Disappointment, regret and resentment were tearing our marriage apart. And then, there is God...I was 30 years old and my marriage seemed to be crumbling. I didn't like my husband and my three closest friends had moved out of the area, all within a year of each other. I was at a loss for direction of who I was and where I belonged. I didn't like going to church alone so I started attending my parent's church with them. I was desperate for a friend to confide in and I began to pray for one to help me navigate my way through the dark.
It was the Fourth of July weekend. Out of the blue Scotty suggested we go to church. To this day I don't know what prompted him to go. ... Or maybe I do. I called my mom and told her we were going to "our church" that day. We were running late and since we hadn't been there for a while, we didn't know that the regular two-service schedule had been changed to just one service for the holiday weekend. The thing about being late to church is that all of the seats in the back get taken up and you have to sit up front. That was exactly the case this day. To Scotty's dismay, the usher walked us up to the second pew and I was seated next to her - the friend I had been praying for. I just didn't know it yet. We had met before. She was in the same Sunday School class I used to attend. I I liked her right away. She was completely opposite of me - loud and fun. She laughed often - a loud, contagious kind of laugh.
I don't remember much about the service. I sat there the whole time trying to muster up the courage to ask this lady I had spoken to just a few times, if I could call her sometime. When the service ended she hugged me and asked how I had been. "Fine." I lied. Saying, "I'm a mess and I don't like my husband and all my friends moved away - will you be my new friend?" didn't seem to be appropriate, so I sheepishly asked her if perhaps we could exchange phone numbers. That was the last time Scotty went to a church service with us.
The following week she and I met at a coffee and bagel shop. We made small talk and then she leaned over and asked me, "So, what's going on?" She graciously listened as I poured my mess out on the table. I would have scared me off, but she grabbed my hands and prayed with me and then with tears in her eyes she told me that she knew God had good things planned for me. I wanted to believe her. She asked me if I would be interested in doing a Bible study with her once a week. I couldn't believe that she would be willing to invest her time in me that way! Of course I agreed!
Those Thursday afternoons were like water to my thirsty heart. We met every week for several months. We were studying the names of God. We talked and prayed. She did a lot of listening. She was the most blunt and honest person I had ever met and she was not afraid to tell me the difficult things I needed to hear. I was learning about God in a way I never had before - or maybe it had just never sunk in before. I learned that God was not disappointed in me. There was nothing I had to do to prove that I was worthy of His favor. I did not have to earn His approval. I finally started to believe what I had always heard - that God loved me more than I knew and had only good things to say about me.
While I was rediscovering who I was in God's eyes, there continued to be a chasm between me and Scotty. I felt like I had to behave perfectly so that he would see God in me and come back to Him. I worried constantly about my children and how they would view God as they grew up. I could not accept my husband as an agnostic. I felt like I was working so hard to be a good wife and to lead my children spiritually and I was. Just. So. Tired. I resented Scotty for leaving the spiritual leadership of our family up to me. I shut him out - all I needed was my church family and friends anyway. I was discovering the things I loved, like running and writing. I ran a 1/2 marathon, went on a missions trip to Jamaica and spent as much time as possible away from home. I wanted to be anywhere but home.
A person can only live under the cloud of discontent and anger for so long. Something, somehow, had to give. Scotty and I discussed the possibility of splitting up. I couldn't imagine living in a constant state of resentment and regret for the rest of our lives. I didn't want to grow into an angry and bitter woman. I developed a five-year plan. I would give myself permission to leave if something hadn't changed in five years, when our daughter graduated from high school. I went back to school, taking one class per semester, hoping that in five years it would be enough. I imagined different scenarios of how I would support myself if we divorced. I almost wished Scotty would leave me so I wouldn't have to be the one to make the decision.
I've had just a few "God moments" in my life. I'm not talking about the type of feeling you get like at a conference with a dynamic speaker, where hundreds of people are worshiping together. Those experiences have been wonderful, but I can't say any of them were life changing. I'm talking about a moment when I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was reaching out to touch me. It was a simple moment in my friend's living room. I met God in a new way that day. We were studying God as El Elyon, the Most High God; the Sovereign God who is in control. Suddenly I knew - not just in my head - but I really knew - that the burden and the stress and worry I was carrying for Scotty and my children were not mine to carry. God is a big, Sovereign, capable God and he had them in His hands. It was like this quote from Helen Keller's autobiography describing the day she first understood that everything had a name:
“... Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten–-a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that ‘w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! (Emphasis mine) There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.”- Helen KellerI wept as I was flooded with relief and I finally understood what it meant to lay my burdens at His feet. I didn't have to work so hard. I could stop worrying and striving. God had this. That moment became a reference point for me.
Slowly, the resentment started to fall away. I wish I could say it happened over night, but it did not. Instead of praying that God would change Scotty, I started to pray that God would change my mind about him. I began to see how ugly I had been and I didn't like the person I had become. I had shut Scotty out and treated him as if he didn't deserve me and the kids. I began to realize that Scotty is still loveable. And why did I feel such dislike toward him when I had friends who were not believers whom I loved dearly? Why was I able to accept them and not him?
It was a daily process - some days better than others. We went back to marriage counseling. He joined me in a Financial Peace University class and we started working on our finances together. He played his video games less and less. Before I knew it, I started liking him again. We began running together on Saturday mornings - a true miracle! Those weekend runs and coffee on the patio afterwards became our "thing". Somewhere along the way, each of us decided that we were going to work on our marriage. He gave some. I gave some. It was a day by day - no, moment by moment decision to not be easily offended or to be kind rather than snarky. I had become good at snarky.
I am grateful that our children did not see or understand what was going on between us during those bitter years. Divorce is not part of their story. I am thankful that Scotty stuck it through with me in my selfishness. He is a good man, he is loveable, and I am blessed. It all has been worth it.
You will hear from Scotty next week - you don't want to miss it!