In my experiences in dealing with many different people, it seems as though the word commitment doesn’t mean much. Many things we commit to are easily thrown to the side when something comes along to distract us. I am guilty of this as well. When I commit to pray for someone daily, I find myself forgetting about it after only a week or two.
Our marriages are a commitment–to our spouse and to God. I think we can agree that this commitment is one that is tragically tossed to the side when it just gets too hard. It’s not something that many are willing to work for, especially when it is so easy to give up and move on.
April’s testimony, however, is a true look into what a marriage commitment should look like. When things got rough and there seemed to be no hope left, they realized their commitment to one another–and to God–was worth fighting for. It was worth the hard work, the tears, and the messy emotions. They took their commitment that they made in 1997 seriously–despite the failures of both–and began to restore their marriage through God’s strength.
I hope this blesses you as much as it did me. I hope you can find someone to share this with today. I hope that you will pray for the marriages of those you know that are struggling–and maybe even your own.
Stephen and I got married, knowing we had some big shoes to fill. That year, both sets of parents would celebrate 25 years of marriage and both sets of my grandparents would celebrate 50 years of marriage. We had been blessed to witness Christ-centered marriages and we wanted that as well. We were married on May 17th, 1997. We spent our first year of marriage in California while Stephen was still in the Navy. After being discharged, we headed back to North Carolina. We bought a house, I went back to school to finish my degree and Stephen found a job. By 2001, I had graduated, found a job, was working on an internship and was pregnant with our first child. Stephen was working at the VA hospital in Salisbury as a police officer.
In February 2002, our first child, Spencer, was born. In May, Stephen began a new job, which would allow me to be able to stay home with Spencer instead of returning to work. However, it would require him to travel and be out of town 1-2 nights a week. By 2004, I was pregnant again, but sadly that pregnancy was lost at about 8 weeks. Just a few months before, we had spent several weeks in our Sunday School class discussing overcoming adversity and what scripture tells us about that. We were given this promise – Our circumstances have nothing to do with the JOY that comes only from the Spirit. I remember the magnificent sense of peace that came over me during that time—the peace that passes all understanding; the reassuring knowledge that God was still in control despite my circumstance. Never did I imagine, that I would again have to cling to that promise.
In May 2006, our second child, Harrison, joined the family. My life was pretty busy now taking care of two children, running the household (particularly when Stephen was gone) and keeping up with all the church activities I was involved with. Then, when Harrison was 18 months old, I found out I was pregnant again. Only this time, it was twins! In October 2008, we welcomed Charlotte Grace and Olivia Anne into the world. Our family of 6 was complete!
Now, with a 6½ year old, a 2½ year old and newborn twins, if I thought life was busy before, it just became down-right crazy! In those first few months, it was simply about surviving through the day. With Stephen traveling, there were many days that my mother just moved in. My life verse at that point was “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” When the nights would become long, I would repeat that verse over and over to myself.
Now I was caring for four children, running the household and still keeping up with church commitments. However, I knew that I was failing to care for my husband. We were often unable to spend quality time with one another and we definitely weren’t communicating well. At the end of the day, we each found that there was nothing left to give to one another. We would simply fall into bed, exhausted, only to wake up and do it all again. Stephen and I had become great roommates but we were failing miserably at being life-mates. In May 2009, we celebrated our 12th anniversary with a trip to California. I had stated several times over the years, how I would love to go back and visit our favorite places there. We had a wonderful time, reconnecting with one another and felt refreshed as we headed home. However, reality was at home and it wasn’t long before it was back to business as usual. By early fall, we were barely speaking to one another. In October, the girls turned one and I planned a big celebration with our family and friends. We looked like the perfect family on the outside but on the inside we were falling apart. Needless to say, that Christ-centered marriage we had hoped for wasn’t there.
A week later, Stephen and I had a big argument (I don’t even remember what it was about) and the next day (Friday) he came home from work, packed a bag and told me he was leaving. I was completely blind-sided by his decision. Throughout the weekend, I just kept thinking that he would be coming home on Sunday evening. That he just needed some time to think and he would be back. However, Monday morning came and he didn’t come home. Reality began to set in, as I came to the realization that perhaps my marriage might be ending.
A few weeks after our initial separation, I discovered that Stephen was having an affair. I spent a lot of time praying, asking God what went wrong and how could I fix it. I had asked my wonderful friends and family to be praying. I spent time crying out to God, finding myself prostrate before the Lord. Many of my friends sat and cried right along with me. I spent hours searching the scriptures for verses that would soothe my weary soul and broken heart. The Lord gave me these verses—
For the days when I was at the end of my rope:
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
For the days when fear set in:
“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1-2
For the days when prayers would not come:
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. Romans 8:26-27
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
To remind me of the woman I wanted to be:
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:25, 29-30
To remind me of His promises:
“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 1:20
Through these verses, again, God assured me, that despite my circumstances, He was still in control. He reminded me that our circumstances of this life have nothing to do with the JOY that comes only from the Spirit. I was reminded that Satan is a deceiver and he will try to tell you that your circumstance is unfixable. And God answered my prayer of “How do I fix it?” with this—you can’t but I CAN!
I began to pick myself up off the floor, not just for myself but also for my children. I couldn’t be the mom my children needed me to be if I didn’t get out of bed each morning. I knew that how I handled my circumstances would not only be a witness to my friends and family but to the children as well. About a month into the separation, we both, individually, began seeing a Christian counselor. I was faced with the stark realization that Stephen had plans and they did not include me. But I loved my husband and wanted our marriage to be restored. And despite the things he had said, I knew that he still loved me. Society (and even scripture) told me I had every right to divorce him and move on but that is not what God told me to do. He told me to wait. He told me to give grace and mercy. He told me to stay. He filled my heart and soul with “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding.” I knew that if I chose to be obedient, God would keep his promise to me.
It was not easy, nor was it a quick fix, but God did restore our marriage. We still don’t always get it right, for we are far from perfect, but now we know what we are fighting for. We strive to keep Christ in the center of our marriage, so we can be a light to those around us who might be going through a similar situation. To let them know that God is a God of restoration and reconciliation. We want to be the best parents we can be for our children. That means loving each other and them as God loves us. This year, Stephen and I will celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary. We will celebrate, giving thanks to God, for uniting us as husband and wife 17 years ago. However, the celebration doesn’t stop there. We will also give thanks and praise to God for restoring what could easily have been lost. For you see, five years ago, our marriage was in trouble, and it would take a miracle to fix it. And just as God promises, He showed up!