I don’t even remember the words he said – I only know they cut deeply. I was standing at the sink, my back to him, washing dishes, when the words reached my ears, and with the words, I felt as if an arrow pierced my heart. I felt the life-blood draining from me as I realized what depths our marriage had deteriorated to. I wanted to sink to my knees in despair, but just at that moment, a picture entered my mind.
Although my eyes were gazing out the window at our two sons playing on the grass in the back yard, my mind was filled with the image of a larger-than-life pair of scissors cutting through strong cords that were tying my affections to my husband. I felt an actual physical pain as the scissors began their task. My heart was breaking and the tears flowed freely, spilling onto my apron and down into the dishwater.
Almost immediately, I had the distinct impression that this was a necessary surgery – that, because of whatever was to come in the future, this needed to happen. Although I was confused, a strange calm was intertwined with the pain, and I felt an almost-physical presence comforting my bewildered heart.
Only now, looking back and recalling the events of the following four or five years can I see God’s tender mercies in starting the process at that point. With each following year, the cutting words increased, the distance grew, intimacy deteriorated, the criticisms and sarcasm intensified, until I hardly recognized the man I had shared a bed with each night for the past 27 years. I came to feel that I couldn’t ‘do’ marriage. Although I tried each morning to ‘put on a good face’ and “be of good cheer”, emotionally I was a wreck, and I felt I must be too confusing and hard to live with, and I couldn’t understand how else I could change to make things work.
In His wisdom, God knew my ties would have to be cut gradually and tenderly. For too many years I had nurtured those ties in every way I could think of. I vowed the “D” word would never be spoken in our home. I had taught countless Young Women lessons about the eternal covenant of marriage, and that if things get hard in a marriage, we just work hard and work it out. My heart was set – and I would not change. No matter what, I would stay married.
Yet, God knew what I didn’t know. He knew my husband was struggling with addictions that were decades old – hidden, smoldering addictions that had been slowly taking over my husband’s soul, and the longer they were hidden, the more power over him they gained. By trying to conquer them alone, he only gave them greater control.
God knew that as long as I stayed married to him, my husband had no reason to change. To the outside world, all looked good in our family. There was no reason to face the difficult battle of recovery.
In the book, “Sitting in a Rowboat, Throwing Marbles at a Battleship,” the author Andrew P. teaches that, because of the way the brain works, addictions can never be conquered alone or while hidden. They must be brought out in the open and fought with skilled help. (Thus, in Alcoholics Anonymous, each person wishing to speak stands and admits before everyone, “My name is ____and I’m an alcoholic…”)
He also states that, unfortunately, often the addicts who succeed best in recovery are those who have hit ‘rock bottom’ first – those who have lost everything, and now have nothing, before they realize their complete dependence upon God to heal them.
So over the years, as agonizing as it was when each of those cords was cut, it was preparing me to endure without him, and prepared me for my final act of love for my husband. If he was ever to admit his need for help, he had to be alone. He had to feel the pain of abandonment, and realize what he had risked, and lost.
God left the final cut to me. Picking up the phone, and dialing the number for an attorney took me hours. I could barely speak, and there were more sobs than words in that initial conversation. And though I knew it was best, the next months were torture. Him living at his mother’s, me living here, the children back and forth, my heart conflicted at the thought of it all – It was truly Hell on earth. Hell, yet with a divine hand constantly holding my heart as I tried to comprehend how this could have happened to us.
My husband started on the road to repentance and recovery. It was a rocky road, but he stayed on the path. Then, one fateful day, God took the scissors back. I may never understand it all. But the day my husband drowned, I had to admit once more that I was powerless, and that God was in charge. He had given me strength to survive thus far, and I had to believe He would carry me through this, also.
Since then, God has strengthened the cords that tie me to Him. He has shown me that through the years of my marriage, to feel safe, secure, and that my life had value, I had allowed my heart to be dependent on the things my husband said or did. I had created cords that were misplaced, and false. Instead, God is now showing me that true value comes from knowing I am His, and that no matter what happens in life, if I am true to what He asks of me, I can endure any trial – and, even better, I can find joy.
I love Job’s words, “ …when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”*
May you build strong ties to the Only One who can offer you true joy. May you feel His hand carrying you through whatever your journey places before you, and at the end of our journeys, may we all come forth as gold!