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A guest post by a new guest contributor, The Restored Wife:
Very few people who know me in real life realize that my “husband” and I are actually divorced and have been for years. I’d like to share our story as an example of God using even the biggest human failures for His glory.
It’s not eloquent or pretty or any of the things I think a testimony should be, but it’s proof we serve a God who can execute His perfect plan even when we do everything possible to get in the way. I hope some of you will find encouragement in our story.
I was fresh out of graduate school, looking desperately for a job in my field, and stressed isn’t a strong enough word for where we were as a couple. We’d stretched to make ends meet on a single salary for four years of marriage, but our small family was in major financial trouble. Any attempt at conversation meant risking a fight. We were young parents who barely had enough money to buy groceries after paying our bills. We blamed each other. We made horrible choices about how to spend our (limited) income. We disagreed about nearly everything, but especially about how to climb out of the hole we’d dug for ourselves.
After several months of applying for jobs with zero interviews or offers, I started feeling hopeless. I could tell my husband resented me as I sat home each day while he went to work on night shift. If I could just find a job, our financial burdens would finally become manageable. But since nothing I tried was working, our money problems became my fault in both of our minds. We began discussing bankruptcy, and I remember thinking it couldn’t get much worse.
Then I found out my husband was having an affair.
I won’t dwell on this part of our story because, even though it’s one of the most significant events in my life, it pales in comparison to the part I really want to tell you. I’ll summarize the fallout of the affair by saying it utterly destroyed me. It changed my demeanor, my self-esteem, and my ability to trust other people. At that point, I was completely unable to see my contributions to our problems.
My husband cheated on me. The worst thing a spouse could possibly do. What else mattered?
The devil used those thoughts to hold me captive – I was angry with my husband, angry with God, and angry at the world. I wore my anger and grief like a badge. I was going to remind my husband, every single day, how I felt about what he’d done. No amount of remorse or apology could stop my rage. There was nothing he could do to fix this. He created the mess so he could deal with the consequences.
As for my relationship with God?
In my mind, He allowed this to happen to me, so how could I trust Him? How could I trust anyone? I continued attending church, but I did so almost out of spite. I was going to show everyone, including God, that I could handle things on my own. Never again would I put myself in a position to be hurt or betrayed. I was going to be just fine.
We made many efforts to move past what happened, but I couldn’t let it go. My husband eventually gave up attending church altogether. Looking back now, I die a little inside thinking about what kind of prayers he might have been praying and how defeating it must have been to see no change in my behavior.
My husband’s indifference convinced me I was right not to trust him. By the fall of 2009, I had managed to harden my heart enough to think divorce was the best option for us. Once the divorce was final, neither of us had much luck moving on with our lives. We still didn’t know how to fix what we’d broken, but we tried (and failed) over and over.
After another nasty breakup followed by an “apart” period of several months, I realized I was being foolish. We had been together (for the most part) for 16 years at that point – clearly there was a reason we couldn’t completely give up on each other. I didn’t know how to trust him again, but I wanted to try.
Little did I know, my husband was at the end of his rope where I was concerned, and he had started seeing someone else. I can only imagine how he felt when I came to him and suggested we try to work things out yet again. He wasn’t honest with me – I’m sure he was terrified of unleashing my fury again – and we cautiously began “dating” even though he was still involved (unbeknownst to me) in another relationship.
As you can guess, eventually this other relationship came to light. The similarities to his affair during our marriage were staggering, and the feelings of betrayal were even worse the second time around. I can only describe this time in my life by saying I had a complete nervous breakdown. Even now, it’s difficult for me to think back to the despair and utter brokenness I felt.
For the first time, I started to recognize how some of my own attitudes and behaviors might have affected my husband, and my mind couldn’t handle the idea that, even though he acted wrongly toward me, I was responsible, too.
One night I left home and drove to the middle of nowhere with every intention of ending my life.
I don’t say that lightly or to seem dramatic – I truly believed my husband, our son, and the rest of my family would be better off without me. My mind raced with feelings of guilt, shame, pain, and hopelessness. It was in that moment, when I’d exhausted all other options and saw no way out, that I let go of my pride and arrogance long enough to hear God’s voice for the first time in many years.
I’m sitting in my car in the woods. I’ve made an awful decision, but it’s the only one that makes sense to me. The devil has convinced me that all of this is my fault, that I’ve gone too far to turn back now. No one will have any peace as long as I’m alive, and there is no one to turn to for help. There is literally no lower point to reach; no “rock bottom” beyond where I’m sitting at that moment.
As clear as day, I heard someone shout “STOP!”
It sounds crazy, but I didn’t just hear this in my head – I heard it with my ears. I looked all around me, truly expecting to see someone standing next to my car. When I saw no one there, I started shaking all over. I heard the same voice again: “Go home. This is the beginning, not the end.”
I had never been so terrified in all my life. This is the sort of thing that happens in movies, not in reality! Yet I started the car and headed home, sobbing the entire time I drove. Before I even made it into the house, I fell on my face in the garage and cried out to God. I wasn’t sure whether He would even hear me or care, but I didn’t know what else to do. My mind was flooded with an overwhelming picture of the life I’d been living.
- When was the last time I’d even prayed? How long had I been shunning the only source of hope any one of us has? How had things gotten this bad?
I’m not sure how many hours I spent praying that night. Honestly, I’m not sure whether my prayers were even coherent. (Thank God they don’t have to be!) I felt the strongest urge to write down what I was thinking and feeling, so I wrote page after page in a notebook. As I scribbled, I felt my Father’s hand on mine, guiding me toward the truths I’d ignored for so long. In my selfish, sinful quest to take control and protect myself from everything, I’d succeeded only in becoming bitter, isolated, unforgiving, and miserable.
Hosea and a Blog
Over the next few days, I continued journaling and praying. I realized I had no idea what a Godly marriage even looked like. How could I take responsibility for my part of this disaster if I didn’t even know what God expected from me? I searched online for Bible verses about marriage and God’s purpose for marriage. It was then that God led me to April’s blog, then to the book of Hosea for the first time.
As I read through Hosea, I understood what God wanted me to learn. You need to forgive your husband for what he did. You need to seek reconciliation with him.
“Not that, Lord,” I insisted. “There’s too much pain and hurt. Hosea and Gomer lived in a totally different world – things worked differently back then.” I didn’t want anything to do with my husband – he’d proven more than once that he couldn’t be faithful to me! I’d said so many hurtful things, and he deserved to hear every one of them. There was no more hope for us; I wanted God’s help to move on, not to jump back into the fire.
Still the thoughts came, unrelenting. “You need to pursue reconciliation, even if he isn’t interested. You have to forgive him. It doesn’t matter if he deserves it – forgiveness is not conditional.” I prayed constantly – I even prayed for those thoughts to go away! But after days without reprieve, I knew it was time to stop arguing.
My hands shook as I prepared an email to send to my husband. We hadn’t spoken in several days. I had no idea what he was thinking but I had a feeling it wasn’t good. To make a very long story as short as possible, God provided me with exactly the words to say. We talked on the phone, and he made a decision the next day to jump right along with me, both of us without a parachute – to try one more time to start fresh and get it right.
I’d love to say we lived happily ever after, but we all know life doesn’t work that way.
The challenges we faced were enormous. My husband felt led to leave his career (a move I was thrilled with, since his betrayals had involved coworkers) but that meant he had to depend on me temporarily to meet the financial needs of our family. Given the fact that our marital problems stemmed from money issues, combined with the belief that a man should provide, this was nearly impossible for him to do.
At the same time, I was struggling to give up my control issues and let God lead the way, yet I was placed in the authoritative position of controlling our finances. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a struggle for me. Can you see how God provided us with exactly what we needed in that moment? We couldn’t trust each other, so we were forced to trust God instead. Looking back now, I am so overwhelmed with His planning and timing. No matter how far I’d run away from Him, He knew me better than I knew myself, and He knew what lessons I needed most.
A few months into our attempt to reconcile, things were awful. We fought nearly every night, often into the early morning hours. We were attending faith-based counseling, but both of us dreaded the appointments because we knew we would verbally duke it out for hours afterward. I didn’t understand why God would lead us right back where we were before our divorce – I signed up for a miracle, not a disaster!
Again, God nudged me toward the book of Hosea. When I’d originally read through it, I focused on my relationship with my husband and the parallels between Hosea’s story and my own. This time, though, God wanted me to look more closely inward and to put myself in Israel’s shoes.
I’d become so obsessed with fighting for my marriage, I failed to pursue God first. I was making an idol out of my marriage and expecting my husband to meet all my needs (issues that had existed early in our marriage as well) instead of truly trusting the Lord to take care of me.
I was closer to God than I’d ever been in my Christian life, yet I was still light years away from where He wanted me to be. The prayer from months earlier echoed in my mind – I had asked Him to change me, but I wasn’t allowing myself to be changed completely. I was still holding onto the past.
Hosea took on a completely different meaning for me once I gained this new perspective. I began to understand that, despite my repeated failures as a child of God, a wife, a mother, and a human being, I still had worth in God’s eyes. He still loved me and wanted me to find peace, but in the right way. And if I stopped fighting and gave myself over to Him completely, everything else would fall into place.
It’s finally happening – my relationship with my husband has been restored and we will be remarried on March 1, 14 years after we originally promised ourselves to each other. We’ve come so far in the last few years with God’s help. We have learned that a marriage must have God front and center, and we move closer to each other every day as we both move closer to Him.
Our lives are far from perfect. We still argue, and we still tend to fall back into old patterns at times. Arguments have become much different for us since I began to learn to submit and be respectful; I probably should have used the word “disagreements” instead. We have differences of opinion and different approaches to problems, but we’ve learned a lot about listening, valuing each other’s perspectives, and talking out the issues we don’t agree on. It’s vastly different from the days of shouting at each other or storming out of the room! He knows he has the final say in any decisions about our family, but he does ask what I think, especially when he can tell I don’t agree. Some of our best conversations have stemmed from these discussions and I’m thankful that he values my opinions. We are learning so much and meeting so many great role models for a healthy marriage now that we’re actively seeking it out.
We are still figuring out how to undo years of damage and trust God first. However, we also understand that perfection isn’t the goal – we are never going to reach it no matter how hard we try. Instead, we move forward with the knowledge that marriage means joining together two people who will not only hurt each other from time to time, but who will know the fastest, meanest, most painful ways to hurt each other. Without that vulnerability, there can be no intimacy – we accept the risks and love anyway because that’s what God calls us to do.
Walking back into a relationship where I anticipate conflict may sound strange after all we’ve been through, but I don’t need to seek a relationship where I will never be hurt or upset, because I already have one.
My heavenly Father loves me and wants the best for me even when I’m not particularly lovable and even though I can never be worthy of His love. He loves my husband just as much. The two of us will always fail each other in some way, but God’s love cannot and does not fail, and a marriage based on God’s plan will not fail because we choose each day to keep going, to keep forgiving.
As I said in the beginning, my testimony isn’t pretty. No one will make a movie about it or say, “Gee, I hope I have a relationship like that one day!” But my hope in sharing this story – even the ugly, shameful parts of it that make me cringe – is that others will realize it is never too late to seek God’s will for your life. God hasn’t called me to take on a leadership role, sing in a choir, or teach a Sunday School class, but He has called upon me to pursue Him above all else, to strive toward letting His light shine through me in all I do, and to let others know they are never too far away (no matter how hopeless things may seem) to come back home.
Don’t Wait! (Don’t wait to become a godly wife until your husband leaves, the sooner you can do this, the better!)
If you have seen God do miracles in your marriage and you would like to share your story to encourage others, please feel free to share!
A 2 Minute Introduction Video to the Topic of Men and Respect