Fear almost cost me my marriage. No, divorce was never an option; at least in the legal sense. But we were divorced in an emotional sense. Did you know that you can be emotionally divorced from your spouse? When trust is injured, vulnerability wounded and intimacy scarce, emotional divorce occurs.
Like a small turtle who crept out of his shell cautiously but quickly retracted when met with the harsh elements of his environment, so were my husband and I during a tumultuous time of our marriage.
It was close to the birth of our first baby. My husband’s job became unsteady, I was on maternity leave with a limited amount of paychecks forthcoming and our savings account was quickly depleting. I was nervous. Our world was changing. I could trust the Lord as long as our bank account told me that it would be our provision. As our financial foundation shook, so did my faith.
My circumstances were exposing my weaknesses.
~ Be vigilant. For your enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 1Peter 5:8
I tried to concentrate on the impending birth of our baby boy. I was so naive. I believed that the Lord would give me a beautiful birth experience. After all, I was doing everything His way wasn’t I? I wasn’t going to take evil painkillers or drug myself to get through labor. Sure it would be painful but it would end quickly. With my husband’s help and the strong hand of the Lord on my side, everything would be fine. Labor day came and stretched into labor days and my pain overcame me. With no reprieve in sight, a final attempt was made to bring forth my son from the womb with the suction power of a fetal vacuum. The vacuum cut the birth canal and I began bleeding profusely. I was rushed into an emergency C-section where futile attempts were made to control the bleeding. My son had to be pulled out of my belly with a force I will never forget.
~In pain you shall bring forth children. Genesis 3:16
The painful memory of my son’s delivery was burned into my mind. It burrowed its roots into every thought I had and decision I contemplated. I thought I could trust the Lord with the birth of my son but now that foundation was shaken too. Where was He when all this was happening? Better yet, why did I think God would show me favoritism and make my labor easy? Was I somehow the exception to Genesis 3:16? I began to doubt God’s kind intentions toward me. Trying to reign in my emotions over my painful experience and make sense of what I had been through, I was a mess. My post pregnancy hormones had me in a tail-spin. I was irrational, paranoid and distrusting of the world around me.
When Makaio was 12 days old, he developed symptoms of a stomach condition called Pyloric Stenosis and had to be airlifted to another island for emergency surgery. Outside of the hospital room door, I listened to his screaming cries as the nurses tried to give my newborn baby an IV using an adult sized needle. After 20 minutes of poking his veins, he just stopped crying. I wondered if he was he forever wounded. I, outside the waiting room, gave in to tears of hopelessness as a close friend comforted me.
Thankfully, my son recovered beautifully. But for me, the outlook was bleak and the beauty of my Hawaiian world began to fade. I was afraid; afraid that we were going to lose our savings, afraid that no one would be there to help me with my son, afraid that something far worse would happen to him. I was afraid that my husband would never find another job and afraid I could never trust the Lord again. Desperate to find a way to cope, I went to the doctor to get anti-depressants. But, I couldn’t bring myself to take them. Even though I felt powerless, deep inside I knew this was a spiritual battle to be fought with spiritual weapons.
~For our battle is not against flesh and blood…but against the powers of this dark world. Ephesians 6:12
Instead of casting my burdens on the Lord like the Bible teaches, I began projecting them onto the person closest to me. I forced my husband to take them. I yanked my fear out from deep inside and threw it at him. I pressured him to get a new job to alleviate my fear of going broke. I belittled him with lectures telling him he wasn’t a good provider. I nagged him to get the housework done because I was still recovering from surgery.
Slowly, he began to wear down.
Our day to day activities were haunted by my fears. I found it hard to leave the house. What if Makaio cried in his car seat? What if I needed to feed him while we were out? What if he got sick? The enemy’s voice whispered to me, “What if…What if….What if…”. I was nervous all the time over things I should have been able to cope with. I was always close to tears and scared that I would have to go to another hospital for something else.
~O May your lovingkindess comfort me…may your compassion come to me that I may live.
Psalm 119: 75, 77
I pressured my husband for answers to the questions that plagued me and found myself resenting him when he couldn’t explain. I then blamed him for not being a good spiritual leader. Afterall, he should understand the mind of God, right?
My anger toward Wouter turned to resentment as I fruitlessly tried to get him to take his eyes off the Lord and put them on me and my needs. I thought that if he would just see how horribly I was suffering, he would join me there, in my pain, and we could stand together once again.
My husband’s entire life as a Christian had been fueled by a supernatural amount of trust in God. And now pressure from me, his wife, his helper, was eroding that trust. I didn’t care, though. In my mind, the changes I wanted to see take place were for the good of our marriage. I had an agenda.
Fear, like a flood, was washing us away and heaving at our anchor.
Finally, after 7 months of hardship, I convinced him that we needed to move back to New York to recuperate some of our finances. He reluctantly agreed, even though he wasn’t sure it was what the Lord had planned for us. In our brokenness, we left our home in Hawaii.
~A wise woman builds her home; but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.
In the presence of my family, my anger toward my husband simmered and my fears were kept at bay.
The distractions diluted the tension between us and allowed us to co-exist without confrontation. I could see that my husband was distant. We had lost love’s initial purity and were reduced to a superficial friendship. I knew I was mostly to blame but instead of reaching out to bridge the space between us, I selfishly waited for him to come to me. When he didn’t, I felt deeply rejected. I wondered if he still loved me.
~Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is the tree of life. Proverbs 13:12
We spent an entire year enjoying time with family. It was a respite from reality and in the safety of the season, I slowly began to heal. The sense of security I lost began to return and as I took care of my son and began to experience joy in life’s simple pleasures. I saw how Makaio fearlessly trusted in my husband and I and I knew the Lord was inspiring me to renew my trust in Him.
One Saturday, I attended a women’s conference at church. I went alone, hoping for hope; longing for a miracle. I listened as the speaker told me to identify a past pain that altered the course of my life. I immediately knew it was the events that surrounded my son’s birth. She then told me that God wanted to use that pain to propel me forward into my life’s calling. That day I began to see that something good could come out of my suffering. My spiritual arsenal was being replenished.
~For I hope in you, O Lord… Psalm 38:15
I approached a friend for prayer and as she prayed over me, I felt free. At that moment, I named fear as my adversary and repented. I walked out of church a new person.
~He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth a song of praise to our God. Psalm 40:2-3
The storm settled and recovery efforts were underway; the life of my marriage needed rescuing.
In brokenness and anticipation, I went to my husband and tried to make amends. I exposed my sinful motives and confessed how fear caused my destructive actions. I asked for forgiveness.
My husband didn’t hug me or congratulate my victory. Although he was happy for me, it seemed detached and impersonal. I saw it as an indication of his hurt.
Had I really just expected him to take my hand, and walk forward into part II of our married life?
Over the next several months, I tried to make things right by insisting we talk it through. I kept trying to explain that the past was over and now we could move on. The futility of my attempts to “talk it out” made me realize that no words were going to make things better. Frustrated by the lack of restoration, the Lord showed me that I needed to be patient and just love my husband.
Dear Children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18
Wouter didn’t need to hear from my mouth that I had changed, he needed to see it through my actions. I could be trusted again because I trusted the Lord again. Time was the only solution.
And the work began…
Suddenly, I no longer cared about anything in this world other than recapturing my husband’s heart.
There was no circumstance, no consequence and no earthly concern of my own that would cause me to sacrifice his confidence in me for my own sense of security.
When fears arose over impending decisions, I looked to the Lord for my confidence. When finances seemed meager I looked to the Lord for our provision. When I wanted to plan ahead, I relinquished the future to the Lord.
Over the next three years, my marriage changed from my battlefield to my bastion.
Patience, love and sacrifice have reclaimed it from the grip of fear. When my husband looks at me, I know he sees me as his ally, friend and companion. Through our trials, the love we share has been purified. Many of the things we used to trust in have proven to be untrustworthy.
I’ve learned to guard my heart and fight to keep fear far away. Oh, it threatens me daily, desiring to become my captor. It uses the things I hold dear to manipulate me back into its grasp. I don’t know why God hasn’t delivered me from it completely but I now understand how Paul felt when, three times he sought the Lord to remove his thorn in the flesh and God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in your weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9. Amazingly, Paul goes on to say that he “will boast all the more gladly about his weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
May His power continue to rest on me in my weakness.
~When my anxious thoughts multiply within, your consolations delight my soul. Psalm 94:19
These days, when I think of my marriage I think of a diamond. It is the world’s most exquisite stone; sought for its beauty and durability. A diamond is formed from extreme pressure deep within the earth. Before it can be truly treasured it needs to be taken from the depths, refined and polished.
Pressure from the depths has strengthened my marriage, made it beautiful and given it infinite value.
I know my marriage will face further pressures, and even has already, but by faith, it will never be destroyed, only refined and polished.