Every July, this comes to mind…
I learned very early that a couple may be married for a long time, yet they still may get divorced. It was something I had difficulty understanding. My parents were what I thought was happily married for about 17 years. Three years later they separated and 7 years after that they divorced.
Seventeen years is a long time to be happily married. I’m sure they had their ups and downs in that time, but generally, my early recollection was of very happy family times. Words that ring in my ears, came from my Mom when Mike & I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in 1996. She phoned to wish us a happy anniversary and when I told her it was 10 years, with her voice breaking with emotion, she said, “If only your Dad and I had known the Lord when we had been married for 10 years, things would have been so different.”
Married life is seldom static. Life has to be lived, work done, an income generated, home set up. All these decisions negotiated between two very unique individuals who have different points of view, personality traits and tastes. It is almost not surprising that the divorce rate is so high. It’s easy at the first hurdle to stumble – one person can’t get their own way and a massive argument ensues. Finally capitulation or compromise, but along with it the danger of the seed of resentment being planted in one or both. If that’s not dealt with, it would be easy for it to fester and spew out in anger at the next hurdle. Too many of those and the marriage is pronounced a disaster – we are too incompatible – there is no hope.
Yet, truth be told, that’s what faces every single couple that walks down the aisle and says, “I do.” Everything has to be negotiated. Each, at some time, have to give in to the other’s needs or desires. Marriage makes you less selfish. It makes you have to take into consideration another person. That is multiplied to a far greater degree when the children come along.
I spent the first 17 years of my married life uncertain that my marriage would last! People change. How do I know that the people in my marriage wouldn’t change too? Maybe I would change. Maybe Mike would change. Maybe life would become unbearable. Would I be able to push through?
Twelve years ago, something happened to change all that. It was a vulnerable time for me. We had been married 17 years! This was the stage that things really began to go wrong for my parents. Would it be the same for us? I was waiting to find out.
In 2004, 12 years ago this July, Mike became depressed. It was really, really tough. We did everything we knew how to lift his spirits and bring him out of this pit of darkness. I recall him lying in bed with the curtains closed – shutting out all light from his life. I sat next to him to pray with him. I told him we were going to praise the Lord in all circumstances and that meant while he was in this state of despair. We praised the Lord together. No change.
I persuaded him to get some exercise. I got him out of bed and we went for a run. Oh my word! He was like ironman. Once he started, he couldn’t stop. He bolted about 8km with me puffing and panting and eventually pleading with him to slow down. Still nothing changed.
He went to the church prayer meetings for prayer. But God seemed eerily silent.
I took him to the Transkei for a week’s holiday. On the day before we came home, he despondently announced ‘nothing has changed. I’m no different, or I’m worse.’
On returning home, I was advised that he should see a psychiatrist. While Mike lay in a darkened room, embracing the black and turning away from the light, I phoned the doctor’s rooms and made an appointment. I stood in the kitchen, looking out at the mountain, lost in thought. My nursing training was enough for me to know that the spectrum of psychiatric illness was very long. Mike could be on the worst side of it. How would that impact me? As that question filtered through my mind, I, instantly, in bold, black, khoki pen, caps on, retorted,
“BRING IT ON!
I love this man so much, I am prepared to go the distance and will do anything for him.”
A lightbulb went on in my mind at that moment. I am committed. I love him too much. He is my husband.
I will never get divorced.
I had heard my Mom say that when I was about 5 years old. She did get divorced. But as far as it depends on me, I won’t.
That was how I came to understand more of the depth of my love for Mike, but it still didn’t get him out of his depression. God did something amazing to make that happen. I’m sure I’ve blogged about it before, but for those who don’t know, I’ll quickly tell you. Mike had taken extended leave, but eventually had to go back to work. He was driving home one day. He stopped at traffic lights and a street child came to his window asking for food or money. Mike had neither. He spent the next 15 minutes of the journey berating himself for not being prepared. As he drove along the M3, at the last minute, he decided to get off at the Blue Route and go and buy some packets of nuts and raisins to have in his car for beggars. He was listening to CCFm. The news was on. After the news there is always a Bible verse. Mike prayed and said, “Lord, you know my need. Whatever the Bible verse says, I will do.” (This is not always advised, but Mike was desperate and God is sovereign.). The Bible verse came on, Matthew 7:7
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Mike responded, “Lord, you’ve said I must ask. I need help. Please help me.”
He parked his car and went into the Mall. As he approached the supermarket, he heard his name being called. He turned to find Hugh coming towards him. Hugh had been at the church prayer meeting and had prayed for and with Mike when he had gone for prayer. Hugh asked Mike how he was. Mike said, ‘not good.’ Hugh asked if he would like to talk about it and he took Mike to a nearby restaurant where they could talk. With the Bible verse fresh in his mind; and his prayer hardly out of his mouth, Mike was very aware that God had set this divine appointment up. Whatever Hugh was going to say, Mike was all ears. Hugh spoke words of life and healing into Mike’s life. The Holy Spirit used those words to wash over Mike and lift him out of his depression.
That was twelve years ago!
God is faithful. Faithful to the despairing. Faithful to the depressed. Faithful to the broken-hearted. Faithful to the faithful. God is faithful to those who fail. He is faithful to the married. He is faithful to the divorced. He is faithful to all who call on His Name.
As I wrap this up today, I want to end with the urge for you to keep committed to your marriage. If there is no abuse in your marriage and it’s just tough because you are butting heads and have conflicting opinions, keep going. Push through. Happier times are ahead.
I think if I have to find a Bible verse that could be a great one for a married couple…both of you learn it off by heart, it would be this one: (Philippians 2:3-4)
These are the days!
God bless you!
In His Grip,
Helga xx 🙂