Guideposts Classics: Graham Kerr's Spiritual Awakening
Guideposts Classics: Graham Kerr's Spiritual Awakening
In this Guideposts Classic, TV chef Graham Kerr shares how faith saved his marriage.
Scissors are a wonderful invention, two blades that pivot on a pin. God made man and woman in the same way–two blades. And He put them together with a union called marriage.
We were married, put together by God, on September 22, 1955, but our marriage scissors never worked. The only exposed edges were the points, and points are for stabbing, not cutting.
We loved each other, we always have–ever since we were 11 years old and held hands briefly at a party where we had strawberries and cream and played badminton and listened to the bees.
Treena: My father was a genius, a portrait painter who alternately followed his own will and his clients’ whereabouts. We never knew from one year to the next where our home would be.
Graham: My parents ran a hotel and I grew up experiencing a “champagne existence on a beer income.” I never made a bed or had to wash a dish; the hotel staff managed all those incidentals. My parents were always busy. The holidays were working days, and we never shared with the community.
I was a loner when I first met Treena in England. She was the loveliest thing I had ever seen and we became close companions. She had younger brothers, but I was an only child.
We used to listen to the radio while the rain ran down the diamond-shaped leaded panes and debate the sinister motives of a bystander in a trench coat as he innocently waited for a bus.
We rang each other on the phone and read poetry or just listened to the other breathe.
Treena: My family finally left England and went to the Channel Islands. I used to write to Graham occasionally, and I daydreamed about our early “love.” I grew up in a difficult home. My parents were not loving parents, and I sought a release from painful reality by becoming an actress.
I was quite good, at least the critics used to say so. I loved the cameo parts where I could steal the show but still feign non-competitiveness with the rest of the cast.
I got love from the audience on my terms; when the curtain went down I was satisfied and didn’t have to trade love on a one-to-one basis.
Graham: While Treena was acting, I became a soldier. One day in camp, I opened a newspaper and there, spread over the center pages, were photographs of Treena, my first love. She had won a beauty contest and she looked radiant.
I wrote and she answered. The thread remained unbroken.
Treena: In 1954 I returned to England and wrote to Graham. He replied and within a month we had met and found that after nine years of separation our love was still alive.
Graham: Within ten hours of being with her I proposed, and Treena said yes. We were living our early love again, but this time there was drama, urgency, drive; we were adults, now. though we didn’t always act like it.
Treena: I had a violent temper and a very acid tongue. I was more seriously hurt by my early environment than I–or Graham–knew.
Graham: While Treena was the spark. I seemed to be the drive in our marriage. When her moods were electric I would “take it.” but also build resentment at the same time. I found release in working.
As the work element increased, my available time and attention for Treena decreased. I began to set my sights on possessions–Italian cars, homes by the water, luxurious yachts. And a burgeoning TV career in Australia provided the wherewithal to turn some of those materialistic dreams into reality.
Treena: By this time I was in the theater again, happy and contented, feeling I’d finally got things together. We had two children and I could manage the housework and the theater and Graham ... when he was home.
Graham: Treena would try to time her stage work to coincide with my TV recording dates, but it never seemed to work. The plays she did always ran longer than expected and it seemed that we were never together. The theater became my rival; her work seemed to give her more joy and satisfaction than I could.
Finally we lost control. Success, exposure to luxury and to the smart show-business set, coupled with the pursuit of two separate careers, were too much. The time came when I sought sympathy and attention from another woman.
I cannot possibly express the absolute hell that followed that senseless, brutal act, the tearing at both our hearts with the points of the scissors.
Treena: I was filled with righteous anger; I felt dirty and ashamed. It was so unfair. “Why? Why? Why?” I demanded.
Graham: “I don’t know,” I would reply. All I knew was remorse for our lost love, and a furious desire to make up for it somehow. I would do things, buy things, go places; it was all external patching up when an internal healing was what was needed.
We were submerged in a sea of recrimination, unforgivingness and eventually retaliation. We hacked away at each other with separated blades.
In 1968 we were discovered by American television interests and brought from Australia to perform The Galloping Gourmet series.
In an effort to save our failing marriage we agreed that we would cooperate in the production. Treena would be the producer and I would be the clockwork cook. The pressure of the nonstop pace of 200 new shows a year was agonizing. The enemy now became the work load that we shared.
Professionally, we were a tremendously successful team. All the thwarted power of love was converted into drive and ceaseless competition to see who could do the most before collapsing. By April, 1971. we had well over a million dollars in the bank.
In that same month we were hit by a huge truck on Highway 101 outside of San Francisco. Our careers were ended.
Treena: I had violent visions and fell into deep periods of despair and fear. Eventually this depression induced illness–tuberculosis–and I had one lung removed.
Graham: I hadn’t suffered mentally but my neck and back had been injured and I couldn’t take the recording pace any more, especially without Treena producing the shows. Together we had managed, but on my own the burden became impossible.
So we walked away from that life and went to sea in a beautiful yacht called Treena. She was 71 feet long and flew 5300 square feet of canvas. She was one giant investment aimed at recapturing our family unity and our love for each other.
But the boat was too big and too fancy and nobody except its owner-skipper wanted to go sailing anyway! It was a 66-ton love-substitute that ate up all our reserves.
Treena: Twenty-five-thousand miles and twenty-two months later our fragmented family, strained even more by the isolation of shipboard life, came to rest in Maryland at the small port of Oxford.
There we purchased an 1814 white clapboard Southern colonial mansion with acres of lawn and graceful colonades and wide river views.
In this tranquil spot I finally hit rock bottom. Nothing had worked at sea and now there was no peace ashore.
I began to take pills–“uppers.” “downers,” painkillers, sleeping pills–anything to try to control the violent moods that had caused our doctor to discuss with Graham the possibility of my voluntary commitment. Our children were in serious trouble; life was unbearable.
We had a maid working for us at that time. Her name was Ruthie and she shimmered with joy everyday. I turned to her one day and said, “I just don’t know what to do, Ruthie.”
She simply said, “Why don’t you give your problems to God?” to which I brusquely replied, “Okay, God, You take them. I can’t handle them any more.”
God took them! Seven days later I went to Ruthie’s small church in Bethlehem, Maryland. As the singing, handclapping congregation prayed for their “new sister” I felt an undulation in the pit of my stomach that rose to nearly suffocate me; I screamed and fell to my knees, crying tears that flowed like waterfalls.
“I’m sorry, Jesus. I’m sorry, Jesus,” I repeated again and again.
I was baptized in water and felt glowingly clean. Then they asked me if I wanted to tarry for the Holy Spirit. I didn’t know who the Holy Spirit was, let alone what tarry meant.
“What do I do?” I asked.
Ruthie told me to say, “Thank You, Jesus,” so I did–over and over. The church was hot and I felt ridiculous. Really, I thought, you are a sophisticated woman of forty going right out of your mind!
Then a bright light fell on my face and I thought, Now they’ve turned up the church lights to make me think that I’ve got it–whatever “it” is!
I opened my eyes and there I saw a Man. He was dressed all in white and He had the most wonderful smile I have ever seen. It held all the love in all the world. He stretched His hand toward me and He touched my heart. He said, “You have it,” and I laughed tears of joy as I said, “I know ... I know ... I know.”
I believed in Jesus at that moment. He is alive; I’ve seen and spoken with Him, so I truly know.
I left that church a totally new human being filled with the great certainty that, if I just kept quiet, my husband and family eventually would share this love.
Graham: I had tried unsuccessfully to get our lives back together with everything that money could buy. But now Treena was utterly and completely changed. It was a miracle!
There were no more rows or recriminations. She forgave me and seemed to mean it. Our children were happier; the house was peaceful. But I still worried. How long would this last? When would this Jesus thing disintegrate? If I got too close, I’d get hurt when it blew, so I kept back and watched and waited.
Treena: While Graham waited. I prayed. I prayed everywhere, especially in the broom cupboard. (The Bible had said in Matthew 6:6 to pray in a closet!) I fasted and prayed, but never urged Graham to follow.
Graham: After three months I was totally convinced Jesus was real and that He was alive in Treena. It was then that I went on my knees and told Him, “Jesus ... I love You.” And with that confession, He loved me right back.
Graham and Treena: When we pray together we hold hands, and through us now flows the love of Jesus. We are forgiven, so now we have the ability to forgive. There are no old hurts left, only the hunger to serve Him and His people with our lives.
We are a new pair of scissors put together by God. He, at last, is the pinion at the center of our marriage.
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