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Beauty from the ashes of a crumbling marriage

Raised and now living in one of those churchy families that seem to have it all together, I was as shocked as anyone else when I looked around and realized that my marriage had crumbled into a million little pieces.
My husband and I were reeling from a series of stressful events and finally looked at each other and had to decide if staying married would be worth the battle.
We were fairly new in our town — one of the many stressors of the time — and I hadn’t had much of an opportunity to make friends. Now my best friend, my husband, was just as broken and wounded as I was and unable to offer comfort and counsel. It was, unquestionably, the loneliest time of my adult life.
I have a long list of things that I did wrong to get us to that point and through that time. Graciously, though, God allowed some goodness to seep in, and I actually got a few things right.
One thing I got right was to seek counsel from godly women who were committed to their own marriages.
Being new in town, I wasn’t really sure, but I suspected they would encourage me to stick with my own marriage, even through the tough times.
Turns out, I was right.
There were times when I grew weary, when I didn’t think I could go any further. These ladies would not let me throw in the towel, knowing my ultimate goal of a restored marriage.
It is incredibly humbling to confess to people whom you don’t know well that your marriage is a wreck and you need help, but the rewards are immeasurable.
These women remind me of the friends in Mark 2, who brought their crippled comrade to Jesus through the roof. They fought through the crowd and dug through the hardened mud of the roof with their hands so that their friend could make it to Jesus when he could not get there on his own.
That is what my friends did for me, carrying me again and again to the foot of the cross when I was too weary to get there alone.
Another thing we got right during that time was to go to marriage counseling. My experience leads me to believe that it is important to see a Christian counselor who will understand your viewpoint. Sometimes commitment to marriage seems logical or reasonable only from the eyes of faith.
For varying reasons, I don’t readily recommend “pastoral counselors” — generally those on  a church staff. If finances allow it, I highly recommend seeking a licensed therapist. Many insurance plans now cover at least a few sessions of marriage counseling.
We also simply left room for God to work. Honestly, most of this was because we did the other two things, and simply didn’t have the energy to do much else, like seek legal counsel or move out. But I look back at that time and realize that in the midst of what seemed like the blackest time, God was healing and comforting.
Through this time, our church family also did many things right to help us through.
They were trustworthy confidants, for one thing.
Struggling marriages do not need the rumor mill to add fuel to the fire, and my church family knew that. I never felt as if I were walking into the middle of a conversation about me or becoming the object of wondering glances from a huddled conversation.
Nor did I ever feel pitied or pathetic. People simply took their cues from us. If it was a sad day, they were there to listen and comfort. If it was a good day, they rejoiced with us and let us laugh with them.
If they had words of wisdom, it was God-honoring, grace-filled advice. Words of love, words of forgiveness and grace. Words that the world would not understand or condone.
They didn’t choose sides or seek out the ugly details.
Rather, they longed to see a restored marriage and worked beside us to make that happen.
They prayed. They counseled. They helped. They babysat. They cleaned our home. They bought us groceries.
They were digging-through-the-clay friends we didn’t even realize we had until we needed them — and we desperately needed them.
Putting my marriage back together turned out to be far more difficult a task than I ever imagined.
Honestly, it is the hardest thing I’ve been called to do thus far in my life.
Typical of the work in God’s kingdom, however, my marriage now has been redeemed and made more lovely and beautiful than I ever thought it could be — beauty from ashes.
May this redeemed covenant be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, as we show others what God can do with a tangled, unholy mess of a marriage.
SARAH STIRMAN, a freelance writer and speaker for The Coffee Group, lives in Abilene, Texas, with her husband, Troy, and their two children, Ashley and Riley. The Stirmans are members of the Southern Hills Church of Christ. Read Sarah Stirman’s blog at sarahstirman.blogspot.com.

  • Feedback
    I applaud your courage and thank you for your faith and resolve in dedicating yourself and your marriage to the Lord. I’m certain your example will be a testament to others who are struggling in their marriages. This story is proof that relationships can be healed as long as both parties put (and keep) God first.
    Paula Harrington
    Calvert City
    Calvert City, KY
    February, 9 2010

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