Transparency, Grace & No Pretending

“I’ve never heard anyone share like that.”

These words were once spoken to my husband and I after we shared a little of our outrageous marriage journey.

Our plan?

To ignite hope in the hearts of a couple who were near the death of their marriage.

And there we sat, sharing and listening and understanding and watching eyes get all teared up.

There we sat, quietly praying underneath our words that Jesus would show up and do what only He can do…

Crack open a heart and deposit the slightest willingness to believe… to believe that EVEN this can be turned around…healed….forgiven….made new…and redeemed.

My husband likes to pray for couples to breakthrough the grips of despair and come out having “the best marriage in town.”

When he prays it, sometimes the couple or at least one of them will dare to laugh a little…indicating, “Are you out of your ever lovin’ mind?”

It’s quite funny to us because we know it’s more than possible and even probable if both hearts surrender to the plan of God in marriage.. that comes with the power of God in marriage.

Power.

Power to heal deep woundedness…power to change a selfish heart into a selfless heart…power to wake people up to their own need of help….power to ignite compassion where disdain and rage once resided.

Counselors come with methods and God comes with power. We are not opposed to methods but methods alone will never sustain and bring true heart healing.

We feel like we know this.

We tried methods for 22 years…they kept us together, they kept up our appearance, they helped us check off a list but methods did not possess the gift of grace, which transforms a heart giving it new desires, laying the foundation for a new marriage. 

The details of this couple we met with were different than ours but the feelings were right on target to do what we wanted to do five years ago…Give up…move on…move out and not give a damn.

For this couple, no one knew…they had been quietly and desperately sinking further into the pit of loneliness and despair. Going to church with their children every Sunday from day one.

Our hearts felt their pain…we cried with them.

We listened to their bewilderment of being in a place they never would have imagined. They didn’t say, “I do,” over 20 years earlier anticipating marriage as a place of pain, betrayal and disillusionment.

It’s in this place we begin to help couples with the question, “How did we get here?

Redeemed marriages are not magic, mystical or met with bells and whistles announcing the sheer beauty of two selfless hearts that have turned to God in desperation.

But that is what it takes…being desperate for God first, not counseling, not formulas and certainly not 3 steps to a happy marriage that work for everyone.

Nathan and I have seen the irritation when we share how our marriage went from a sinking ship to a place of love, unity and understanding.

The irritation is typically a reaction to confronting a complex and multifaceted mess with such a simple but not easy solution…unless people are truly desperate…willing to seek God first.

Our strong conviction that God wants to show up in our marriages and bring healing, wisdom and friendship is rooted in our experience of what He did for us and now others we’ve walked with.

Sometimes people come to us knowing how to seek God but for many reasons, have given up doing so. Some have never really sought God and we get the honor of explaining what it looks like to….

“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

“These things” are not only about clothes and food but the things in life that give us anxious hearts. Like a marriage that is not experiencing the joy of partnership, loyalty and mutual respect.

Seeking God first doesn’t mean there are not other resources that can help us…God often times leads us to counselors, conferences, marriage resources and mentoring relationships. In fact, He will most certainly lead us to a community of people who will stand with, fight for and love us as we surrender to God’s power in our marriages.

One of the first things Nathan and I try to understand when meeting with a couple is, are both ready and willing to seek God first?

It’s much more difficult when only one spouse is, but it’s still not hopeless. Our own marriage had been a back and forth journey of one being more committed than the other. The grace to stay, pray and wait in a divided marriage can be accessed but in some cases, people will need space, self-care and wise counsel when the other spouse is abandoning the marriage or in behaviors that are dangerous to themselves and others.

Nathan and I recently shared with a couple, where both parties are willing and ready for a new marriage, that we are not the couple to come to for temporary or quick fixes. And though we are not responsible for what couples ultimately do, we are committed to share the good news of the power of God’s grace when seeking God first in life and marriage is the priority.

We know not everyone will or will want to.

We also know self-righteous judgment towards those who walk away serves no good purpose and will set us up for more failure in our own marriage. We are wide awake to…

“Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:12

We are not the heroes of our own story,

God was, is and will always be.

Nathan and I became painfully honest and transparent when we began seeking God first in our marriage.

We had days when we looked at each other and said, “I don’t what to do this.”

I didn’t “feel” love for Nathan for many months but it didn’t stop him from loving me while I was learning real love.

He also knew my hardened heart would soften if I kept showing up and bringing it to Jesus. We would hold hands and not pretend. We just asked God to come, subdue our will and let His will be done.

Looking back, we began a life of surrendering to the grace of God as a lifestyle, not just in crisis.

When I heard the words, “I’ve never heard anyone share like that, “ I marveled in God’s loving plan in propelling me into an uncomfortable transparent life and marriage through the public exposure of my sin.

When I wanted to run away, God put a greater desire in me to stay put and to start writing.

Our story was being talked about, judged, watched and questioned.

God provided the grace to block it out when I sat down to write about my own failures without blame or excuse. He gave me a few safe people who I could share with. And today, Nathan and I have locked shields with a few other couples who are passionate to see God show up in marriages, bringing hope, power and redemption.

Living a transparent story is not that scary anymore. Yes, it can still be uncomfortable at times, especially  when the enemy hurls an arrow from someone who doesn’t know better, but at the end of the day, the arrow doesn’t stick. And I’m sure someday, as I continue to grow in faith and grace, the arrow won’t even make it to my heart.

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