I remember the night I met Michael with perfect clarity. I'm not sure I could tell you what I was wearing, but I recall the moment I saw him and the warmth that took over my gut with perfect vividness. Over the next few months of getting to know him (long distance since I lived in West Texas and he lived in Alabama), the more time I spent with him, the more I liked him. I had never liked another human being as much as I liked him. I had never felt as at home with anyone or felt as safe with anyone as I did with him.
So fast forward 15 and 1/2 years.
I've never been a believer in love at first sight. And I'm not saying that's what happened, but as I look over the last 15 and 1/2 years I am convinced that God was working.
Which is kind of a light bulb, because for a long time I honestly thought that we were a mistake. I thought that we had made such horrible mistakes that God was going to just leave us to wallow in our depravity.
Our dating life was marked by sin. We lacked self control, we put ourselves in situations that were less than ideal. Each of us brought our own set of baggage and sin that exacerbated the others areas of struggle. We were literally a mess. And neither of us told anyone. We just pretended that everything was fine. We hid our sin.
I broke up with him seven times. But every time we broke up, he would call me and I would see an inkling of that amazing friendship we had in the beginning and we would "get back together"...only to repeat the same mistakes and sins. It was so unhealthy. And now looking back, it was even more unhealthy than we even knew or acknowledged at the time.
Anyway, we got married after I became pregnant.
We went through premarital (which ended up being post marital too because we took so long going through the material) counseling. I'm not going to say it didn't help at all but it certainly did not address the issues we were facing. Probably mostly because we were never really honest.
Things escalated as we had baby after baby. We spent money we didn't have, went through long periods of unemployment, and resorted to physical violence (with each other, not our kids). My house was a disgusting physical manifestation of the things that were going on in the inside of me.
At different points we made attempts to ask for help. But we were never willing to be honest. We went to one marriage counseling session, we both bawled our eyes out telling the counselor what was going on and he handed us a book on communication and told us he wouldn't need to see us again. We left SO INCREDIBLY frustrated.
A major turning point came for us when we met with another counselor. We were more honest than we'd ever been and he helped us more than we'd been helped so far.
I wouldn't say there was a 180 degree change...more like the fork in the road that led to a better place.
The thing is, we both felt this incessant instinct to hold on...to keep showing up...even when things were at their worst and divorce seemed like a very real option.
Over the next few years opportunities arose that allowed us to relieve some of the pressure sources to our marriage.
About 3 years ago God started (I say 'started' but I feel sure it probably started way before this) something amazing inside of me...and for the first time in my entire life I had a REAL relationship with Him...I became sure of my salvation. He has been teaching me some amazing things about forgiveness...how to give it and how to receive it.
Is this where I tell you we lived happily ever after?
No. Absolutely not.
If you were a fly on the wall of our house, you would not see Cinderella and Prince Charming living happily ever after...you would see two people who struggle with sin...two people who snap at each other when they are frustrated (or just sitting on the couch on a normal day under normal circumstances) who very often make bad decisions...and who sometimes fight over really stupid things.
But you will see two people who love God and who are daily in need of His grace.
As I reflect on all of this, I no longer believe that we are a mistake. I believe that God had/has a plan. I'm not going to presume to say what that is...maybe He's using each of us to beat the other one into submission! :) I don't know. But I see His work (He's done some really cool things just in the last month) and I can't help but praise Him! Because as amazing as what He's already done is, I bet in another few years I'll look back and be even more amazed by what He's done!
So why do I feel the need to share this? First of all and most importantly, I want to boast in Jesus Christ! He is awesome! Also, I want anyone who is struggling in their marriage or any other area of their life, to know that they are not alone. You don't have to keep it to yourself. Don't keep it to yourself! We are all sinners. Find a safe person and let them help you through it!
You are loved.