Friday, December 16, 2005

Memorial Stone #12 - A Marriage Mended

There are only a couple more "memorial stones" to go before I hit the present. It has been good for me to remind myself of God's faithfulness and the things I have learned through the good or bad times. Stone #7 described a little about my former youth pastor and the value of having someone in your life who will speak the truth in love. He prays more than anyone I know and just basks in God's presence. There is a raw, straight-from-the-throne anointing on what he says. I am SO BLESSED to have this person in my life.

One subject I will probably write about in future posts is what I have learned about marriage and commitment. There is no possible way I could even start to put all that in one post, so in this post I'll be more general and write about the major thing I learned.

Before I ever proposed to my wife we had a long talk about the kinds of things that I felt God had placed in my heart. She seemed to be perfectly fine with it all. Part of the reason I had chosen education as an emphasis in college was so that I could go on short term mission trips during the summers. I just wanted to help people and she knew missions work was one of the things on my heart. As I mentioned in another post, the door I was hoping would open at my church never did. Somewhere along the line my wife changed her mind and was no longer open to what she once was. What started as "I'm willing to go anywhere" moved to "maybe you can do something here in town" and ended up as "maybe part-time, like a hobby." The problem is, those mind changes happened without me being aware of them. Long story short, she basically put nothing into the marriage because she felt she was holding me back and wanted me to bow out so I could be free to do whatever I found to do. From my perspective it seemed like I was putting in all the work to try to make things better while she was doing virtually nothing. Things were going downhill in year one. I suggested we go to counseling but she refused. I think she viewed "getting help" as a sign that someone has psychological problems and she didn't want to associate herself with that stigma. I had seen so many "professionals" when I was a kid that it was no big deal for me. I view wanting to get help as a sign of strength, not weakness. Each year that went by things got worse and worse. Finally, several months after my friend died and 4 1/2 years into the marriage, she agreed to go with me to a family therapist.

My wife and I both benefited to a certain extent from this woman. She was a Christian, had tremendous experience, and was very well educated. She helped us both understand why we thought or acted the way we did, but that is only half the solution. The other half is to use that understanding to change the thought patterns or behavior. We both had things to change. I changed, but my wife didn't. That just threw me. It made me more discouraged than I was to begin with. After a year of seeing this lady and shelling out money to her, we were no better in our relationship. We stopped seeing her and the chasm between us kept growing.

Last May I went out to eat with my former youth pastor and opened up to him about everything. We sat in the back corner of a little Thai restaurant and talked for almost 4 hours. He has a very busy life, but "just like old times" he was willing to sit and listen. Two or three weeks later my wife and I both met with him. He asked her what she expected marriage to be like and she replied, "Like Cinderella." That explained quite a bit. She expected a fairytale marriage with no conflict at all, no need to work at anything, so sacrifice or compromise necessary because the beautiful couple think the exact same thoughts and have identical hopes and dreams. She admitted she had given up a long time ago and was just trying to get me to leave. Here's the thing was all my doing and all my fault. I had sent a message early on that she was not as important as whatever ministry I felt I'd end up in. It makes me nauseous now to reflect on that because of how terribly messed up that outlook was.

My friend laid into us both pretty hard because we needed it. He was blatantly honest with my wife and told her things that she needed to change and change right away. He looked at me and said, "Forget ministry. Leave it alone and get it out of your mind. Don't mention it to her again." My initial thought was "That's way off, that can't be inspired of God." However, I remembered Paul's admonishment to husbands that they "love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her." I knew he was right.

Ever since that day I have had one ministry - my wife. Maintaining a personal relationship to God should be the number one priority in our lives, but family should be second. I have heard the term "football widows" that describes the wife who gets no attention from her husband when football is on. There can also be "web widows" and "career widows". I have a feeling there are far too many "ministry widows" - wives who have to take a backseat and watch while the majority of the husband's attention is turned elsewhere in the name of Christian service. How long can that last? I know two things: First, if I had tried to launch out in some sort of paid, full-time ministry with my marriage in the weak state that it was, I would have made a mockery of myself and fallen flat on my face. I said it before and I'll say it again...God knows what He is doing. Secondly, I am extremely grateful and blessed to have friends who are not afraid to love me enough to tell me when I am wrong.


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