Easy Like Sunday Morning

Guest Blog-My Grace Filled Mess

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I first met Susan at the beginning of our adoption journey.  She was our adoption consultant through Christian Adoption Consultants and in the process, became our friend.  I follow her blog at My {Grace Filled} Mess which is full of amazing adoption advice and stories.

I’ve learned more from Susan than just the ins and outs of adoption.  Through her vulnerability, I’ve also watched as she’s extended love and grace at a time in her life when she likely didn’t want to.  I am so thankful she shared with us.  I know you will be challenged and encouraged by her story.

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BB: Tell me a little bit about your story.

SV: I had always envisioned our 10 year wedding anniversary as one big romantic celebration. When you’re a newlywed at 21, 10 years married sounds like such a huge accomplishment and so incredibly far away. I pictured us on some extravagant trip somewhere, all smiles and reminiscing about our last 10 years and dreaming of the years to come. But our ten year anniversary turned out incredibly different than I imagined. Instead of celebrating somewhere on a beach, I was alone, with two young children, and wondering if our marriage would make it to year eleven. I had been blindsided with the sin that had crept into my husband’s heart, our marriage, and our family.

Instead of the blissful ten year anniversary I had planned on, we started year 10 of our marriage separated.  I was a single mom, wondering if my husband would ever come home.  We were far from celebrating our marriage: we were fighting for it. Our lives literally stopped so we could focus on Jesus and healing. And this season was a long one. For years, Jamy continued to wrestle with pursuing Jesus wholeheartedly versus cherishing his sin and actively running from Him. We were separated several times over several years and it took a heartbreakingly long time for him to come to true repentance.

But while we were a mess, while my husband was unsure and unsteady, Jesus was faithful.  While our home was in crisis and turmoil, Christ was sure and ever present.  When our kids were unsure if their father would come home, their Heavenly Father never left them.  While I was more broken then I had ever been before, Jesus felt closer than ever.

We’re still learning about what repentance and forgiveness means in the most practical and daily way. And we’ve learned what real love is all about. 1 Corinthians 13 took on a whole new meaning when it wasn’t our pastor reading it to us at an altar at our wedding; but when we’re trying desperately to live out “love never fails” when the world tells us we have “good reason” to give up. God has been faithful in healing our marriage, in healing both of our hearts, and in healing our family.  So we ended up missing the big 10 year anniversary we had planned on.  But instead, we both feel like we’re living in a marriage that God has redeemed and restored in the most beautiful and transformative way. 

BB: What led you down the road you took? Was there an “ah ha/burning bush” kind of moment, or was it through lots of small steps along the way? Maybe both?

SV: One of the biggest revelations I had early on after learning about my husband’s sin actually nothing to do with him and had everything to do with me.  I learned about the sin I treasured in my own heart.  It was easy to label my husband as the Prodigal Son in the parable. But what God revealed to me was that I was the Self-righteous older brother in the story.  All my life I had done the “right things” and looked pretty put together on the outside, but inside I was prideful and self-righteous. I thought I was owed an easy life because I made all the right decisions growing up and that it all together. I didn’t need my Heavenly Father because I had everything under control on my own terms. God used this crisis in our marriage to not only expose the ugly parts of my husband’s heart but also mine.

God used our marriage falling apart to work on my pride and identity.  You’re not fooling anyone that you have it all together when you are a single mama and it’s just you and your kids coming to church.  When everything was ripped from me, I literally had no where to turn but to Him. My identity could no longer be found in “having it all together” or as a wife and mother of a family who had it all together.  My faith couldn’t be harbored in believing God would make everything turn out right if I just made good decisions. I needed to trust that Jesus was enough while my life was falling apart around me.  Not just afterward when I hoped things were going to turn out right in the end. He needed to be enough for me. Period.

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BB: Have you had any specific moments where you questioned if what you said yes to was what God really asked you to do?

SV: I walked through many times that I second-guessed myself.  We’re met with voices everyday telling us that if something is too hard it’s not meant to be.  That if someone doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain than you have an out.  And a strong woman is one who stands up for herself and never has to deal with someone else wronging them.

My story isn’t everyone’s story.  But I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was calling me to stay in my marriage.  I knew He was calling me to extend the kind of grace the He had extended to me; a grace that cost me something.  

It would have been easy to become bitter and angry and resentful on my end. I had been hurt and sinned against. Our pastors, who have a high esteem of marriage actually told me at one point they would support me if I chose divorce. But I couldn’t get past the parable in the Bible about the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. In it, a man was forgiven an enormous debt by the king and afterwards he failed to forgive a petty amount someone else owed him. How could I not forgive Jamy when I have been forgiven immeasurably more by my King? I knew I could have filed for divorce, and even had the support of Godly people if I were to choose that, but I felt like God was personally calling me to stay in it.  And because I heard him so clearly, I knew what he was calling me to.  

2 Corinthians 5:11-21 became my personal mission from Jesus to my husband.  He was calling me to the ministry of reconciliation in my marriage and to be the tangible face of Jesus to my husband.  Once I heard from Jesus, all the other voices faded and my mission and purpose was clear.

BB: What kinds of habits, self-disciplines, tools or resources have helped you push through the hard times?

SV: The time when my marriage fell apart piece by piece and was slowly put back together was a long and hard season. I wish I could pass along my magical three-step process to getting through it and making it all better.  But there was nothing magical about it.  I relied solely on God’s word, God’s people, and God’s presence.

I can remember long, lonely nights where I was so broken and emotionally spent I couldn’t even pray.  My simple prayer, that I would repeat over and over through tears was “Help me Jesus.”  It was those times I would open my Bible to the Psalms to give voice to all of the emotions inside me.  Lament, heartache, anguish, and begging God for mercy and help were all found in those chapters I clung to.  If you could peek in my Bible, those pages are especially tattered; littered with notes and dates and tear stains. 

We also leaned heavily into the community around us.  And I can tell you honestly that there were times we felt tremendously loved and supported and other times we felt alone and betrayed.  Jamy got a group of men around him for gospel-centered accountability and who could speak truth into his life. We began individual and marriage counseling. The kids even went to play therapy for a season. We read all the quality material we could get our hands on, surrounded ourselves with people who challenged us to trust Jesus, and pushed hard into walking closely with Christ.

Ultimately, it was God’s presence and faithfulness that got us through. As individuals learning to trust Jesus fully, as a couple building a brand new marriage, and as a family working to build a solid foundation, we all learned that Jesus was and is enough for us.

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BB:  What would you say to someone reading this blog who thinks, “I could never do that”?

SV: Well, I would tell them it’s true.  You could never do that.  And neither could I.  Going through life, when it’s messy and hard and broken and so much different than what you thought you were signing up for is inevitable. And I truly believe impossible to do without Jesus.  

The truth is, we’re all in desperate need of Jesus.  There are times when we just don’t see it as clearly; when life seems to be going as planned or uneventfully.  But then the news comes, the secret is out, the diagnosis is delivered, or the tragedy happens.  And we’re left knowing deep in our bones that we need a Savior who can bear the weight of it all because we can’t.  

And that is where the beauty in the brokenness comes.  In the moment we realize we can’t go on, knowing we’re in desperate need of someone who is bigger and stronger and wiser and better. When we turn to Jesus, acknowledging that our only hope is in Him, he meets us in the mess.  He comes to messy, broken, sinful people like us and promises hope and redemption.  None of us can do it on our own.  But with Jesus, we can face the brokenness knowing He’s in it with us and has promised that’s it’s all for our good and His glory.  My family’s story is proof.

For more of Susan’s story and writing, head to her blog at My {Grace Filled} Mess.

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