This month at Facets of Faith we touch upon an area near and dear to my heart─marriage. I (Tracy) know that word hits us all a bit differently. Some may wince from pain etched deep, too many hurts and not enough fingers to keep track of the sorrow from two broken people who don’t quite know how to love one another well.
Sadly, that’s the story of my first marriage. It halted. Like a sun-scorched river, love dried up. I dried up. Eyes of grace (now) see he did too.
No one sets sail for divorce. Sometimes a shipwreck occurs, and divorce’s devastation takes place. Crashed and battered against rock hard as granite, hearts closed off to hope, sinking in despair faster than an anchor tossed overboard. I’ve been there. Without Christ, there’s little hope for a marriage in jeopardy. I didn’t know that then. I appreciate it now. I hold tight to my Anchor, the One that is the Anchor for my soul. (Hebrews 6:19)
My God didn’t leave me shipwrecked, cast upon the shore like a fractured shell worth little value because of her imperfections. The rough edges, He’d soften. Over time. Like grains of sand, sometimes it felt abrasive, because smoothing out the rough edges often is painful. But with God there is purpose in the pain. God’s healing hands hold us close and restore us, making us new.
The fractured places where His hand fuses us back together become stronger, even as they have the potential to make us more beautiful.
Scars healed help us see our Savior as Healer, Lover of our soul (for He is).
Scars healed help us see others through eyes softer. Less judgment, more compassion.
Scars healed help us see ourselves differently, flawed yet somehow more real and relatable, because we’re not the only ones tired of pretending. Many crave authenticity.
My life is good, but it is not perfect. There is not always a cherry on top. I’m grateful it doesn’t always have to be cherry on top perfection to feel real and good.
I used to think that cherry had to be placed just so and, if not, my world might crumble. The problem with that “theology” is it often does.
I got divorced, and I almost nearly died. I thought I’d shrivel and not ever see past the hurt and pain of that loss, even as I pretended I didn’t need to grieve. Grieve? Why? I’m okay, my common refrain back then. Only I wasn’t. I melted faster than ice cream on a warm July day. I contemplated taking my life, because I didn’t see hope for a new one. I’m so grateful God reached in and gave me a reason to live. Him!
Christ Jesus sets a heart held captive free, and brings more and more freedom each day as we walk with Him. Little by little, or sometimes big by big, He makes us new.
As God does that in my life through the heart and hands of my second husband, Sam, He shows me I don’t have to be perfect to be loved. I’m grateful for that gift. God uses Sam to help me be vulnerable and most myself (other than the times spent with Christ).
There’s something very powerful being loved for who you really are, kind and loving sometimes, but not always. Brave and courageous or weak and trembling, either way whichever wife he has that day, Sam has loved me well. He’s not perfect, nor am I. But somehow God uses two broken people to strengthen one another, to hear each other’s hearts holding them gently. Hearts are tender and can easily be broken. I appreciate Sam’s soft touch to the softer parts of me that feel emotionally naked as I seek his council when I need a wise second opinion.
I think of where we started. Me, too afraid to even utter the word marriage. The “M” word all I could muster. Now, I think of marriage and I smile, grateful to God for the gift He gave me in Sam. If you know him, you know how sweet and kind he is. Had I been stubborn or too afraid to step out, I would have missed a gift from God.
He seeks to understand me, Sam does. He said he studies me. I’m glad for that, because he sometimes helps me gently see things in me or about me that I don’t have enough perspective on. I know me too well. I’m too familiar with me. I need a trusted outside perspective. How do you see this situation, Sam? What insight do you have? Trust. Something I didn’t think I’d ever do again.
If that’s where you are sitting, I want you to know it IS possible to trust again. I started by learning to trust Jesus. He showed me how to begin to trust others. He showed me how to trust myself again. Slowly.
“Our bravest moments come from trusting, from falling into the plans of God. When we do, bravery becomes less about courage and more about faith.”₁
If you are in a marriage that’s being tossed against the rocks, don’t give up. Divorce is NOT the easy option. As grateful as I am for God’s second chances, it would be very remiss of me to not give this council. I wish someone would have said it to me. Seek God and let Him be the Savior of your marriage. Nothing and no one is beyond His healing hand. Pray for yourself. Pray for your husband. And pray for unity in your marriage. Saving your marriage won’t be easy, but it is possible.
It all starts with the Love of Jesus, for without that, life is futile and full of the illusion of love. Only the Author of Love can properly lead us down love’s river without leading us astray. Jesus helps us avoid unnecessary white waters that would like to pull us under.
Fortunately, God rescued me. And He rescues me time and time again. Often, through the hands of a husband who learned how to love me well, because He allowed God to show him how. Sam would admit to you he didn’t know how to love. At 40 years of age, he’d never been married. What I love about my husband’s heart is he asked God to show him how to love me well. Lucky for me, God answers a prayer like that!
I often have referred to Sam as my Boaz, I his Ruth. I met him when I was incredibly vulnerable. Many men would have taken advantage of that. Some did. Not so Sam. He showed me something different. A man of character who treated me like a woman should be treated, with dignity and respect. I remember being nervous, not knowing how to act in this foreign field of Christian relationship. How does this work anyhow?
God showed us how.
Through my marriage God has brought me from being a wildflower to a lillie, growing more and more pure each passing year. Mind you, there’s much more purity to be had by yours truly. But God has brought Sam and I quite a distance from where we first started.
My Boaz who didn’t take advantage when so many others had, helped me to regain my self-esteem. Through Sam’s love, I saw the Father’s Love. Still do. The idea of intimacy restored, restored back to God’s intention. Holy. Beautiful. Possible even when it doesn’t make sense based on a person’s track record.
Sam and I recently celebrated our six year wedding anniversary. I can’t quite believe it. Feels just like yesterday. No, it’s not 25 or 30, but it’s something significant from a gal who wasn’t willing to consider walking down the aisle again.
Perhaps even more astounding is what God has done in a relatively short amount of time. He has helped me to bloom because of Sam. I would not be the woman I am (and the woman I am becoming) without him.
A man, in fact, should not cover his head because he is God’s image and glory, but woman is man’s glory.─1 Corinthians 11:7 HCSB
As my husband, Sam partakes in any good God brings forth. I am a reflection of him and his love for me. I’ve experienced God’s love through Sam, and because of that expression of love, God’s glory is revealed. Love is always a reflection of Christ. Not the stuff of Hollywood, but the stuff of life, real life, the hard stuff as well as the good stuff. The stuff of tears when I need comfort and I find a safe shoulder to rest my head upon. The safe harbor helps me to bloom.
I hold my head higher, because I’ve experienced honorable love. Dignity restored, because that was the Father’s design all along.
The best anniversary gift I’ve received so far was fruit of Sam’s love standing right by my side at church: three young women rescued from sex trafficking whom I now get to help. Had my husband not loved me well, I wouldn’t have bloomed. Unimaginably, God wouldn’t be able to use me to help three other tender hearts learn how to receive love, and sometime in each of their futures, to love others well. To trust again. Someday. That is my prayer for each precious one.
I can talk with them about how hard it is to trust. I get it. It’s hard; it can feel impossible. I can also talk with these precious women about hope of love, intimacy, and restoration beyond their wildest dreams. Three beautiful buds waiting to bloom, but starting to open up, stood to my left, my husband to my right. Me sandwiched between trying hard to hold back tears on Mother’s Day as I thought, Lord, how on earth did I get here? Thank you! Not in a million years would I have guessed this one!
Later, in the car, I got to tell my husband how much I appreciate him. God put it on my heart to give him an anniversary present of honor. You see, Sam is not only my Boaz, he is also a man of mighty valor. He’s brave. After all, he took on me (and oh did that take courage back in the day!).
None of the ministry God has given me would have been possible without you, Sam. None of it. Because you loved me so well, I am now able to love others well. Thank you! Because of our story, I can give them hope that they will have genuine intimacy, the love we’re all after. Every woman helped, you have helped. This is your ministry too!
And it is.
Epilogue: Thank you for helping me to bloom, Sam! One day you will receive many rewards for the things you’ve done in secret to honor and love me well. Until then, I pray you receive rich rewards here on earth as well. I know when you get to heaven one day (hopefully far, far into our future) Jesus is going to hold you in His arms and tell you “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You did good. Very, very good, My son. I am proud of you. You were a good steward of your wife and an excellent model for other men to follow. Well done, My son. Well done.”
If you are married, how can you allow your husband to help you bloom? How can you honor him?
If you’ve never read the book of Ruth in the Bible, I encourage you to do so. It’s a beautiful love story that points to Christ’s love for us, His bride.
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₁Lyons, Rebekah. You are Free. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.