Day 8: The story of us (Part 2) – Love is patient.

After I left my husband, we went through a lengthy court case to settle the ongoing care of the kids and property, the usual procedure here in Australia, but something I didn’t expect to happen.  We were both wounded and hurting, unable to communicate with each other, and the whole procedure was painful and devastating.  We eventually came to an agreement on all counts, and the kids continued in the routine that we had all settled into.

Soon after we finished in court, I applied for a divorce, an astonishingly simple procedure, and after a phone link-up with the Family Law Court, our marriage was declared null and void, with no objections voiced by anyone.  I was surprised by my reaction to all this, how my heart hurt and I cried for a long time after I hung up the phone.  I had thought that this was just another inevitable step in the procedure, that I was finished with pain and heartache, and that now I could move on with my life – whatever that meant.  I didn’t expect the deep ache I felt inside, knowing that what had once been my dream had been declared effectively dead by someone in a courtroom a long way away.

Eventually, as it always did, the hurt diminished, and I began to look with hope toward the future for my heart, assuming that I would one day begin a new relationship, one that I pictured would be better than my first marriage.  I had already started a nursing degree, and was excited at the prospect of becoming a midwife (as was my dream) once I finished my study.

It wasn’t long after our divorce was finalised, about 2 months or so, that through a series of events I found myself coming to know Jesus as very real in my life, and I surrendered myself to His love in March 2006.  It was another completely unexpected turn of events in my life, especially for a girl who thought she had God all figured out.  My coming to faith was the first step for me in seeing Him rebuild our marriage, although I had no idea that that was His plan then.

But He didn’t take long to let me know what He had in mind.  A few months after coming to faith, I was sitting at a friend’s kitchen table, venting about a particularly frustrating time I was going through with my ex-husband.  As I was explaining the situation to her, a thought came to my mind – no, a directive – one that took me completely by surprise and left me wondering where on earth it came from.

In a moment when I was wondering how long I would have to keep going through the difficulty of raising kids in a divorced family, God told me to pray for the restoration of our marriage.

Yep.  God told me to pray to be married again to a man I didn’t want to have anything to do with, but would have to for the rest of my life because of our children.  I didn’t even really know then what it was to hear God speak, but I had a crash course in hearing God that day.  And it was no whisper.

After I responded ‘You’ve got to be kidding me, no way am I doing that, I don’t want to be married to him again!!’, I knew I couldn’t be completely disobedient, so I quickly prayed ‘Fine, Lord, if that’s what You really want, I pray that eventually our marriage will be restored’, and promptly resolved to never think of this curious little exchange again.

I couldn’t have had any idea on that day in June 2006, 13 years after I told the boy I loved that I would wait for him, that I was starting a new journey in waiting, one that would take a lot longer than a few days this time.  7 years later, I know that was the beginning of my lesson in patience, in learning what it is to be patient.

Tomorrow we’ll explore the definitions of patience, but for now, what has been one of your life-lessons in learning to be patient?  Big or small, extraordinary or mundane, share in the comments below how you’ve come to know this lesson of love.

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

The story of us (Part 1)

Advertisements

Day 7 – The story of us (Part 1)

“‘I’ll wait” I said, on a bright, cool winter’s day.

I was on the cusp of 17, he about to turn 18, and we loved each other.  But he was trying to sort out where to go in life, this boy who was not made for school, and wanted us to wait until high school was over to start a relationship.  So I said I’d wait.

We could never have known then that it would take 20 years for our picture of love and life together to really become real.

I loved him, and I knew he loved me, and that was all that mattered, right?

At 16, what did I know of love?  What did I know of waiting, of patience?

I was living through my parent’s divorce, one that had taken nearly my whole life to eventually happen, so I thought I knew what love and marriage wasn’t.  I knew what I didn’t want our marriage to be.

And I knew I was going to marry this boy.  That was as true to me as knowing that the sun rose in the morning and set at night, because even though I didn’t know it then, they were words God had spoken into my heart.

A few days after our conversation, we started ‘going out’, as dating was called in our part of the world in the 1990’s, and I thought I had everything I wanted.  A boyfriend, great friends, the end of high school and the start of becoming an adult in sight.  I had an on-and-off relationship with God, having been raised in church with my mum and my sister, and never questioning that God was real.  But I didn’t know Him, didn’t know that He was as real and present in my life as the people around me, and that above everything, He loved me.

Fast forward 10 years, and the dream life I had pictured was falling apart.  After high school I had gone to uni (university) for a year, and hated it so I came home, and he started working.  We moved in together, and I got a job, eventually moving to a town an hour away for work.  We got engaged, and then a few months later life took a turn for the unexpected.

I became pregnant.  So not a part of the plan, but a very welcome surprise nonetheless.

Our eldest son was born, and at 21 my heart’s deepest desire came true – I was a mum, and I was going to be a wife.  I didn’t think I could be any happier, but even then, our life together wasn’t all sunshine and roses.  On the surface we looked happy enough, but you didn’t have to dig very far to see the discontent, the struggle, the wounding and the damage caused by words spoken in anger.

Our son was nearly two years old when we got married, we bought a house the next year, and our daughter came along 8 months later.  Our youngest child, another son, joined us when our daughter was 21 months old, deciding to arrive 6 weeks early and throwing life into a tailspin.  But we managed, and eventually settled into life with 3 kids, me a stay-at-home mum and he a shift-worker in a local factory.  I thought I was living the life I wanted, the life we had dreamed of having – simple, hard work, and time to enjoy our completed family.

If only.

When our youngest son was about 4 months old, I was diagnosed with post-natal depression, and I can honestly say that that was the worst time of my life – of our lives – and it was all downhill from there.  The cracks in our marriage became wider and deeper, and neither of us had the energy that we really needed to try and fix things, try and make it work.  We became two people struggling for survival, almost completely unable to help the other, despite knowing we had to for us to stay together.  We were beyond exhausted, and just existed in the same house together, doing our best to raise our kids and trying not to fail in the process.

There was only so long we could keep going like that, and in January 2004, the day before our youngest son’s birthday, we had an argument that was a repeat of the thousand we’d had before, and in that moment, I knew that was it.  I had a moment of pure clarity where I realised that I couldn’t change him, despite how hard I’d tried, and that I couldn’t keep living the way we were.  We couldn’t keep living the way we were.

It was then that I knew I had to leave, and the relief was overwhelming.

I had thought of leaving before, but had always dismissed the idea, because as far as I was concerned, that wasn’t an option.  I was never going to repeat what happened to my parents, I was never going to put my kids through what I had experienced (even though I had always thought that my parents had a ‘good’ divorce), and so to me, a broken marriage would mean that I had failed, and I wasn’t going to let that happen.

But it did.

And it was the best thing that ever happened to us.

Of course, that wasn’t what I was thinking at the time.  Our world as we knew it had been blown up, and we sat stunned amongst the debris of our life together, barely knowing where to start, what to do, where to go.  The dream I had so desperately tried to live had been completely destroyed.

Back then I had no idea of the concept that for God to truly be able to do His work in us, for His plans and purposes for us to be realised, that which we create and hold dear in place of Him  – our idols – has to be broken and torn down and destroyed so that He can work in us, work for us, building in us the real dreams and hopes that He had planned for us all along.

God created me to be a wife and a mum, it was my picture-perfect expectations of marriage and motherhood that became my idol, one that I could never live up to.  We both know now that we didn’t really know what it meant to be married, the true purpose of marriage – to love and respect and serve your spouse above yourself, not to seek to be fulfilled by what they can do for you.

Structures with shaky foundations never last, they need to be torn down and a new foundation laid, so they can be rebuilt as something strong that will last forever.  That’s what happened to us, to our marriage, we were built on a shaky foundation, and now after the tearing down, we’re living in a construction zone of being rebuilt into something that will last forever.

Our broken marriage and the subsequent journey I’ve lived over the last 10 years has taught me what real love is, what it means to truly love someone – not just my husband, but everyone in my life.  If that was the sole purpose of that experience in life, to learn true love, God-style, then it was totally worth it.  It is a challenging lesson I live and learn every. single. day, and every day I learn a little bit more about how to love, how to be loved, how much God loves me.

Love never fails, despite what we think,  and I thank God for that truth every day of my life.

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

Day 5: Let me tell you a story

All the words are whirling around in my head, and I’m having trouble catching them and forming them into something that will tell the story.

My story.

The story that God has gifted me with, one that I could never have written, one that has taught me real love.

I’ve been struggling to articulate how Paul’s words – God’s words – to the Corinthians have come to show me the true meaning of love, and I’ve realised it’s because when I try to explain things, I generally use an example, a lived experience, a story.  I tell stories to try and explain life, it’s what I do.  I’m learning that it’s how God has made me.  To be a storyteller.

We all have stories, we all have a voice, and I love Jeff Goins’ words regarding how we all need to tell our stories:

Stories are written to be shared, and it is our responsibility to retell those that we witness — not only for our own sake, but for the benefit of others. Stories change people. They shape entire cultures.

I have believed this for as long as I can remember, and I encourage everyone I know to tell what has shaped their lives, encouraged them to believe that their story is worth telling.  But I haven’t practised what I’ve been preaching, not entirely, and it’s been because of fear.  Fear that my story isn’t important enough, interesting enough, that it’s not worth telling because it’s already been told (by someone who did it better), that I won’t tell it well enough, and perhaps more than anything, that once I write the words, it’s out there, and I can’t take it back.

Fear.  It’s a killer.  Well, it would be if we didn’t love, because there is no fear in love, and perfect love – God’s love – drives out fear.  So with that in mind, I’m going to tell you my story, and how it made real the words of love for me in my life.  If you were to pick up a book and read the blurb on the back, curious about what’s inside, this is what you might read:

Once upon a time, there was a girl.  And a boy (I’m sure you already know where this is going…).

High-school sweethearts, they thought they knew what love was, and just assumed that it would last forever.

But it didn’t.  Not how they thought it would, anyway.

Life just happened, as it does, and eventually, the walls fell down, and everything fell apart, ending in the pain of divorce.  3 kids, a marriage, a house, dreams and hope – all wounded and terribly broken by, well, two people who didn’t know how to really love one another.

But that’s not the end of the story.  Because the love they thought would last forever?  It did. They discovered that real love never dies, it doesn’t give up, it keeps going to the end.

This is the story of loss and restoration, of renovated hearts and lives, and how love always, always wins.