This week we will take on the subject of divorce. It is a big nasty topic that affects 1.2 million marriages annually in the United States alone. No one is immune to its sting and a large percentage of people have been through a divorce or have family members who have been divorced. Divorce is like a war. Though both parties involved may survive, nobody wins and everyone loses.
In 1991, we committed our lives to Christ. I (Tim) began working in the ministry, within a year, as I had felt the calling from God. In 1994, I became an ordained minister. I served the church through music ministry and youth ministry.
We were part of a new church plant in 1992. I also worked full-time at a regular 40hrs/week job to support the family and all of my ministry work was solely voluntary. Being the passionate person that I am, I put more effort into ministry than I did the paying job that I had. We traveled around the middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky area on a regular basis holding revivals. When there weren't revivals going on, there were meetings, music practice, and planning sessions that were going on several times a week. When we weren't working on church business, we were just hanging out together as friends. I was living a dream life; serving the Lord and helping the hurting and the lost find Christ. What could possibly go wrong in a person's life who was serving the Almighty God?
Well, the reality is that there was a lot that went wrong. I just wasn't aware it, at the time. The truth is that I spent all of my time working and serving others while leaving my wife at home alone to raise our two children. Heather worked full-time as well. She was lonely and overwhelmed, while I was living a carefree life. That is until April 22, 1995, when reality came to collect on the lie I was living.
Setting the stage for a disaster Tweet This!
This was day 3 of a men's conference I had been attending. It was called Riding for the Brand and hosted by Steve Farrar. That morning started off bad. I had stayed up really late the night before and overslept. Heather worked 3rd shift and had been trying to call me but I never aroused from my slumber. Eventually, I did wake up and rushed to meet the guys I was riding with to the conference. I knew that I needed to call Heather back but I guess that I didn't feel it was as important as getting to this conference on time. That will prove to be one phone call that I wished I had made. This was before cell phones were affordable.
I went on to the conference and it was the best day of the event. Steve's message drove right to my heart about being engaged with the family. He spoke about husbands taking the time and care to really listen to what your wife has to say. How God speaks wisdom into your life through your wife concerning your family. How she can be a real blessing to you because you don't have all the answers yourself. He talked about how taking responsibility and an active role in your home was God's calling to husbands and fathers. We represent the brand. I was inspired! I couldn't wait to get home and share what I had learned, with Heather, at the conference. We had not discussed any of it since the conference had begun. I remember how excited I was on the ride home. I wasn't talking to anyone in the car on the way home that day. I was just going over the new things that I had learned and how Heather would be as excited as I was. I couldn't have been more wrong!
The day divorce knocked on our door. Tweet This!
I pulled into the driveway and literally ran toward the house and rushed through the door. I found Heather sitting in the middle of the living room floor with our youngest daughter cradled in her arms and Heather was crying. Shocked, I said, "What's wrong!"
She looked up at me with tears streaming down her face and said, "I don't love you anymore and I want you to leave!"
Nothing could have shocked me more. I was totally blindsided and just stood there with my jaw hanging down. It seemed like an eternity but I knew, by the look in her eyes, that she was serious and I had a big problem on my hands. The thought came back to me from the conference, "Listen to what your wife has to say". It was not something that I was accustomed to doing. Normally, I would lash out and argue my defense. This was different. I had new information about my responsibility as a husband and she was not trying to pick a fight with me. There was no love in her eyes or voice and it burned my soul when she spoke to me. I had done something that had killed our relationship and I honestly had no idea what it was. All I knew, at this moment, was that she had something to say and I needed to hear it. However, she had been trying to say it for so long that it had killed her love for me because I wasn't able to hear her. Now that I was in a place to hear it, she had nothing left to give. We were at an impasse and I began praying to God in my spirit for direction. "Listen" is all that kept coming back in my mind.
It took some coaxing to convince her to talk to me about what was going on and that I was willing to listen. After some time had passed, she really opened up and unloaded her burden. It was a lot! She was upset and her anger took 5 years to reach this pinnacle. She was at the end of her road with me and the sad part about all of this, she was right. I had been a bad husband and father. I may have been a great worship leader and minister to the church community but I had failed at home.
Several hours would pass as she told me everything that she had been wanting to say for so long. I just listened intently and accepted the full responsibility for it all. This was probably the first time in our marriage that I actually heard her. I had been so selfish and self-seeking that I had abandoned my wife and children. I was an absentee father who lived in the same house. I didn't take any part in their care. I rarely ever changed a diaper or even watched them by myself. I insisted that they go to a babysitter when she was working because I was too busy to watch them. I am ashamed of the decisions that I made in this part of my life. I have spent over 20 years trying to make up for that. I vowed to myself and God that day that I would solely bear the burden of this disaster that I had created in our marriage.
I did not want a divorce. I still loved Heather as much as I knew how and I loved our children. I did not want them to grow up in a broken home. I had to do whatever it took to repair our relationship and I convinced Heather that day that I would change. Eventually that evening, she decided that I could stay but her feelings had not changed at all. She had built a wall to protect her heart from further damage. I was faced with an impossible task but I knew a God who could overcome the impossible and was determined to do whatever it would take from me to reconcile with her.
Let the healing begin Tweet This!
I abandoned it all the next day. I informed my pastor that I would be pulling back completely from any and all duties at church. I knew that I could not lead in God's house while my own house was in chaos. I abandoned all friendships and extended family. Heather and the girls would have my full and undivided attention going forward. I started watching and caring for the girls. I helped cook and clean. I poured myself into God's word looking for answers that would change my heart and understanding of a Godly marriage. I had no example to follow. I had been living my married life just the same way I had observed other marriages I was exposed to growing up. I had no one to call on for advice other than God. I became an avid reader of books on relationships to try and find answers. A few months later, I addressed this entire confession to our congregation one Sunday evening and I accepted the full responsibility for allowing it to happen. I never allowed anyone to put any burden on Heather.
I persisted in this mode of trying to be a good husband and father relentlessly. I exhausted myself attempting to prove to Heather that I was serious about changing my life and being the husband that she wanted and needed. Two years later, almost to the date, I was burned out and Heather still didn't love me or trust me. Her heart was cold toward me and she felt like I was only doing this to manipulate her. She believed that if she opened herself up to me again that I would revert back to the man that she despised. I was out of answers and I was tired. One day, I sat down with her and shared with her my heart and said...
I have done everything that I could do that would convince you that I loved you and I have changed. There is no more to me than this and I can do nothing else to prove it to you. If you don't love me then I am ready to let you go. From today forward, if you stay with me, it is because you want to stay. I release you to be free to live your life with or without me. I can no longer live this way.
Heather said that this was the first time in two years that she believed what I was saying and that I had changed.
A new beginning Tweet This!
That was over 19 years ago. Something changed in both of us that day. We each came to a new understanding of our relationship and how we could move forward. I realized that I could not force her to love me and freed her from the bondage to be free to choose her own path, even if I was not going to be a part of it. She realized that I was willing to lay down everything for her to be happy.
To this day, we walk in the freedom of being together because it is what we both want in life. There are no rules or obligations to stay. It's a choice that we make each day to live in peaceful harmony as a husband and wife. This does not mean that we are without disagreement but, over the years, we have learned to communicate with each other and understand each other's strengths and weaknesses. We vowed that day in the 7th year that going forward, we would keep all other influences (family and friends) out of our marriage. Outside of what we have confessed, in the marriage ministry and our children, no one knows our personal business. We don't talk to our parents about any relationship issues. We don't talk to friends about our problems. We seek only God to speak into our lives and keep our hearts pure and we talk to each other openly.
We have found a deeper, richer love in marriage that neither of us anticipated was even possible. Heather is the joy of my life. From our love, we have raised two wonderful daughters in whom we are very proud. We have raised them with all of the knowledge of our shortcomings in life. They saw us walk out of the depths of a broken marriage into a Godly marriage that is alive with compassion and love.
If you are struggling in your marriage, how far are you willing to go in order to save it? Perhaps being prepared for that situations can help you avoid it all together. We suggest that you prayerfully discuss this post with your spouse and if you find that you are headed down the wrong path, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Our testimony is a great story of God's undeserving grace and mercy toward us but the greater testimony would be to never face these problems at all.
Tim & Heather