Nathan and I are coming up on our 28th wedding anniversary this Saturday. While I would like to be taking a trip to Hawaii and leave the world behind, that’s still 2 years away! (Start saving kids, you’re invited!)
This week has been a week of remembrance. In between events, weddings, moves and watching grandbabies, I’m remembering a few things about our journey that direct my heart towards things like:
I know that’s a lot of words for one blog but hold on while I tie it all together and attempt to persuade you that out of bloody battles can come purpose and beauty.
Twenty years ago Nathan and I were sitting in an event room at a hotel listening to a couple talk about their perfect marriage, their perfect kids and their perfect ministry. The longer they talked, the further I sank down in my chair.
I felt no encouragement.
It’s a miracle I didn’t file for divorce as soon as it was over because we were already doomed. As I sat there and tried to hear beyond what was being spoken, God gave me a picture in my mind. It was a spiritual encounter for me that I had NO CLUE at the time would one day be our very real reality.
I saw a picture of Nathan and I in a war trench wearing army clothing with helmets on. We had blood on our hands and faces and we were both sweating profusely. I saw us reaching into deep trenches and pulling people out who were near death. I noticed our faces were intense but peaceful.
It wasn’t necessarily a feel good moment for me but in my mind I heard, “You will help rescue people from near death in their marriages.”
I shared the vision with Nathan and though we had already had some bumps in the road as a couple, we hadn’t seen anything yet in terms of bloody battles. (This blog is not talking about physical abuse with real blood.)
As the years progressed, we found ourselves in all kinds of crises with pornography, affairs, feeling disdain towards one another, financial messes and just plain apathy and immaturtiy. Of course we had learned the fine art of appearing “normal,” and hiding the real us…especially in the church. It wasn’t cool to have the type of problems we had and actually ask for help. At least we hadn’t seen examples where that ended well. Thankfully, this is changing, needs to change and though it will never be perfect (These bloody battles can be like performing evasive heart and brain surgery) it’s worth doing all we can do to know how to help people the best we can.
For many more years after that marriage conference the blood spilled out and the mercy well went deeper in our marriage. Multiple attempts to “get it right” and just “be happy” alluded us time and time again. When one of us was doing good, the other one not so good. When we were faced with forgiving one another, we made sincere attempts and knew we couldn’t move forward with pseudo-forgiveness that keeps people under the same roof…but, yet, many times, that’s what it was…you know, just saying the right words but lacking the faith to truly believe God was enough and would help us get to where He was relentless in bringing us.
God had more.
More than what we knew. More than what others knew. And more than we could have ever imagined. That more was not the glamorous more we dreamed of as stary-eyed 20-somethings.
It was the more to the story. There’s always more to the story…than what we see, what we feel and what we think in any given moment.
The blood spills out and people cry, “Hopeless!”
The blood splatters on us and we run away.
The blood spills out and we assume the story is over.
We understand. We understand that no one gets married to see blood but only to see beauty…
But blood and beauty?
As you might know, I’m a Jesus-lover and will take every opportunity I to get to boast in Him.
Blood and beauty.
Sounds like the Cross to me. The place where Jesus spilled His blood and the place where His beauty brought us redemption. What He did for us on the Cross isn’t a one-time reflection but for an eternity of deep joy and gratitude. As believers in the Cross and doers of His Word, we will never be disappointed in Him. I didn’t say that first, He did and it’s been proven true to me over and over again.
Am I saying we spill blood in our marriages like Jesus did for us? Of course not. Not in the same way and not for the rescuing of men’s souls. Only Jesus was able to do that.
What I am saying is, blood does’t mean it’s fatal, even as the Cross wasn’t fatal for Jesus.
Most, if not all of us, have seen bloody battles in our marriages. Some worst than others and some that never recover. Some that can’t recover because one or both parties won’t get the true help they need or maybe don’t want the help. No judgement just the reality of deep pain and betrayal.
We weep, we grieve and we love the injured. Those who come out of the trenches and are nursed back to life often times become those who help pull others out and we love it when it happens that way.
Yesterday I was standing in my kitchen thinking about a few situations I’m dealing with that I really don’t like dealing with. I could feel some accusations trying to lay hold of my heart when this verse came to my mind:
“And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” (Mercy with fear is loving someone up close who is hell bent in going down a destructive path of hurting themselves & others. You hate watching what they are doing but you keep the mercy door open should they turn back.)
The bloody battle in a marriage doesn’t have to be fatal but it’s always painful. Healed pain brings about the beauty of God taking our ashes and giving us purpose and new beginnings. And when the battle is fatal in marriage, there’s more to the story. God hates divorce but He doesn’t hate us when we get divorced. If we will invite Him into the pain and listen…He heals, restores and wastes nothing.