As a single woman, I was excited when a friend of the family had a dream of me standing at the altar in a wedding gown. I was radiantly beautiful and filled with joy. She didn’t see much of the groom, just enough to know that he was black-haired. She was as giddy about her revelation as if I’d told her that day that I was engaged to be married.
My eventual upcoming wedding brought excitement, joy, and reverential fear of the unknown. My anticipation eclipsed the fear. Bob was quite the catch. The LORD had blessed me with this man. We were well suited one for another. All would be well. Only, it wasn’t. Life has a way of banging us up pretty good sometimes.
Mum had a vision of me in a wedding gown years later. This vision was different from our friend’s in that I was not looking forward in joy and beauty. I, instead, was looking over my shoulder at the very, very long train behind me. (For the record, my actual wedding gown was made of ivory lace with a handkerchief hem; I had no train.) The train represented the cares of the world that I was dragging behind me (Mark 4:19). We had 3 children in less than 4 years of marriage. Money was tight. But the thing that tore at me most was the stress from Bob’s job in law enforcement that drove him to levels of anger that I never saw coming. I felt isolated. I felt cheated of the man I thought I married. Sometimes I questioned God’s wisdom in joining us together.
I knew the man I loved was still in there. I saw glimpses of him. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted him to counsel with somebody and work things out but he wouldn’t. His unwillingness to reach out and his outbursts were very damaging. What’s worse was the damage I was creating with my unforgiveness and resentment toward him. Instead of joy, anticipation, and the radiant beauty of a bride, I had become a haggard, bitter, and ugly wife. Oh, I fought all of the negativity, fought it with all my might, but I never seemed to get a total grip on it because I was trying to remedy what was going on in our family largely in my own strength. If Bob were to be honest, he’d say it was the same for him. Being an incredibly strong man, physically and mentally, he isn’t accustomed to depending on anyone or anything else.
I think, when my cesspool began to drain, and I had little left to look at, what hurt me the most were two things:
1. That I hadn’t been stronger for Bob’s sake. I didn’t take things to the LORD as I should. I boiled in my own anger rather than peer in and be honest about where it was coming from. I knew I shouldn’t feel the way I should, but I was too ashamed to give it to the only One who could do anything about it.
2. I was hurt that Bob didn’t turn to me with his troubles. I was angry with him for coping with the worst of situations the way he did–the only way he knew how–he stuffed what was going on. He didn’t share his pain with me, his helpmate, the one pledged to him “for better or for worse”. He shut me out. What he viewed as protection I viewed as rejection. After years of this type of struggle, I was emotionally bankrupt. I was devoid of my emotions. Dead. I went to God and stood naked before Him.
“I can’t do this,” I confessed to Him. “I can’t love and forgive Bob on my own. I don’t have anything left.” In exchange for my nakedness, God clothed me with strength, peace, love, and, so vital to me surviving my then broken heart, . . . hope.
A friend of mine just recently told me how she took advantage of the kids playing outside. She went into her sunlit bedroom, stripped down to her birthday suit, and waited for her husband. She was warmed to her toes when, after 15 years of marriage and added, unwanted pounds, he took one look at her and said, “God, you’re beautiful.” He didn’t see the pain of their pasts, both as individuals and as a couple. What he saw was a picture of the bride of his youth, growing in grace, being made whole, offering herself and all that she is to him and him only.
That’s a picture of Jesus and those who He calls His own.
Marriage is hard work. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you beach front property in a swamp. Likewise, being a disciple of Christ is hard work. However, staying committed to both brings a rich sweetness that can’t be explained; it must be experienced.
I wouldn’t trade Bob for anyone. He is God’s chosen for me. Some days we drive each other nuts, but we’re nuts hanging in the same tree. We don’t always know what we’re doing but God does.
Neither would I trade the road we’ve traveled together, potholes, boulders, and all, for anything. Romans 8:28 stands: God still makes all things work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are the called according to His purpose. We can change our minds as to whether or not we want to believe God, but He hasn’t changed His mind. Tests have become testimonies when left in His capable hands.
Words alone aren’t enough to express the gratitude I feel for God’s saving grace and His mercy extended toward us. I can tell other broken couples that there is Hope. His name is Jesus. I can’t explain how, but He makes all things new, both as individuals and as couples. And He does it after we stand naked before Him. Expose the dirt, the pain, the shame, the wounds, expose it all, and lay it at His feet. It may not be the type of gift we would want, but it’s just what He’s always wanted: transparent hearts yearning after Him. When we do this, all He sees is someone presenting themselves wholly to Him, heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Stay committed to your spouse (where applicable). Stay committed to God. Let’s not offer Jesus a haggard “wife”, one consumed with the bitterness, unforgiveness, or the cares of this world. Instead, let’s be a joyful and radiant Bride who is fully trusting in Him and is eager for His return.
Join me today in “getting naked” before God. That’s the place where things are made right and blessings flow.
*Despite your situation, reaching out for help and support is no cause for shame. Doing so may save yourself and your loved ones a lot of unnecessary grief. Please don’t struggle alone. We were never meant to do life alone.