We took our time, getting to know each other again. And it was easy, no pressure or expectation, it just all flowed naturally.
Conversations when dropping kids off and picking them up, mainly superficial stuff, but we were mainly learning to feel safe with each other again.
Through all this, I saw and started living the trusting part of loving someone in action. I had learnt so much about love, real love, over the past few years, and what this meant in a marriage. I was coming to understand more and more that this message from God was less about how I felt, and more about being intentional. By trusting God that it was His intention for us to rebuild our relationship as parents, and trusting Him that we would be safe in this, I had been given the opportunity to put this into practice.
It was my father in-law who first brought this passage of love, these words of God in 1 Corinthians 13 into focus for me. I wrote this on my blog at the time (December 2007), and the words still ring true to me nearly 6 years later:
Yesterday I drove to another town to pick up my Nanna for Christmas, and as my mind was wandering, I was thinking about the kid’s aunties and uncles and cousins coming to visit their family for Christmas. I was thinking about how it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the kid’s aunties (their dad’s sisters), and that I miss them terribly. There are cousins that would have been my nieces and nephews if their dad and I hadn’t separated, and I’ve not met these kids who are such a part of my kids’ lives. I cried, remembering how Christmas used to be with my former husband and his 4 siblings and their various partners and children, and grieved again for the life that once was, but is no more.
Today I picked the kids up for our family Christmas with my mum and step-dad, my dad, my Nanna and my sister, and we had a lovely pre-Christmas lunch. After lunch, I took the kids to their (paternal) grandparents to drop them off, and got chatting to my former in-laws about Christmas and various arrangements. My former father-in-law disappeared for a minute, and came back with two roses for me. He told me he knows how much I like them, and that they’re nothing really, to which I responded that they were beautiful and certainly not nothing. He took my hand and gave me a kiss, and wished me a Merry Christmas. He then told me he still loves me, and his voice broke as he told me he always has and he retreated hastily into the house. I struggled not to burst into tears then and there, and exchanged Christmas greetings with my former mother-in-law as I breathed to keep my composure. Which I quickly lost as I got back into the car to leave.
My father-in-law took our separation quite hard, it was a couple of years before he could really talk to me again, and our relationship has been slowly rebuilding ever since. This man loved me like his daughter, took great joy in his son’s family and was a big part of my life. When I left my husband, I didn’t just leave one man, I left his parents and siblings and their families, as well. And I miss them all. So. Much. I still grieve that they’re not part of my family anymore, not a part of the life I dreamed of. It certainly wasn’t a fairytale family, we all had our ups and downs, but they adopted me as one of their own and I loved them dearly. I couldn’t wait to be an aunty (we were the first ones to have kids), to see this family grow and love and enjoy each other.
We often forget that divorce doesn’t just affect the husband and wife and kids involved. There are others, others who love us that we sometimes leave behind. Sometimes for just a season, sometimes forever. The journey I’ve been on over the last nearly 4 years is not one I had anticipated would happen in my life, and it’s been an unpredictable ride. I’ve prayed for restoration of the relationships that were fairly suddenly broken, and God has certainly been doing His work in the kid’s dad and I this year, for which I am so grateful. I see His hand in the rebuilding of relationships between other family members, and I give thanks that these relationships are so much better for the kids than how it’s been in the past.
Two roses showed me today what love can be. People who love us can be hurt, wounded and grieved, but as His word tells us, ‘Love is patient, love is kind…..it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…’. This verse was read at our wedding, and I know now I didn’t really understand it then as I do now. I looked at it with romantic blinkers on, quite unable to grasp the enormity of what this scripture means. The two roses my former father-in-law gave me today showed me what love is: ‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love’. I believe love can change, the love we feel for people can change with time and circumstance, but God tells us that it remains, it never fails, therefore it never dies. I know how corny that sounds, but it’s true, and I don’t think I fully understood that until today.
Even with this insight, and with the thought of God’s intention to restore our marriage always at the back of my mind, I still wasn’t convinced that this message from God was real. I never thought of it as a promise at that stage, simply because it wasn’t what I wanted. Ultimately, I didn’t trust Him or His words to me.
Then came the turning point, for me. Nearly 2 years after we has started talking again, I started thinking more and more about being married to my husband again, and started to explore in my heart what that would be like. Still as an abstract concept, but one I was giving more consideration to nonetheless. I was finding it surprisingly easy to actively love this man, but in a brotherly, I-want-the-best-for-you sense, not because I felt in love with him.
But I still didn’t want this. I didn’t want to commit to working on restoring our relationship, our marriage. I wanted shiny and new, because that would be easier.
I still didn’t trust God.
Until quite literally one day, I found I had no other choice.
I was in Queensland on a scrapbooking retreat weekend with a group of wonderfully faithful ladies whom I had met via an online scrapbooking forum. They knew my story, and some of what was going on in my heart. During the Sunday morning worship, we had opportunity to share and give thanks and basically tell some of our story, if we wanted to. I didn’t. Not then.
But God had other plans, as He often does.
Sitting in the meeting room of the old restored Queenslander, I couldn’t ignore the thumping of my heart, or the voice that was gently saying to me ‘Tell them. Ask them to stand with you. Ask them to trust with you’. So I did.
I was trembling all over as I stood up and took my turn to speak. With a halting start, I told my story, our story, and heard the rushing in my head as I came to speak the words I knew I couldn’t hold in any longer. I told the women that God had ordained to be with me there at that point in time that God wanted me to commit to trusting Him to restore our marriage, to follow His leading, and I didn’t want to. I didn’t think I could. It was impossible.
But I knew it wasn’t.
In that moment, as I spoke the words aloud that God had breathed into me more than 2 years earlier, I knew it was possible. I knew, without doubt, it was the fairytale ending that could come true because it was no fairytale, it was God’s story.
And that’s when I started to trust Him. I started to trust that what He had spoken to me was a promise that would be fulfilled, and I started to trust that He would change my heart, create anew what it needed to be to love this man as my husband again.
With that trust, as hesitant as it was initially, came hope – hope that began to believe in possibility, and seeing love lived real as it was supposed to be. Of seeing brokenness mended, and beauty rising from the ashes.
My trust and hope in Christ that this promise would be fulfilled was not unwavering. It was often dependent on what I was experiencing, what I was seeing, what I was able to control, and as time went on and things didn’t happen according to my timeline, my trust and hope sometimes all but failed. But never completely. And that was simply because of that deep-rooted, unshakeable knowledge that if God says He will do something, He will do it.
He doesn’t break promises.
He doesn’t go back on His word.
And He doesn’t give up on us.
Because He loves us.
It took nearly seven years from the time that God first spoke to me about restoring our marriage to my husband asking me if we could start again. More than four years from the time I stood in front of God, in a room full of His daughters and said ‘I don’t want this, but I will trust You and Your goodness’.
It took believing in what was out of my control, patience, a lot of frustration (on my part), time, heartache, overcoming disbelief and standing in the truth of God’s word to get to where we are today.
In short, it took persevering with hope and trust to see His promise fulfilled, to be now living hope fulfilled. it took real, active love to live out the story He had written for us.
The story that isn’t finished yet, that is still revealing itself with each new day, each turn of the page.
I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
What’s your story of hope? Are you living hope fulfilled, or still persevering, trusting in Jesus?
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