my way: “How to be the submissive wife your husband needs.” “How to be the helpmate that pleases the man,” were titles to the pages of articles I had to read by the end of the day. If I didn’t, then it seemed to him that I was rebelling.
I believed he loved me. I believed his intentions were good. However, the constant criticism weighed me down. What once brought me joy brought me heaviness. Day after day, I didn’t live up to “my potential.” What I loved and lived for, being a helpmate and a mother, just wasn’t the same. I wasn’t cutting it anymore. I started to believe that I wasn’t good enough. I started believing all the lies.
This was the reality that God revealed to me back then: We don’t fight against flesh and blood and we don’t fight each other. The real enemy is Satan, and he was using this situation to break me down. Looking back now, grace and mercy left the building. That is, until God stepped in.
While folding laundry, I came across a sermon on TV. The pastor was Jimmy Evans, based out of Gateway Church in Texas. As I was folding laundry, I listened to his testimony and my mouth dropped. So many similarities in our marriage, parallels in the personality traits between him and Kabeer, and his wife and me. I listened to how God had transformed them both; how He used their trials and struggles to turn them back to God, how He restored their marriage completely and how He changed their mess into ministry. I wanted that, I was waiting for that. From that day on, Pastor Jimmy’s Marriage Today became part of my weekly laundry sessions. I soaked it all in. Not only marriage topics but moreso teachings on who I was in God’s eyes. I am His daughter, loved no matter what I do or how I “perform.” I am precious in His sight, the apple of His eye. I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, fearfully and wonderfully made, created in His image, created for a purpose. So many things I had forgotten. I started Pastor Jimmy’s 21 Day Inner Healing Journey, journaling and reflecting on who I thought I was versus my true identity in Christ, bringing much needed healing.
That changed everything. The fight that came my way took a different turn. Not externally at that moment, but internally. I didn’t have to believe everything I heard about me, I didn’t have to receive words of discouragement, ill-informed judgement, or assumptions — no matter who it came from. I started to cling to who God says I am. He created me. He sees me. He knows me like no one else does. Holding on to those truths meant I was no longer bound by the lies of the devil. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32) Before, I had only looked at this scripture from the standpoint of knowing Jesus, the Truth, and being set free from from my sins. Now, this same scripture came alive in a whole new way.
As hard as it was going through those CFP days, the crazy thing is that was just the beginning. God used that time to prepare me for the days and years ahead. I had to endure accusation after accusation on YouTube videos: claims that I destroyed my marriage, that I never loved my husband, that I ruined everything, that I was a gold digger, that I was a Jezebel. The list goes on. It really was ‘beyond imagination’ crazy. Yet, God prepared me, protected me and strengthened me for such a time as this.
It’s by the grace of God and the Word of God that my heart was shielded from the lies. It took time, it took practice to reject falsehood, and most of all it took the renewing of my mind and binding it to the mind of Christ. No, there isn’t the fairy tale ending like I prayed, no marriage ministry like Pastor Jimmy and his wife. Yet, still I have a hope that He’s not finished with me. He has a specific plan for me and has a purpose for all of this. That’s my good, good Father. That’s just the way He is, making beauty out of ashes.
Lord, thank You for showing us who we are in You; for showing us our identity in Jesus and renewing our minds. Your Word is truth and it sets us free from the lies of the devil. We are who You say we are and we can rest in that. Thank You also that You’re not done with us yet. Until You take us home, we’ve got things to do, the GOOD NEWS to share. It’s time, Lord, get us ready. In Jesus’ name. Amen.