I have been contemplating getting a tattoo for awhile - but wasn't quite ready. But then I learned about starting with amen.
In two short months, John and I will celebrate 21 years of marriage! Because of what we both do professionally, and what our family looks like and stands for, we often are told how people admire us as a couple. I cringe inside just a tad when they do. I want to sit down with them over a cup of coffee and tell them our story.
Anyone who knows me, know transparency is something I strive for. But I also try to balance that with throwing my pearls before swine and constantly being a drama queen as our life has so much drama. And I also understand that my story intersects others' stories. I try to share of mine what I can without invading theirs.
For that reason, I have not shared much about John and my marriage. I hope some day soon we can share our entire testimony! It is a God story for sure! But for now, I am going to have to be a little vague. I know when being vague the mind wonders to the worst case scenario. So I want to say as I share without details that there has never been any type of affair in our marriage. We have struggled with some hard subjects and baggage, but never have either of us gone outside our marriage. I want that stated up front so those reading have that understanding going into it.
We have walked through so much the last eight years. Really our entire 20 years of marriage, but a lot of really hard stuff the last eight. I actually started listing some of it, and the list made this paragraph a novel - so I replaced it with hard. We will leave it at that.
Either one of us could have left, but we didn't. The stress that we walked through in our lives was enough to drive a wedge between any couple. At times it did. At times it made us cling to each other. But through it all there were some underlying issues that we have battled for 20 years. And I was tired.
I think probably it was my midlife crisis. For some reason 44 hit me hard. I did a lot of reflecting. I don't know if it was having a high school graduate. I don't know if it was finding myself getting settled into a home that I absolutely love on land that is my piece of heaven on earth. Or maybe it was just the first time in a few years where there was enough space to breath, and I realized I had a lot of regrets.
I spent a lot of time reflecting on the things in life that just left me wishing I had done something different. Self reflection is a good thing, I believe, as it helps you not repeat the mistakes of your past in your future. However, I also know the enemy can use self reflection to bring shame, anger, and bitterness back up to bite us in the ….well, you get the picture!
The only person I found myself truly angry with was me. Maybe that is because I learned a long time ago that the only person I can control is me. So as I reflected, I was mad at myself for not doing some things differently that would mean I was at a different place in some areas of my life - and my marriage was one of them.
I was also struggling with just the constant demands of my life - 8 children at home, two with some significant behavior issues, one with significant health issues (we had no idea at this point that Ava's was degenerative or terminal), and operating a ministry that found me constantly having to battle systems to get what was best for kids. My stress level was through the roof. I did not see any end in site. So I ran away.
I have written about that time before. I took a week and went on a work trip and then to help my parents pack. I did not tell anyone, but I was not sure when I returned if I was going to come back refreshed or resolute. I wasn't sure if I was coming home to work on my marriage or coming home to pack my bags. I wasn't sure if I was really willing to work on my marriage anymore. I left seeking God's face and His voice. It was all I knew to cling to at that time. - not a bad place to place your grip by the way!
Over that week as I cried out to God He revealed much to me - about Him and about me! He promises that when we seek Him we will find Him. And find Him I did.
After all my whining, deliberating, justifying, surrendering, crying, and listening, God told me - make a choice and do it! You see I had said with my mouth I was committed and wanted to stay and fight, but in reality I had a crack in the door so that if things did not change, I could open it and walk out. God was asking me to shut the door - or to open it and walk out.
What I am about to say could be controversial. I am going to do my best to communicate it very clearly and theologically sound. So let me start by saying God hates divorce - let me pause to say there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! So if you are reading this and are divorced, do not let the enemy use this to place shame on your for divorce! I think you will understand as you continue to read - Truth is Truth. Malachi 2:16 says, "I hate divorce, says the Lord." Not much gray area there. He is not a fan of divorce.
However, as I wrestled with God that week, He assured me I had his permission to leave my marriage. Hang with me to the end - remember, I know God hates divorce!
My marriage had not been operating as God intended for many years - if ever really. Our marriage looked nothing like the one described in Ephesians 5. For my part, I would swing my pendulum from submissive (read door mat - not submissive in the Biblical definition) wife to demanding my needs be met. Neither of those are Biblical or work well in a marriage.
As I reflected on 20 years of marriage that has been full of heart ache and frustrations (on both of our parts), God told me I could leave. He would not stop me. I would walk out. HOWEVER - he was NOT blessing my leaving! You see there is a difference! There are many things of this world that breaks God's heart. And there are some things in my marriage that breaks God's heart. He shared my hurt with me in those things - so He understood my wanting to leave. Me leaving would be a sin. I had no Biblical reason for divorce. But many aspects of how our marriage was operating was also a sin. Any sin outside of denying Christ is forgivable. Me walking out was forgivable, however, like all sin, it would take me outside the blessing of God. That was enough to give me pause and make me want to consider my options a little more. But God was clear - I was to go home with my decision made - trust Him and commit to my marriage no matter what or leave and face whatever that meant. But get off the fence! Make a decision and do it.
I had been to a conference earlier in the summer and heard a woman by the name of Beth Guckenberger speak. She is a foster and adoptive mother, she and her husband had been missionaries in Mexico, and they worked in orphan care ministry. She told her story to point to God. I related to her in many ways. So I bought her book. I had taken it with me to read the week I was gone. The book is titled Start with Amen.
As I struggled through whether to commit to my marriage or commit to leaving, I read these words by Beth:
Amen is the verbal equivalent of hands raised. It can be translated as "So be it" or paraphrased as "It is as you say." It's more than our modern understanding of "uncle" or "I give up." It is surrender in a spirit of "It's up to you[God]; you [God] do it," and ""I made the promise, but only you [God] can fulfill it." So I whisper, You sell the house. You move her heart. You heal that body. You open the door. You provide. You go before them. Amen. So be it. In your time. I trust. I surrender. Amen.
And this one word reorients me, calibrating me with a God whose covenant he will never break. …
That's what I'm looking for: a spiritual confidence that supersedes circumstances, a peace that passes understanding.
As soon as I read those words, my soul cried out AMEN! So be it! I knew my decision was made. And I knew I would have to find a way to press in harder than ever before to God - to the heavenly perspective of life. I would have to lay down my desires. I would have to lay down my rights. I might even have to lay down a dream or two. But I shut the door. I made the decision that I would go back and pursue my marriage with all I had in me and all God is in me.
I looked into getting the tattoo even before coming home - but in the middle of summer with a new pool, I knew my kids would not be happy if I could not swim with them for three weeks - so I decided to come home with the commitment in my heart and the plan in my mind.
I told John about my week and all God had revealed. I told him I wanted to get the tattoo as a reminder that I am all in! It's kind of like my second wedding ring - it's a commitment to choose God over anything I "feel" in my marriage. It's a commitment to trust God with the outcome.
So tonight, I got my first ink! A permanent reminder to trust God and start my thoughts, prayers, and decisions about my marriage - and a lot of other things in life also!- with "so be it" then let God write the rest....