By the Grace of God

Yet, I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t pull the trigger.

I still loved him.

Dammit.

So, I went back to marriage counseling and self-help books.

We went to church together and tried to pretend like everything was normal.  The first Sunday back, our charismatic pastor delivered an outstanding sermon on Ephesians 5:21-33.  I could have sworn he was looking right at us the entire time, else we were the only people sitting in the pew.  Things got intense when the pastor paced, sweated and screamed, “HUSBANDS! LOOOOVVVVEEE YOUR WIVES!”

Members of the congregation communicated right back:  “A-men!  Preach!”

The man directly in front of me put his arm around his wife.  She responded by reaching over to scratch his back with her left hand.  Her diamond sparkled in the chapel’s bright light.  For a moment, it hurt my eyes.

Myhusband and I sat dutifully on our wooden bench, not touching.  We had always made fun of the “back scratchers” in church.  I glanced down at the tiny diamond adorning my tired left hand.  It was dull, dirty.  I rotated my wrist around in the light, trying to manipulate the stone to reflect some brilliance.  I briefly caught a faint glimmer, and made a mental note to get my ring cleaned.

I later re-capped the play-by-play of the sermon in my journal.
Most poignant was the definition of sin, that it is self-centeredness. We end up with the inability to look beyond our own needs and consider anyone else’s…I spent the majority of the service crying, which is always awesome.  I keep having angry outbursts at [him] which is even more awesome…God, his heart is still so very far away.  Help me to forgive him, Lord.  I need and want to forgive him and heal from this.  I need patience for his re-attachment to form, if it ever will.  I pray that it does.

Every day over the next few weeks was a complete struggle.  I had no self-esteem whatsoever.  The only time I felt “normal” or alive was when I was doing tasks that didn’t involve my husband.  I still felt like I was in a one-sided marriage, and thus a failure at everything I was trying to do.  I beat myself up for overreacting, for not being thankful or forgiving enough, for constantly “taking the temperature” of our relationship, and, most of all, for not trusting God.  I was desperate to trust Him in that He would change my husband.  I wanted to see immediate results of repentance and spiritual growth.

Isn’t it funny?  Little did I know – especially then – that God was changing me.

Marriage counseling was beginning to help.  In one session, our counselor had us face one another and apologize.  I said I was sorry for having an “affair” with my career, with New York.  My husband apologized for having an affair with a 24-year old married girl from the Ukraine.

We then looked into each other’s eyes and said we forgave one another.

Our counselor defined New Testament love as action, not feeling, and explained that, after ten years of marriage, we may not necessarily “feel” love, but we act it, and the feelings will follow.

Hmmm.  Too bad I still actually felt love for the guy.  I wanted to raise my hand and demand a gold star in the love and feelings department, but I kept my hands to myself.

Our next task was to re-write our wedding vows.  Our counselor — one of two pastors that had married us ten years earlier — rummaged through several metal cabinets until he finally found our file.  It was complete with notes he had taken during our pre-marital counseling sessions, as well as our original vows that we had recited on our wedding day.  As he opened the coffee-stained folder, a 4×6 wedding picture fell out.  My husband picked it up and studied it for a moment, before handing it back.

I studied him and wondered what he was thinking.

Our counselor had us read our old vows.  They were pretty traditional, but cut straight to the point.   My heart briefly sank when my eyes scanned the “forsaking all others and remaining true as long as we both shall live” section.  It seemed null and void at that point.  I again wondered what my husband was thinking.  I decided to just be glad that he was there, participating.

Our counselor then gave us a few suggestions on re-writing our new vows.  This time, we’d write them ourselves, but could use phrases such as, “With Jesus as my guide,” and “By the grace of God.”

“Why not throw in a few ‘Hail Marys’ and ‘Hare Krishnas’, as well?” I joked.

We all laughed, and left our counseling session that day, feeling somewhat peaceful.

I quickly wrote out my new vows.  Part of them felt generic, but I wanted to get the point across that I supported my man, and wanted to trust him.  And, above all else, I loved him.

By the grace of God I take you as my husband.

I offer myself only as I am.

With Jesus as my guide, I promise to be “your best”, your wife.  I promise to be faithful and true to you in the good times, and especially in the most trying times.  Wherever God may lead us, I know that with His help and our commitment to one another, we can be “bigger than life.”

I promise to care for you and provide an encouraging, supportive, forgiving and loving home as we continue to rebuild our marriage and become one.

By God’s grace and mercy, I promise to trust you as my faithful and only husband, to lift you up, pray for you, encourage you and passionately love you forever.

I promise to stand firm in my faith, knowing that our marriage is and will continue to be God’s amazing plan for our lives.  Without Him, we are nothing.

I love you so much.

A few days later, my husband flew to Portugal – again.  I was about to commence a six-week tour, myself.  We made plans to meet up in Baltimore for Thanksgiving, and I obtained permission for my husband to spend a week on the road with me.  Our goal was to re-build our marriage, and, at the same time, our careers.

My husband’s plane took off on a Wednesday morning, early.  When I finally awoke, I found his vows sitting on the kitchen table.

He called me his wife.  His only.He told me he loved me more than words could ever express.  He loved me with everything in him. He acknowledged that he failed daily, but even his worst failings didn’t change the fact that and that his heart was now — and always would be — mine.

He wanted to be “big” for me; to make a place where my talent could shine.  He said he had never known someone with a greater talent, or bigger heart than mine.  And he wanted to mirror back all the love that I had shown him.

What struck me most in his letter was that he referred to me as an inspiration. He promised to become an inspiration to me.

All by the grace of God.

4 thoughts on “By the Grace of God

  1. Sophi Gilliland says:

    A glimmer of hope…..pressing on for sure until even the smallest light is extinguished. I am proud of you sister!

  2. Mike Fisk says:

    Thank you for this post. I have gone through divorce as a Christian. It’s painful to be sure. I admire those (like you and your husband) who have been able to forgive and move on. I’m not sure anyone really realizes the pain of divorce (emotional or physical) until they go through it. One thing my divorce taught me is to be much more understanding of those going through relational stuggles. I pray your healing continues. God Bless!

  3. Beth Schreiber says:

    I’ve often wondered what happened. I’m glad and grateful that you are taking the time to share it with us. Parts of my story are similar but others are so vastly different. I commend you for your bravery in sharing your story. I applaud your heart for the Lord. If I had turned it all over to him after my first divorce, I might not have gotten divorced a second time. But God is faithful and He is the greatest love we will ever have. I am so proud that I know such a beautiful, talented, amazing woman of God.

  4. Another gem. And, I know I know the whole story, but WHAT HAPPENS NEXT??!

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