My husband and I celebrated our anniversary in May. Not our wedding anniversary, but the anniversary of the day our marriage collapsed and was reborn. Six years ago, my husband confessed to a porn addiction that had taken root in his life as a teenager and continued for fourteen years. He told me that the ideal marriage I thought we had was a façade, that he had been living a lie, and that what he had told me was over had never really ended.
That was the day I looked at my marriage and for the first time saw something I didn’t want. It looked like ashes to me– the smoky remains of disappointed expectations and devastated trust. What hope did we have of ever recovering the happiness that had defined our relationship the day before? It seemed like there was nothing left to hold on to.
And yet God has grace. He brings about healing when we are willing to turn our lives over to His will. Even the ashes become treasures. Even the pain becomes joy. If we seek His face in the middle of the fire, He will deliver us.
“I cried out to You, O Lord; And to the Lord I made supplication: ‘What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it declare Your truth? Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me; Lord, be my helper!” (Psalm 30:8-10, NKJV).
There is an oil lamp that sits on our mantle. It’s a small lamp with a brass reflector plate behind a chimney etched with a diamond pattern. We bought that lamp from an antique store on our first wedding anniversary. We took it home, and the very first time we used it, the glass chimney exploded. Shards of glass went flying. We carefully picked up the pieces, disappointed that our gift to each other had been destroyed. The lamp itself, of course, was still intact, but the beautiful chimney that enclosed the flame was shattered.
Unwilling to simply trash the sentimental lamp, we taped the pieces of broken glass together and placed the chimney back on its brass base. People snickered at the taped-up lamp on display in our living room and asked why we didn’t just chunk it, but to us it represented something very special and we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to give it up.
For years we searched for a replacement chimney, but it happened that this lamp was an unusual size and we couldn’t find the right fit. For nearly seven years we kept an eye out at every antique store we visited, but it seemed like a futile search– until the day we celebrated our eighth anniversary.
As part of our celebration, we, once again, visited an antique store and looked for something to buy each other. As we passed the oil lamps, we had to stop and check them out. We moved several chimneys around, picking up each one and measuring its base. The very last one we spotted was a small chimney in the back corner.
Its edge was etched with a diamond pattern.
Not only was it the perfect size, but it was the exact pattern of the chimney that had exploded all those years ago.
I now keep that little brass oil lamp on our mantle with the polished glass chimney perched beautifully in its place. And I keep that old taped-up, chipped and battered chimney on the mantle right beside it as a reminder of the gift God has given our marriage.
That first chimney shattered not long before Joshua’s confession. Just like the broken pieces of glass, in an instant our marriage exploded into unrecognizable fragments. But, together we committed to picking up the pieces. We taped it up as best we could and placed our marriage back on the foundation of God’s Light. For years we struggled, and at times we still do. But God has taken those shattered bits that we offered Him, and He has created something new– something that looks just like what we originally wanted.
May 20, 2013, was the hardest day of our lives, but every year since then it has been a day to celebrate. That was the day we stopped looking at what “we” could make of our marriage and instead began looking to God as our Anchor. “We” had made a mess of things, both my husband and myself. “We” had built a relationship based on falsehoods and unstable pedestals and selfish pride. What we had constructed had to be torn down because our foundation was built on the shifting sands of secrecy and misplaced faith rather than on the steady Truth of God.
Once we were able to see our marriage for what it was, we were able to honestly assess how far we were from God’s plan. We began to pray together daily for wisdom and the strength to forgive each other. Joshua began leading our home, and I stepped back into my role as helpmate. Things that we should have been doing all along became a reality. With Christ finally at the center, we started to catch unexpected glimmers of hope, and our love for each other was rekindled. As I heard it put recently, when you love Christ foremost, and the person you are married to becomes more and more Christ-like, you can’t help but fall deeper in love with that person. The more Joshua reached for the Word and devoted himself to acting righteously regardless of my reactions, the more I saw a man I wanted to stand beside.
Slowly, I began to see God mending our relationship. And not only mending us, but turning our story into something He could use for His glory. Because of His grace, today I can joyfully finish out the last part of Psalm 30: “…You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” (Psalm 30:11-12, NKJV)
Maybe you are looking at the broken pieces of your marriage and wondering if it’s possible to put it back together. Maybe other people are asking why you don’t just give it up, since all that’s left is a sharp reminder of the pain you have experienced. They don’t see the value of hanging on to your original commitment.
But God blesses those who hang on.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17, NKJV).
Keep looking for the treasure God will create from the ashes you offer Him.
For more resources on rebuilding your marriage after betrayal, visit www.thebeatenroad.com.