Divorce, a Terrible Thing

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For those of you that have followed this journey through daring to love, the seemingly inevitable happened, Beth’s divorce of me was finalized on June 20th, 2011. I maintain that God’s Will was not done in this situation. That being said, God’s Will was not being done in my conduct towards my wife all the years we were married.

I see the failure in our marriage as a spiritual failing. I was to be the Spiritual Leader in our family and I never developed as that leader. I believe it takes 2 plus God to make a marriage great. A man of God fulfilling his responsibilities to his wife and children would more than likely result in encouraging the wife to live a God designed life also. Pure speculation on my part but I did see glimpses of this dynamic in my marriage.

God forgives and forgets, not so with we mere mortals. I did not know how to cope with the dynamo my wife was and certainly needed spiritual help to live successfully with her. My way of getting along was to go along and 9 times out of 10 this was not a problem. When I did not want to go along, I was pressured so strongly that I did 1 of 3 things, all with anger. I either refused to comply and faced her anger, complied, or left. The leaving was stupid and childish not to mention painful. Each leaving was with the intention of not coming back, then the pain came and I returned on my knees with promises that would be broken over and over again.

My wife was wonderful. Through her wounding she accepted me back dozens of times, only to be heart broken again and again. She forgave me much, so I love her much, ultimately she did not cancel my account of wrongs and states she had 16 years of walking heartbreak. I also held her to account for things that I had no right to hold her to account for. God is the Judge and God forgave us our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus, PERIOD.

The key I believe of a successful life, marriage and relationships is to accept God’s plan for forgiveness, for ourselves and forgive others as we have been forgiven and to turn our wills and life over to Him. There were so many missed opportunities in my marriage to step up to the plate, that if I had a double, I’d give myself a good butt kicking. Was Beth responsible for her conduct in the marriage, of course, but that was God’s job to correct not mine.

The Bible describes marriage as becoming one flesh. In divorce and in all the times I left, there is a tearing of that one flesh and it is excruciatingly painful! Do I blame my wife for wanting to bring this pain to an end? No. Do I wish she would have chosen the path of forgiveness, true forgiveness and trust God to fulfill His promises? I desired that and prayed for that more than you’ll ever know.

So now I’m attending Divorce Care, a Bible based course and support group. It promises healing through the only One who can heal, Jesus.

Day 13 Love fights fair II

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“Like it or not, conflict in marriage is simply inevitable. When you tied the knot as bride and groom, you joined not only your hopes and dreams but also your hurts, fears, imperfections, and emotional baggage. From the moment you unpacked from your honeymoon, you began the real process of unpacking one another, unpleasantly discovering how sinful and selfish each of you could be.” The Love Dare.

If you have been following my blog, you will notice that I have written about this day in the Love Dare before. I am in an entirely different place emotionally than I was then and that is an encouragement to me. I am faced with the finalization of my wife’s divorce of me, 27 more days. I ask myself why I am writing this blog since I am the only one in my relationship who desires a positive change. I still need the lessons of the Love Dare. The mental fog of emotional pain has lifted to a large extent and this writing is helping me process what went wrong.

I am still waiting to hear from anyone who is applying these principles in their marriage and how that is going. I have learned a lot about myself and am starting to understand a little more about the dynamic of my marriage. The dismay I feel at this time is based on my wife’s determination to end this marriage, her beliefs have undergone a radical shift in the opposite direction. My beliefs have been strengthened in God and I fully believe that a married couple can thrive if they apply the principles in this book.

Please prayerfully read Galations 5, especially when the talk is about the liberty we have in Christ. Many Christians today are exercising their liberty in Christ, but it is in fulfilling the desires of the flesh. We are to live in the Spirit and develop the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. The fruits of the Spirit do not lead us to divorce, but the flesh and our own desires do.

Rules of Engagement as suggested in “The Love Dare”

1. We will never mention divorce.
2. We will not bring up old, unrelated items from the past.
3. We will never fight in public or in front of our children.
4. We will call a time out if conflict escalates to a damaging level.
5. We will never touch one another in a harmful way.
6. We will never go to bed angry with one another.
7. Failure is not an option. Whatever it takes, we will work this out.

Pray for God to grow the fruits of the Spirit, Galations 5:22, in you, exercise them in all your dealings with others, especially your spouse.

Day 11 Love cherishes II

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Two illustrations are given in the Love Dare book on how we handle marriage. The first example is of an old car in need of extensive repairs, upon learning the cost of the repairs, the owner decides to get a newer model. The next example is of a crushed hand and the expense willingly paid to repair and save this hand from amputation. The authors comment that our marriages should be like saving the hand, cherish our spouse as we do our own bodies.

I have been amputated from my wife and it still feels like the wound has a long ways to go towards being healed. This has been described as a natural feeling, since we become “one flesh” with our spouse. The tearing apart of the “one flesh” does not follow neat lines and the wound is very jagged. Jesus came in part to heal the brokenhearted and I am relying on that healing every day. I pray for healing in my marriage daily, but I realize we all have free will and can do what we want regardless of God’s plan. I can exercise faith with things and strengthen my belief in God but my wife is free to do whatever she chooses to do, as am I, but I choose the marriage.

My stepson graduates this year from High School. He and I are back on speaking terms; he states that he was not angry, just too busy to get back to me for a week. Today I received an invite from my wife to an Open House for Garret, I don’t know if she thought I would come, but I am not emotionally incapable of attending. If the roles were reversed, I am certain my wife would have no difficulty in attending an event like this, which just illustrates how different we are emotionally. I did not make this decision by myself, I have a “Sponsor” who helps me decide what I am able to handle when I am unsure.

Eighteen years ago, my oldest daughter graduated from High School. My first wife had divorced me and I was in worse shape emotionally then than I am now. I was in the early stages of recovery and was able to attend her graduation and make a 2 minute appearance at her Open House. The similarities are present now, my first wife had reached a point where she “couldn’t take it anymore” because of my behaviors that are common to many alcoholics. I had much to learn in my sobriety and the hardening of my first wife’s heart towards me was not something she would change. I have now been sober 19 years, 7 months.

I can write all I want about my beliefs and the confidence I have in God to change lives and marriages, but if my wife continues on the path she is going, I will be spouting theory about God’s plan and work in marriages. I am fully confident that He can work miracles in the marriage of two imperfect people, because of all the cases of His miracles being worked in the lives of alcoholics and addicts.

If your marriage is in trouble or could use a boost, please cherish it enough to do all it takes to make it a great marriage. It is possible with God’s help, and it is worth it.

“Don’t let the culture around you (not even Church culture) determine the worth of your marriage. To compare it with something that can be discarded or replaced is to dishonor God’s purpose for it….it should be a picture of love between two imperfect people who choose to love each other regardless.” The Love Dare; parenthetical opinion is mine.

Day 9 Love makes good impressions II

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The first time I saw my then future wife, she smiled her 1,000 watt smile. If all that ever transpired between us was her smile, we’d both be happier people today.

I have worked through the Love Dare book several times, this is the fourth journey. I cannot perform the “dares” by request of my wife. I do seek God daily, several times a day even, on what I am to do in this difficult situation. Unless my wife has a change of heart, her divorce from me will be finalized in 31 days. I used to say, until just this moment, that unless God intervenes, the divorce will be finalized. I believe God is intervening, in my life as well as hers. God directs, urges, prompts us to do the right thing constantly and it is our choice to follow those promptings or not. We often receive bad counsel from other “well intentioned” Christians and relatives and friends.

One of the reasons I am sold on “The Love Dare” is because it relies heavily on Scripture and gives supporting Scripture for emphasis. There is a danger creeping in to Christian Counseling of “worldly” counsel. As mature Christians we need to be absolutely certain of what God says about divorce. God “allows” divorce due to our hardened hearts. Is that really a place we want to be? There obviously are some serious issues that need to be addressed in a marriage that is heading for divorce, I haven’t heard of anyone divorcing because their marriage was great.

So far in The Love Dare we have been encouraged and shown how to show patience, kindness and encouragement towards our spouse. Christians should recognize these qualities as being “Fruits of the Spirit”. My wife and I both need to grow up in many areas. The ironic and now not surprising thing to me is I embarked on a program for improvement in areas of my life that previously I had resisted. This began in January of 2010, by June of 2010; my wife ejected me from the house and her life. Ironic because we had been struggling for 17 years in the old way of doing things, not surprising because as Joseph Prince teaches, “when God begins a good work in you, the Enemy comes to destroy that work”.

Through all the years and difficulties my wife and I endured, there were times of such incredible joy and goodness, I’d have to be a poet to do the memories justice. I have absolutely no doubt that God has placed a tremendous love in my heart for my wife. I was immature, unforgiving, lacked the grace and mercy to fully develop this love, but it remains. I am not denying that my wife does not have issues also, but I know that with God’s help and submission to His Will, this marriage could be a shining example of what God can do with two willing believers.

As the authors encourage in this reading, greet one another warmly and with love. My memories are filled with the waking smile on my wife’s’ face and the joy she showed when seeing me again after even a brief absence. I am blessed to have many great memories amongst painful memories that are thankfully fading. Forgiveness of our spouse’s sins is an incredibly freeing act; accepting forgiveness through the shed Blood of Jesus is simply indescribable!

Instead of showing “Random Acts of Kindness”, be Purposely Kind! Grace, peace, and blessings…

Day 8 Love is not jealous II

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Love is as strong as death, its’ jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire. Song of Solomon 8.6 NIV

“Jealousy is one of the strongest drives known to man. It comes from the root word for zeal and means ‘to burn with intense fire’. The Scripture pointedly says, “Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy? Proverbs 27.4”

The authors of The Love Dare state there are two forms of jealousy; a legitimate jealousy based upon love and an illegitimate jealousy based upon envy. The “legitimate” jealousy occurs when someone you love, or who “belongs to you” turns their heart away from you and gives their heart to someone else. The authors do not go into depth in this area and an inclusion of “emotional adultery” might be in order.

With the advent and popularity of texting and Facebook, an increasing level of “false intimacy” is on the rise. Divorce proceedings are using emails and conversations lifted from Facebook and other electronic devices to prove infidelity. This area is complex and it is my opinion that relational difficulties are being left unaddressed, fueling the rise in online adultery. Some people have an insatiable desire to seek and acquire approval from the opposite sex. These issues often stem from childhood and plague adult relationships with the arousal of jealousy.

If we are to have committed and faithful relationships we need to be mature, in our beliefs, our understanding of our nature and the import of desiring only our spouse. I do not know the statistics on broken marriages that are able to get beyond infidelity, but I would venture to say it is rare.

All through the Old Testament we see the story of God’s chosen people turning away from Him and seeking foreign idols, other gods. They are called infidels and called out for their “whoring” after other gods. Yet, God time and again forgives them when they cry out to Him after discovering the dead ends of following false gods. In the meantime many lose their lives due to their adulterous behavior towards God. God is a jealous God and wants us to be faithful to Him.

From the very first sin, we chose to go our own way and ignore God, we see a diminished state for all mankind in the case of Original Sin and a thwarted glory for the man or woman of God who went astray and then returned.

God forgives all our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus. Most of the time we do not accept this provision for ourselves and hold onto resentments, which are just unforgiven sins someone has committed against us. Jesus died for our past, present and future sins. We are to forgive others as we have been forgiven. Yesterday I recommended a thorough listing of the wrongs or sins your spouse has committed against you. I urge you to go down this list item by item and forgive your spouse all their wrongs and failings towards you. New opportunities will arise on a daily basis for you to forgive your spouse, so let go of the past ones, put all their sins with yours, under the Blood of Christ.

We all have been forgiven by Grace, Mercy and the Love of God; we are to give away what we have been given. Forgiving your spouse or another sins, frees us up to love them, it does not justify or give them God’s forgiveness. We can only seek and accept our own forgiveness from God; our spouse must the same.

Quotes from “The Love Dare”

Day 7 Love believes the best II

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This is one of my favorite chapters in The Love Dare; it is also one of the dares that can be done even if you are separated from your spouse.

This lesson describes two different “rooms” one has in their heart. One room is the “Appreciation Room”, and on the walls of this room is written all the things we find most pleasing in our spouse. I agree with the authors, the more time we spend thinking on these positive things, the more gratitude we have towards our spouse. Most of the things written on these walls were discovered early in our relationship and we tend to not spend as much time there because of another room nearby.

This room that we find ourselves in too often is the “Depreciation” room. All the things that irritate us and things that we think due to frustration, hurt feelings and the disappointment of unmet expectations are plastered on these walls. I am one of the people the authors refer to as having written many hateful things on these walls. As they say, this is the place where people fall out of love. “Spending time in the Depreciation Room kills marriages. Divorces are plotted in this room…”

We are all flawed human beings and being married makes us more and more aware of just how flawed we are. What we have forgiven of ourselves for past wrongs, we tend to hold on to and be less gracious to our spouses. The things written on the wall of the depreciation room may be true, but we are not to concentrate on these things. This is where it gets hard, where our feelings are to be protected, but sometimes this comes at the cost of our relationship.

Love is a hard choice at times, but the opposite, the hardening of our hearts towards another, especially if it is our spouse, makes us hard. God does not ask us to do things He has not provided for. God does not ask us to do things that He has not promised to give us the ability to perform. This Depreciation Room is nothing more than the built up resentments and the articles of unforgiveness that we have towards our spouse, not only does it damage or possibly destroy the marriage, it prevents us from growing and being free in our emotions.

“It’s time to start thinking differently. It’s time to let love lead your thoughts and your focus. The only reason you should glance in the door of the Depreciation Room is to know how to pray for your spouse. And the only reason you should ever go in this room is to write “Covered in Love” in huge letters across the walls”. For those of us who have accepted the price Jesus paid for the forgiveness of our sins, we should remember the sins of our spouses are also covered by the blood of Jesus, totally forgiven!

The dare for the day asks us to get two sheets of paper. On one we are to write out the positive things about our spouse. Then we are to spend time writing down the negative things on the other sheet. We are to refer to the positive list and let our spouse know we are thankful for that characteristic.

Having done this exercise a few times, I would encourage you to be very thorough in both areas, especially the negative aspects; I’ll tell you why later. The positive characteristics will be added to daily as we begin to purpose to see the good every day in our beloved.

Day 5 Love is not rude II

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Today’s reading in The Love Dare deals with “rudeness”. “Rudeness is unnecessarily saying or doing things that are unpleasant for another person to be around. To be rude is to act unbecoming, embarrassing, or irritating. In marriage, this could be a foul mouth, poor table manners, or a habit of making sarcastic quips. However you look at it, no one enjoys being around a rude person. Rude behavior may seem insignificant to the person doing it, but it’s unpleasant to those on the receiving end.”

I was raised being shamed into “good manners”, many in my generation will recognize statements like, “kids should be seen and not heard”. We were taught at school, for me a Lutheran Parochial school, and at home, table, and classroom and playground manners. A stern and punishing adult was always present and any infraction was dealt with swiftly and corporeally. My home was a hypocritical teaching experience, “do as I say, not as I do!” and extremely violent in language and action.

Needless to say I was not properly equipped for a successful marital relationship, or any other relationship for that manner. I had my fill of physical violence growing up and absolutely did not want to bring that into my adult life. I somehow gave myself permission to have a sharp tongue and be sarcastic. I now believe, since my wife so convincingly, albeit not lovingly, drove into my thinking that sarcasm goes beyond rude behavior.

What I share in this blog is considered by some as poor boundaried, ill-mannered, and to me also, embarrassing. What I have learned though, is that by others sharing their “experience, strength and hope”, I receive healing. I am by nature a shy person, but because I have lived my life a certain way and not concerned myself with consequences to self or others, I feel it is my duty to share what I have learned that is good and healing. My children have their mother’s sensitivity to privacy and they are mortified by what I share.

I know there is value and relief in being able to share even our most painful memories. Complete strangers tell me their life stories after only minutes of conversation. Friends confide in me life stories that they tell no one else, why? I have no idea! Some of these stories are so painful, it is hard to listen to them and at times I fell exhausted after hearing them, but I always feel blessed. It is an honor to be trusted, to be perceived as someone who cares and someone who will not shame you for sharing.

When I was getting to know my wife, she confided in me, we had intertwining relationships, sometimes a good thing, other times not. This is bearable as long as the relationship remains on a friendship level. I was not mature or love-filled enough to handle all that information as we moved into an intimate relationship. I was sarcastic and ill-mannered because I was unforgiving, ungracious, and without mercy. It would be far easier for me to go through this divorce than to be grown by God to handle what I have not handled very well to this point. I am not interested in the easier path however, I want to grow and extend the grace, mercy and forgiveness that God has extended to me to my wife.

I love this quote from the Love Dare, “If you’re thinking that your spouse—not you—is the one who needs work in this area, you’re likely suffering from a bad case of ignorance, with a secondary case of selfishness. Remember, love is not rude, but lifts you to a higher standard”.

“Here are three guiding principles when it comes to practicing etiquette in your marriage:
1. Guard the Golden Rule. Treat your mate the same way you want to be treated (see Luke 6.31).
2. No Double Standards. Be as considerate to your spouse as you are to strangers and coworkers.
3. Honor Requests. Consider what your husband or wife already asked you to do or not to do. If in doubt, then ask.
All quotes are from “The Love Dare”

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