The Greatest Enemy

By Becky Johnstone as told to Bob Davies

When Becky's husband confessed his adulterous affair with another man, she was stunned. But an even bigger crisis still lay ahead: unknown to both of them, her husband had been infected with the AIDS virus.

I'd known something was wrong for weeks. My husband and I were usually so close. We had shared everything in the six years since our wedding day. Like any marriage, there had been some hard days, but Rob was still my best friend in the world. It was the kind of marriage I'd dreamed of as a single woman.

Then Rob seemed to lose all interest in the physical aspect of our marriage. Weeks went by with no sex, and I kept asking him what was wrong.

"Oh, nothing," he'd say. "It's been real busy at work. I'm just tired."

I knew there was more to it than that. "Honey," I begged him one night in bed, "you've got to let me know what's going on. I know something is wrong. What is it?"

There was a long silence.

"OK," he finally said. "Becky, I don't know how to tell you this. Dr. Jackson suggested last month I get tested for the AIDS virus. The result came back positive."

I was stunned. It was like having a pail of ice water thrown in my face. I went numb all over. AIDS! My husband is infected with the AIDS virus. What's going to become of us? I must have gone into shock. To this day, I can't even recall the rest of our conversation. I must have finally dozed off into a fitful sleep.

The next morning, everything seemed fine. I decided to go to my women's Bible study. "After all, this isn't the end of the world," I told myself. "God's going to take care of us."

But once I got to church, I totally fell apart. I asked a friend of mine if we could go somewhere and talk. She had a gay son; I knew she'd understand. We went to the sanctuary and talked for several hours. After breaking the news, I told her the whole story of my marriage.

From the moment I laid eyes on Rob, I knew he was someone special. We first met when he came by to pick me up for a singles' event at church. As I looked out my apartment window and saw him coming up the front walk, the Lord spoke to me: "That's the man you're going to marry." At the time, I brushed the thought aside. Was I just imagining things?

A month later, I confided in the married couple who led our singles' group. "I think the Lord wants me to get married," I told the wife. "Is it someone in our group?" she immediately asked. When I blushed, she laughed. "It's Rob, isn't it?" She had also sensed the Lord was going to bring us together.

Our single's group was very active, so Rob and I saw each other constantly. We also dated sporadically.

About a year later, Rob and I went out to dinner at a restaurant. I finally told him what the Lord had shown me. Rob admitted that he hadn't seriously thought of marrying me, but he wanted to pursue our relationship. We dated more after that. About six months later, we got engaged. We were married on March 7, 1981.

I still had no idea that Rob struggled with homosexuality. Actually, it had flashed through my mind once. While we were dating, a friend of Rob's visited our church. This man was married with children, and Rob told me they'd been roommates. I could tell by the way they looked at each other that they were very close. But gay? No, they were just best friends, like brothers. I didn't give it another thought.

The first year after our wedding was wonderful; it seemed like we'd been married for years. God had obviously called us together.

Then, during the summer of 1982, my job took me to the East Coast for two weeks to help establish a branch office. While I was gone, I found out I was pregnant.

A few weeks after my return, Rob sat me down. "Beck," he began, "I can't tell you how excited I am about this coming year." He told me how much he loved me, and the joy he felt in becoming a father. Then he dropped the bombshell.

"I've never been able to share this with you before, but there's been a struggle in my life for years," he explained. "I've had feelings for other men. Sexual feelings. Remember Dan, the fellow you met at church? Well, we used to be roommates, but more than that. We had a homosexual relationship."

Rob went on to explain how Dan had rededicated his life to the Lord and broken off their immoral relationship. Their separation also brought Rob back to the Lord.

Then he went on to confess that, while I'd been away, he had fallen into a sexual relationship with another man he'd met.

My first thought was, Too bad I'm pregnant. I'd leave right now. But God immediately reminded me that He had called us together. I couldn't leave-it just wasn't an option. I also knew I had to forgive; that was unquestionable.

Rob was already in counseling because of the crisis. His counselor had urged him to confess everything to me. We ended up going for counseling together for the next six months, until our first daughter Rachel was born. The sessions helped me to express my feelings and work through some of the questions I had.

Then Rob found out he had syphilis. He had caught it from the sexual encounter while I was away. "When is this ever going to stop?" I asked myself. "I can't handle any more." It frightened me that I could have passed on the disease to my daughter at birth, but we both tested negative, much to my relief.

Rob had to visit the doctor for regular blood tests. It was a continual, painful reminder of his sin. But it opened up our communication. Every so often, I'd check in with him. "Is everything OK? Are you struggling with sexual temptation?" Sometimes he'd say, "yes." That was hard to hear. When he'd leave for work, I'd worry that he would fall into another affair.

I started hearing more and more about AIDS. I couldn't face something like that, I thought. It would be more than I could handle.

Then we found out I was pregnant again. A week later, we lost the baby. It was a very rough time for both of us.

I'd already noticed that Rob was withdrawing from me physically. Finally he confessed to me what was wrong. He'd tested positive for the AIDS virus. I could relate to Job's situation in the Old Testament. What I feared the most had come upon me.

The next day, my friend at church insisted I tell our pastor. I went to his office and confessed the whole story. He was very supportive.

"Becky," he told me, "Your greatest enemy is not AIDS. It's fear." During the weeks that followed, I found out how true that was. I had to fight many fears.

What will I do if something happens to Rob? I thought. He's only 37, too young to die. I'd have to go back to work. Where would we live? What if I'm infected? Who will take care of Rachel? Maybe I've even passed on the virus to her at birth. All three of us could die! Some days, the whole situation seemed completely overwhelming.

Rob and I decided to always use condoms, to minimize the chance of him passing on the virus to me. When we went to visit Rob's doctor, he said there was no reason for me to get the AIDS test. I was relieved; I really didn't want to face the trauma of being tested.

My own emotions were fragile; anything could trigger me off. One day, I watched a TV show on AIDS. I came away so depressed.

That night, I told Rob what had happened, and he was upset. "You shouldn't be watching that kind of program," he berated me. After that, I leaned on him for information, asking him questions when I'd hear a news report about some breakthrough in treatment. Rob had access to professional journals at work which had the latest findings about AIDS. I began to relax a bit about the whole thing.

I thought back to the time of my miscarriage. The Lord had brought us through that experience with such peace. I can't be in control, I reasoned. God will get us through this. I have to let go.

"Lord," I prayed, "Rob could die tomorrow, if that's Your will. I know it would be terribly difficult for me, but I know You'd sustain me."

The Lord began comforting both Rob and I through Scriptures like Romans 8:28. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him..." I knew the Lord wanted to use even this situation for our good. God wasn't condemning us; He loved us.

Slowly my attitude changed. I started to pray for AIDS patients. One afternoon in my prayer time, the Lord gave me a vision. I saw Rob and I entering the AIDS ward of a local hospital. "You'll be ministering to people with AIDS," the Lord told me. "Because you've already faced this, you won't be afraid." I had an overwhelming sense of His love for the patients who were dying.

That day was a turning point for me. I became more sensitive to my husband's needs instead of only thinking of myself. I began to see his faith and the strength God was giving him to face the future. I prayed regularly for his needs and others who were facing the specter of this disease.

"Not my will but Thine be done," has become my heart's cry. God's love is more real to me than ever before. I am beginning to rejoice again in the joy of my salvation. Living with AIDS means daily seeking the Lord for His peace, comfort, hope and joy.

I don't know what lies ahead, but I do know that God has given me victory over my greatest enemy. The overwhelming fears I had are gone. My future is in His hands.

All names and minor details have been changed in this true story. Copyright © 1988, 1990 by Bob Davies. Distributed by Love In Action, PO Box 753307, Memphis, TN 38175-3307; 901/542-0250