In Revelations 2: 3-5, Jesus says:
3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
I don’t know anything about a global growing indifference toward God, by the Bride. All I know is my story.
I was over love and it was a good thing, as far as I could tell. I had suffered disappointment after disappointment, in two marriages and other relationships, and being open to love meant having hope. I was sick of hope.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick
My heart was sick. That is how my 2017 began.
I was not happy in my marriage, but I could not bring myself to leave. I was extremely bitter and filled with anger and resentment towards my husband (especially).
Outwardly, I smiled and had a knack for loving and encouraging others, but I was about as self-righteous and unforgiving as they come. All you had to do was ask me about my marriage, and the ugliness would seep out, exposing me for the fraud I was.
Disappointments grew into anger. Anger became bitterness. Bitterness bred contempt. And contempt gave way to malice.
Malice led to sin. Bold. Faced. Sin.
Initially, I felt like my actions were justified. It felt like sweet revenge for a while, but my life went down a path I never imagined it would go. And suddenly, I was Eve. God exposed my nakedness (sin) to me, and I was ashamed and terrified. I desperately cried to Him for forgiveness and escape.
Suddenly, I remembered my first love. The relief of knowing I am forgiven and free was indescribable, I clung to God’s Word for dear life. My need for God’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness was palpable.
My level of intimacy with God deepened exponentially after that, and for that whole ordeal, I am thankful.
BUT WAIT! There’s more.
Open Heart Surgery
God spoke these words to me, “Confess your sins to your husband.”
I knew that had to be God’s voice.
I confessed. It was hard, especially since this didn’t help my marriage at all. My bad marriage was now 8,560 times worse, but I was still thrilled to be free of sin. God and I were good. Zu and I…not so much.
Suddenly, the shoe was on the other foot. I was the object of his contempt, and it hurt. (Zu, I am so deeply sorry for how I was towards you for years. YEARS!)
Zu was the one throwing stones, and I was the woman.
As badly as I wanted him to snap out of it, I recognized my mirror reflection in him. There was nothing I could say to him, just as there was nothing he could have said to me so many times before. It was hopeless.
We were done. Our marriage was on its last run. I could feel it and it made the air seem thicker, more burdensome.
I was at war, but my marriage hardly felt worth fighting for.
I failed at marriage once before and I see the pain it caused all involved parties. In fact, I have seen the unforeseen results of many broken marriages, but, I desperately wanted to see if God could fix a marriage as bad as mine, despite all the pain and daily growing evidence to the contrary.
My days got pretty bad. The nights were worse. Zu moved into the fifth bedroom. The kids were affected. It was hopeless.
Then an unexpected, extended visit from my mother ignited a change in me.
(Sidenote: My God is so good. Those were the worst days of my life. I was in a spiritual battle for my family, so he sent the best battle buddy you can hope for–His best. Who else do you want with you, when you are in trouble, but your Mama? I would have never asked her to come, but God knew what I needed and sent the one person I could really trust.)
During those 20 days, God allowed my mother to become the living personification of the internal battle going on in my head. All of her doubts, fears, and worries perfectly reflected my own heart. In one moment she would extoll the wondrous power of God, but in the next moment she would point out my husband’s more obvious shortcomings. Her words highlighted the inner turmoil raging inside of me: To believe or not to believe.
Was I going to trust God with my marriage or walk away?
My mother left the week before Thanksgiving. I still was on the fence, moreso, but at least I acknowledged my situation.
We stayed home for Thanksgiving and hosted one guest, a new friend, Valeria. We enjoyed a good dinner, prepared by my husband, though he chose to spend the evening isolated in his bedroom, to the disappointment of our children (and me).
After dinner, Valeria and I talked for hours. It was a good exchange. Then, she asked if she could share an observation.
She said, “Once when we prayed together as a small group for your marriage, I felt God’s Spirit say ‘Meek is lukewarm about her own marriage.’ We don’t really know what you want.”
Valeria was right. I was double-minded.
6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
–James 1: 6-8
I didn’t resist her accusation, though I felt exposed and humbled. God revealed to her (and me) my lack of faith and passion for my own marriage. Though I had never actually prayed the words, my prayers up to that point were more like “God, please fix my marriage…or don’t.”
I had been double-minded for so long, no wonder my prayers went unanswered.
That night (well early Friday morning, since it was after midnight when Valeria left), I prayed differently. It was a Black Friday I won’t soon forget.
Prepped for Surgery
In the wee hours of the morning, I wrote out this prayer:
Redeem or replace my relationship with Chris [Zu] for a wonderful one. Create in each of us an irresistible mate, someone we are so proud to do life with, that we both feel whole, loved and supported. No more Spy vs. Spy, but true partners in everything, especially in You.
A tall order.
You cannot know the extreme extent of the pain we mutually inflicted or the damage we mutually endured. The worst part was it was mostly at the hand of our own partner. Trust me, when I say that I was asking for a miracle.
In Capable Hands
Even though I prayed, the day started as evil as any other. Another friend visited, for Family Game Night and Zu didn’t come down at all. Eventually, the slick remarks, passive-aggressive gestures, and eye rolls of the day erupted into another monster of an argument. Well, Zu argued, I quietly resolved to just divorce him on Monday, once and for all. Despite my prayer, it just felt so completely hopeless.
In the middle of our argument, just as I was finally about to speak, Zu darted outside to smoke a cigarette. I was fuming.
Moments later he returned, smiling, in a suddenly jovial mood. This was an unwelcome change in energy. I was suspicious. He asked for a truce as he beckoning me outside to talk. I rolled my eyes.
“Meek, come talk. As your husband, I am insisting. This will be funny to you. I promise,” he pleaded.
I ignored him. He insisted all the more.
“Meek, baby. God is speaking to us. Come talk,” Zu insisted. “I’m not kidding. Look at the daily verse.”
Zu and I subscribe to the YouVersion Bible app’s Verse of the Day.
“Don’t you dare bring God into our B.S.” I snapped and stormed upstairs to my bedroom. (We were sleeping in separate rooms at the time.)
I was so determined to shut Zu out that I resolved to go to bed early. So I locked the door, changed into my pajamas, and climbed into bed. But curious, I did peek at the daily verse. It was 2 Chronicles 7:14:
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
I spoke into the darkness, “Okay, God. I will do these things:
- Humble myself
- Seek Your Face
- Turn from my wicked ways
And I will see if you heal the land. ”
I called downstairs, “Okay, Chris. You win. Let’s talk.”
The following week, I kept 2 Chronicles 7:14 in the forefront of my thoughts. I meditated on it. When Chris challenged me, I remembered to stay humble. It was only difficult the first time, but humbling myself was not really that hard, as hard things go. I didn’t immediately react to provocation, which is unnatural for me. I was surprised that it wasn’t more difficult.
Then Thursday came. That Thursday, we were thrown several curve balls, all related to finances. Besides the marital stress, our financial situation was dire. One too many bill collectors called me in rapid succession that morning and I had a meltdown and essentially told Chris that I was leaving, not divorcing him, but leaving him to move the kids and I somewhere more affordable. The effect was the same as if I had threatened divorce. Chris and I erupted into another big argument. My humility flew out the window and we were once again at verbal war.
Then, I got a random text. It was Dr. York, the marriage counselor we saw briefly in 2016. His well-timed text message led to a rare impromptu phone counseling session, where I just vented. Dr. York only asked me questions and let me ramble. I am not sure how counseling works, but Chris was in the room “ear-hustling” so he heard my brokenness. I heard it too. I got off the phone with Dr. York and Chris and I didn’t speak much after that. Everything felt hopeless.
The next day, early Friday evening, Chris approached me meekly and asked, “Have you read the verse of the day?”
I had, but it didn’t especially relate to us, from what I could gather. It was Ephesians 2:8, a verse that is super important to Christendom, but not especially relevant to our current situation, or so I thought.
“You have to read the entire chapter,” He said. “Will you listen to it with me?”
I didn’t hesitate. We went into the half bathroom and closed the door to escape the noise of the children. We listened to the narrator reading Ephesians 2, but we heard the voice of God:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
We wept. We were humbled. Changed.
We started the following week strong. We went to church together that Sunday. Barb, the pastor’s wife and No. 1 advocate for our marriage, asked how we were doing and all we could do was babble that God had become our cosmic marriage counselor and we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was cryptic sounding, and maybe all this sounds a little strange, but we had no other words to express the profound transformation we were sensing in ourselves and in our marriage.
On Monday, at 10:00 my supervisor called to inform me that I was getting a larger Christmas bonus than originally anticipated and that it would arrive earlier than I originally anticipated. I could barely speak for the enormous sense of relief that washed over me. While I was still on the phone with her, Chris emerged, phone in hand, announcing to me that he had a new job and would start the next day. (He had been laid off months before.)
We knew it was God.
The rest of that week was busy but good. Chris started working, twelve hours most days to help us catch up on bills. I managed work, kids, and the house. There were no romantic gestures or date nights, but Chris and I slept in the same bed every night and even held each other.
The marriage finally felt like a partnership. We were working together. The kids were getting the time and attention they needed because we weren’t busy planting and dodging each other’s landmines. The tension was gone and that was a blessing.
Then Friday happened. Noticing a pattern?
I Know What “Healed” Feels Like
Chris came to me and asked me to listen to something. Another verse, but not from the Bible.
Chris played me a song by the rapper Meek Mills that (though ungodly in its nature and content) perfectly captured the story of Meek and Zu, how it all started. Word for word. It was our story, set in song, and it was a beautiful real-life love story that I had somehow completely forgotten until that moment.
My heart broke. I sobbed. Zu wrapped me in his arms and held me as we listened to the song on repeat. God healed my heart and I totally fell in love with my husband.
He can do anything and will use anything to save you.
Return to your first love.