In this episode of the Purposed Marriage podcast, we discuss what God’s word says about His will for marriage, and how we should view it in light of His truth.
Before we started our ministry nearly two years ago, Tommy and I spent time intentionally praying and discussing how we would share our story and the life lessons we learned through our restoration process. One aspect we both felt strongly about was a desire to be genuine, to speak from a place of vulnerability and authenticity. In doing so, we never imagined God would use us to touch the lives of so many broken, desperately hurting couples that mirror our past. We are honored the Lord has provided opportunities for us to share our valley experiences in order to encourage other couples amidst their marriage struggles!
Sharing my personal testimony, as once a prodigal, has especially been humbling. When I look back and realize how patient God was with me, I’m often reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 15:9-10.
For I am the least of the apostles unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me was not in vain.
Praise God, He did not leave me where I was. Our loving Father pursued me, chastened me and showed immeasurable amounts of grace along the way. He also used Tommy to demonstrate love for me as he continually stood for our marriage even when there seemed to be little to no hope. The more I share the heart transformation that took place in my life, the deeper the gratitude I feel towards God for providing my husband the strength to continue his stand.
Tommy’s primary motivation behind standing for our marriage was based on his desire to see God grant us both repentance and bring us back into alignment with God’s will. Part of that painful journey meant he had to patiently endure evil, evil from the one he vowed to love forever, in good times and in bad. I did not come to the knowledge of truth by Tommy pointing out my indiscretions and focusing on my sinful behavior. I came to the understanding of truth by the prayers Tommy and others cried out on my behalf. God heard their pleas and He also looked inwardly to the motivation of my husband’s heart.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26
The closer Tommy walked with the Lord, the more he relinquished control over our situation placing his faith in God to perform a miracle in our marriage. I couldn’t help but notice his full submission to the Lord. Tommy’s gentleness with me turned away my wrath allowing me to be vulnerable to the idea of restoration. I escaped the snare of the devil and I came to the knowledge of the UGLY truth. I had been used by the enemy to do his will! When that devastating reality set in, there was no more finger pointing, no more blame shifting. I came to my senses with a deep sadness which brought me to my knees before the Lord. There were tears of anguish and hurt as the veil was lifted and I understood I had been a participant in doing the devil’s bidding.
Dear friend, it takes the work of the Holy Spirit to prick your prodigal’s heart. The pain you are experiencing may be unrelenting and the natural response is to revile in return. But, keep in mind, your spouse has been captured by the enemy to do his will. Your prodigal will have to come to this realization on their own, in God’s perfect timing. Pray fervently and look to Christ as your example while you wait.
When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog entry entitled The Story of Us. If you missed it, you definitely want to read it before continuing, as this is a follow-up entry. The Story of Us is the true story of how Tommy and I met and the events leading up to our marriage, while this post focuses on the lies I told myself that lead to our separation and divorce.
I had known for some time that my marriage was strained and attempted to do everything in my power to make things work. I kept our home a little more tidy and made sure our boys didn’t get out of line. I tried to be more encouraging and found subjects to talk about with Tommy that I knew he enjoyed. I dressed nice to impress him and planned outings for us, although they rarely turned out as I had hoped. Everything I did was an outward attempt to be a better wife, and a better mother.
It was fairly easy to keep up the “good behavior” for short periods of time. But, when I saw my actions weren’t resonating with Tommy, I veered in the opposite direction and my kindness turned into hostility. I would often avoid Tommy and even ignored him, showing disrespect by raising my voice or worse, rolling my eyes. My desire for wanting Tommy to change was not wrong in and of itself. But, when I didn’t get a loving response in return, I acted out in anger and allowed my emotions to rule my behavior. Placing value on my feelings over obedience, my heart grew further away from Tommy, as well as the Lord.
When I had exhausted all attempts to save my marriage, I convinced myself that God was not capable of changing Tommy’s heart so I began devising a plan to remove him from our home and from my life. After pleading with Tommy to leave, he agreed with the expectation of returning. Although I led him to believe this brief time apart was temporal, I had no intentions of ever letting him back into our home.
The story of us and all the beautiful memories we had shared together were now a part of our past. The further I moved out of God’s will for my life, the easier it became to believe the lies. The realization that our marriage had been a mistake from the very start quickly became reality. You see, I had never really been in love with Tommy. He was a convenient target of my affections, and had manipulated me into marrying him.
As I am writing these words, I am horrified to read them back, but I’m sharing in hopes that God will use our story to help save one marriage. That one wife or one husband will identify with these same lies and turn back from their march towards divorce. Now, backing up a bit to explain how God made a mistake (note the sarcasm)…
Keep in mind I had been serving in Egypt with very little contact with men due to cultural differences. I was not living in a foreign country as a tourist, I was fully immersed in the culture. I dressed and acted like an Egyptian–not making eye contact with men or conversing with the opposite sex and fully covering my body as to not attract unwanted attention. Up until the time Tommy arrived in Egypt, I had not talked to or interacted with any single men my age with the exception of a handful of interpreters.
Tommy had made no suggestions of desiring anything other than friendship prior to or during his trip. It’s also important to note that he was personally invited and encouraged by me to join the group that was visiting. Regardless of the clear facts, I concocted a story in my mind to believe he had used my circumstances to strategically work his way into my life. Somehow, he had masterminded a plan from a thousand miles away to take advantage of the fact that I desired male companionship. His sole purpose for visiting Egypt wasn’t to serve the Lord or experience the culture and the fare, it was to manipulate me into falling in love with him. (Stay with me… I know it sounds ridiculous!)
During our two weeks together in Egypt, Tommy had shown a different side of himself. He was funny, charming, kind, outgoing and someone I really enjoyed being around. Initially, I viewed this as God opening my eyes to see Tommy in a new light. The Holy Spirit was prompting my heart and cultivating a love for him I had never previously felt. But, that truth was quickly replaced with my truth, which equated to whatever lie was most believable or in this case, the most unbelievable. It was Tommy’s use of mind control and manipulative tactics that coerced me into a long distance relationship with him that eventually lead me to the altar. In my vulnerable state, Tommy had set a trap for me and I had taken the bait!
Upon returning to the States, I went through an extended weekend of debrief counseling. My counselors advised me to take the time to properly acclimate back into western society and warned me to wait at least a year before making any long-term commitments. I later used this to further justify my reasoning as to why Tommy and I should have never gotten married in the first place. It was crystal clear to me, God had made a mistake! Sadly, I voiced these lies to Tommy and deeply hurt him in my quest to end his stand for our marriage.
I was so blinded, living in darkness and completely deceived by the enemy. Paul warns us about the evil powers of darkness against that which we struggle (Eph. 6:12). It is in the darkness that we fall prey to Satan’s attacks. Paul also reminds us that we are not to be outwitted by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.
so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. 2 Corinthians 2:11
The problem is, I had neglected to identify my enemy. It wasn’t Tommy; it was Satan all along. Like a lamb being led to the slaughter, I was heading straight into the den of the roaring lion.
Dear friend, don’t be outwitted! Heed the Word of the Lord and view Satan’s attacks for exactly what they are… detours on God’s perfect path for your life. If you are standing for your marriage, please know that you are not alone in your journey. There are others out there, holding onto hope that God will deliver their loved one from out of the mouth of the lion just like God delivered me.