For 20 years, their marriage and family seemed solid. June and Lamar Sims raised their children in church and attended a parenting seminar. But the good life began to change when their engaged daughter revealed she was expecting a child.
“That really threw Lamar for a loop,” June recalls. “He thought none of that would happen with our kids.”
Lamar became angry at God. He stopped going to church, didn’t want blessings at meals, and removed pictures of missionaries from the family refrigerator.
The unexpected pregnancy began a series of crises in Lamar’s life. Over the next several years, he had back surgery, two hip replacements, lost his job, and was forced to go on disability. In addition, a child ran away from home, and another daughter went through several years of rebellion.
Lamar’s anger and bitterness increased, and it became more and more difficult for June to be around her husband. Nothing she said or did would please him.
After 34 years of marriage, Lamar said he wanted a divorce. “I don’t love you. I don’t need you. I don’t want you,” he told his wife.
But June still loved Lamar, and she didn’t want to end their marriage. When she refused to divorce Lamar he said, “Well, just leave me alone.”
And so Lamar and June continued living in the same house, but they didn’t speak.
For three years.
“They thought I was being foolish”
During these years of silence, Lamar and June communicated by writing notes to one another and leaving them on the refrigerator door. Even though Lamar did not want a relationship with his wife, he asked her to continue cooking for him. So, after coming home from work, June prepared dinner for him and then ate her meal in her bedroom. This arrangement went on for about two years when Lamar said that he didn’t want June cooking for him anymore.
June continued to wash Lamar’s clothes, cut the yard, and serve him in other ways to prevent herself from becoming bitter. “My poor daddy would come out and he’d just cry, ‘June, why are you doing this?’” Her parents and children (who were now adults) begged her to divorce Lamar. They feared she was in danger and envisioned her living in misery.
“They thought I was just being foolish.” June says. “They’d say things like, ‘God doesn’t want you to suffer like this,’ or ‘God doesn’t work that way,’ or ‘God gives you common sense.’” Although June realized her loved ones meant well, their comments put a lot of pressure on her. She knew she had to please God and believed He wanted her to remain in the marriage.
As June confined herself to her bedroom, she was alone with God and the Word. “I was in His classroom,” she says, “and I had ears to hear. God was in the pruning process in my life.”
In the beginning she thought that her marriage problems were all Lamar’s fault, but as she turned to God she saw ways that she had failed her husband. “I had not put him first,” June says. “I put the kids before him … and church, too.” She also says she didn’t show him proper respect. June realized that she had looked to Lamar to make her happy when true happiness comes from God.
“Keep me in the fire … ”
As weeks turned into months, June focused less on earning Lamar’s love and respect and more on allowing the Lord to shape her into His image. She kept a journal, and one of her entries read:
I’m not going to ask You to shorten the days of my adversity if these days mean knowing You better. If these days mean You’re changing me, keep me in the fire until Your work in me is complete … Just give me the grace and the strength to remain faithful and true in You to glorify You. I want to learn all You want me to learn. I don’t want this to be wasted time.
On another day she wrote: Lord, I cannot change this man but You can change me.
When June found herself dwelling on the things that Lamar had done that upset her she would immediately start praising the Lord out loud. She eventually accepted the fact that Lamar might never be a part of her life and was satisfied with just the Lord.
After three years, God had a final lesson for June: dealing with unforgiveness. In her mind she imagined telling Lamar how he had hurt her. “I forgave him,” she says, “and released him from it.”
Shortly after that, she actually spoke to Lamar and asked him if they could get some emergency lights that burned on gas. He simply answered, “No.” But since they were talking, she told Lamar that she still loved him and had not meant things that she had said in anger.
Lamar sternly replied, “June, you think things are going to get better, but they are not.”
But June also recalls that there was something different after this short conversation. She sensed a softness in her husband.
“June, if you’ve got time, come here a minute”
A few days after their brief conversation, Lamar spoke again to June. In a soft voice he asked if she and her father would clear off a hillside on their property where he wanted to plant grass for the deer. “I knew he wasn’t going to thank me,” she says, “but I did it as unto the Lord.” Sure enough, after June and her father cleared the hillside, Lamar showed no appreciation.
About six weeks later, she was stunned to hear Lamar say, “June, if you’ve got time come here a minute.”
He continued, “I’ve been thinking. I know that I said things to hurt you and you said things to hurt me but if you want to we’ll try to make a go of it.” June said she wanted to try to make the marriage work, even though Lamar said he didn’t know if he would ever love her again. “And it wasn’t two weeks before he was calling me darling and telling me he loved me,” she says.
June purposefully focused on his good qualities and says doing this revolutionized their marriage. “It was almost like we were in a contest,” she says, “to see who was going to outdo the other.” The more she showed respect to Lamar, the more he wanted to show his love to her. She also made sure Lamar knew how much she appreciated him.
“I can’t believe we’re having so much fun in our 60s”
The following years were sweet for the Sims. “We thoroughly enjoyed our time together,” June says. “We talked and talked.” They took rides together in a golf cart on their 160 acres and walked hand-in-hand through the woods. June describes Lamar as being more patient, more understanding, more affectionate—different in every way. At one point Lamar said, “I can’t believe we’re having so much fun in our 60s.”
“He was always telling me, ‘I love you,’” June says, “and every night he’d go to bed and say, ‘I really appreciate all you do.’”
On June 21, 2004, Lamar and June repeated their marriage vows in a pastor’s home—just as they had done 41 years earlier. “I was about in tears,” June says, “and so was he because it was so precious that we were doing it again.” As Lamar and June drove back to their home from the pastor’s house, they talked about the good times in their marriage.
In July 2006 Lamar became short-winded when he walked from his parked truck into the house. With June’s prompting, he saw a doctor who sent him to an oncologist, who found cancer in the spleen.
“The doctor said his spleen had to go,” June says. “It was six times larger than it was supposed to be.” Lamar’s spleen was removed a few weeks later, but other complications set in and, as June says, “It was all downhill.” Lamar died from pneumonia just five months after visiting the oncologist.
“I wondered why God gave you to me”
Realizing that time was short for Lamar, daughter Carol had a heart-to-heart conversation with him. “I know that you know that everybody is a sinner,” she said, “and we need Jesus and He’s the only way to heaven.” She asked Lamar to ask Jesus into his life if he had any doubts. Unable to speak, Lamar nodded.
Although not sure when Lamar actually accepted Christ, June has peace about his salvation. During the last year of his life he told June that he had been watching her sleep. “I wondered why God gave you to me,” he said. The next morning he repeated, “I just wonder why God gave you to me.”
“I’ve asked God that same question,” June says. “I think it was so he could get saved.”
During Lamar's final hours, June and their four grown children sat with Lamar in the hospital and sang songs, beginning with “Amazing Grace” and continuing through every hymn they could recall from memory. They read Scripture to him and reminisced over the good times they had enjoyed over the years.
June remembers leaning across Lamar and whispering into his ear that she loved him and appreciated all that he had done for her. He nodded.
Lamar took his last breath at 4:30 a.m. on Monday, January 22, 2007, just five months after he first visited the oncologist.
“We don’t want to miss out on what God has to teach us, even during the hard times”
June is grateful that she did not divorce Lamar … and so are her children and grandchildren.
At one time, daughter Wanda and her husband separated. “I wanted out,” Wanda says. Then she remembered how June would tell her to put her feelings aside and seek what God wanted her to do.
“Because my Mama could go through what she did with Daddy,” she says, “[I knew] the Lord would also give me the strength to be able to make it through with my husband.” Wanda has a strong marriage today and attributes that to her mother’s example.
June and Lamar’s youngest daughter, Shirley, says that her mother’s faithfulness also changed her life. “The Lord used it to bring me to a personal relationship with Him,” she says, “to start dealing with my anger and bitterness, to bond my husband and me together … and basically turn my life 180 degrees.” Shirley says her mom’s example has caused her to look at her own marriage as a life-long covenant.
June’s children have seen what God did in their parents’ lives and they are striving to be what God wants them to be. They’ve all said, “We don’t want to miss out on what God has to teach us, even during the hard times.”
Throughout the last seven years of Lamar and June’s marriage, their children expressed over and over how glad they were that their parents were still together. After Lamar died, they all sent June a note that said, “Thank you for hanging in there and showing what real love is.”
“He was the spice of my life”
Today June cherishes a letter that Lamar gave her shortly before he died. He wrote, “I would like to thank you for all the good and wonderful years. Words can’t tell you how I really feel. Our love just grows and grows.”
In December 2007 June mailed a Christmas letter to her friends and family that expressed what God had done in her life and marriage. “Especially during those last seven years, Lamar and I shared such a deep, passionate love relationship,” she wrote. “He was my soul mate, my lover, my best friend. He was the spice of life. He kept me laughing.
“The days and months immediately following Lamar’s death were especially tough. The silence was deafening. I missed (and still do) hearing him say each morning, ‘I love you, Darling,’ or each night, ‘Thank you for all you do,’ or ‘The best thing I ever did was to marry you.’”