Story: Hope for a Hurting Marriage

Guest post: A story of true love and redemption:

Once upon a time, there was a young couple who fell in love.

They laughed. They had fun. They talked until the early hours of the morning about everything and nothing at the same time. They were different from each other in so many ways but they appreciated these differences. They basked in the beauty of new, young love and the possibility of their lives together. They both knew from the start that they had a future together. Within a year’s time got engaged and married the following year.

Within the first year of marriage reality set in and felt like a huge cloud looming. Not quite sure how this whole marriage thing worked, the young couple tried and tried at communicating and working together, yet they couldn’t quite get it right.

The foundation of their marriage wasn’t built very strong and they the felt the weight bearing on their marriage as the structure began to crack.

Pretty soon the young couple found out they were pregnant! Joy and happiness (and fear of course! ) of being parents now became the focus of this young couple.

Yet as the months ticked by, the arguments, stubbornness, harshness, bitterness and walls against each other kept building and building and the weight came crushing down a little more onto their home.

They tried getting help. They Learned new tricks and tips on how to work with each other better, leaned on friends who had been married longer and had good marriages.

Sigh. They pressed forward.

Pretty soon Baby Girl was born and she was such a beauty. Her peacefulness and joy radiated their home with warmth and laughter. She was truly a beautiful gift from God to this young family.

However, as the years went by their marriage kept sinking.  More walls were built. More arguing with no resolution. More sadness and loneliness began to fill the hearts of these parents.

The realization that the foundation of their home and marriage was crumbling was weighing on their hearts and minds. Coming to the end of their rope, they reached out to the Church, not knowing what else to do. Neither husband or wife wanted to give up, yet neither knew what else to do to fix the damage done. They started pealing back the layers of hurt and pain as they tried to move forward.

They pressed on, not sure if repair was possible.

Falling and getting back up. Falling again and picked up again by loved ones.

Finally, breakthrough came when this husband and wife started to surrender it all- hands up to Jesus.

When couples get married 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is often quoted:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

What does this really look like? How am I supposed to be patient when {fill in the blank}? How am I supposed to be kind when {fill in the blank}? How am I not supposed to keep record of wrongs when {fill in the blank}?

This couple lived apart for over a year. Through this time, the couple continued placing one foot in front of the other; looking forward and trusting that the Lord would lead them. They slowly kept climbing further up and out of the dark pit that had engulfed their marriage for so many years.

A change had begun. Head knowledge was becoming heart transformation. They were learning to trust each other, to work together, to give grace and find acceptance with each other. They were finding peace in their home. They did not always get it right but they kept pressing forward.

One day, the young wife looked up and felt the sun shining on her face.

 As tears streamed down her cheeks, she realized that they were no longer in the dark cycle of falling.

She realized with a grateful heart that the amount of peace and joy in their home was more then they had ever had in the 10 years of their marriage. God had walked with them through the hardest and darkest parts of their life and brought them to a new season.

Some say that marriage gets better with time, but for this couple, marriage got better by surrendering to the Lord and choosing to lay down their own agenda for the sake of the other.

Sometimes the thing worked hardest for is the sweetest in the end.

We are forever grateful to those who walked through the darkest time in our marriage with us. You spent time talking with us, praying for us, crying with us, counseling us and picking us up when we were down.  Our marriage was marked by your love and support. I can’t say we would have the same ending to this story without you and God working through you. We are forever grateful for you.

I am so happy to say “Happy 10th Anniversary” to you, Brian. Although this journey has had hardship and many painful moments, I have learned to love you more today then I could have known when we first said “I do.” Looking back, I would choose you again. I love you and can’t wait to see where our journey leads from here.

All my love,
Sarah

drain. the. swamp.

1. Part One

Pussy. Tits. F***.

These are the words of Trump that have caused a national uproar and a torrent of emotion across the country. People were outraged. Shocked. High-profile men and women withdrew their support from Trump.

Social media went wild. People wrote comments such as, “I could never look my daughter in the eye and tell her that I voted for Trump.” … and  “Whoever votes for such a man is humiliating and debasing themselves.”  People are saying that what he did was a sex crime, and by their words convicting him as a criminal.

Clearly what Trump said 11 years ago was wrong, sinful, and encompassed by the work of Darkness.

However, as far as I know, Trump has not been accused, tried or convicted of any crime. Do we really want to revert to the witch hunt tactics of the 1600s?  This was also in the tape: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”  He is not describing an act of rape… seduction and adultery yes, but rape or forced assault- no.

  1. Part Two

My purpose is not to elevate one political party. I want to address the self-righteousness that is rampant. My concern is your heart and my heart.

The question I’d like to ask is: what man out there has not ever talked or thought about a woman in a crude way? How many men out there have not even *once* been a consumer of pornography, which supports sex trafficking, sexual abuse, and a “rape culture”?

The point is, as the Bible says, “There is no one righteous, no not one” (Romans 3). I’d like to challenge people to get off their self-righteous high horse and not act like Trump’s sin is worse than ours. (or Hillary’s sin… for some reason Trump’s seems to be more spoken of).

{Jesus} said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone. ~ John 8:7

The self-righteous talk that I am reading and hearing is a severe offense to the Gospel of Jesus.

We ALL need to be saved by the free gift of grace offered by Jesus.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” ~ 1 Timothy 1:15

Here’s a story about the political self-righteous rhetoric:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray,… The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: *** ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like [Trump] ***

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, *** ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’*** ~ Luke 18

Are *you* more like the Pharisee or like the tax collector in your words and thoughts?

Be *outraged* at Trump’s sin… and Hillary’s. But are you more outraged at your own sin? Who has the log?? and who has the speck?

You’re either humble or prideful. Your heart is either repentant or self-righteous.

And here is the end of the matter: God gives *grace* to the humble, repentant sinner, but opposes the proud.

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” ~Luke 18

  1. Part 3

How DO we address the wrongdoings of both political candidates?

Paul uses the two words: *GENTLENESS* and *HUMILITY*

Galations 6:1- Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.

In Matthew 7, Jesus defines true humility with the analogy of the log and speck:

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?  How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. ~ Matthew 7:3-5

First, you must have the integrity and honesty to take **ownership** of the log in your own eye.

What you see in Trump, or Hillary will fall into the 2 core issues of the human heart: Lust and anger.

Jesus said that those who struggle with lust are adulterers and those who struggle with anger are murderers. (non-sexual lust is idolatry or adultery before God).

Perhaps Trump is the adulterer and Hillary is the murderer.

BUT SO AM I.  Like Trump I am an adulterer and like Hillary I am a murderer. Anything less than this, is *self-righteousness*.

Got it?  (Just to make sure, try saying out loud to your significant other- “Honey, just so you know, I AM an adulterer and a murderer. Seriously.” )

The point is that you never address someone whom you see to be MORE of a murderer or an adulterer than yourself. This is true humility.

As Dr. Dan Allender said in his podcast, “This leavens the playing field. We can say, “In this struggle I have *been there*, I AM there, and I will BE there in some form until the coming of Christ and full redemption in Him.”

4. Conclusion.

DRAIN. THE. SWAMP.

Drain your OWN swamp first!!

“..the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” ~ Mark 1:15

To him {Jesus} all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” ~ Acts 10:43

For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live. ~ Ezekiel 18:30

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. ~ 2 CHR 7:14

on forgiveness: Part 1

This two minute video on forgiveness is profound… I hope you will watch it.

Here is a summary of the process Dan describes:

First, let me define “forgiveness” in 2 parts. The first part of forgiveness is canceling the debt some owes you for harm done to you. This is what God’s forgiveness is for us- The cost of our sin to God’s holiness and purity is infinite, therefore, we in turn owe a debt that is that is immeasurable and infinite. This debt demands an eternal, infinite payment… And this is grace: Jesus, being God in the flesh, took our debt upon himself and paid the debt for us. That is the *gift* He offers to us. Freedom from debt. And not only does he remove our punishment, but he *blesses us* with adoption- we are welcomed into God’s family as *sons and daughters*. That is the second part of forgiveness: a desire for goodness to come to the other, and an active movement to bless (Dan’s words).

Forgiveness may seem more clear, when simply defined in the above 2 parts. However the *process* is not simply, or easy, or completed in a moment with mere words, “I forgive you.” (Is that what we teach our children, and we ourselves have believed? One kid pushes another on the playground. An adult steps in, instructs the offending child to say, “I’m sorry” and the offended to say, “I forgive you.” And it’s neat and clean and DONE… then go off to play as before. And then in adulthood, when it doesn’t happen this way, do we question what is wrong with us? Why can’t we forgive, especially when God has forgiven us, instructs us to forgive others, and promises the power of the Spirit to guide us.

I think in the breakdown of the process of forgiveness as DA describes, we’ll see that we often road block at the very first step, and abandon the task altogether, often resorting to a *socially acceptable* form of contempt- *avoidance*. In refusing the painful process of forgiveness, all thoughts of harm are swept under the rug, and as DA says, “Your enemy becomes one you don’t see, and literally you cast them away from your eyes.”

The steps are: 1) Name the Wound; 2) Remember God’s forgiveness toward you; 3) Step into the War. (I will discuss each step in one blog post at a time. Here is part one:

1. Step 1: Name the Wound

The first step in forgiveness may very well be the hardest and most painful. When we’ve been harmed by another, we need to *name the wound*, face the heartache, and understand the particularities of the cost it’s been to us- our bodies, our being, our relationships.

However, we tend to minimize it, over-look it, “sweep it under the rug”, as I described above, and “move on”. This is a not true forgiveness. Can I pose the question- is much of what we consider “forgiveness” merely a counterfeit of what God truly desires from our hearts?

“You cannot forgive what you have not faced. The harm is almost always deeper than you have allowed yourself to name. Will you face the consequences of harm done to you?” (DA)

This happens over time.

I recently read a letter that C.S Lewis wrote in 1963, near the end of his life, about the difficulty of forgiveness: “Do you know, only a few weeks ago I realized suddenly that I at last had forgiven the cruel schoolmaster who so darkened my childhood. I’d been trying to do it for years: and like you, each time I thought I’d done it, I found, after a week or so it all had to be attempted over again.”

Sometimes forgiveness is a journey that takes a life time.

If forgiveness, by definition is canceling the debt owed to you… and to forgive you must understand what the debt is, this means you must *enter your own heartache for the wound that was caused you… and you must enter into the anger for this wound… THEN you can cancel the debt in truth. Again, this is not done easily. Clearly, this requires a high degree of felt pain… and this is why it may be a slow journey.

The question may arise- how exactly do we enter into the heartache and pain of the wound? Especially, given that we instinctively, unwittingly shield ourselves from such pain. I personally found that processing in a safe group with other people (specifically at the first group session of the Allender Center counseling certificate in Seattle) was essential.

Sharing our stories of harm in a group setting is helpful because it reveals where our hearts have turned against ourselves with accusations of being “dumb” or “overreacting” or “foolish” or whatever it is we tell ourselves as a reason that the harm is not significant. We can never see our own face, we automatically bring so much judgement… We need other people to see our face… to see the pain, and reflect the truth of the pain back to us. In my own experience, it was revelatory to see the faces of other people in reaction to my own story, and to see their compassion. At first, I could borrow from them that compassion for myself, then make it my own.

It was powerful for people to say, “the cost of the harm done to you has been *high*“... It was in the presence of others that God showed me areas of my heart that held contempt for myself, and then opened my heart in compassion and grief. And finally, I understood, in greater totality, the debt I am called to cancel. As Dan says, this is a high privilege, and in no other arena are we closer to the heart of God.

{if you were intrigued by the first 2 minute video, here is a 14 minute interview discussing forgiveness that fleshes out more of the ideas: “Forgiveness: Unpacking the Confusion }