Thursday, February 25, 2010

How our marriage ended...

...and found new life:

I want to share this for a few reasons, the very first of which is to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. Ironic, how I choose to celebrate such a thing by sharing the lowest moment in our marriage. The great truth is that in our weakest moment is where God is strongest. Read on if you please... and happy anniversary Melissa!

My wife Melissa and I shared this in front of our congregation at church. The italicized text was hers to read. The rest was mine:

Recently, Melissa and I were given an opportunity to present a devotional at Christian and Kristen's wedding shower. Afterwards Pastor invited us to share it [in front of the congregation]. We're very pleased to be able to do so, even though it means sharing some of the most difficult moments in our life. It's from early on in our first year of marriage. Our oldest son was only three at the time. And at this point in our relationship, it had become quite obvious that our idea of how to parent were polar opposite from one another. Not only did our approach to parenting differ, but our way of interacting with him in general was like night and day. Needless to say, arguments had become a common occurrence. And these arguments weren't just heated debates either. These were the kind of arguments that would bring out the worst of who we could be. So much so that one night we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a stand off in our sons bedroom. I had been the one putting him to bed and was trying to get him to do what he was told. Melissa heard the battle of wills from the other room, and suffice to say, did not approve of what she was hearing. I "deserved to be obeyed", and she felt that her son "needed to be saved from my unreasonable demands". These were the roles that we would find ourselves in time and time again. It was the building up of this dispute and many others like it that had funneled down into this one all out, knock down, drag out fight. We found ourselves stuck on our couch in an impossible situation, hardly able to stand being in the same room together, no less sitting next to each other on the same couch.
Of course, that's a very brief and understated retelling of our situation, but the point is that we were fighting and we were at an impasse. We had gone around many times, but with no resolution. We had become frustrated with each other, very critical of each other, and we had finally had it. If we couldn't fix this problem, it was over. That was where we were at. Our marriage was over.

Ok, so let's back up a step. Ya' see, we had been best friends for over 8 years before we were married. We had met back in our high school years while working at the mall. We clicked immediately and became the best of friends. I saw him as the super nice, smart guy who always had a smile on his face. He saw me as a spark plug behind a shy, awkward facade, a diamond in the not-so-rough, as he put it. When we were together we just lit up. In the upcoming years, Chris would always show up at the most opportune times, sometimes without even a phone call. One of these times happened to be when my boyfriend stood me up for my senior prom and with less than 24 hours notice, Chris got the day off of work, showed up with a tux and corsage to match my dress, and escorted me to prom. My knight in shining armor, to say the least!

From the beginning, Melissa was the consummate friend, perfect and complete. We could hang out for hours doing nothing at all and have a blast doing it. We often helped each other with relationship issues, she even set me up on a date or two when I was the shy one. We were like peas and carrots, like peanut butter and jelly, and it was like that for years. Eventually I made an attempt to court her; however, my overtures would come too late for she had developed a very serious relationship. Soon after that, there came a day when I had to tell myself, out loud, that my Melissa was not mine anymore. I would devote myself to her as a friend and nothing more. In time, I got to be a groomsman in her wedding. When they had troubles, I would be there for advice. When they had a baby, I got to be at the shower. I did my best to befriend her new husband, though with not much success. Melissa and I, however, remained best friends.

So yes, I had been married once before. That marriage happened to be one big, abusive mess. I had loved this person, had a child with this person, and put all of my faith and dreams into this person just to have them completely unravel. I deemed myself an utter failure. I had lost any sense of identity or self worth amidst all of the lies, deceit, and verbal abuse. Chris was what helped me survive that horrible ordeal. I had fallen into such a state of misery and despair I barely had a breath left in me. And just when I didn't feel like I could hope or believe in love any more, there was my Christopher just waiting for me. It was him that was the breathe of life that my soul needed to be revived. He is what kept me going. And yet, after all of this, here I was again, ready to accept that I was a failure and that I would have to pick up the broken pieces that were left of my life and move on.
So, here's where we get to our theme. Despite our amazing friendship that built a storybook marriage, which everyone swore was meant to be, we had “fallen out of love”. The world seems to think that you fall in love and get married, it lasts forever. This kind of love is over rated. It will only get you so far, and we had already reached the end of its usefulness. Within one years time we managed to make complete shipwreck of our love, and there we sat on that couch, waiting to see who would declare this unfortunate truth first. We couldn't fix this problem and it was over.

I was the one who spoke up first, but “it's over” wasn't what came out of my mouth. You see, “It's Over” was not good enough. We had come too far. We used to talk about how fate had brought us together, that some greater power guided us through our life. We weren't supposed to date as teenagers, we were meant to be friends first; we were supposed to go through other relationships and suffer the hardships and learn the lessons. We used to call it fate. But we learned something new. Fate has a name. He is God and his son is Jesus. Though I hadn't quite wrapped my head around “sovereignty” and “Providence” yet, I understood that the Lord is the author of marriage. I knew that God hates divorce. I knew that, just as God was the third member of this marriage, so was he the third person on that couch. What I said to Melissa was something like this:

“Melissa, we can't fix this problem. We can't figure this out, but you know what? God can. I don't know exactly how it works or what it looks like, but we have to give it to God. He'll make it work.”

We dropped our heads and prayed. We cried, and we prayed some more. So it's obvious how that night turned out. The Lord did work things out. He got us through that night on the couch, and he's gotten us through many more since then.

Over the years I learned to set boundaries for the kids and that reprimand, sometimes, needs to be harsh. Chris learned how to season discipline with grace and with mercy. He also learned that he had anger issues and how to work through that; but mostly, we learned that we are a team. We are partners with the Lord in Holy Matrimony. We have learned how to take correction from one another and how to give it. We have learned how to lean on each other and how to support. To this day, God continues to teach us “Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.”

We share this, not just to tell our story, but to offer to you an example of how God is in marriage, and how He will never forsake a marriage. After all, he is the author of marriage. He is the one who declared “It is not good for man to be alone” and that, apart from woman, “No suitable helper (will) be found”. He declared that we would “leave our father and mother and become one flesh.” “What God has brought together, let man not separate.” This was a direct reference to marriage!

Though we don't imagine you need to hear this, or that this is something you didn't already know, but we would like to offer it as a reminder: In all things, turn to the Lord. Seek His guidance in prayer and also in the scriptures and to Him will be the glory forever and ever, amen!

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