I can recall as if it were yesterday how brimming with confidence I was in May of 1979, convinced that Kathy and I would have the perfect marriage. I really believed that. When I pondered the divine, supernatural way that God had introduced us to each other in the fall of 1976, the incredible way that God led me to ask Kathy to consider the possibility of a future marriage together after only 2 weeks of meeting her, the way she responded as she stopped in her tracks as we walked that soccer field by the towers housing of her university, and she looked straight at me with those beautiful, trusting eyes and said without hesitation, “Mark, I have been wondering the same thing for the last 2 weeks!”
Friends, I am telling you, God was all over this relationship, the way we met and the very circumstances of how we met. There was no doubt in my mind that this was the divine intervention of God and a direct answers to my prayers. I was convinced this is going to be incredible, wonderful, and sublime!
The next almost 3 years of our relationship and engagement were filled with the most unexpected, difficult trials and hardships you could imagine. Things happened we could not possibly have controlled or would have ever chosen. Yet those very things seemed to forge us together even more. We knew with even greater confidence that this relationship was ordained by God!
By the time our wedding day came in May of 1979, we were just certain that wonderful, glorious days lay ahead for us. I knew I could never love anyone the way I loved Kathy and felt such deep overwhelming feelings of passion and devotion for her.
Soon after our wedding, and in the weeks that followed, I began to have a shocking and rude awakening! WOW, MARRIAGE IS REALLY, REALLY HARD!!! WHAT IS GOING ON!?
I found myself dumbfounded, confused, and perplexed. How could this relationship have gotten so difficult? Things were coming out of me and things were coming out of Kathy that were just so unexpected. I was only 22 then, and looking back, there are some things I realize now that I did not see then, or even begin to grasp in those early days, weeks and years.
First, the truth is the previous almost 3 years of our relationship and engagement were filled with some great traumas, and incredible pain and stress. We had suffered a terrible rejection and persecution by close family members. We were accused of some awful things by these family members. We were in a terrible, life-changing car accident, the consequences of which left my only car totaled and my fiancé with tremendous, life-altering injuries and much pain! The result was that even though we could not yet get married because of family complications, Kathy couldn’t really work, except for a little part-time job because of her injuries and pain. As a result, I was paying for my place to rent and hers, and we were living through tremendous financial difficulties. This was a very difficult life adjustment for a young woman, like Kathy, who had been a part of her university’s National Championship cross country team, and one of the first few women to ever run the Drake Relays 26-mile marathon. Kathy could no longer run without tremendous pain. She had been the picture of health, strength, and fitness in the previous years of her life.
To add to that, after waiting almost 3 years for important family members to give us their blessing, they finally did. They said they would come to our wedding. We were thrilled, only to be crushed when they said two weeks before the wedding that they would not be coming! So we postponed the wedding, calling almost 400 people we had invited to tell them we had to postpone our wedding. My fiance was crushed, I mean crushed. Two months later we finally married, but those family members never did come!
In fact, the only way we even took a “honeymoon”, if you can call it that, which was a trip to Devils Lake in Wisconsin, staying at a roadside motel was because enough money came in our wedding cards to have an extra 400 dollars to go!!
This was all incredibly painful, traumatic, stressful, but honestly, at the time Kathy and I took it in stride, or so we thought. I realize now the stress, trauma, and pain of all of it we never really processed or even fully understood and it took a great toll on us. I believe this is part of what started to come out in our early weeks and months of marriage. We were just already worn very thin, our nerves on edge from the previous 3 years of ordeals and injustices, and we didn’t even realize it.
That, however, was only a part of the picture. I began to see and grasp that I was a very flawed and imperfect man. Of course, we both were. But I was especially seeing the tremendous flaws of my own humanity. This bothered me greatly. I wanted to be a godly Christian man, I wanted to be kind, thoughtful, loving, self-controlled, and Christ-like in everything I did. I had thought I was that man already! Holy smoke was I falling short, and soon it became incredibly discouraging. I was stunned by my own imperfections and shortcomings. For me, it seemed that marriage was bringing out the worst in me, and I hated it. Words cannot adequately describe the overwhelming sense of self-loathing I felt, the shame, the anger, the frustration, and the guilt. I wondered to myself, will this ever change?? Will I ever change? Will Kathy ever change? Will our marriage ever change!?
Let me say before I go on, there is great hope ahead for each of you reading this. Looking back today after 40 years of marriage, I can tell you with the absolute full assurance there is wonderful hope! God is able to help in any and every marriage situation. God is able to bring encouragement from despair, God is able to bring good from bad, God is able to take even the most imperfect man or woman, and with his divine, magnificent grace, bring forgiveness, love, change, progress and a joy in your relationship that is such a wonderful and beautiful thing. God can help us sort through all the muck, and yuck, and the stuff that at times, has to be unraveled or understood or talked about, even though it is painful to do so.
Just give God time to work and
work with God over time!
Your marriage is a lifelong journey that has both good and bad. Joy and sorrow. Sickness and health. Progress and setbacks. Great days and bad days. Times of great clarity and unity and blissful harmony, and times of great confusion, perplexities, misunderstandings, and strife. Becoming one with your spouse is not an easy thing at all. Each of us has flaws, weaknesses, and shortcomings that will greatly frustrate or exasperate your spouse. You are not weird or living in a failed marriage when you experience this. You are living in a real marriage made up of two imperfect human beings.
I hit a wall about 3 years into my marriage. I was truly overwhelmed with guilt and frustration. Foremost at myself. I could see more clearly than ever that I was not the man I wanted to be. In truth, I felt hopeless to change myself. I felt defeated, and I felt like a total failure. In every way, I felt like a failure. As a husband, as a provider, as a man, and as a Christian.
Through a set of very difficult circumstances, deeply hurtful, humiliating circumstances, I began to realize I did not really understand God, nor what the Gospel really meant. I knew I was saved, but I felt lost if you know what I mean. I decided to try something I had never done before. I decided to give a listen every single day for a year to some messages on the love and grace of God and the forgiveness of God towards us. I listened on my Walkman as I drove my sales route during the day and as I sat at the video arcade at my night job. I really did listen every single day for a year!
I must admit in those first days I began to listen to them, I had a hard time believing what I was hearing could be true. I was stunned by this understanding being shared on true Gospel grace. I was thrilled to hear that my sins, all my sins, even the ones not yet committed, were truly already forgiven by God, that Jesus died for them all, and I did not need to feel guilty and ashamed. That God was not ashamed of me, that God dealt with me on the basis of His grace to me and not what I deserved or even felt I deserved. You may think this is so basic, but my friends it is not! It is revolutionary to a life. As I began to bask in the unearned, awesome love of God for me and experience His grace in my life, allowing myself to enjoy his grace even when I made mistakes, something tremendous started to happen. As I began to allow myself to feel forgiven, I began, slowly but surely to change. I began to see that my great opportunity in marriage was to treat Kathy the way God had and was treating me. God saw me as a new creation and I began to see Kathy as a new creation. I began, slowly but surely, to treat her differently. This didn’t happen all at once. I didn’t become the perfect husband, and in fact, I still am not. However, something really began to change.
There is verse in Colossians that says, “You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember the Lord forgave you! So you must forgive others!” You see, I never really grasped before that God forgave my faults, that God makes allowance for my faults because of His great love, and what Jesus Christ did. God does not beat us up for our faults! He has forgiven them because of Christ. We have to make an allowance for each other’s faults in marriage and stop beating each other up. We must show the grace God showed us and show that to our spouse! We forgive as He forgave us! There will be faults and flaws in your spouse until the day you die!
GRACE IS GIVING SOMEONE SOMETHING THEY DON’T DESERVE, OR EVER EARNED.
This is the greatest truth for a good marriage. This is the foundation upon which we build and grow, learn and are transformed. If we miss this, then, and only then, is there no hope.
God’s grace gave me the freedom I never had before to admit my weakness, to acknowledge my failings and it no longer destroyed my self-esteem or made me feel like a total failure. Therefore, I could now admit and acknowledge I made a mistake, instead of being so defensive and always wanting to prove to Kathy that I was right or that she provoked that out of me and it wasn’t really my fault.
This Gospel truth of grace allowed me to listen to Kathy in a way I never did, or could before. I often felt attacked by her comments or her observations. They unsettled me. I felt Kathy was picking on me, or picking me apart. As time went on, and Kathy and I grew in the grasp of God’s great love and grace, it helped us greatly in listening to each other as we have had to work through many conflicts over the years. Many frustrations, many misunderstandings, and difficult things. God’s grace helped me become a more sensitive, understanding man. God’s grace helped Kathy become a more sensitive and understanding wife.
The grace of God is your most powerful tool for building a good, stable marriage.
I believe these messages will help you tremendously in understanding this imperative, divine truth. Please take time to listen.