Marriage: Made in Heaven? “My Story” + LINKUP

 

Marriage: Made in Heaven? "My Story" - How God took two broken lives and four divorces and did what only He can do.

We’ve all heard the phrase “a marriage made in heaven,” but it may bring to mind different thoughts and images. Perhaps, in your case, it’s of your parents’ marriage and whether it was a good one or a contentious one. Perhaps, it’s your own marriage and of the thoughts, dreams, commitments, even preconceptions, you had when you married. Perhaps, it’s the thing to which you look forward or the one over which you’ve become discouraged. Wherever you are, I believe this series will have something for you. So, whether you’re single or you’ve been married 50+ years, I hope you’ll tune in each week for this study, “A Marriage Made in Heaven?”

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival. If you’re new here, either to the LINKUP or you’ve come for this series on marriage, I look forward to learning together and growing in the ability to be the husband or wife God has called us to be and to have the kind of marriages that bring glory to Him. And if you’re single, I pray you’ll take away truths that will help you in any future marriage or help you minister to others who are married.

 

Last week I talked about the fact that marriage was created in the heart of God (Gen. 2.18-25), but that many marriages, even Christian marriages, fall far short of God’s design. I said that because God created marriage, we need to look at what He has to say about it, if we’re going to enjoy it as He intended.

We, also, need to understand what went wrong in the garden and how Adam and Eve’s decision to go against God’s command and eat the fruit had an immediate effect on all of life, including their marriage.

Today I’d like to share some of “my story” and how my story is really God’s story of redemption and grace.

 

Marriage: Made in Heaven? “My Story”

 

My story starts in Maine, actually Dover, New Hampshire, because the small down where my parents lived didn’t have a hospital of it’s own.

My grandparents were hard-working, “salt of the earth” people. My maternal grandparents were good, moral people, but not “church-goers” as they might have said.

My paternal grandfather died of cancer when I was a year old. My grandmother was raised in a Christian home, but didn’t always reflect Christ-likeness to others in the family. I say that only because it had a profound effect on my mother’s view of Christianity.

But I’m profoundly grateful that when my grandmother visited us once or twice a year, she took me with her to church. Seeds were planted. In fact, I remember praying a prayer to accept Jesus when I was about 12-years old.

While I do believe that God was working and drawing me to Himself at that time, I’m not sure if it was a genuine conversion. Only He knows, but I do know that He has had His hand on me.

Mom married my dad, who was five years older, three days out of high school. Their marriage was tumultuous from the beginning. I asked her about it once and whether or not she saw “red flags” before they were married. She said, “It’s just what you did. You graduated, then you got married.”

But my mother was a good mother. She was very devoted to her three children. I think she resigned herself to making us her life early on. She never worked outside the home while we were growing up. Somewhere along the line she decided that she’d stick it out “for the kids,” at least until we were all grown. When my youngest brother graduated from high school, she left.

My parents’ marriage was characterized by drinking and partying, mostly on my dad’s part, and arguments from which my mother tried to protect us.

My dad, in spite of it all, loved his kids. I don’t remember ever seeing him angry or mean, even when he was drinking. But, addictions are inherently selfish in nature and his cost his family in many ways.

Even so, I don’t remember ever feeling I had a bad childhood. I do remember wanting something different for my life.

Consequently, I married the first time at seventeen. Neither of us had any clue about God’s design for marriage. Like my mom, I focused on my children, but unlike her, I decided I would leave as soon as I could support myself. The marriage lasted less than seven years.

The next few years were a struggle: to make ends meet, to have any energy left for my two kids, and to see where my life was going.

I, eventually, got involved with an older man, in part, because I was just tired. This time, there were “red flags” all over the place, but I rationalized them all away. I left again after seven years of his drinking and infidelity. But he was a person who didn’t “lose.” It took me almost three years to get a divorce. Years that included his stalking me, drunken break-ins, threats to burn the house down with the kids and me in it, and on one occasion, kidnapping our young son. 

 

Being Good

 

Being good was important growing up. I remember asking my mom once how a person went to heaven. She told me you just needed to be a “good person.”

Growing up I never wanted to create more problems, so I became a “pleaser.” I did well in school. I didn’t drink, use drugs or party in high school. I wasn’t rebellious. Being a “good girl” became my identity.

As an adult, in my mind, I was a “good person.” I didn’t run around. I wasn’t contentious. I thought I was trying to be a good wife. But finally, I decided that “being good” wasn’t working and I might as well live like everyone else.

The next few months were not pretty, but God was working. You see I realize that since I had always seen myself as a “good girl,” God needed me to see that while I might have been more compliant on the outside, I was anything but good. I was “good” at figuring out what seemed right to me, solving problems the way I saw fit, and relying on myself.

He needed me to see that I was a sinner in desperate need of a Savior. While I was at my lowest and my worst, He brought my future husband into my life.

 

“Mike’s Story”

 

Mike’s story was strangely parallel to mine. He had married shortly after high school. Divorced after a few years, and remarried shortly after that. His second marriage lasted about six years and he was in the process of divorce when we met. He made it plain that he was not interested in getting married again and that was fine with me.

Instead, we started our relationship like so many others, doing what seemed right to us. Before long we were living together and trying to blend our two families, including my three children and his daughter.

But his story would not be complete without telling you a bit about his parents and grandparents. They, too, were “salt of the earth” people, hard-working and honest. His dad thought a lot like my mom, that you just need to be a good person and that was all that mattered. He did make a profession of faith shortly before his death, but he once told Mike that he just didn’t see the need for God or religion.

Mike’s mom, on the other hand, was a little like my grandmother and all of us, imperfect, but a devoted Christian and a prayer warrior … and she was praying for her son. I would soon be the beneficiary of those prayers, as well.

 

But God …

 

A few months later, Mike went home to visit his parents and while he was there, he went to church with his mom, mostly, to keep her happy. But when he came back and shared with me, something started stirring in me. I thought about going to church with my grandmother and how I felt when I did. So with a little “fear and trembling,” I asked if he would ever consider going to church. As we talked, we realized that what we had been doing hadn’t exactly worked, so we decided to “try church.”

With that unlikely beginning, the next Sunday morning, we were sitting in church with our kids in tow. A few weeks later, we both committed our lives to Christ.

I’d like to say, it was smooth sailing from then on, but we had a lot of growing to do. We had four kids from three of our four marriages. Two of them (my oldest two) were now young teenagers and not exactly excited about the changes we were making. And while my ex-husbands were out of the picture, Mike’s young daughter was being pulled back and forth by loyalty issues, anger, resentment and jealousy over the new children in her father’s life.

But God was at work.

That was 34 years ago. We’ve had plenty of ups and downs, in our marriage and in our family. We’ve had to live with the knowledge that our divorces and other bad decisions have impacted our children in far too many ways.

But as we’ve grown and come to understand God and His sovereignty, we know that it’s part of what He desires to use in their lives to get hold of their hearts and to conform them to the image of Christ.

Have we arrived? Have our children? No … far from it, but 34 years of following God have taught us to stay faithful, to continue praying, to speak the truth in love, and mostly … to trust Him.

And I can tell you that we are more in love than we ever were at the beginning. God has taken our two broken lives and done what only He can do.

After years in the business world, He put us in full time ministry. My husband serves as Pastor of Counseling and Discipleship at our church. I am certified as a biblical counselor, though I recently retired from full time ministry.

Much of the counseling we do is marriage counseling. Someone might think that’s strange, maybe even wrong, that a couple with four broken marriages between us would be counseling others … but I believe that’s God.

Only He could use a former murderer like the Apostle Paul to spread the gospel as the greatest missionary and church builder. Only He could bring about His purposes in our lives and only He can do the same in yours.

We often share our testimony in the course of marriage counseling. We tell couples who want to give up on their marriages that living life our way led to disaster and living life God’s way is the reason we’ve been married 34 years and why we have the kind of marriage we do.

And to those who say … “Well, getting a divorce worked out OK for you,” We say, “Yes, it did. And if you’re willing to go through the heartache we did to get here, to see your kids suffer and struggle the way ours did, to suffer the financial devastation divorce causes, and to live with all the other consequences we did, it might work out OK for you, too.”

You see we all make choices. Even as believers, we can choose to live life our own way and do what seems right to us. But choices have consequences and, even when we repent and seek His forgiveness, He doesn’t remove all those consequences.

Galatians 6 tells us:

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

And Hebrews 12 says:

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

      “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
       Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;

For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 

The good news is, God has a better way! If we trust and obey Him, He will do what only He can do.

Next week, we’ll dig into our study of marriage, God’s way. I hope you’ll come back.

Blessings,
Donna


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Marriage Made in Heaven?

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32 thoughts on “Marriage: Made in Heaven? “My Story” + LINKUP

  1. What a privilege to read your story, Donna. Naturally, I assumed (from all the wisdom you share here) that your life and marriage have always been what they are now. God has certainly taken you to school in some pretty intense ways, but what fruit is now being borne from all that struggle.

    So glad that you have the rich experience of drawing upon the grace of God in order to share its beauty and availability with those to whom you minister!

    Thanks so much for opening up those pages of history!

    • Thanks for your encouragement. I find that it does open doors with those who think it’s easy for me to give some piece of advice because I’ve lived this idyllic Christian life. But God gets all the glory for any good He brings out of it!

  2. I too was a “good girl” growing up. I needed to see what a miserable sinner I was. But unfortunately, after realizing that I began to think God must not love me anymore since I was a “bad girl.” Took me many years to grasp His grace! But Oh, the joy I have now!! Blessings!

    • Thanks so much for sharing, Liz. I think you’re experience is one many go through! I, definitely, went through some of that. Have a great week!

  3. My Grams was a very marking person in my life. I can relate to that. She was my first mentor in faith, and I’m still learning from her legacy as I apply memory to wisdom through the years.
    Happy Tuesday, from the Tuesday Talk Link up!
    Megs

  4. Thank you Donna for sharing your story. What an amazing journey that led you not only to your current husband but to Christ. God is so good at redeeming our lives. I am so glad I stopped by today. Blessings!

  5. We have much in common. I am on my third marriage, my husband his second. We’ve been married almost 16 years. I have to pinch myself and remind myself how much God has blessed me. Thanks for sharing your intimate story of testimony.

    • Thank you, Mary, for reading my story and taking the time to let me know. Isn’t it amazing the journeys He takes on and the blessings He provides, in spite of us! Glory to Him!

  6. What an amazing testimony and shared story of God’s redemption you and Mike have, Donna! Thanks so much for your willingness to lay it all out there for us so that we can see just how powerful, forgiving and loving our great God is! I’m sure this will bless many and I pray it brings many to the Lord as well.

  7. Thanks so much, Donna, for inviting us into the story of your life and how the Lord intersected it with His love, grace, and mercy to bring you to Himself. His testimony in us is powerful indeed! After 52 years of marriage I can say I agree that there are no marriages “made in heaven”. The position your husband holds and the one you have retired from are ones I retired from two years ago. When I was in private practice prior to serving on a church staff, most of my clients were more interested in whether I was married and a parent than the professional credentials that hung on my wall and I had worked hard to attain. I don’t often take time to comment, but visit your site most every week. Blessings on your commitment and obedience!

    • Thank you so much, Pam, for your encouraging words. And congratulations on 52 years of marriage. That’s no small feat in today’s world! I’m so glad that you stop by regularly. That’s a great blessing to me. Thanks again!

  8. Thank you so much for being transparent in your life. I was married to my ex for almost 22 years. We got married in church and (I thought) did everything “right.” But I learned that he was having an affair and even though I tried for 2 years to put our marriage back together it wasn’t to be. Our only daughter was crushed and we had many hard, heartbreaking years but THANK GOD He was at work as you said. Today my daughter is married to a wonderful man and back serving God. I met a wonderful man 15 years after I was divorced and God is blessing us. I think people need so much to know that God can take the shambles of our life and put them back together again. Thanks for giving hope to lots of people today and may God’s continued blessing be on your life.

    • Thanks for taking the time to share your story, Rebecca. It’s hard going through something like that, but He is faithful to turn it for good, isn’t He? What a great testimony!

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