While I was down at Ft. Bragg, one of the women there asked me a question.
Hannah, Beth, and I had the chance to spend an evening out with two of the ministry women, Stephanie and Cathy. The five of us sat around a warm table in the far corner of a Panera, sipping hot tea and sharing giant cookies. The majority of the evening was spent swapping our testimonies, and hearing my best friends tell their stories reminded me of God’s ability to move in the lives of everyone, yet again. It reminded me of just how awesome, how big, how powerful and capable and complete He is.
Cathy, at one point, as I sipped my Chai latte, asked me about my parents. We’d swapped testimonies the other night, at the Thanksgiving party, so she knew about my struggles, my past, how God had rescued me from the black hole of my own despair. It sounds dramatic, and yet I can’t describe it any other way.
“Has seeing your parents go through this affected your thoughts about marriage?”
At the time, I told her what I thought to be true. My parents had separated once before when I was a senior in high school. I’d felt like I was dying, like the world was totally ending, and it was then that I wondered what the point was in getting married.
“Lord,” I’d said, my heart bitter, infected by cynicism. “Why would I get married, ever, if I will only become my husband’s enemy? Why would I enter into something so permanent only to be trapped with someone who will eventually stop loving me, and have them hate me for putting them in this position? Why?”
After my dad came back, and things were normal again, God sharpened my understanding of His purpose for marriage, that His intentions for marriage are not for misery, entrapment, pain, or hopelessness. He meant for it to be the closest thing to heaven on earth, should it be done right, with Him perpetually in the middle. Done wrong…well, you know.
And so I got it for a bit. I was overwhelmed by the way God created marriage, and I stood in awe of those couples who were so united in Christ that they were undeniably and affectionately committed to one another, even after decades of being together. Christ was who made the difference, it seemed, as I looked at other couples in my life, as I looked at my parents. And I now understood that God’s purpose for marriage was to more completely reflect His character, to display His faithfulness, His desire for relationship with His people.
Last night I took a break from homework and sat in the Pie Shop, eating a slice of cheesecake. One of my classmates, Alice, from psychology, came and sat across from me. We’d never talked before. I’d said hi to her once or twice. And now we were sitting and talking about our backgrounds, about God, about what she thinks about psychology and how that plays into her Christianity. She described life at home with her parents, and I was surprised to find myself asking if they were together.
“Yeah,” she said. “People actually ask me that a lot.”
We went on to talk about the divorce rate in America, how no one stayed together, the lack of commitment, love, loyalty, and faithfulness. All of these are things God shows us, so that we can show them to others. It was while I talked to her, and was inundated by the reality in which my family now lives, that my heart began to break all over again.
Now, after Cathy asked me that question, as God brings things to my attention and calls out the fears in my heart, I find myself struggling once again as I had senior year of high school.
“Lord,” I said, not bitter, but breaking from fear and hurt. “I don’t want to be like my parents…I don’t want to be the enemy of someone I’m supposed to be one with. I don’t want to marry someone and, twenty years down the road have them leave me, abandon me, simply because they can’t take it anymore. Am I not setting myself up for the same painful fate as that of my parents if I marry?”
I sat there in tears, my entire self hurting, the future changing and shifting and refusing to be clear. I knew things were shifting, and I knew God was moving things around in my heart. I knew He was holding me there, stripping away the layers of pride and pain to get to the scared little girl underneath it all.
And then He was there.
His answer hit me like a wave.
“You have to trust Me. You have to believe that I am enough, that I have this future, that I’m not going to let you fall. Even if your worst fears come true, even if things do fall apart, I am the Healer that can bring them back together, and make you new. I will not let you be moved if you’re standing with Me.”
Familiar passages came up, verses like “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22), like “I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” (Jeremiah 29:11), and like “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
God is bigger than the patterns of the world, and He is higher than the hurt and pain that seems to mark every street corner, every subway stop, every pair of eyes that passes on the sidewalk. He understands the brokenness of the world, and He loves the broken. He hears their heart cry, and understands the depths of their emptiness. And He has not left them without hope. Christ came for a reason, and He’s still moving, still living, and His ministry continues into this very hour. Oh, don’t I know.
So as I think about God’s plan and purpose for marriage during this finals month (yes, month), completing assignment after assignment and planning out different things, I sit in a warlike state of peace, if the two can coexist. The enemy has no claim on my heart, not when God is around, not when Christ fought and continues to fight so hard to make me His. And the battle will continue. But I’m not going in alone.
Meanwhile, I love my Dad. I pray for my parents, together and individually. I don’t give into bitterness and selfish anger. I let myself be upset. I remember that God loves Dad, and loves Mom, just as much as He loves me. I understand that love wins wars, and that God has given me a Sword that heals as it wounds. And I stand with the One who cannot be moved.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom he also created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” —Hebrews 1:1-3a