Marriage restoration is a process. If you’re a wife, I would say this as I gently cup your face in my hands, “Don’t give up.” Husbands, I invite you along for the ride.
Please allow me to preface what you are about to read. Not every marriage can be saved and some shouldn’t be; like those falling into the abusive category. Ours was not one of those. Our story was born from two kids, who got married, and didn’t understand the foundation or sacrifice of the marriage plan. We fought, we fought ugly, and I thought I must have married the wrong person. I fell out of love and gave up.
If you are like me, and lost hope, you are not alone. If you seek answers, then I encourage you to read on. This is our story.
I want a divorce. Those very words I carelessly uttered in the winter of 2010. Words I vowed I would never say, even more so as we said our “I do’s” in the spring of 2005. But I said it. Desperate for change, I felt I had no other choice. Cut ties and move on. It was best for both of us, I believed. And better for our, then, 2 year old son. How could I raise him in this environment?
But God . . .
I remembered my word and my promise. I recalled through the years, I was the one who would explain to others how “I wouldn’t divorce.” I was going to pull up the bootstraps and do whatever it took to make it work. Yet, here I was. Face to face with the words I uttered. Looking at the man I once loved and seeing the disappointment on his face. My words hurt. But at the time, I didn’t care. I was so bitter.
Each Sunday, our family could be found at church. Often coming off a heated argument, but with our “we have it all together” persona firmly affixed on the outside. I found God had a way of reaching me with just what I needed to hear. So that cold Sunday morning in January, I recall hitting my knees in prayer before leaving, pleading with God to show me if divorce was the right option. Was that really God’s plan for us?
The entire service I waited anxiously to hear the word. I waited for a sign. But as our pastor wrapped up, I was discouraged. No word from God. Divorce it must be.
But God . . .
A few moments later, our associate pastor took the stage and began the announcements. Coming soon to our church was a marriage class based on the movie Fireproof! He explained how this was a great resource if you were struggling in your marriage or just needed some help “tuning it up!”
There was my sign!
A few weeks later the class began as we watched the movie. I felt as though I was watching our marriage on the screen. On so many levels, I felt as though we were this couple. Although my hope was gone, God used that movie to show me He can help. As the evening wrapped up, we were given a copy of the book, Love Dare—the very book used in the movie.
Over the next 40 days, my husband could be found reading it. I expected some things because of what I had seen in the movie. Others were a welcomed surprise. One by one, the pieces began to come together once again. I finally saw the change in our marriage that I so desired.
But God . . .
Things began to fall apart again a few months later. Happily ever after was my dream, but it wasn’t coming to fruition. I began to feel as though our efforts were wasted. And that maybe our marriage wasn’t worth saving after all. Quietly, I began to look for other places to stay. Ways we could make it work financially. And would quietly cut ties. If the book couldn’t help, we must be beyond all hope.
That’s when God really showed up. And He showed me the reasons things were falling apart again. It was me. I needed to change. I needed to learn the foundations of marriage. I needed to deal with my brokenness and bitterness and give it to Someone much Higher than myself.
I needed to give it to Jesus.
I don’t recall the exact day in September of 2010, but I recall the time. On my way to work that morning, I prayed and asked God to intervene. If He really wanted our marriage saved, He needed to take all the bitterness and anger away. I didn’t want it anymore. And at 9:38 a.m., as I sat at my desk at work, an overwhelming feeling began to happen. It started in the tips of my toes and slowly moved up until it reached the very top of my head. The anger, resentment, and bitter ugliness was gone! And I couldn’t wait to run home and fall into the arms of my husband. For Christmas that year, I completed the leather bound Love Dare book and gave it to my husband. Along with my commitment that I will continue to do whatever it takes to learn, understand, and grow into the wife he needs me to be. I chose to love him, because love is a choice, not a feeling. And we’ve been God’s beautiful work in progress ever since.
Yes, there is a lot of in between. So many lessons learned. And a much deeper and longer story that goes with this. But if I can sum it all up for you, I would say, it’s hard work; it’s heart work. Yet your marriage can be saved if you are both willing to partner with Jesus and put in the time, work, and investment it will take. The love you thought was lost can be found once again. And it’s possible, because with God, all things are possible.
Your story will not look like ours. But God will custom work what’s best for you. It will be beautiful. It will be yours. And you will never know how He can use your story to bring light and hope to someone else.
When all hope is lost, when you feel there’s no other way, ask God for His way. And follow His lead!
“But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19 NLT)
If you would like to read a complete version of our marriage journey, you can view it here. It’s raw, it was hard to relive as I recalled the darkness in those days, but I know if sharing our story helps even one person, it’s worth it.
You can also view other information regarding marriage and family here.
May God shine His grace upon you!
– Melinda Merritt