About Shattered Dreams
A DREAM DESTROYED. A LIFE RESTORED.
What happens when a supposedly “Christian” marriage goes awry???? What happens when a covenant is broken? Can that really happen in the Christian community?
All relationships can be tough, but marriage relationships are the toughest. We see each other at our best and at our worst. We go through the greatest of times and the toughest of times….for better or for worse…right??? When things get tough, we know we are supposed to stick it out, right??? We do! We persevere. We put one foot in front of the other. We pray for strength, humility, compassion, selflessness, and grace. These are all in accordance with God’s will and this prayer will be answered. Healing, growth, redemption…of course these will come. That is how God works.
I became a Christian after 5 years of marriage. Marriage was hard. I was desperate. I thought that God would fix my husband, but He wanted to fix ME instead. He taught me about His design for marriage, about His role for me as a Godly wife, about a servant’s heart, about submission, about doing everything “as unto Him.” I dove in with gusto!! I craved time with Him, time in His Word…I couldn’t do enough. My life was transformed. I was oriented differently. My energy, previously channeled into resentment and bitterness, was channeled toward seeking the Lord and His will for my life. I desired to be the best wife that I could be.
A Marriage Marked by Tension, Discord, Strife
Years passed and not long after our 12th anniversary, our 4th and 5th children were born. Twins! WOW! Life was full in every sense of the word! There was rarely a spare hand, a spare moment, a spare thought or a spare ounce of energy. Our family was bursting at the seams and, from all outside appearances, bursting with energy, love and harmony. BUT, on the inside, there was tension, discord, and strife.
“What if this is not a submission issue?”
As marital tension escalated and crossed over to verbal abuse directed at me and my son, I realized I needed help. I began counseling at my local church and was referred us to a highly regarded and credentialed Christian counselor. I learned so much about myself. I had been operating under the erroneous assumption that if things were not going well in my marriage, there must be something I was not doing correctly. I needed to try harder, submit more, and “die to myself.” The question was posed: “What if this is not a submission issue?” What??? That was something I had not considered in my zealous pursuit of God’s approval as a wife. Although submission and “dying to self” are legitimate Godly principals, I had gone to such an extreme that I had almost lost my identity.
Through godly counseling, I learned what it meant to be a people-pleaser instead of a God-pleaser. Gradually I learned to find my voice again and begin to speak the truth in love. I regained confidence as God showed me how much He loved me and valued me. I learned to set healthy boundaries and stand up for what I believed.
With all of this exciting growth in my life, I was certain things would change for the better in my marriage. After all, I had prayed diligently for healing in my marriage. That was in accordance with God’s will, so of course He would answer that prayer, right??!! Well, the healthier I got, the angrier my husband became. As I found my voice and tried to speak the truth in love, his rage reached a whole new level, not only towards me but also towards our children.
“I endured it with great expectancy and hope for God’s redemption of my marriage.”
Heightened verbal abuse forced me to ask my husband to move out. We all needed a chance to try to regroup and find an equilibrium again. During the time of the separation, my husband went to a weekend Christian men’s retreat with Life Ministries Today. He came back with enthusiasm for me to have an appointment with Bruce. I did so and began a several month journey of spiritual growth and revelation. The Lord began to show me some of the lies that were rooted in my past that I had been believing about myself. My husband also went on a 5-day Christian retreat through another ministry. He again came back with a strong desire for me to experience it as well. I did so and experienced more revelation from my Savior. I saw my entanglement and co-dependency. Although the journey through all of the counseling was painful, I endured it with great expectancy and hope for God’s redemption of my marriage.
My husband moved back home after six months. I desperately wanted our marriage to work. I could not imagine our family continuing to be fractured and separate. We were referred to a fifth counseling ministry. Once again, I took a deep breath and jumped in with both feet. Although my husband again never completely engaged in the process, the Lord used the counselor to continue to peel back more layers and plow up my heart.
“I might have to choose to get out of the boat before it went down with our whole family.”
All of this process with the counselors took place over a five-year period. All the while, I stayed in close touch with the pastor at our church with whom I had started. He continued to meet with us periodically to monitor our situation and offer his own counsel. As he candidly observed, things in our relationship and in our home were not getting better, in fact in his analogy, it was like we were in a boat together that was sinking. His analogy went like this: I was bailing out water in large buckets as fast as I could and occasionally bailing IN water in a small bucket but that my husband was continually bailing more water IN to the boat in large buckets while only occasionally bailing water out in a small bucket. The pastor told my husband that soon I might have to choose to get out of the boat before it went down with our whole family.
What was I to do when “the ship is about to go down” with everyone in it?
At this point, it was becoming increasingly obvious that I was going to be faced with a very hard decision. When I made a covenant of marriage, what was I to do when “the ship is about to go down” with everyone in it? I prayed for so many years that God would heal my marriage. I noted the promise in Psalm 138: 8, “The Lord will accomplish what concerns me.” I held onto that promise through years of doing everything I could to try to save my marriage.
Plagued with Difficult Questions
But, the bottom line became, I COULD NOT CHANGE MY HUSBAND’S ANGER OR HIS ABUSE toward me or our children. If that was not changing but getting worse, what was I to do? Did I stay in marriage and endure? If so, to what end? What would it do to my children to continue to witness how their father treated their mother? What precedent would that set for their own marriage relationships one day? Also, how could I sit back and watch as my children endured their father’s verbal tirades towards them??? What does covenant marriage mean when these are the questions you find yourself forced to ask???
I believe that a covenant is a sacred bond between two people. We must remember though, that those people are both sinners, and those two sinners must BOTH work together towards honoring that covenant. They will never do it perfectly, but they must BOTH be willing to do the work. In our marriage ceremony, as we exchanged rings, we vowed, “with this ring I vow that with ALL that I have and with ALL that I am, I HONOR YOU.” That encompasses the essence of covenant marriage. My husband did not honor our vows; the covenant was meaningless.
After five long years, I determined that my children and I needed a safe haven away from the unpredictable behavior. I filed for divorce, never imagining the divorce would have to go through. In my mind, God had promised me that He would “accomplish what concern(ed) me.” (Ps. 138:8). The morning I went to the courthouse to initiate the divorce proceedings, I rose early to sit with the Lord. I felt numb and was asking myself, “What am I doing? Why is this happening? Christians aren’t supposed to get divorced! What will happen to me?”
I opened my Bible and came to Isaiah 54:4 and soon began to weep as my Heavenly Father ministered to my broken heart.
“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the Lord of Hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth. For the Lord has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected, says your God.”
I did not understand then, nor do I now, why God allowed things to reach the point in my marriage that I had to get out. But what I knew then as now, GOD HAD ME IN THE PALM OF HIS HAND. Nothing that happened was a surprise to Him. He was there then to be my Husband and He still is. He and I have a Covenant Marriage that WILL NOT be broken!