When I look at Gina, I see a Proverbs 31 Woman who has her steadfast security, joy and quiet confidence in Jesus, The Rock of her life. And she has His reward of a godly man for a husband and children who are walking with the Lord. But it wasn’t always so. Twenty years ago, her marriage to Albit Rodriguez was a marriage on the rocks and Gina recalls those years as a “desperate situation”. But as living proof that God is the God of transformation and second chances, He has since made their marriage a Marriage on The Rock of Jesus Christ, their solid foundation.
2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Individually, they were each transformed with new Christ-led hearts which has resulted in a new Christ-led marriage and a new Christ-led family. Their new boss at home is Jesus Christ. Today, Albit is the pastor of Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF) Makati. Gina is his life help-meet even in ministry. Their four children are also serving with them in this ministry. In this interview, Gina talks about her journey.
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): What was your life like before you came to know Christ?
GINA (G): Before, we were very carnal and worldly. Our priority was work, money, acquiring things. For a while we were walking with the Lord until success came. I guess that opened us up. We started making friends with people who were also up there who had that kind of lifestyle. My husband started hanging out with men that would also have women on the side. That became the normal. I think friendships make such a big impact. We backslid, both of us. We were living in the same house but were living parallel lives.
BITS: How about after you came to know Christ?
G: After our marriage and financial problem, that’s when we filtered our friends and got serious about our walk with the Lord. The spiritual breakthrough came for Albit and for me and our family after he came clean and after I learned to forgive. We put God in the center of everything. That’s when he grew and that’s when he started to lead a group. Ever since that time, the group became bigger and bigger and that’s the group now that’s practically running CCF [Christ’s Commission Fellowship] Makati. They’re products of our D-group [discipleship group]. We were happy with our D-group. Little did we know that God called him to plant a church. Because of that, God also fixed our children. First, they were not too receptive. Once we decided to walk with the Lord, Albit started to get involved with discipling our own children. He would talk about the Lord, that would become part of our daily mealtime conversation, we would pray together. God made everything fall into place. Of course, it’s a daily struggle. We really have to walk with the Lord individually to be able to keep our family joyful and united. Otherwise, we have problems just like anybody else.
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): What was it like to be the wife of your husband before his fully coming to Christ?
G: I was very insecure. I felt unloved, unappreciated. I felt that our marriage was very unstable, that it had no solid footing, that at anytime, it would collapse. I was always frustrated. After a while, I became so bitter and angry because I couldn’t control the situation nor my husband. He would come at odd hours. He would not be accountable for what he was doing. He would turn off his phone. So it was very, very frustrating. It was a desperate situation for me.
BITS: How long was that period?
G: From our honeymoon [Albit and Gina look at each other and they both chuckle]…all the way to the 90’s… about fifteen years. In between, we met the Lord and for a while I thought things were stable but I realized that he had a hidden life. He knew the Lord only, by his own admission, in the head, but it wasn’t in the heart. So I realized that it’s really possible for your husband to go to worship and go through the motions but not really be rooted and grounded.
BITS: Is there hope for marriages wherein the prodigal spouse is unwilling to repent?
G: Of course! There is! There is. I’ve seen marriages where the husbands were unbelievers and then the wife followed the biblical principle of submission, respect, and forgiveness and God miraculously turned the husband around. We really can’t control our husbands, that’s God’s department. The default of the wife is always to take control, to try and change him. But for me, the breakthrough happens when you surrender and give your husband to God realizing that you can not even begin to change your husband. Begin by changing yourself: Number one, by 1Peter 3: “be submissive so that if your husband is disobedient, he can be won over without a word”. That “without a word”, for me that’s where the power is. Meaning: without a negative word; instead, speak life and be appreciative. When the wife is really positive, the husband really changes.
BITS: Even if it takes forty-five years?
G: Even if. [Gina slowly nods her head with a compassionate expression]
BITS: Isn’t it counter-nature: to be submissive even though you were betrayed and hurting?
G: That’s the hurtful part: your being submissive when your husband doesn’t deserve it because… you just can’t. On your own, you want to fight back but that’s when surrender comes in. We just have to say, “Lord, I can’t do this but You have to do this for me. I’ll keep silent.” Somehow, God works things out. It’s really tough but I believe in miracles and we’ve seen them in the people we’ve been counseling. We’ve even seen a homosexual husband want to come back to the wife. I think the homosexual husband is an impossible situation.
BITS: What about AIDS?
G: It’s a faith issue that if you do your part, God will do His part, that if you forgive, God will protect you. I guess that’s the power of going under His cover (submitting under God’s authority trusting that He has you covered), when you submit to Him and leave the consequences to Him.
BITS: What struggles did you face?
G: My biggest struggle was unforgiveness. I was doing an accounting of everything my husband did which I was tempted to do everyday to get back at him, my way of inflicting punishment, controlling him, to verbally abuse him.
BITS: Was that before or after you came to know the Lord?
BITS: You knew the Lord but you were struggling?
G: Yes. Knowing the Lord is one thing but walking in the Spirit is another thing. If we don’t submit to the lordship of Jesus, we’ll really do everything in a carnal way. We will be dominated by the flesh and that’s what happened to me. I stopped reading the bible because in a way I was angry with God, asking Him, “Why did You allow this?” I was angry with my husband so I turned my back on the Lord altogether. But that’s when God disciplined me for my unforgiveness.
BITS: How long was it between your struggle and submitting again to the Lord
G: Almost a year.
BITS: What do you refer to when you say “God disciplined” you?
G: I got depressed. God gave me the verse in Luke, the Parable of the Unforgiving Slave. The master forgave the slave but that slave did not forgive the other slave so the original slave was handed to the torturers. I felt like I was handed to the torturers by being the one depressed. My husband was okay because at that time he was repenting. It was I who became the problem.
BITS: What helped you to remain in God?
G: God taught me that my anger was like my shield and protection so my husband would not repeat his offenses. I had to be angry so that he’ll behave. God made me realize I was wrong. I repented.
BITS: Did your children get affected? How did you help them cope?
G: Yes, but by God’s grace, it wasn’t obvious because we tried to hide it from our kids. But when the dust settled, that’s when my husband confessed; I also shared with my kids what happened. The honesty made the family stronger. His humility made my kids respect him all the more.
BITS: When your husband repented, did you have fear that it wasn’t genuine?
G: Oh YES, so I was trying to control the situation, nag, monitor, but I realized that it’s a trust issue, trusting that God will be the one to control him and the wife’s job is just to be the best wife she can be. The tendency is to fix him first and then you’ll be the best wife. But what God was teaching me was “You be the best wife, and I’ll make him the best husband.” What Deonna [Tanchi, Gina’s discipler] taught me is that you have to trust that God is big and strong enough to protect you marriage and your job is just to protect your heart.
BITS: So when you say “it’s a trust issue”, you mean trust between you and God?
G: Between me and God. It’s never trusting your husband. Marriage is a union of two sinners so that means it will never be perfect. The balancing factor is trusting God that He will fix your husband as you go down on your knees for him. Sometimes we want to fix first and then pray later. The lesson to me was, “Ask Me, pray to Me, nag Me, but don’t nag your husband and I will be the one to change his heart”. When I pray instead of controlling or manipulating, God really answers in big and small ways. He really does. To me that is the biggest blessing: knowing that God is my ally and partner. I can’t survive marriage without His help.
BITS: Did you fear that your husband would go back to his old life?
G: Sometimes we can be bound by vain imagination, by fear of something that has not even happened yet. The fear of the future destroys your joy for today. If you focus on the things that might happen, you will rob yourself of the joy over something that’s still imaginary. I’ve learned to just live each day at a time, enjoy my husband, and leave tomorrow to the Lord. The surprise of all surprises: I never thought Albit would be a church leader. Never. That to me is a miracle.
BITS: How common do you think is the prodigal husband situation today?
G: I think it’s so common. I think that those verses are there about husbands and wives because God already knows that husbands will be tempted to commit adultery and wives will be tempted not to forgive so God, in anticipation of that, already put safeguards in the bible because He knew that would happen.
BITS: What factors do you think feed this situation?
G: I think what compounds the situation is that many people don’t know the Lord that’s why they choose human solutions over God’s solutions. So what is the natural, common solution? It’s to separate, not to forgive, try and punish your spouse, get an annulment but it’s a privilege to know that God has a solution. I guess the reason separation or women not sticking it out is common is because of media’s emphasis on women empowerment that they don’t need the man. Human solutions and media—those things blur us from knowing what God really wants.
Do you have safeguards to protect your marriage?
G: Albit and I believe in putting hedges on our marriage. There was this book given to us called, Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It by Jerry Jenkins.
That helped us a lot on how to safeguard our marriage specially after that thing happened to us. It’s like being careful about not being alone with the opposite sex, not traveling alone. When he travels he has me or one of our kids specially if it’s for one or two nights. We try to build hedges to protect both of us. Even when we are in ministry, it can happen. No one is infallible. In fact, Satan will try to attack you specially when you’re in ministry. I call it protective boundaries…
ALBIT (A): protective love
BITS: Do you think forgiveness to the prodigal spouse makes him or her susceptible to repeating the offense?
G: When you forgive there’s really no guarantee that your spouse won’t do it again. God is our only guarantee. Forgiveness is our duty as a believer. But protection is ultimately up to the person and his relationship with God which of course we can not control. [Turning to Albit] Honey, how would you answer that question?
A[to Gina]: It helped me not to do it again because the kind of forgiveness that you gave me was a godly, redemptive type of forgiveness with love. When that’s what you get, it helps you because your relationship with God and your spouse grows. You don’t want to hurt them because you’re already embarrassed because you were shown love.
G: You live with that risk. That risk will not go away because Satan is alive. You were accepted and forgiven unconditionally so I guess forgiveness is a commitment not only to your husband but to God that you’ve given your husband a clean slate, you’ve let go of the past and you embrace the future with your husband trusting the Lord to fix everything, all the consequences. That’s where faith and prayer come in.
BITS: When you say “godly forgiveness”, is there another kind of forgiveness?
A: Yes, human forgiveness which comes with conditions. In the story of the prodigal son, the father forgave his son. The son did not deserve it but the father forgave him.
G: The father did not count anymore. You can always forgive your husband but keep bashing him for life. Unconditional means wiping it clean, not recalling it or reminding him of what he did anymore. For me, the breakthrough came when I committed to God that I would put the issue to death. I burned and got rid of all mental records, even physical records. I had a picture of the girl, I hired a detective, I burned it in front of him. It meant really treat it just as if it did not happen at all. That’s the kind of forgiveness God convicted me to give to him.
BITS: What role did deliverance have?
G: We did not have a formal deliverance but between ourselves, we were encouraged to write down everybody we ever slept with, to confess it to God and to renounce. We did it individually but we were physically together. Because when you sleep with someone, you become one flesh, there’s a soul tie. So Satan can use that as a foothold. That was tough. But it was part of our cleansing.
BITS: Does being a Christian mean forgiving all sins no matter what, no matter how long, no matter how often? Does this include abuse? Is there a limit?
G: Yes. I guess it means letting the person completely off your hook knowing that he’s not off God’s hook, meaning that if there’s anything to deal with, God will be the one to correct him and not me. The tendency for wives is to try to impose the penalty on our own. Very common… by not allowing him to come home or not talking to him. Forgiveness is releasing all your rights to all of that and treating him with respect and honor not because he deserves it but because you honor the position that God put him in. So tough right? Really possible only by the Spirit [of God].
I think in a strained marriage, there’s always verbal abuse and emotional abuse, that’s a given. But physical abuse, we counsel people that once there’s a danger of physical abuse, you leave but never for the intention of divorce. If you can help it, it’s only a temporary separation with the intention of going back after the husband gets counseling. That’s the only way we will encourage (temporary) separation: because of physical abuse.
BITS: Is there a condition as to what type of counseling and how long?
G: It depends, it’s subjective. It really helps to walk with another couple. We could not have done it on our own. When the information comes from a neutral party (who is walking with the Lord), this helps the husband and wife to understand where the other is coming from. By themselves, the husband and wife feel like victims needing to defend themselves from each other.
BITS: Did you ever get persecuted for your choice to remain in the marriage?
G: Yes. People were trying to separate us. There will be people who will say, “Why did you forgive? The best solution is to separate.” What we did was isolate ourselves. We were so blessed that after a retreat, we talked to the right people because in the middle of a crisis, if you talk to the wrong people, it would lead to the wrong decision because separation makes perfect sense from a human standpoint. It’s really God’s higher economy to forgive. We are a product of forgiveness so we advocate forgiveness.
BITS: What do you think is the most important role of a woman in her family?
G: To be a help and not a hindrance to her husband. It’s easy to be a hindrance to his growth at work, spiritually, in ministry. It’s to help, support, build up. To nurture our kids, and to teach them about God, I think that’s very important; to be a life-giver in the family. The woman sets the temperature of the home. If you’re angry or bitter, the whole household captures that mood. It’s a big responsibility for us to be always joyful. It’s hard. It’s our attitude that will either make it a nurturing home or a home that’s not nice to come home to.
BITS: What message would you have for a woman who is suffering in her marriage?
G: Stick it out, trust that God’s design is best. The temptation will always be to escape, go for what’s comfortable, culturally acceptable. But when you do that, you deprive yourself of experiencing what only God can do. When we go ahead of God and create our own solution, we forfeit the best because God will always defend His design. For me, it’s really obedience. Obedience brings blessing. God’s formula for me is the only formula that works.
BITS: How would you pray for a wife suffering in her marriage:
G: I pray that she would put her trust and security in the Lord alone, be the wife that God wants her to be, focus on obeying God and leave the results of her marriage to Him; that she be forgiving, keep short accounts with God (constantly search her heart and confess her sins), always seek her security in God rather than her husband, be the best wife that she can be while trusting God to work on her husband to make him the best husband that he can be.
BITS: Can you define “putting trust and security in the Lord alone”?
G: Sometimes we become emotionally stable and happy when the husband behaves but that’s temporary because when he misbehaves, then if our happiness depends on that, it gets destroyed. So it destroys the mood in the family, it destroys our relationship even with our kids. But if your security is anchored in the Lord, no matter how your husband behaves, you’ll have that unshakeable joy and peace that will show. When you depend on a human being, the human being is imperfect and will always disappoint, even everyday. To be able to entrust your relationship to God is a faith and trust issue knowing that you’re supposed to act the way you’re supposed to act even if your husband misbehaves… because you love God and that’s the way God wants you to be.