I attended a woman’s bible study a couple of weeks ago and the topic of marriage came up. A few of the girls at the study were sharing their struggles with self-sacrifice and the difficult task of placing someone else’s needs and desires before your own. One after the other, myself included, we shared a bit about the struggle with selfishness and how it creeps up most when we are with our spouse. It creeps up on us in the everyday moments, like answering what’s for dinner or whose turn is it to walk the dog or who deserves to take a bathroom break first. In the middle of sharing our struggles one of the more seasoned ladies of the bunch sweetly said “Honey, don’t you know that when you get married you sign up to die?” and then she went on to explain that in marriage we come in to die to ourselves and to live joyfully to serve the other person. It was a shocking thing to hear, but it was a sanctifying moment that led me to think about my marriage and all that it has taught me.
Alex and I met when we were 13 years old (17 years ago). We have sweet memories of puppy love and still have mementos that date back to those times. We met at church and attended the same youth group throughout middle and high school. Our families were very close. We have many memories of our childhood that are intertwined and often share the same childhood stories from different perspectives. I was the only girl out of four kids and he, the eldest of two. We were the same age and as teenage romance goes, we were perfect for each other. He was my teenage love and I was his.
What we didn’t realize at the time and what we know now is that long-term memories also come with long-term heartache. We were there when promises weren’t kept, when friends were hurt, when hearts were broken and skeletons were shoved in closets. We were present during the good and the really bad times and have vivid memories of each other’s shortcomings.
Our dating years were stained with disobedience and tainted with sin. We were babies and were fighting to figure out our place in this world all while attempting to play “house.” We found our identity in our jobs and fought for our individuality apart from each other, all while shutting out everyone who stood in the way of our love.
We got married at the age of twenty-three for two reasons. We knew that we needed to be married if we wanted to continue to live the life we were living and because Alex just happened to gamble and win enough money for an engagement ring. There was nothing holy about our timing. There was no plan set, no goals checked off our before we get married list, we sort of just stepped into marriage because we knew it was the appropriate next step to take.
We were engaged on July 4th and married December 26th of the same year. It was fun and very exciting as most weddings are. A few months later, the wedding dress came off, the excitement was gone and the diamond didn’t shine as bright as it once did. The consequences of our disobedience started to arise and our attempt to cover up our sin by slapping a wedding ring on proved to be futile. We were selfish. We were disobedient. Disobedient to the word of God and to our convictions. We forwent the eternal reward for immediate gratification. We thought that the world owed us our relationship and that we would persevere through it all out of our own will.
A year into our marriage, I woke up one morning unhappy and unsatisfied with the life we were living. I thought, “This can’t be it.” I didn’t like who I was, where our life was headed and I wanted a fresh start. I had made up my mind that I wanted out of my marriage and because we did not have any kids, a home of our own or anything to our name, it would be a clean exit. I wanted out
It caught Alex by surprise, as all avalanches do, and he was left to try and piece together my thoughts, emotions and dissatisfaction.
I, on the other hand, was reluctant to fix what was broken. I longed for the life that I dreamt of and not the one I was living. I wanted to be swept off my feet by someone else, and the romance of something new. I wanted more than anything to not be known, to have skeletons that could remain in their proverbial closets and wanted my selfish heart to be hidden, not on display for someone else to see. I was angry and threw that anger up at the person who was closest to me.
Alex was baffled and didn’t know what to say to me other than suggest that we talk to our pastor. We set up a meeting and Alex sat hungry for guidance and direction. He was willing to do anything to save our marriage. He asked questions and waited patiently for answers. I knew divorce was wrong and there was nothing that they can both say to me that would change my mind and I was willing to walk away if it came down to it. The pastor was so gracious with me. He looked at Alex and said that this was a great reminder that we ought not to take our wives for granted and that there was nothing left for him to do than to pray for me and ask God to have mercy on us.
Alex did just that. For the next week, he prayed. He prayed like I never saw anyone pray before.
I would get home from work and find him on his knees in our office asking God for mercy. He pleaded for mercy. He asked God to forgive him for not being a good leader in our home and asked God to soften my heart and to give us both a second chance.
This went on every day for a couple of weeks, and in that time something happened in both of our hearts.
God had mercy on us
He opened our eyes and granted us a second chance. He allowed us to see our brokenness and our need for His saving grace. He pulled us out of the hole we dug for ourselves and showed us our sin. God was gracious.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
We are nine years into our marriage and have three beautiful babies, the first of which we named Grace. Her name is a reminder of what we were shown, what we receive on a daily basis and what we strive to show each other day in and day out.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8
Our love story is a reminder that God is present in the minute aspects of marriage like walking the dog, doing the dishes or tending to the kids.
We are living examples that God restores marriages.
Although we are not perfect, we now look for ways to serve the other and to give of ourselves daily. We were forgiven and our hearts were healed. We have been blessed with a wonderful story – one full of redemption from sin and his undeserved grace.