Dear Red Rocks Couples:
I know recent events are troubling and can cause fear and uncertainty to consume us resulting in fractured relationships and conflict. Although my story was not in a time of pandemic, it was close to fifty years of fear and uncertainty for me. My desire in sharing my story is that you will understand from my failures how you can avoid destructive attitudes in your marriage.
My husband and I entered into marriage with stars in our eyes and the anticipation of many years of love and joy together. We both had committed our lives to Jesus many years before and desired to serve Him and be a blessing to one another. The first few years met my expectations, and when children were added to our family, it was all I had imagined marriage would be. But the bliss suddenly came to a painful end when I learned my husband was involved in ungodly secret activities. I was shattered and fearful for the future of my family. Although divorce would have been scriptural under these circumstances, we stayed together. This is not a matter of pride, but a demonstration of God’s unrelenting love for us in the midst of painful circumstances. I John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Pride. For many years I viewed my husband as the errant one and myself as the faithful one. How could he do this to me? Why? The answers to the many questions I had would not come for many years because I simply bore the pain and looked to all those around me as a happily married woman. I am now widowed, and the years since my husband died have been precious years of the Lord teaching me His purposes in my struggles and my weaknesses and failures within my marriage. My desire is that others will not fall to the same deception that I did. I Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
As you consider your mate, do you ignore your own sin and only focus on his/hers?
Unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is really rejection, and I rejected him in many subtle and not so subtle ways. I lost respect for him and didn’t want him to touch me. I do not believe I was consciously trying to punish him, but I was unable to see beyond my pain. Recently, the Lord has taken me back to that time and forced me to look at my reaction to my husband and rewrite the scenario. What if I had taken him in my arms and wept with him? What if I had LOVED him in the midst of the pain we were both experiencing? The night I learned about what my husband had been doing, he had come home and told me. Today I know he must have been scared as to my response to his situation, and it pains me to say he got the reaction he feared. How I wish I could do that night over! Does God toss me aside when I sin? Does He refuse to forgive? If I had been loving and compassionate and forgiving, might that have opened the door to change and repentance for my husband? Might he have been transparent with me rather than living a secret life? I cannot answer those questions, but I do know God is faithful when we do things His way and the anguish and regret I have suffered are because I did not react as a follower of Jesus but as a self-centered, broken woman. Many react to this part of my story by saying it is understandable why I reacted in the way I did. That may be true, but isn’t the whole point of being a follower of Jesus that we react as Jesus would, not as one concerned only about one’s self? I know my reaction was not beneficial to my marriage. I Corinthians 13:5 Love does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered it keeps no record of wrongs.
Have you forgiven? Has unforgiveness built a wall between the two of you? Do you put conditions on forgiving?
Mistaken Identity: I did not see my husband as an image-bearer of the Most High God. All I could see were His failures and sin. Two or three years after his passing, God impressed on my heart that the man I always thought my husband to be was not the man God made him to be. Then He began to show me who He made this amazing man to be. He was humble, generous, merciful, loved people and was sensitive to their needs, helpful, and put up with me. I do not know of another man who gives unique, special gifts to his wife and who finds every opportunity to celebrate what is important to her than my husband. Do you know what I believed in my heart? That he was doing those things to placate me for what was wrong in our marriage. How wrong I was! It was who he was. Why did I only see his failures? I am so glad God doesn’t view me in the same way I viewed my beloved husband. Yes, my beloved. God has filled me with love for him and regret that I cannot change the past.
II Corinthians 3:18 And we all who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which come from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
How do you view your mate?
Fighting for my marriage. I am forever grateful we stayed together. Few knew the truth about our marriage, and it was lonely as I never talked to anyone about it. I was afraid as I did not know what he was doing secretly. There are circumstances where separation is necessary, and I was not always sure we would make it, but to be by his side when he died, to see God bring about great change in his life and mine was worth the years of uncertainty and pain. This battle was not fought over a few weeks, months, or years, but decades. As we look at our mate and see the flaws and are driven crazy by his or her shortcomings, habits, words, or failures, do we ask ourselves how can I love this person with his or her continued behavior? I recently read an answer to that question. “It is a bad question. I should be asking how can I love this person and hate my own sin?” (Rosaria Butterfield) On of my biggest failures was seeing the sin in my husband’s life and convincing myself that my sin was not as great. A lie from the enemy!
Core fears. Years ago, Chad preached a sermon on core fears. The main point was that every one of us have a core fear, usually rooted in events in the past. These fears determine the way we react to others, especially in marriage. A few possibilities are fear of rejection, fear of failure, and fear of abandonment.
I knew immediately that my core fear was the fear of being controlled. My father had been a controlling man, and I frequently felt I could not live up to his expectations. Every chore I was given was checked thoroughly to make sure I had done it right. I had to turn my light out at nine whether my homework was done or not because Dad might not be able to sleep. Do not even think about being late! I would be left behind if not ready in time. (Probably why I am always the first to arrive wherever I go!) And my mom bore the brunt of his controlling. Every Monday she was to do the wash. Dad would count out the socks she would be washing, and at the end of the day count to make sure none were lost! No way was I going to marry a man who would control me! What did that mean for my marriage? I frequently took control and robbed my husband of his rightful position as head of the household. I know that was hard on him as his core fear was failure. School had been difficult for him and he had met with failure in our marriage and then I was taking over his role. More failure. What is your core fear? How does it prevent you from being vulnerable with your husband or wife? Give that fear to God and let Him heal your heart.
Grace. Although I committed my life to Jesus as a child, grace was an illusive concept for me. I would look back on my life and see my sins, failures, and difficult times. About two years after the loss of my husband, God took me on a special grace journey. He took me back to many painful situations in my life and showed me what my life would have looked like if his grace had not been there. He showed me what my life might have looked like if my husband and I had not stayed together. The most important thing He revealed to me was what could have happened to my husband. A broken marriage would reinforce his core fear of failure and leave him bereft and hopeless, and I could not begin to fathom what it would have done to me. Although our marriage was troubled, we lived together in peace and cared for one another. As God began to show me His grace in my life, all the pain of the past was stripped away. In the midst of frustration and unfulfilled marital desires, He placed me in a job that filled me with joy and satisfied my soul in ways that are incomprehensible. Even today the gift of that job continues to fill my life with meaning and delight. God made it clear to me that He knew my suffering and also knew what would fill the empty places in my heart so He placed me in this position. Oh the great love and grace of God! Can you see God’s grace in your difficulties? Ask Him to show you.
-Anonymous, Online Campus