"You will undertake a journey because you are not at home in this world. And you will search for your home whether you know where it is or not. If you believe it is outside yourself, the search will be futile, for you will be seeking it where it is not. You do not know how to look within yourself, for you do not believe your home is there. Yet the Holy Spirit knows it for you, and He will guide you to your home because that is His mission. As He fulfills His mission, He will teach you yours, for your mission is the same as His. By guiding your brothers home, you are but following Him." (OrEd.Tx.11.40)
My name is Rev. Paul Marinkovich, and I am humbled to share a personal life transformation with you. While some of you may be familiar with my story, I suspect most are not, so I will summarize. Over a decade ago I was involved in a divorce and heated custody battle that led to the illegal abduction of my son Gabriel overseas.
The experience challenged every belief of who I thought I was and every value I thought I stood for. It brought up my darkest shadows and most terrifying fears. Challenges, I thought were too big and too complicated for me to handle, became everyday events. How I overcame the obstacles of clearing my name and getting my son back was but a mere fragment of God's bigger picture. The Holy Spirit walking me through the disappointment and despair afterwards, and God's grace in my moments of deepest pain and sorrow, were the true miracles of the experience. This is what I wish to share with you today.
The British press coined it as the "tug-of-love" case and CBS' 48 Hours showcased it as "Somebody's Child" which still reruns on various channels today. Creative story lines and titles aside, it was far less complicated for me. I was just a father who did what he felt was right. Without retelling the entire story, my search took me around the world and afforded me the opportunity to testify before both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. It involved the court systems of five countries, the State and Justice Departments, the FBI, Interpol, and Scotland Yard. My former spouse was ultimately arrested in Scotland, extradited back to the United States, and I was reunited with a son that was taught to fear me in front of an international media circus.
A few years after Gabriel was returned, I felt it was the right time to share my story with the world. I hoped that my book might provide comfort and insight to other parents struggling with divorce and custody issues. I also hoped to get beyond the sensational tabloid accounts of what happened. A first draft of The Search for Gabriel emerged in 2008. The project included a best-selling co-author, an enthusiastic high profile book agent, and a vivid description of a real-life drama of struggle and perseverance. It had all the intrigue of a crime novel, all the emotions of a love story, and a good platform of media attention from around the world. It even included an important role of a Senator who would eventually become the Vice President of the United States. The book seemed like a perfect conclusion to a long and exhausting journey.
The work proceeded relentlessly for over a year until it was finally completed. I submitted a personal life story to my literary agent and waited anxiously for a reply. It finally came – my book had been rejected. The primary criticism was that the main character (me) was "unsympathetic." It felt like a rejection of my whole life. My co-author suggested that I rewrite the story with more emotion, but the story already contained plenty. The book was interlaced with expressions of anger, revenge, hurt, scorn, victimhood, and a constant theme of love without reciprocity. What more emotions could they possibly be looking for?
The Search for Gabriel was a story of overcoming incredible hardships leading to an eventual climax – a decisive victory at the expense of another's loss. I thought I had the perfect ending with a spike of the football in the end zone, but unfortunately there was a flag on the play. The story line was impressive, but my lack of compassion, insight, and the inability to self-reflect left it lacking purpose. There was an unanswered question the reader wanted to know, "What did the author learn from the experience?" Ironically, the form of the book matched perfectly with my perception of events at the time. Herein was the problem – my perception of the experience.
I responded with a familiar emotion, anger, but the frank dose of honest feedback left me with no one else to blame. After years of help from others, and being in the spotlight, I was now left alone in the company of someone I didn't like so much or even know very well – myself. My literary agent stopped returning calls, my co-author quickly pivoted to another project, and my now adult son, Gabriel, whom I had so "valiantly" saved from a life of hardship and despair, disappeared once again with the mother who kidnapped him ten years prior. Even my older son, Myke, was left bitter from my time away from home while searching for Gabriel. I became depressed and wondered where was "the happily ever after" moment that was supposed to come in these situations? I just couldn't figure out why God put me through all this only to end in such utter failure and disappointment.
There was no letter to write, no law-maker or diplomat to petition, no media source to contact, and no way from the outside that anyone could help me. I could no longer travel down the same familiar path. My purpose for coming this far was to stand in this place of the branch in the road and choose the correct path. Delay or indecision would no longer serve me.
"When you come to the place where the branch in the road is quite apparent, you cannot go ahead. You must go either one way or the other. For now if you go straight ahead, the way you went before you reached the branch, you will go nowhere. The whole purpose of coming this far was to decide which branch you will take now. The way you came no longer matters. It can no longer serve. No one who reaches this far can make the wrong decision, but he can delay. And there is no part of the journey that seems more hopeless and futile than standing where the road branches and not deciding on which way to go." (OrEd.Tx.22.38)
The change had to come from within. After over a dozen trips to Europe to find my son, it was time to go down deep inside and start a different type of journey – one without distance from my head to my heart. Then suddenly the clouds parted, and the light revealed itself. I realized that I didn't need to rewrite the book, I needed to rewrite myself. I put the manuscript for The Search for Gabriel down, and I picked up A Course in Miracles.
The Course was not new to me, as I used to listen to Marianne Williamson lecture about ACIM in the early 1990s. I read her book A Return to Love in 1992. I studied ACIM for a few more years, but life eventually became distracting with raising my son Myke, my second marriage, the birth of my younger son Gabriel, and all the subsequent drama that followed. The white noise of life kept me busy for the next many years.
After the rejection it felt as if I was standing in a house of mirrors with no place to hide. My fall from the mountaintop and unspeakable misery was the start of a spiritual transformation. It took losing everything for me to drop to my knees and ask for God's help. He was patiently waiting for the call. It was my Holy Instant and all He would ever ask of me from that point on was my willingness.
"The holy instant is the result of your determination to be holy. It is the answer. The desire and the willingness to let it come precedes its coming. You prepare your minds for it only to the extent of recognizing that you want it above all else. It is not necessary that you do more; indeed, it is necessary that you realize that you cannot do more. Do not attempt to give the Holy Spirit what He does not ask, or you will add the ego unto Him and confuse the two. He asks but little. It is He who adds the greatness and the might. He joins with you to make the holy instant far greater than you can understand. It is your realization that you need do so little that enables Him to give so much." (OrEd.Tx.18.32)
I became studious and self-reflective, and the Course was my guide. I contacted Rev. Tony Ponticello and entered the Community Miracles Center's Ministerial Program where my blessings started unfolding. I worked for two years and was ordained in San Francisco on February 17th, 2013. As my ministerial project I started a men's group known as "The Bucketmen." Eventually Rev. Peter Graham's ACIM-1 class had an opening for a teacher. He had a football coaching obligation, and I was blessed enough to be asked to step in and carry on. It appeared that my life had taken on a new direction and that I had put my ordeal behind me.
While out for a conference in Irvine, California, I remember my friend Rev. Daniel Tipton telling me that I talked a lot about my past experiences. He had such a simple honesty about him, and I came to realize that even I was getting tired of hearing my own story. At the conference I stood up and shared my realization with Marianne Williamson and vowed to leave my ordeal in the past and focus on my present. It seemed the right thing to do.
As time waned on, I found that the more I tried to put it behind me the more I just couldn't. The hurt and disappointment were still there. Then I realized that, for me, the real story was not about the search for Gabriel. Instead, it was the search for peace, understanding, healing, and forgiveness afterwards.
Looking back once again at the same set of circumstances with miracle-mindedness has been an incredible and healing experience that has brought me clarity, understanding, and a sense of peace and joy. It helped me to see the world through eyes of forgiveness which enabled a transformation of the book, The Search for Gabriel, into a new book project, A Journey of Forgiveness. After all, that was my real story – a transformation from hurt and pain into forgiveness and love. With the help of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness gave me everything that I could possibly ever want. Forgiveness opened the door for me into the real world.
"The real world is attained simply by the complete forgiveness of the old, the world you see without forgiveness. The Great Transformer of perception will undertake with you the careful searching of the mind that made this world and uncover to you the seeming reasons for your making it. In the light of the real reason which He brings, as you follow Him, He will show you that there is no reason here at all. Each spot His reason touches grows alive with beauty, and what seemed ugly in the darkness of your lack of reason is suddenly released to loveliness. Not even what the Son of God made in insanity could be without a hidden spark of beauty which gentleness could release." (OrEd.Tx.17.11)
Many people ask me how I could ever forgive such a heinous and painful experience, and I usually reply, "How could I not choose to forgive such an experience?" Being right kept me in a self-created hell with guilt, anger, remorse, and spite. I remember a beautiful holy instant and an expression of love in a place where hate used to dwell. "The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love." (OrEd.Tx.26.82)
I was reading a blog a while back about parental alienation. I was surprised to see a debate about my situation nearly a decade after Gabriel's return. There was great anger from some of the bloggers for my former spouse and some for myself. I started to write and defend my position and dismantle the opposing side's argument which was my typical response to any perceived attack. The projection of these emotions toward my "enemies" usually provided temporary relief, but like crack cocaine, the relief of pain and grief was only for a short while. Eventually the pain returned with an even greater discomfort. A dark addictive circle of judgment and attack would leave me depressed and alone once again. Before I hit the send button on the rebuke I just wrote, I thought about Lesson 153 that I had studied that morning:
"Defenses are the costliest of all the prices which the ego would exact. In them lies madness in a form so grim that hope of sanity seems but to be an idle dream, beyond the possible. The sense of threat the world encourages is so much deeper and so far beyond the frenzy and intensity of which you can conceive that you have no idea of all the devastation it has wrought. You are its slave. You know not what you do in fear of it. You do not understand how much you have been made to sacrifice who feel its iron grip upon your heart." (OrEd.WkBk.153.4)
Suddenly the defensiveness behind my blistering rebuke gave way to a gentle twinge of compassion. The expressions that offended me weren't attacks; they were calls for love. The bloggers, a gathering of parents with similar painful experiences, chose to judge and attack each other instead of extending love and support. The whole situation suddenly looked quite insane. The Holy Spirit illuminated the gratitude I should feel for these parents and the holiness of the place that we were in.
"I desire this holy instant for myself
That I may share it with my brother, whom I love.
It is not possible that I can have it without him, or he without me.
Yet it is wholly possible for us to share it now
And so I choose this instant as the one to offer to the Holy Spirit
That His Blessing may descend on us and keep us both in peace." (OrEd.Tx.18.48)
Their focus of vengeance gave me an opportunity to be a miracle-worker and extend an expression of love in a place of hatred. My shift of perception provided another option that wasn't seen before – a miracle – a release from the pain we were all suffering.
How many opportunities do we have to provide release to our brothers and sisters that we choose to just not see? How many miracles are available for us that go unrealized because of our unwillingness to see the situation in a different light? Miracles are all around us in every moment and in every situation. They are God's gifts to us and it was my time to share that gift. I erased my first response and replaced it with the following:
"If you reached this site and are involved in a custody dispute please take a few moments and consider what I have to say. Do whatever it takes to work out an arrangement with your former spouse.
Anger clouds judgment and love clears those clouds away. Love doesn't mean that you have to be in close physical proximity or that your prior relationship has to be reinstated. It means love yourself, your child, and another human being enough to get beyond your anger for the sake of all involved.
Often times in the 'heat of the battle' we see the ugly and experience deep sorrow. It is not so much about us as parents as it is all about the little ones that we love. Love doesn't mean that we are tied to any certain results; rather, we simply pray to change our minds enough so we do what's best for our children.
Often times as parents we are accused of very painful and untrue statements about ourselves. I was one of those parents. I had to defend myself in several different countries, and it made me angry and bitter. The fact is that it wasn't about me and it wasn't about her. It was about the beautiful children God entrusted us with.
So here I am, after years of this journey, wondering where it took me and why it happened. The latter may never be answered, but I am quite clear on where I am now. I hold no anger towards anyone involved in this ordeal. I have become a stronger, happier, and more loving person as a result of this situation.
I have forgiven my former spouse, the mother of my child, and everyone else involved. I bless all of them and wish them the best. I pray that we all can treat each other with respect and kindness. I hope that the experiences we all learned help us to be better people. If I can change one situation by these words, it has all been worth it.
Drop the anger and pray to change the vengeance that is inside because you perceive that someone hurt you. The truth only lies inside of you and not in what others say. Get beyond the insults and the anger, and reach out in love.
There is no scarcity of love. All we can do is block it from shining forth. It can never be taken away. Any love given or received in the past is always there and is the only real thing we should bring into our present. Sometimes love changes form and people we love move on, or even die, but no one has control of our ability to love and bless them in our mind but ourselves. Celebrate that love for it has never left; we have just forgotten it temporarily.
Relationships change form, so don't hold so tightly to your perception of how it should look. God sometimes has different plans for us that we cannot understand in the moment. Be an instrument of love for your children's sake and for the sake of mankind in general. Smile at someone today and quietly bless them. Love your children and those around you with every thought and every action. If you are in a custody battle now, lay down the sword and try to communicate in a different way. You can be sure that you have decided wrongly if you and your situation are not at peace.
Pray for your spouse and your children, but most of all pray that you can change the way that you are thinking. Be open and listen for a different way to show up. Transform a place where anger used to dwell with a gentle expression of love. It will change your life. It has mine.
Take it from me – you can't be both right and happy; you must choose one. Our children deserve the right choice. You deserve the right choice. Thank you for your time and God bless all of you. – Paul Marinkovich"
Gabriel is now living 20 miles south of me in San Diego, California. He pops in on Saturday mornings for my men's groups at times. Myke lives in New York and has just accepted the job of his dreams. He has been a long standing member of my men's group and has recently committed to the CMC Ministerial Program and started in my ACIM-1 class. He has become my best friend and closest personal advisor. My mom is currently moving down the street from me in Carlsbad, from Palm Desert, to be close. My current wife, Margarita, and I have been happily married for 15 years now. I have been blessed with so many new friends from my ACIM studies.
While my search for Gabriel is finally over, the search for peace and joy is an ongoing journey. There is nothing to chase anymore and family even seems to be coming back home to me. Perhaps that was God's plan all along. There are still challenges every day and the form doesn't always look the way I perceive it should, but I trust that God has a better plan. I just simply need to get out of the way and let His blessings and lessons unfold naturally. God bless you all and thank you for letting me share. ♥
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the November 2013 (Vol. 27 No. 9) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.