When Freedom from a Difficult Marriage Comes Unexpectedly

Image courtesy of Craftyjoe / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Craftyjoe / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have often said that if God wanted me out of my difficult marriage, He was perfectly capable of doing it.

  1. My husband could change.
  2. My husband could choose to divorce me (and I would most likely not fight it, he stands before God on that).
  3. My husband could die. (And no, I am not seeking that end!)

CHANGE

God does change marriages. I have a friend who seperated and was ready to divorce due to her husband’s addictions and verbal abuse. God worked through those months where she started to carve out a new life for herself and He turned her husband around. They are back together now and working on their marriage. It can and does happen!

DIVORCE

A few months ago a friend and I sat down for coffee. She was visibly upset. Her speech was rapid. “I did everything you suggested to stay and now he’s divorcing me.”

The marriage was filled with distance and verbal abuse from her spouse. But she had hung in there and now he had filed. She had just come from meeting with her attorney and was armed with what she needed for her future and for the future of her children. In spite of that she grieved the death of her marriage.

I reminded her that she had asked God to release her from her pain and heartache and He had! No one wants divorce but she was free of the daily struggle (or would be one the divorce was final). She paused with her mouth agape and eyes wide. Yes! God had freed her and she did not file for the divorce and she could stand clean before God for her efforts to save the marraige. I was so proud of her for her perseverance and dedication in spite of the emotional pain. She’s a stronger woman because of it.

DEATH

A friend who got me on my path of writing about this, almost seperated from her husband years ago. He chose to do counseling and while the changes didn’t last, she forged a life for herself in the midst of the missing emotional and physical affection and was there through his addictions, various health crisis and cancer diagnosis. She lived her faith and loved her husband in spite of his sins. Her heart was broken for his spiritually lost soul.

And then he died.

There is no way I rejoice in his death. There is no way I would go to my friend and cheer “You are free! You are free!” She has arrangements to make and a new life to settle into. She will have much to grieve. I’m not sure if he ever accepted Christ either.

I do know that she lived her life with integrity and she loved her husband as an image-bearer of Christ even though he may never have returned that love. I think he loved her in his own way.

She is now a widow. She can stand before the throne of God clean and hear “Well done,” because she served sacrificially in her marriage and now God has freed her. He also freed her husband from a life of pain and struggle. Maybe in the end God freed her husband to be a child of the King of Kings. Sometimes we don’t ever really know.

FREEDOM

So often we are told to leave. We deserve better. But each of these three women chose not to divorce. The leaned into the reality of their struggle and while the outcomes are different the result is the same. God freed them from the pain of their difficult marriages.

I’m not telling you to pray for death of your spouse. Or change. Or that he will divorce you. Pray for the courage to stay and do what you need to do to be all God has called you to be and to love your spouse. Seperation is not divorce and is, at times, a useful tool but not an easy path. None of these paths are easy, but choosing to walk away (i.e. divorce) is a path that can close the door to God’s work.

Having said that though, divorce is not always the end either. In what feels like another lifetime ago, I witnessed a divorced couple come to Christ individually. They ended up at our church and soon reconnected as new creations in Christ. Yes, they had divorced. I was there for their remarriage. What a beautiful thing to witness! We have such a big God!

So hang in there and stay faithful to the God who sustains and cherishes you more than you will ever know! Freedom is never easy. It comes with a price tag, but when it comes by God’s permissive hand, it can be endured and there is light on the other side of the pain.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

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I’m So Done

Image courtesy of smarnad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of smarnad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When I hear talks about God restoring marriages, I shake my head.

I don’t want my marriage restored. I never had a good marriage and trying to reset it back to the beginning doesn’t make anything better.

I want more than that. I want something new. I’m done with this crap of being treated like I’m worthless and don’t matter and don’t deserve to be heard, understood and cared for.

Too often men especially, find themselves surprised when they are served divorce papers as if the marriage suddenly fell apart. Typically the woman emotionally left a long time ago. He just never noticed. Or cared.

So what do I do with these feelings?

I take them to God and I blog about them. Huh. Go figure.

See, while it matters to God how I feel, he does not ask me to make my decisions based on that. He asks me to obey him regardless of my emotions. To trust him for the future.

So why don’t I want to save my marriage? Well, it’s not exactly that I don’t want to. I’m realistic. Should my husband repent and want to work on a new relationship with me as his wife, we start back almost at ground zero but with a whole lot of distrust that has to be re-earned. It took my husband seven years- SEVEN!–Before he finally decided he’d marry me. I can’t guarantee it wouldn’t take me that long or longer to accept a new husband in the same (but much older) body. The process of making a marriage a new creation would be messy and painful. Only then there would be the hope of something better on the other side. But there’s no glimmer now so I hold tight to God instead.

I’m tired of pain. I’m tired of rejection and I’m tired of insults. My heart no longer picks up the mantle of shame my husband tries to dish out to me when I don’t react like he wants. It’s not a marriage anymore. He’s an annoying roommate.

Sigh.

No pity. Don’t comment with your “loving” demands that I leave. I know my options. I willingly choose to obey God and for now, he says stay. Working on the marriage involves poking a grizzly bear and I just don’t care enough to do it right now. But God can work in and through and around me to his great purposes and when taking the risk of that poke is needed, Jesus will be the one helping me hold that poker.

I’m so glad he loves me right where I am. No matter what.

How about you? If you are in a difficult marriage are you hopeful or are you like me, feeling done and tired and if you could walk away you would. What helps you to stay?

Blessings,
Lilly Grace

The Temptation of a Better Love(r)

So many times over the years, I have had people express this kind of sentiment to me. “You are a delightful woman, if you would just leave your husband, you could then find a man who will love you like you deserve.”

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve written on this before, but time to write on it again.

There is no location in Scripture that promises that a divorced woman will find a man who will love her like he should be loved. It’s not there. Some would argue that Scripture says that a divorced woman should never remarry. Ouch. Are you willing to go there?

Now, if my husband chose to leave me, then I would not feel constricted from pursuing another marriage in my future to hopefully the “ideal” man. Oh, wait. He would probably want the ideal woman and that would most certainly not be me.

If someone listened to my husband’s real version of our marriage–not the edited one he presents to people to make himself look good–they might encourage him to leave me too, and get the wife he deserves:

  • The one who will encourage him to pursue his dreams–even if it means not being able to provide for his family.
  • The one will let him control all the money. She’ll probably need a full-time job so as not be dependent on him.
  • The one who is model thin and beautiful. Oh, well, we are talking fantasy right. She’d need to be blonde too. Hey, he’s told me these things.
  • Oh, and she’ll love to have sex no matter how poorly he treats her.
  • She might need to be blind because my husband is not a model.

The fact is, I’m a sinner. Yup. I’m not perfect. I screw up. I’m not perfect or blameless in the demise of my marriage. However, I have sought to honor God and respect my husband even if he fails to love, cherish and provide for me, much less treat me as an equal heir to the throne of grace.

And even if I were a widow, there would be no guarantee of a better marriage for me down the line.

Some people get that dream. I’ve heard the stories and met them and I am so glad for them that they were free of a difficult marriage and found a spouse who loves and adores them through the good and the bad. A man who is worthy of respect, even when she disagrees with him. A man who is easy to follow because he first follows God and loves his wife out of that. It is a beautiful thing to behold.

*sigh*

I do find these guys in the romance novels I write (under a different name). I may not have it in real life, but my characters get a man to admire, who loves them in a Christ-like manner. They get great sex too (implied). Hey, I don’t get any in real life. I give my characters what I cannot have. At least at this point in time.

So ladies, leaving my husband to find the perfect man is a dream and a nice fantasy. It is not a valid argument or even a fair one to dangle in front of a woman struggling in a hard marriage. Oh, it would be so nice to have a man who, as one  quote says “will hug you so tight that all of your broken pieces will fit back together.” Until then, and even after (if it ever comes to that day), I’ll cling to Jesus.

“Godly Men” who Fail at Home

I’ve hesitated for months to write on this topic. I got ticked off because I found out that A.W.Tozer, whose writing I admire, was not a very good husband. We don’t know for sure but suffice it to say his wife said she never experienced happiness until she was married to her second husband (after Tozer’s death). She was forced to live in poverty because he would give most of their income back to the church. He poured all his time and energy into “ministry” but missed the ministry he was most responsible for: loving his wife and children.

Do I sound judgmental? Maybe so. Even today many men can be involved in ministry and put on a posture that belies the truth of their failing marriages or even abuses and neglect of their wives and children.

It breaks my heart to discover one acquaintance has filed for divorce from his wife. Online he acts like life is great and he wants to pursue Christian publishing.  Writing doesn’t have the same kind of condemnation associated with it as music or up front preachers have when they fall. Heck, he hasn’t even really begun. So he can pretend blissfully to be a wonderful man and a Christian while his wife is abandoned for the sake of him pursuing the god of publishing.

My spouse is no different. Pursuing whatever ministry opportunities that will make him look good, rarely working, but when he does giving money away (but won’t tithe to the church). He’s rarely home, belittles my dreams, and make ultimatums for the children without being around to follow through on the consequences of those.

But wives are supposed to praise their husbands. We are not to be talking bad about them. So how do we get help when our “godly” appearing spouse is fooling the world and wooing them, maybe with some exceptional gifts, while at the same time violating the promises made before God to honor and love his wife?

Sometimes these men do great things for God. Will it be credited to them as righteousness? God says he won’t answer the prayers of a man who does not treat his wife well.

How are we to think? I get ticked off. It’s not that I don’t want people to be touched by ministries that do well, but where is the accountability in these men’s lives? Where are those with the courage to confront and ask the tough  questions. My husband won’t interact with people who do that so he basically runs away from any kind of accountability. I’m sure that writer acquaintance has done the same.

I loved Andy Stanley who once said that God made him head of the home. His job was to love and serve his wife and God’s job was to be the head of the church.  I just wish more men in ministry understood this and that the rest of them held them accountable. The sad thing is, the one person those “godly men” will refuse to listen to, are their wives.

Any thoughts?

Blessings,
Lilly Grace

Alone

I met a young mom the other day quite by accident. I had prayed and listened to her over the past few years as she struggled in her marriage. She told me how her husband had taken her out to dinner and told her he didn’t want to be married anymore. He came home and told the children that Daddy didn’t love Mommy anymore. The kids were devastated.

Then he filed for divorce.

She is struggling because hasn’t date in so long and doesn’t want to. She said she is lonely and afraid she will die alone.

She told me she would rather go back to the verbal abuse of her marriage than live this way.

He’s treating her nice now. He’s spending more time with the kids with the visitation. He grumbles but doles out his child support.

She said if only he could have been this way while they were married, then maybe. . . .

I have a couple of things to say about this.

  1. She didn’t choose the divorce. She knows she messed up in the marriage and is counseling for that. He didn’t want to do the work. He made the  choice.  My suspicion is he is not a Christ-follower. My hope is that others will give her grace and not let her divorce status, something she did not seek or want, be a negative mark to her identity.
  2. She gave up going to church. I encouraged her to come back. Worship. Be with other believers. She won’t feel quite so alone.
  3.  I gave her information on Divorce Care and another support group of women that gather socially. She hadn’t been sharing much with any one out of shame – so she was missing key resources that could benefit her.
  4. She was borrowing trouble from the future. “I’m afraid I will die alone?” That could have happened while married too. You just have to die when no one else is around. The fact is, we can’t predict the future and will she grow old and be single? Well, a lot of widowed women do it too and survive. Being single is not a death sentence.
  5. This woman’s grief is still raw. She has a long journey ahead of her.
  6. She may be alone but her kids finally get a dad who is paying attention to them and she is finally being treated with respect. It’s sad that she would trade that for the agony and abuse she had experienced, just so she wouldn’t be alone in bed at night.  She’s in a place many divorced women would envy.

I’m pro-marriage. I really am. The fact is, just because we choose to stay and work on our marriage doesn’t mean our spouse will. Sometimes the choice is taken out of our hands. Sometimes a door slams in our face and God gives us a clear way out of the marriage. As painful as it is to let go of what is familiar, my prayer for this young woman is that she can embrace the good things she will learn and gain from this time as a single mom. She’s not alone. Ever. And she doesn’t need to distance herself from her church family either.

Work hard for your marriage, but realize that it takes three. God is working with you towards reconciliation, but your spouse has a role to play in that too an if he drops the ball and walks away from the game, it’s over and no on wins.

Someday, that could be you or me. I would hope for love and compassion should that happen just as I would hope for it now by staying. Our paths are unique as we seek to obey God. There is no one way to walk this path in a difficult marriage except for this: Obey Christ and seek to honor and glorify Him in every aspect.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

Love Isn’t Supposed to Hurt (Book Review)

love isn't supposed to hurtI don’t often review books here but this one captured my interest.

I’m not even sure just how Christi Paul was able to write this book, Love Isn’t Supposed to Hurt,  using her real name. In it she tells the story of emotional and verbal abuse and alcoholism of her first husband and gives him a different name. While that is nice, both are in work in television news. It didn’t take much to figure out his real name and find him on-line. What is sad is that he  lost his job because he felt she had lied in this book and obviously hadn’t resolved his alcohol issues. Not sure where he is now but I kind of feel bad for him. Sure, it’s years later, but who wants their dirt publicized for all to see?

Christi tells her story and she sought counseling. She didn’t go through the church for help and healing although she claims faith. She did divorce her husband although to her credit, as the book gives evidence, she did try hard to save the marriage.

So far I haven’t said a ton of positive about the book. It’s a story and a common one, but here is where the really good stuff comes. At the back of her book she has questions that she journaled through and some of them I think are beneficial for anyone in a challenging marriage and may make the price of the book worthwhile for you (hint: I got it free on kindle). The questions are not your typical assignments but a bit more challenging.

For instance:

  • How did verbal abuse serve me?
  • What is the benefit of being alone?
  • How has feeling betrayed helped me?
  • If the painful situation had never happened, what would have been the disadvantage, or what wouldn’t have happened that I now value?

There are many more like these with some examples of her own answers. The rest is her story and I’m glad she had the platform and confidence to share it and spread more awareness of just how even the most accomplished appearing woman can feel trapped in abuse. It raises awareness. Christi Paul is happily re-married and has children and is living a better life. Not everyone gets that kind of outcome. Still, I found the questions at the back of her book compelling to getting me to think about my challenges in a fresh way. Maybe you’ll find them beneficial too.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

Victim of Well-Intentioned Divorcees

I’m pro-marriage.

I won’t condemn someone who chooses another path. I haven’t walked in their shoes.

What I do have a hard time with though are those who have, willingly or unwillingly,  taken the route of divorce and then turn around and tell me that’s what I should do.

I don’t rule out separation at some point but God hasn’t lined things up for me to do what could lead to that.

So the thinking is that if you are abused – leave. Jesus walked away from abuse so we can to. True. Jesus walked away from PHYSICAL abuse. And I agree. If you are being hit – get out NOW. It doesn’t mean divorce, but you need to be safe.

Jesus didn’t always walk away from verbal abuse. Sometimes he told a story to confound them. Sometimes he pointed out their sin and hypocrisy. Of course when you look at the end of his life he didn’t walk away from the physical or verbal abuse at all. He endured it.

I’ve also been told that IF I love my husband, I need to confront his sin. Tell him what’s wrong and confront it and draw a line in the sand and take the consequences. Well…. I’ve confronted my husband before and only was abused more for it (verbally). Others have also confronted him and pretty much have been blown off.  I pick my battles now, based on what’s best for me – not his eternal soul – since he’s made it clear I have no business even thinking about that.

God’s word does say to walk away from a person who is repeatedly unrepentant.  God also hates divorce and he has not made a way for me to separate. So I stay. As I do so, I hear well-meaning Christian people telling me I should leave.

I resent this. Isn’t this my life to live before God? Aren’t I supposed to be following HIM and His Holy Spirit (along with wise counsel? Not everyone tells me to leave!) So why does that mean your choice is also best for me?

Why does this bother me so much? Because they have freedom and I don’t? Well, I’ve seen the cost of that freedom and it doesn’t come cheap.  It bothers me because while I understand how well-intentioned those people are, they are in fact, re-victimizing me all over again. Now I’m not only a victim of my husband’s verbal/emotional abuse, but I’m getting it from people in the church. Just a different group than those who would be condemning me for leaving if I chose that path instead. I can’t win.

So that leaves me in a bit of a no-man’s land (hahaha! Except he’s still here!). I don’t always love my husband. I struggle to pray for him. I don’t always care that much about my marriage. In many ways I’m done. I’ve walked away emotionally and spiritually even though I physically share the same address.

Does that shock you?

I struggle with grace in my circumstances and it can cause me to spin my wheels in my own self-care when I feel that sense of “I’m not doing enough to save my marriage.” I’ve tried. Trust me. I have. For the sake of my own mental and spiritual health I can’t do it any more.

I will treat my husband with respect. I will submit where I can. I will model and try to teach my children to respect their dad even when his actions are anything but deserving of such. And I will try to move on to a full life in the midst of my difficult marriage.

So please, don’t put me down for staying. This is not an easy path to trod, but I do know what the choices are and the consequences and for now, under the authority of the Holy Spirit at work in my heart, this is the path I chose.

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