Friday, May 25, 2012
Guest Post: "If Not For Grace"
This is the amazing story of my dear friend Bobbi... I hope it brings you some glimpse of how great God is. If Not For Grace Years ago, I was visiting a friend and I made a comment to her about how beautiful her houseplants were. She then offered to share a couple of starts with me and although I’d never had a green thumb or really cared much for houseplants, I accepted her offer and took the starts home. At first, I attended to my new plants carefully to see that they had the proper light, temperature, water, and fertilizer. But after a while, I began to neglect my plants, forgetting to water them and then over watering later to compensate. It didn’t take long before the plants began to show evidence of neglect; browning leaves, sagging vines, just an overall look of poor health and obvious need for attention. I eventually decided that I didn’t have the devotion or desire to tend to houseplants and I passed them on to someone else. After a few weeks of TLC, under their new owner, the plants quickly revived and became beautiful again. I was thinking about those plants the other day and how they are kind of a picture of marriage. In the beginning, we put a lot of time and effort into our marriage, but as the years pass by, kids come, bills are due, careers progress, and the stress of many responsibilities loom overhead. Those responsibilities can quickly become our top priority and inevitably the marriage relationship may begin to weaken and show neglect. When we stop nourishing our marriage and giving each other the proper time and attention to keep the relationship healthy and strong, it starts to wither and parts can actually die. The good thing is, just like my plants, with proper care and attention, a marriage can come back to life, begin to thrive again, and regain the health it once had. As a matter of fact, it can be better than it ever was, continue to grow and become stronger and more beautiful in the years to come. That is what happened to us… After years of neglect and lack of effort to put the necessary time and attention into our relationship, our marriage died. At some point, about 17 years into the marriage, I did just as I had done with my house plants…I made the decision that I no longer had the devotion or desire to put forth the effort to keep it alive and I quit trying. Over the next two years, we spent many hours in counseling and went back and forth from separation to trying to work things out, but to no avail. I wanted out of the marriage, from what I considered to be a life of bondage, and I saw singleness as freedom. My mind was made up and no amount of counseling in the world was going to change it at that point. I felt unappreciated at home as a wife and mother and thought that there was more fulfillment offered to me out in the working world than what I was getting as a homemaker. I was under the delusion that I deserved better and I could find someone out there who would make me happier than my husband did. So, in December of 2009, I filed for divorce and it was finalized in February of 2010. In the months that followed, I found out that divorce is not as glamorous as they make it look in Hollywood and being single is not the ticket to freedom or happiness that I thought it was either. I could in no way estimate the degree or at what level divorce would affect and change every aspect of my life, or the affect it would have on our children, family, friends, and even church. I didn’t anticipate the depths of loneliness that I would experience…even when I was surrounded by friends and family…there was an awkwardness and void without Rich there. I didn’t realize how much he completed me until he was not there anymore and I never consciously thought about how much I depended on him until the one person I always turned to for everything was gone. I never considered the feeling of gloom I would experience when I came home from work to a silent, empty house when the kids were away for the weekend visits at Daddy’s house. No one could have prepared me for the way my heart would break every time one of my kids called their dad at work to ask him to come over for any and every little reason they could think of because they missed him so much. I was not prepared for the pain I would see in my children’s eyes as they tried to cope with not just the loss of one parent, but essentially two, when the life they formerly knew where mom stayed home with them all day, was replaced by hours of them picking up the slack to care for the home and their siblings while mom went back to work and school because I choose to pursue my own fulfillment above their needs. I was not prepared for the way my friendships would change and that social gatherings with former family members would cease to exist…that some people who I truly loved and cared about would no longer be part of my life as a result of me walking away from my marriage. I was lying to myself in thinking that I deserved better or could find another man who would love Rich’s children as much or more than he did. I didn’t know until I was single that very few men would be as interested in my heart as they were in my body or that honesty and integrity are forgotten virtues among many. As my eyes began to open to the truth of all of this reality, I knew that I had made a huge mistake by choosing divorce, but I was too proud to admit it. During the time we were divorced, Rich still held on to the hope and faith that we would get back together someday. He prayed and read more than he had in his entire life and focused on changing himself, while he also worked tirelessly to win my heart back in the meantime. He constantly bought me gifts, asked me out on dates, gave me more money than he was required to for child support (even if it meant he went without), and was always willing to help me with anything I needed. He texted me every morning to say "I love you sweetheart" and although I didn't responded with an "I love you" back, he never stopped telling me anyway. We often took long walks and bike rides together during those times and although we argued a lot...in doing so, we were unwittingly working through nearly twenty years of baggage and junk that we had swept under the carpet and refused to deal with during the marriage. We learned how to really communicate with each other, he learned how to talk to me instead of shutting me out, and I learned to be quiet, calm down, and listen to him. In hindsight, the irony is, we felt a sense of comfort in the fact that there was no longer pressure from outside sources to be fixing the marriage because it was already over, yet we didn't even realize that's exactly what we were doing the whole time. Rich worked on his relationship with the kids during that time too. He took time to go places and do stuff with them and have fun instead of working such long hours. His priorities changed drastically when instead of focusing on bringing home a bigger paycheck, he took advantage of every opportunity to spend time with his kids. They had a lot of fun going on hikes in the hills and fishing together and they built a strong relationship with each other that had been lacking over the years when his focus was more on his job than the family. During that period of time, I also met another man and had a brief relationship which resulted in a pregnancy. I was totally devastated and ashamed over what I had done, but God in his mercy used that situation to get a hold of my heart and turn it back to Him. Today I am thankful to say that the Lord used that pregnancy and Rich’s undying love to humble me and bring me to a place of repentance. During those months, Rich stayed by my side through every single moment. He took care of me and the kids while I was ill and gave me his shoulder to soak with my tears over and over again. Slowly, God softened my heart toward Rich and brought me to a place where I was willing to admit the truth that, among many other things, I had given up a wonderful man who loved me and our kids more than anyone else, and who was willing to work hard to provide for us so that I could stay home to raise our children as a homeschool mom. The notion I could do better, was missing out, or would be more fulfilled and appreciated in the working world was a gross misconception of reality. Indeed I found out that what I viewed as bondage in the job of a wife and homemaker, was in fact freedom, safety, peace, love, and more blessings than I ever deserved. As a result, by the grace of God, after being divorced for eight months, Rich and I were remarried in October of 2010.