I have this friend who has struggled with her marriage relationship for as long as I have known her. Not a first marriage for either of them, but the first Christian marriage for both of them. Their religious belief is what brought them together initially, the opportunity for a better second marriage, becoming the focus of a union based on Christian living. But, as is often the case, it was not easy. There were the children from both marriages and its stressful dynamic. There were the unresolved issues from their first marriages, a carry-over from the hurt and rejection they both had experienced. Greater than these areas was a lack of understanding how to make love work for them. One partner seemed to dominant the relationship and the other had some areas that needed attention as well. Several times over the course of a couple of decades they went to their minister for counsel, independently and together.
They both wanted the marriage to be successful and to bring them happiness. But happiness seemed to elude them. They went through job losses, family troubles, and financial crises. Life was hard. Then it came to a point that one summer she left him, not for someone else but because something had to change. The love was there but the impossibility of it all had created a deadness deep inside her, and I assume, deep inside him as well. He missed her, wanted her to come back. People didn’t know what was going on. He seemed lost without her. With his promise to try to meet her needs and be more attentive (I’m guessing here), she came back a couple of months later. They recommitted their purpose together.
Those of us from the outside looking in could see a spark being rekindled. We saw them both trying. He became more gentle with her in his speech, more demonstrative, putting his arm around her as they sat in church. She was less to complain about him to her friends, less to voice frustration with him. They led in a Christian children’s ministry and made it blossom, keeping their stuff to themselves as they worked together side-by-side, choosing to be united in front of others. It couldn’t have been easy with their personalities and past history. He was the more vocal in public, expressing his desire to be the man God wanted him to be–and meaning it. He would ask difficult questions about living the Christian life, letting go of the things that hinder, and moving in the direction of a man who is a authentic seeker of God. It was good to watch. I saw in her, this same desire, to be a woman after God’s own heart. She would talk to me about her wishes in the spiritual realm. Something was still was elusive in their relationship. They couldn’t seem to connect on the emotional level, to feel things as one, to be in harmony.
Valentine’s Day, 2014, ushered in a new beginning for this couple. She told me about it in person a couple of weeks later. We were talking about other church-related topics, after I remarked how I have seen positive changes in both of them, I asked her how they were doing these days. She began to share a story with me. Tears came to both our eyes. Here is her story.
She walked in the door in the late afternoon on Valentine’s Day, weary from her work. The first thing she noticed was the table set all fancy like, with candles, nice dishes, and a bouquet of flowers to set it off. The house smelt delicious and her husband was busy in the kitchen. He greeted her with a hug and smile, and then returned to cooking dinner. The music was play as they ate by candlelight. This was different than ever before. There was something about him that was extra attentive. After they ate, he said to her, “Why don’t we dance?” They turned up the music and began to dance. Tears began to flow. He asked her why she was crying.
“This is what I’ve always wanted,” she said to him, while nestled in his warm embrace.
“I know you have. But I never knew how to give it to you, how to show you,” he replied, his voice expressing his regret.
“What happened? Why now?” She asked him.
With softness in his eyes, he replied, “Last night when we were singing that song about love at church with the children, my heart was touched. And then that lesson that Jennifer gave for Valentine’s Day explaining the different types of love, somehow, while she was talking about Agape’ love, I finally understood it. I can’t explain it, but suddenly I knew what I was missing, how I didn’t know how to live out my love for you, how I was keeping myself from expressing it to you. It’s like something clicked. I knew what I needed to do to show you how much you mean to me. I want to make you happy.”
My friend turned to me and smiled. I was so happy for her. I knew how much she had longed for his love and to rest in it (to feel secure in it), and how she had prayed for years that something would change between them. I asked if I could share her story on a blog as a way to encourage others who are discouraged with their mates and marriage. She nodded.
Miracles still happen. The wait may be long but that isn’t necessarily the end of the story.