Editor’s note: This article comes in two parts—the first written from the point of view of Rafael C. Catalan, the second written by his wife, Honey Grace P. Catalan.
Business Minded Sweethearts
My wife and I started out young. I was 23 years old and she was 22. We had our first child a year after. We were savvy young business professionals straight out of college. As sweethearts, we traded stuff, went into business, and after baking the wedding cake of my sister-in-law, we eventually found a market in the food industry.
In six years, we were able to put up a bakery, a catering service, a function-hall restaurant, and a commissary to supply bread and cakes for a popular fastfood chain. We were so busy chasing our big dreams. We took on a lot of pressure and became hard on ourselves during those years.
Losing the Sweetness
One day, I woke up beside my wife. As I watched her sleep, I couldn’t remember her favorite food anymore. I wasn’t updated on her favorite color, her preferences—and it felt as if I woke up next to a stranger. We forgot our respective love languages. We looked okay on the outside, but inside, our family was in dire need of rescue!
Honey Grace’s love language was service. Being Chinese, she showed her love for the family by serving in the operations of our business. She worked with production, while I was doing accounting and general operations. My love language was resting and spending time with her. After a week’s work, I wanted to chill out and enjoy her company. I wanted to hold hands and watch movies. I wanted simple joys like once-a-week dates, nights of stargazing…
But we became too busy.
Then things began falling apart. I found myself tangled in other relationships. During this time, we discovered that my wife was ill with Stage 2B breast cancer—right in the middle of our annulment case.
All this time, I had broken the hearts of my children and our church family, but they all continued fervently praying for us.
A Freak Accident
With the looming annulment case, and while my wife battled breast cancer, I ended up in a freak road accident where I lost my right leg.
It was multiple whammies for a broken couple. Our case was hopeless.
I had three major surgeries in the hospital. They were the most grueling weeks for me and for my family. The church and Christian family in the city were always praying for us, but the struggle was very real. The enemy clearly did not want me to be restored.
A Brush with Death
On my third week of hospitalization, I was supposed to be ready for discharge. I was preparing to alight from my bed and move to a wheelchair when something strange happened. In a snap, my body succumbed to internal bleeding from my guts. That blood loss was so great. I ended up waking in the ICU, attached to blood transfusion bags.
It was in the ICU where I had an out-of-body experience. At that time, I looked up and saw light. It leveled against a dark silvery environment. I noticed a door at the other end of the scene behind the light. I wanted to go there but the light was blocking me.
A voice called me by my nickname. It didn’t sound like a particular language, but I understood His message.
“I want you to take care of these people.”
I saw three people—Sofia, Redd, and Ella. My children!
I told the voice that I loved them and would care for them. Then He showed the face of my wife. I quipped, “I don’t want to go back to her! She has hurt me so much! I want the other one!”
He proceeded to ask with a gentle voice, “Ping,… your will…or my will…?”
After a moment, I replied, “Your will.”
Right after I spoke “Your will,” I felt the sensation of falling, and then I gasped for breath! I had crossed over from that supernatural realm and was back in my body.
I knew I had met with God, and He gave me a change of heart! I called for my wife to come and when she got there, I hugged her like I missed her for ages. I resolved to reunite with my wife and come back home to my family.
On the same day, I broke off all the affairs I had with the different women by phone as my wife sat beside me. After all, “Delayed obedience is still disobedience.” I spent time with my wife and repented for my mistakes. I started confessing from 2:00 PM up until the early evening.
Looking back now, we had practically dishonored each other in marriage. We committed selfishness; my wife had issues with submission; and we harbored judgements and unforgiveness against each other. We also had unmet expectations and had a breakdown in communication.
Even though it felt like I was at the bottom of the pit, God reminded me of His words:
Deuteronomy 4:30 “When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice.”
Jeremiah 15:19 Therefore, thus says the Lord, “If you return, then I will restore you— Before Me, you will stand; And if you extract the precious from the worthless, You will become My spokesman.
It was a long journey to my physical recovery, matched with the mending and regaining of trust in my marriage and family.
By December 2004, I was out of the hospital. On the Eve of New Year 2004, I brought my family to the farm so that we could avoid the smog of fireworks. It was past midnight when my eight-year-old son, Redd, took my hand while I leaned on my crutches. He led me to the kiddie pool overlooking the city. As colorful fireworks burst in the sky, he thanked me for coming home.
“Happy New Year, Papa!” He said. “You know, when you were gone and when you left us, we thought it was our fault. We missed you in our school activities, and we prayed so hard to see you again. But I also hated you for not being there for my sisters. I hated you for missing Fathers’ Day at church. I felt bad for Mama and my sisters. But today is New Year’s day, and Papa, I choose to forgive you. I love you, Papa.” Then he hugged me tight.
Clearly, it’s the Lord’s kindness and grace that brings us to repentance. We cannot pay for our sins – our spouse, our parents, our children cannot pay for their sins. Only Jesus paid for our sins when He willingly obeyed the Father to sacrifice himself on the cross.
The Generational Aspect
I also learned through a seminar called Ancient Paths, which my wife and I attended (and where we eventually became facilitators and coordinators), that if we do not deal with the generational cycle of dishonor in the family, havoc will wreak down our generational line. However, God’s plan of blessing us and the generations after us is connected to our obedience to Him.
My father left my family when I was a young child. He was estranged from us for two decades. He only came back after being newly reconciled with God. By then, I was already a father of three.
When I told my mother that my father wanted to come home, she said – “Ping, I saw your wife and children forgive you. Please tell your father that I forgive him and that I will receive him with my open arms.” What a blessing to see the pursuit of God’s blessings towards our family right before my eyes!
My father passed away two years ago, but before he died, he was able to declare blessings to all of us. We got to enjoy God’s restoration power at work!
A Promise of Restoration
Jeremiah 32: 38-40 it says:
“They will be My people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way so that they will always fear Me for their own good and for the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never turn away from doing good to them, and I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will never turn away from Me.”
How was Honey Grace throughout all this? How is the story from her point of view? Read PART 2 of Faithfulness in Marriage, coming soon in One Voice Magazine!