Hope in a Failing Marriage

img_8193I realize that we have the tendency to put our best-foot forward and social media seems to fuel that tendency. We upload our best pictures, our best stories, the best part of our lives, but rarely is anyone’s life that perfect. The honest truth is that my life is nothing close to what you might see from my Facebook timeline or what you might even see from me at church. I don’t have it all together. My life is messy and it is a rollercoaster ride of falling and getting back up and I have quite a few skeletons in my closet. One of those is that my marriage came dangerously close to failing, to being another divorce statistic.

I am writing this because there are many of you who are struggling in your marriages and are suffering in silence. You are afraid of what people might think of you or what the church might think of you. Some of you might even think that divorce is the only way out. And I am here to tell you that that was me and that you are not alone.

My husband and I had a very good marriage for the first nine years. We fought sometimes and got on each other nerves, but it never got so bad that I would have the desire to leave.  We survived living in separate states for several years, the unpredictable nature of the military, his deployment to Afghanistan, a significant reduction in our income when I decided to leave my full-time job. We even survived the fact that we were “unevenly yoked.” I was an evangelical Christian and he was not, but we seemed to make it work.

And then year number ten came and my “wonderful” marriage came crushing down. There were a series of circumstances that were pushing my husband and I farther and farther apart. Before we had a chance to realize what was happening, I found myself in my bedroom with my husband asking me directly, “Do you even love me anymore?” As I sat on our bed, I looked down at my feet and said, “I don’t know.” I wanted to have compassion for this man that was only a few feet away from me, but all I had was disdain. I felt the hypocrisy of my Christianity weighing heavily on me and I felt like I was drowning and that I was slowly losing my faith.

At the time we had bought a house in PA, but I was still living in VA with my daughter at a friend’s house. He was working out of NJ because of the military. He was in the Marines at the time. Initially, we had agreed that I would come up every week for a long weekend while our house was getting renovated. However, as time progressed I found myself wanting to visit PA less and less and I was reluctant to fulfill my husband’s wishes to finally move in permanently.

I justified my actions with a million excuses. “Whenever I am home, he is always mad and upset.” “I don’t know anyone in Pennsylvania and my family and friends are here in VA.” “The students at Sunday school in VA need me and if I leave there is no teacher to replace me.” “He had the choice to stay in VA had he wanted to but because he wanted to go off to war, now he is in NJ and I am paying the price for it.” “My real estate business is thriving in VA and I can’t do it from PA.”

The only thing I did right during that time period is to go see a friend. I needed to unload completely and I knew that she loved God and that she wouldn’t judge me. She listened quietly as I went off on a rant about my husband. After listening for awhile, and maybe even losing patience with me (although she did not show it), she said, “You need to let go of the business, of the church here in VA, and move in with your husband. The Bible is clear, it is God first, then husband, then children, then church, then everything else.” I resented her words, but deep down I knew she was right. A few weeks later, my concerned parents told me the same thing during a trip with them to Puerto Rico (I later found out my husband had reached out to them for help). I still didn’t accept the correction very easily; however, eventually I would take their advice. In my stubbornness, it took several days to tell me husband, but I finally let him know that I was moving to PA and I was going to stay.

I would be lying if I said that the road to restore our marriage was easy after that. It was not. After finally moving, I would spend hours laying on the bench of my dining room table crying while my daughter was at school. I had to force myself to be kind to my husband and to make him his morning coffee. I had to force myself to put my best foot forward for my little girl. I had to force myself to sit down and read the Bible and pray. But looking back now, God rewarded my obedience and he gave me a sign of hope the day after I made the decision to move to PA. I found out I was pregnant.

One of the stresses that had led us to such a broken place was the fact that we had been trying for a few years to have a second child, but to no avail. I had given up hope.  But as I made that first step towards reconciliation and things were still very rocky between my husband and I, seeing that cross on the pregnancy test gave us both something to smile about. I always say, I should have named that child Grace. In that gesture, I felt God saying, “Yes, you sinned and walked away from me, but you have repented and now I am extending my grace towards you.”

Fast forward many years later, I found out the reason behind my husband’s apparent bad moods that had been one of the reasons I had started to pull away from him. During that time period, he had been going through a very difficult time at work. My husband has never liked to talk about his problems nor open up. While he was trying his best not to bring work issues home, his frustrations at work and the effect it was having on him emotionally was causing him to be quieter than usual and it was manifesting itself in grumpiness. I felt like he was rejecting me, but from his point of view, having me there, even though he didn’t feel like doing anything, was comforting. When I started to not want to visit him, it would cause him to fall into an even greater depression that I would interpret as disdain for me. It was a horrible cycle.

By my obedience and moving home, he began to feel comfort from it and he was able to face work head on. And his mood changed for the better. I also changed. All those feelings that had disappeared starting coming back and my love and respect for my husband has grown exponentially. Eventually he also accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior. God pulled us through but it took an act of obedience on my part and my willingness to take the first step.

It was a very difficult time in both of our lives, but good came out of it. We both have learned wisdom in the ways to best guard our marriage and we both have gotten closer to God. I also learned the importance of having good godly friends (and parents) who are willing to provide that gentle but honest correction when you need it most. Reaching out was instrumental. I reached out to my friend and my husband reached out to my parents. We will be forever thankful for their wisdom.

My final words to you is that if you find yourself going through a hard time, find a trustworthy and godly person to talk to and someone that can pray with you. God has given us each other to provide edification and support and to help remind us that no matter how dark it may seem, He is still there.

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Crystal, China, or Pottery

I am reading a wonderful book by Frank and Ida Mae Hammond called Kingdom Living for the Family. It has helped me reshape how I think about my relationship with my husband and how God created us differently and gave us different functions. However, I was touched by the authors comment on I Peter 3:7 “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

I am a woman that loves to do Spartan Races,  got her Master’s from the Naval War College,  traveled on her own to some very remote places—so it is difficult for me to look at myself as the “weaker vessel.” However, I think the author explained this verse beautifully but at the same time convicted me that I need to leave behind my secular way of thinking and replace it with Kingdom thinking.  My “accomplishments” as defined in today’s culture matter little in God’s kingdom. Who I am as a wife, a mother, a friend, a neighbor and how I reflect Jesus Christ in my every day living is what really matters. This is what the author said on page 75 and I hope it blesses you like it blessed me.

“This verse about the wife being the “weaker vessel” is another aunthood I had misinterpreted all my life. I thought it meant that the husband was superior to his wife. I thought it said that I was strong and she was weak. The word “weaker” is comparative rather than superlative, meaning the wife is just a little weaker than the husband is weak. It says nothing at all about the husband being strong.

I had also interpreted the word ‘weaker’ to signify that she was inferior; and, therefore, to mean that I was superior. Once again I had read the verse incorrectly. God asked me what kind of vessels we had into our home. I told Him we had pottery, china, and crystal. He asked Me which of these I considered the strongest and which was the weakest. I replied that the pottery was the most durable. We could toss it in the dishwasher with little special care, but the china and crystal required special handling. The Lord wanted to know which of the vessels I considered the best. Well, the china and crystal are the most expensive. The crystal is the best we have in our home. So, the Lord showed me that is the way with my wife. The ‘weaker vessel’ is more easily broken. Ida Mae confesses that she tends to crack easily! But she is also the best I have. She needs and deserves special care.”

I am fine crystal and I am easily broken. And I am thankful for a husband that treats me with special care and a God and Savior that can put all the pieces back together.

Book Recommendation: American Sniper

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History is not a typical book recommendation that I would make on this blog, but in light of the Memorial Day weekend, I thought it was appropriate.  Chris Kyle, the author, was a Navy Seal known as the most lethal sniper in American military history with 160 confirmed kills.  He was shot and killed at a rifle range by another veteran that was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD; a Marine that Kyle was trying to help.

The content of the book is not completely unrelated to being a mom and a wife.  Woven throughout the pages of this book, Kyle’s wife wrote from her own perspective what it was like to be family waiting stateside.  While the soldier, Marine, sailor, airman have their own demons to deal with while in combat, the wives that stay home and have to hold down the fort deal with their own struggles.  When my husband did his own combat tour, those seven months were some of the hardest for me.  Of course there is the stress of child rearing on your own, and taking care of things on your own, but that is the least of your worries.  The most pressing issue is constantly having to push the images out of your mind of two uniformed men knocking on your door.  Despite my trust in God and his goodness, I had to work hard at renewing my mind and keeping those thoughts from paralyzing me.

I enjoyed how candid the author and his wife were about the difficulties they faced as a couple.  Because of the stresses that military life puts on a marriage, it is no wonder that so many end up in divorce.  One of the hardest things I think for wives and girlfriends to accept is the “bond of brothers” that form between service members and their fellow buddies in combat.  As a wife, the only thing that you want your husband to put before you is God.  And yet, when that bond of brothers forms, there is no breaking it.  Kyle’s wife couldn’t understand why he kept wanting to go back.  Why he kept putting the military before her and the kids.  But Kyle couldn’t enjoy life at home while his buddies were at war, while his buddies were dying.

It reminded me of the story of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba whom King David had killed.  David had pulled Uriah from combat and was trying to get him to go home to his wife to cover the fact that he has slept with Bathsheba and she was now pregnant.  However, Uriah couldn’t go.  He didn’t go.  He tells David in a nutshell, in II Samuel 11:11, that he couldn’t enjoy the comforts of home while his brothers in arms were still at war.

Not to give the impression that this book is all about a military marriage, the book primarily details Kyle’s service and the men around him.  This book is about war and all the ugly details that come along with it.  As a mother and a wife many things made me sick to my stomach, but it also made me proud.

It made me proud that there are my like Chris Kyle, men like my husband, who are willing to do the ugly things society requires of them so that the rest of us can enjoy the comforts of home.  It made me proud to see the efforts these men make to avoid civilian casualties, putting themselves in danger while doing so to protect the innocent and not so innocent.  War is not black and white.  It is grey and ugly.  It is a place where an enemy has little regard for innocence.  Where a mother’s hatred of us transcends her instincts to protect her own children.  Where an enemy can put a child in the line of fire to protect their own skin.  Kyle makes no apologies for the people he killed and I would never expect him to.  Those of us who have never experience combat can never comprehend why he gladly did it.  I am just thankful he did.  Politics aside of whether we should be or should not be there, he protected his own, and I wouldn’t want anything less.

Kyle may not have died while in combat, but the war still killed him.  This book is a reminder that our freedoms are not free.  On Memorial Day, I will remember Chris Kyle and all the other men and women that have died protecting this country.

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