He’s right. It has been the best eight (ten?) years of my life. Anyone who can do math knows that leaves a few years left over.
Years when I was in over my head…..
I was married at 23, a child of divorce and a false convert to Christianity. I was idealistic, self-righteous, unyielding, and wounded. My understanding of men was broken and my knowledge of God’s identity was altogether wrong.
My husband and I dated seven months before we married in a small country church. I met my husband’s children at the rehearsal. They were wards of another state, taken from a terrible situation and stuck in a system we couldn’t seem to extract them from. It was the week after our honeymoon when we came to care for them part-time. A year later, we had full physical custody. They were eight- and ten-years-old.
It was a disaster.
We were four wounded, angry people in an 800 square foot house, my husband and I sleeping in the cement basement with access only through the garage. I remember riding the train to work one morning and realizing that people were staring at me. It was like one of those weird dreams where you leave the house without brushing your hair, or discover you’re shoeless. I walked the two miles from the train to work and went immediately to the bathroom to figure out what was wrong with my hair. Everything seemed to be in place, but then I caught sight of my purse. My beautiful leather satchel purse that was a birthday gift from my dad and other-mother. Scrawled across the purse in black permanent marker was a word I won’t use, in the script of a child. Even as I remembered the history of pain that would allow for such an act, the pain of the betrayal and the meaning of the title written across my satchel sucked the air out of me.
My introduction to marriage was rough, to parenthood equally difficult. I was ill-prepared and without proper resources. Every day was excruciating, a new wound received and new wounds given.
Friend, if you’re in over your head, I weep with you. I know the pain and suffering of brokenness that only Jesus can heal. I’ve felt the stab of betrayals so deep that no scar will form without spiritual intervention. I’ve ached with the shock of the depth of my own sins and destructive habits (which are usually the direct result of my sin!). As a survivor of a drowning marriage, I want to offer you a little comfort and hope.
Jesus can heal anything. Anything.
In addition to weeping with you, I’d like to offer four words of advice, if I may be so bold. They are offered in a spirit of humility, which I hope is clear.
This does not apply to the rare situation in which the life of a wife or a child is in clear danger. In that case, run. Jesus can heal anything, but you don’t have to live in immediate danger to prove that.
In every other situation, stay. Just stay. Commit to staying. Commit to loving. Commit to healing. And commit to serving.
There’s something about making a decision and following through with it in faith that allows us to do and be that which seemed previously impossible. It causes us to seek the Lord with all we have. A decision to love is required for love to occur. Love isn’t a warm, fuzzy feeling. It’s not romance and comfort. Love is hard work. It’s soul-searching, desperate, committed work. Stay.
Only Jesus can truly heal. Only Jesus can save. Dear friend in over your head, seek the One who can help. Get in the Word and live there. Find solace in Christ alone. It is he who validates his own, who loves his own, and who makes the broken whole. We can’t find our value in our husband, marriage, or children. We have value because we belong to Jesus. It was in my brokenness and desperation I was saved. It was in my pain I came to know the Word of God. And it was Jesus who healed me.
It’s so easy, as women, to complain about our husbands, isn’t it? Or to gossip in the form of a prayer request. Don’t do it. Just pray. Our God is mighty. He commands armies and nations. If he can change the course of history, He can change a marriage.
It was in those years that I prayed for my husband, my children, and my marriage that women began to approach me in church on a weekly basis. They’d say things like, “I don’t know why, but my husband is praying for your husband. He doesn’t know your husband’s name, but God does.” Or, “Honey, I don’t know what’s happening in your home, but we’re praying for you, and God has a plan.”
I never once in those years told my church about my marriage. Yet as I prayed, the Lord sent fellow prayer warriors to stand with me. I know he did the same for my husband. It still gives me the chills. God is amazing.
Sweet friend, you can’t change your husband. You can’t make him speak sweetly, pick up his socks, understand your feelings, or lead your home. You don’t have the power or the ability to cajole, nag, bully, or manipulate your husband into change. Does that mean that you shouldn’t share your thoughts and feelings? No. That’s not what I’m saying. Partnership requires vulnerability and honesty.
You can change you. You can go to God with your own anger, lust, pain, or resentment. You can choose to serve your husband by picking up his socks. You can speak sweetly. You can take your feelings to the Lord. You can fill in the gaps that your husband can’t or won’t.
Who knows what the Lord has planned for your husband? While you’re waiting to see, why not serve him, love him, and find joy where it can be found? I decided I’d rather be married than be right. Looking back, I realize I was right far less often than I believed I was.
To the wife who is in over her head: Dear sister, cling to Jesus. He is the healer of all things. Even the marriage that looks like it just may be Atlantis.
Happy anniversary to my Ed, the best husband on earth. I love you more than I ever thought possible.
Other Posts You May Enjoy at Thinking Kids
- Honey… The Honeymoon is Over
- “Mom, I’m Not Sure I Love You”
- Et Tu, Brutus? What to Do When Our Children Break Our Hearts
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Image: Ophelia, c.1894, Paul Albert Steck (1866-1924), Public Domain
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~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.