This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. It is something that people have asked me to do. It is a true story of a marriage that went wrong and a God who intervened in the most amazing ways. It evokes a range of emotions whether the words are being typed or spoken aloud–pain, sadness, guilt, relief, gratitude, and joy all mesh together into one big ball of tangled emotion. As I recall the events and type them out for any and all to see, it is important to note a few things. First, my husband has given his blessing for me to share this story. Second, with the exception of my name and my husband’s, no real names will be used. There were many people involved in this story. Some were valuable assets to the positive outcome; others, while integral to the story, seemed to be on the opposite side of where we thought they stood. Third, and most important, none of the people mentioned, regardless of which side of the story they appear to be on, should be credited for the outcome that came to be. Only God gets the credit for this. God saved our marriage; God changed our actions and our hearts; God alone is to be praised for everything written here–all the miracles and even the hard times. God gets praise for them all, for He used them all for good just as He promises he will. Last, this is just a snippet of the bigger picture. The back story leading up to these events would be way too long to write in a blog. Maybe someday I will write it in book form; maybe others could be encouraged by the difficult journey we spent so many years walking through. This small part, though, is powerful. It shows a powerful God and the hope He offers, even when everything really seems hopeless.
My husband, Dave, and I have been married 27 years. We tell people the first 25, while sprinkled with good times, were mostly miserable. I was young when we married and I brought a lot of baggage into this marriage. Most people do. I get that, but my baggage was tremendous and neither of us had any idea how difficult it would be to be married with the heavy weight of what I brought into it. Throughout our marriage certain issues seemed to plague continually–finances, trust, anger, and selfishness were the top four.
We became parents fairly early in our marriage. We had four kids in five years (and lost one in between numbers 3 and 4). To say I was busy would be an understatement. Dave changed jobs often, always looking to make more money to support his family. Money was a hot topic in our home. We talked about it, fought about it, and sought after it. We never seemed to have enough. We moved five times in seven years. One of those moves was into my parents’ home because we had been evicted from our apartment. Our oldest was not quite two and I was 8 months pregnant with our second. Looking back, I’m sure that wasn’t easy for my mom and dad to have their daughter, son-in-law, grandson and soon to be born granddaughter move into a nest that had been empty for almost three years.
When we had been married for twelve years, something happened that affected our marriage quite negatively. Details are not important for this post, but it was enough for us to separate. My husband moved out and I stayed with our four kids in the house we were renting. For our older two kids, that was a very difficult time. A friend of mine paid for them to attend a two day workshop type program for kids of divorce. Our financial situation grew even worse, and soon my husband lost the car he had been driving. Seeing that he needed to get to work, he came and took the mini van he had left with me. I remember the lady next door telling me that he was a jerk and I should not stay with him. The neighbor lady on the other side allowed me to use her van to get the kids places. One time she even bought us a week’s worth of groceries. She was a God-send to us.
Despite the odds, our marriage survived that separation–that was just shy of a year in duration–and my husband moved back home. I can’t say things changed much though. We fought constantly over money. My husband had a wicked temper and we often were afraid of what he might do. Through all of that, though, we maintained a false happy when around others. Whether it be on the sideline of a soccer field or the bleachers of a basketball court, neighbors and friends had no clue that underneath our smiles and cheers for our kids there was extreme unhappiness and fear. While the writer in me cringes at skipping over many years and details, this is where the story for this post really starts.
Fast forward to January 2012.
Our marriage was hanging by a thread. The previous few years had seen the foreclosure on the only house we had ever owned (and not rented). Our kids were growing up–the middle two already away at college. Our third child, the boy who had been my rock in very difficult times, had gone to Bible college in Chicago. I felt like I had lost so much with him gone. He was the spiritual leader in our home and he was the one who would come home at night and listen as I talked through some difficult emotions. I was homeschooling our youngest and our oldest was working full time. Depression, a thorn for me since my teenage years, reared its head big time in my life as I saw the end of my full time mothering job looming close. Financially we were sinking fast. We had a college payment for our third child. A car accident a few years beforehand had totaled the minivan we had bought brand new several years before. The insurance company didn’t give us much for it and since our credit was in such bad shape, we had to buy whatever we could find with the small amount of money they gave us. That didn’t get us very much. I found myself stuck at home with a van that was not reliable enough to leave our small town. We had medical bills from numerous appointments relating to the accident as well as appointments for some symptoms not accident related that I had been experiencing. Several specialists, several tests, and several procedures all failed at making me feel better. Dave was more miserable than he had ever been. He worked very hard and yet it seemed there was never enough money to cover the bills. We seldom had grocery money and it got to the point that I was afraid to ask him for it for fear his anger would flare. My youngest daughter walked on eggshells in fear of setting off dad. She spent the majority of time locked within herself–headphones in her ears or in her room with the door closed.
In this month, a pastor at the church we had been attending, a pastor who was new to the staff and one we did not know, called Dave. He wanted to talk to the both of us about “real life”. (His words) I wanted NO part of this meeting, and while Dave didn’t either, he felt it was our obligation to go. During that meeting, Dave and I did not honestly admit to where things were really at in our marriage or in our lives. Spiritually, we were just about dead. Emotionally, we were at the end of the rope. Financially, things were at rock bottom. We masked the truth with lies that we told to try to not make things look as bad as they were. This pastor didn’t buy it, though. He said he wanted to see us again–maybe even on a regular basis. Dave was dead set against that, but I saw this as perhaps an opportunity to finally bring into the open the issues we had struggled with for so long. One day, while Dave was at work, I took the business card the pastor had given us, and I called him. I exposed some of the lies we had told. He came up with a plan to essentially trap Dave into telling a lie at the next meeting. That way, he said, he could confront him about all the lies. At first I was okay with this, but the more I thought about it, the more scared I became. I confided in my close friend and told her what had transpired and how I feared that Dave would physically harm this pastor if he was set up like that. Dave is a big guy and this pastor was not. I knew it wouldn’t end well. I decided to tell Dave that I had called him and what this pastor’s plan was. Dave was furious at first, but he did thank me for warning him ahead of time. The next time we met, before pastor 1 (as he will be referred to from now on) could say anything, Dave told him he had a confession to make and went on to tell the pastor how he had lied.
We met a few more times, but each time only seemed to alienate me more from Dave. I was a bit concerned when pastor 1 told me that most likely there was no hope for our marriage–that Dave was too far gone to ever change and I would be better off without him. I stopped in the church one day in hopes of talking with a different pastor. This pastor had many years of experience behind him. I was actually a student in a Bible class he was teaching in the evenings at the church so he knew who I was. I asked the receptionist if pastor 2 was available. She knocked on his door and motioned me to go in. He put down his pen and turned to look at me. Instantly, tears that I didn’t want but could not stop ran down my cheeks. I began telling him everything that had been going on–the mess our marriage was, the fear we lived in, the financial situation, and the meetings with pastor 1. He listened patiently and allowed me to cry it out. With great compassion he looked at me and said, “Becky, you are in a very tough place. You still have children at home who need you. They also need Dave. Nothing is too far gone for God–not marriage, not finances, nothing.” He went on to say that divorce should never be a first option, but rather something only considered when ALL else has failed. He told me I was welcome to stop in any time if I needed to talk and he said he would be willing to talk to Dave as well. A small glimmer of hope was lit in my heart after that conversation. But saving this marriage would take much more than some kind words from a wise pastor…