Friday, December 28, 2007

Marriage: Covenant or Contract?

As I mentioned in my post about Malachi, I needed to do more research on the concept of marriage as a covenant versus a contract.

Here is an excellent article I found on Family Life Today.
http://www.familylife.com/articles/article_detail.asp?id=763

If you liked this, then go to for a three-part interview series on Family Life Today about covenant marriage. You can either read or listen to this series.
http://www.familylife.com/fltoday/default.asp?id=7779

The following interview came right out of the third series called "The Four Essentials of Marriage". This is one of the most succinct descriptions I have seen of what a covenant marriage means.

Dennis Rainey: Earlier on FamilyLife Today you said that covenant-keeping love is the basis of a great marriage. Now, we've been talking about covenant, we've even given your seven promises of covenant-keeping love. Would you define what a covenant is, because we haven't done that.

Fred: Covenant is simply an oath. It is the most sacred, the most sacrificial, the most serious commitment that anyone can ever make. Sacrifice is at the core of covenant. It's a walk of death in the Old Testament, where you walk through those dead animals and saying, in that walk, "God I am dying to selfishness, to a life of independence, and I'm committing my life to someone else. And, God, if I ever break this covenant, kill me on the spot." That's how serious covenant is. It's the most serious commitment anyone could make.You see, a contract is made in suspicion. That's about loopholes; that's about outs. A contract is a signing of the names. Covenant is a binding of the heart. I like to say it's a tattoo on the heart that you can't remove it without leaving scars. It's a commitment that's – it's as deep as life. The only way you're going to get heaven in your life is by a covenant. The only way you're going to get heaven in your marriage is by a covenant.

Dennis: Well, now, let's back up for a moment. There may be a listener who doesn't know what you're talking about – about getting heaven in your life through a covenant.

Fred: Most people have heard about the Bible. The Bible is the story of God's blood covenant that He made with Abraham, and that He consummated in Jesus Christ. Jesus became the sacrifice. He gave His life on a cross to pay our sin debt so that we could be saved so that we could become God's child, a member of God's forever family. And God says, "I am a covenant-keeping God," and when He offers us the gift of salvation, it is a promise that we know He will stand by because He cannot lie, He will not lie, He cannot fail, He will not fail. So he is a covenant-keeping God.The Bible is a covenant book. God is a covenant God, and we are a covenant people. So the way you enter a relationship with Christ is you ask Him to come into your heart, you commit your life to Him, He has committed Himself to you – that's covenant. And then out of that is this marriage relationship, because marriage is a picture of God's relation to Israel, and then Christ's relation to the church. Israel acted up so many times and were so unfaithful to God, but God was always faithful to them. And in the New Testament, Jesus, who ever loves His church and will keep every promise He has made the church, and that's the kind of marriage we are to have. We are to love our mate like Christ love us; like He loves the church. Jesus was willing to give Himself for His church, and we are willing to give ourselves for each other in this thing called "covenant marriage."

Dennis: And, Bob, I don't want our listeners to miss what Fred was saying – that the ability for me to love Barbara and to make that kind of promise to her begins and finds its starting point in my relationship with Jesus Christ. If I've not established a covenant relationship with Him, I really don't have the ability to love Barbara the way she needs to be loved, and that's why people trying to do marriage without a relationship with the Creator who was the one who sought us out with covenant-keeping love in the first place, it's impossible to do it right, isn't it, Fred? I mean – how can you do marriage without first knowing God?

Fred: You can't. In fact, a couple over in Alabama entered a contest, and they won it with this description of marriage – marriage with God. "We gave when we wanted to receive; we served when we wanted to feast; we shared when we wanted to keep; we listened when we wanted to talk; we submitted when we wanted to reign; we forgave when we wanted to remember; we stayed when we wanted to leave." And it's that kind of marriage that you need God to help you have that kind of attitude, that kind of spirit, and that kind of staying power.

Comments on Malachi

Some things stand out here. Twice God says "Do not break faith" with your wife.
I suppose it is important if God says it twice.

Another sobering thought, "the Lord is acting as a witness between you and the wife of your youth." Wow, you mean that it wasn't just my pastor, family, and friends that were witnessing our marriage vows, but the Lord? What does that mean about how seriously they should be taken?

Another place it says, "the wife of your marriage covenant". What does it mean that marriage is a covenant?

I studied this a little bit during our separation. I want to do more research about what a marriage covenant means and to reference more resources.

From what I remember studying, part of the concept was that covenants were extremely important in Biblical times, both between men and God, and between men and men. They were also unconditional lifetime promises and they lasted even if one party failed to keep their side of it. They were also often sealed by blood.

God continued to love Israel, not nescessarily bless her, even when she wandered from God.

The key concept that got hammered home to me was that whereas in contemporary society we view marriage as a contract, just like house contracts, loan contracts, or employment contracts, God looked at marriage as a covenant.

We are all familiar with the outs to contracts. I promise to buy your house, here is my deposit of $5000, if I change my mind and don't buy it, you keep the $5000. I agree to pay you $x per month for a loan for my car; if I don't you can take my car.

Wow, if marriage is really a covenant, what does that mean to me if my spouse and I are not happy, or if my spouse says they want out? If they want out, does that mean it is okay for me to quit also?

I'll write more on this later after I have refined my thinking some, but I think this whole concept of marriage as a contract or a covenant has huge implications for how we view marriage and divorce.

Comments on Genesis

Genesis 3:16 says, "To the woman He said, 'I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.'"

Several years ago I heard a tape from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood http://www.cbmw.org/ by a man named John Piper http://www.desiringgod.org/
that gave me a whole new insight into this scripture.

He made the point that this scripture is describing the condition of men and woman after the Fall and before Christ's redemption. This is a description of fallen marriage, not redeemed marriage.

The key point he made was that the word "desire" in this passage is the same word as where God warned Cain that "Satan desired to rule him". In her fallen nature a woman will try to control a man, and in his fallen nature a man, by his brute force, will rule over a woman. Not a pretty picture of marriage.

The hope is Christ came to redeem all of that. His way is spelled out so well by the apostle Paul when he talks about men loving their wives as Christ loved the church and wives respecting their husbands.

I found a sermon where John Piper develops this whole concept of fallen marriage in a very understandable way.
http://www.cbmw.org/Resources/Sermons/Manhood-and-Womanhood-Conflict-and-Confusion-After-the-Fall

Hope this encourages you as it did me.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Questions to Ask About Marriage/Divorce Scriptures

If you are in a marriage crisis, or someone you care about is, I would suggest that you or they read the Scripture links that I have for marriage and divorce. Then pray and ask God for His insight. Here are some questions to ask. Alot of these I asked myself during our separation, and on this blog you will see the ways I answered various ones.

My goal here, is to help you think through your situation with God's Word and God's help.

1. What evidence do I have that my spouse has either been faithful or unfaithful to me. How confident am I in that evidence?
2. If I know my spouse has committed adultery, do these Scriptures show that I have to divorce them, or is that even an option?
3. If my spouse is a Christian and is not committing adultery, what reasons do I see in Scripture for a divorce in our situation?
4. If I am a Christian and my spouse is not, what reasons do I see in these Scriptures for a divorce in our situation?
5. How do I interpret my Scriptural right to remarry in our circumstances if I institute a divorce or sign a voluntary dissolution?
6. What does it mean for "two to become one flesh"?
7. What does it mean for our situation when Jesus says, "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder?"
8. If my spouse is not interested in reconciling, and I institute divorce proceedings or sign a voluntary dissolution, whose hearts are hard?
9. We, the church, are the bride of Christ. How has Jesus treated me when I have rejected Him or disappointed Him? What does this mean for how I should treat my spouse if they have and/or continue to reject or disappoint me?
10. What issues do I really need to think through, study, pray about more, before I make any decisions related to divorce?
11. Where can I go for further help?
12. What did I mean (regardless of what my spouse is saying or doing now) when I promised, "For better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health as long as we both shall live"?

Reflections on Marriage/Divorce Scriptures

I spent some time re-reading the Scriptures regarding marriage and divorce that are listed in my Marriage/Divorce links.

One thing I noticed was that the concept "one flesh" was mentioned in Genesis, Malachi, Matthew and Mark.

In Matthew and Mark, Jesus says "What God has joined together, let not man separate."

In Mark and Luke, Jesus says "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her." It is only in Matthew that Jesus mentions an exception for adultery.

Paul appears to reaffirm this concept when he says "To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband, but if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband, and a husband must not divorce his wife."

Only Paul addresses the issue of a marriage between Christian and non-Christian. He says that if a believer is married to an unbeliever and the unbeliever is willing to stay, the believer must not divorce.

David Reagan's ministry (http://www.lamblion.com/) focuses on the end time prophecy, made this comment once about biblical interpretation, "If the plain sense, makes sense, then don't look for any other sense or you will wind up with nonsense." I have always found that helpful as I think about Scripture.

So what does the plain sense of all this seem to be?

a. Marriage is a one-flesh relationship that God created and man is not to destroy it.

b. If both partners in marriage are Christian, then adultery is the only clear grounds for a divorce with the possibility for remarriage without committing adultery. This needs to be even looked at further since it was only mentioned in Matthew. It is puzzling why it was only mentioned in Matthew. Also, it does not say that in cases of adultery you have to divorce.

c. If Christians divorce for any reason other than adultery then remarry, they are committing adultery.

d. If only one party is a Christian, everything still applies as above, unless the non-Christian leaves.

So it would appear that all of these reasons I so commonly hear for divorce, such as irreconcilable differences, incompatibity, we should have never have gotten married, we don't love one another anymore, my spouse has emotional problems, and others, are not valid reasons to get divorced.

Thoughts About This Blog

As I have been thinking about this blog I have realized that I am trying to accomplish several things.

The first goal is to have a good list of resources about marriage, separation, and divorce that I have found helpful, all in one easy-to-access place. As I share more about our story I want to quickly be able to point people to a sort of one- stop shop for information. I have never blogged publicly before. It has only been about a month since I started to grasp what blogging is.

Another goal I have is to continue to sort out alot of issues for myself in this whole area. I did alot of this wrestling privately during our separation to come up with answers for myself then. Now, I am trying to more clearly articulate what I learned so I can more effectively help others. A challenge I now have is how to help and encourage others who are in a struggling marriage or divorce situation that is alot different from my own.

I want to be able to point people not only to a resource list, but to some of my thinking and sharing my struggles on various issues, as well as more information than just what fits in a list. All of this to say, you may see me switch back and forth on subjects, wrestle with some topics multiple times and from multiple angles. Maybe I will even get some feedback that will be helpful as I sort things out.

I read "Sheet Music" by Kevin Leman. It is a Christian book about sexuality. Early in the book he mentioned that he will probably say something to offend everyone but he begged his readers to hear the big picture of what he was saying and if something totally offended them to tear that page out. That is my desire with this blog. I hope people hear the big picture - that there is tremendous hope for healing marriages even when only one person wants to work on it and there are boatloads of solid resources out there to help. "All things are possible with God" including healing apparently impossible marriages. My wife and I are a living testimony to that.

So, if I ramble too much in some post, or if my thoughts aren't all organized or don't fit your theology perfectly, please don't give up on getting help for your marriage or someone's marriage you know. Keep praying, browsing here, and looking at other places to get the help you need.
Posted by Richard at 6:50 AM 0 comments
Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Inverse Ministries (Clint & Penny Bragg)

I have had the pleasure of meeting Clint and Penny Bragg of Inverse Ministries in person. They have an awesome testimony of God's love, faithfulness and forgiveness. In short, they were the storybook couple in their church with the storybook wedding, but then divorced less than two years later.

Eventually Clint moved from California, where they had lived together, to Florida. Eleven years later God convicted Penny to write a letter to Clint to put that part of her life right. She wrote the letter, he called her and they began talking and eventually reconciled and remarried. They now travel the U.S. on 40-day marriage mission trips telling people there is a "God of Second Chances".

I encourage you to watch their testimony at http://www.inverseministries.org/ and see what God can do.

Testimony-Divorce Care

Divorce Care is a 13-week DVD-driven Christian support group for those struggling with separation and divorce. (See Emergency Links link.)

After my wife announced she was getting a divorce, I became very depressed. Eventually God led me to Divorce Care. The weekly format is a video about a key subject area related to separation and divorce. Some of the subjects are anger, depression, kids, finances, reconciliation, and more. On the DVD, experts such as Larry Burkett (finances), or Norm Wright (psychology), will discuss that week's topic from a professional perspective. Then, people who have gone through separation or divorce will share their struggles and insights from their life experience about that topic.

After the DVD is over there is a group discusssion, and particpants share their own personal situations. They are free to decide how much they want to share with the group. The group time is also to encourage one another.

I started in one local Divorce Care group but after the first week the moderator indicated that a couple of participants I knew had concerns about me being in the group. I thought it was because they were afraid that I might not hold confidence since it was a small town. Eventually, I learned that one of the ladies really just wanted my wife to know that she and I were in the group together to keep everything above board. Since there did seem to be some concern about the situation, I opted to check out other groups. As it turned out I started attending three groups in different towns. Even though the videos were the same, I connected in a special way with each group so I continued going to all three.

Divorce Care was a huge help to me in pulling out of a downward spiral of depression. I realized that other people were having some of the same struggles I was. I heard of situations far worse than my own. One thing that was extremely helpful to me was hearing what the women had to say. Sometimes I could hear them voice some of the same complaints about their husbands that my wife had shared about me, but for some reason I was able to finally grasp what they, and thus my wife, were saying.

One disappointing thing to me was that some groups weren't very enthused about running the reconciliation tape. In fact, one group lost that video and hadn't replaced it because they saw so few reconciliations. Thankfully they accomodated me and replaced the video and then got to witness my reconciliation.

I highly recommend Divorce Care to people who are separated or divorced. You can go to their website in my Emergency Links, type in your zip code and find groups near you. If confidentiality is a huge concern for you, don't be afraid to drive a little distance. The groups meet at different times/days and each has their own flavor. If you need to, try a couple of different ones until you find one you feel at home.

One other thing - Divorce Care is structured so you can join in at any of the 13 weeks. So, if you are in a crisis, you don't have to wait for the next group to start.

More Observations On One Flesh

In an earlier post I shared personally why I am convinced from my own life experience that there truly is something special in marriage that Jesus referred to as "becoming one flesh."

In this post, I want to share some observations I have made of other situations.

During our separation I participated in three different Divorce Care groups. These are small groups of people who are separated or divorced. The format is to watch a video about issues surrounding separation and divorce, and then to discuss as a group the video plus our own personal experiences. (Since our reconciliation I have facilitated several Divorce Care groups.)

From this vantage point I made several observations that convince me even more strongly that the "one flesh" bond is very real. I have observed a man being crushed emotionally after his wife wanted out of a very short (less than one year) marriage with no kids. I have seen a woman who had been divorced several years in what she called a "good divorce" (i.e. no kids, they still saw one another, and no major "war" between them) still struggling after several years.

I have observed a woman separated from a long term live-in going through the same struggles as those who have been married and then separated or divorced. I have watched men whose wife had affairs, and women whose husbands had affairs, be rattled to the core. I have talked to a woman who divorced years ago because her husband was having affairs, still wishing that, for her son's sake, she would have tried even harder to save her marriage.

There really does seem to be something very special about this bond.

Part of my perplexion now is how to get spouses who want their marriage to work even when their spouse wants out, to keep holding on. And, how to encourage spouses who think getting out is such a great thing, to slow down and continue to try.

Let No Man Put Asunder

Jesus words "Let no man put asunder what God has joined together" helped me to stay firm in my commitment to marriage, even when my wife had made it quite clear that she was done, that she was planning to divorce me, and that she no longer wanted to try to reconcile our marriage.

She did ask me to agree to a dissolution of our marriage. I firmly, but politely, refused. My legal understanding of a dissolution is that you and your spouse jointly agree on all the issues of dissolution as far as finances, child custody, etc., and then you ask a judge to terminate your marriage. To me, to go through that process, would be for me to be a part of "putting asunder what God had joined together."

So, the only option my wife was left with was to file for divorce, which is a lawsuit where one party asks the judge to terminate the marriage. Under no-fault divorce laws a spouse can eventually get a divorce.

Thankfully, she never took action to file for divorce. I am glad I did say no to the dissolution, even though it would have been seemingly the easier, cheaper way out at the time. I didn't think it was the Godly way to go about ending our marriage when He had made it so clear that He hates divorce and that He doesn't want us putting our marriages asunder.

It seems to me that Jesus very closely linked his command, "Let no man put asunder what God has joined together" with His statement "The two shall become one flesh".

(See prior post about "One Flesh")

One Flesh

As I read the Scriptures today about marriage and divorce from Genesis through Revelation, one things that stood out over and over was the concept of "one flesh". God mentioned it in Genesis as part of the creation story, it was referred to in Malachi as part of why God hates divorce, and Jesus referred to it in Matthew and Mark. I remembered that Paul referred to the concept of "one flesh" as a reason not to go to a prostitute because you would be "joined" to her.

At this time, I don't have an exegetical study on this concept, but from my experience of being separated for 16 months from my wife, I became more convinced that there truly is something special about the "one flesh" bond between a husband and wife. During our separation, and especially after my wife's announcement of her plans for divorce, something just snapped inside of me. There was a bond between us so deep that just the thought of not having her in my life totally unglued me. Even when I tried to put her out of my mind, it was next to impossible. Everything seemed to remind me of her.

She paid the majority of our bills during our marriage. I still remember sitting in my office one day and looked at her signature on a check and started crying. During that time I stayed in our RV parked in our farm shop about 100 yards from our house. The night she told me she was getting a divorce, I blew up in a rage and left for a couple of days.

Shortly after I came back our kids went on a mission trip. My wife and I were barely speaking other than with a counselor or a mediator present, but while the kids were gone, I was still thankful that in spite of our estrangement, we were still staying in close proximity on the same property. I knew deep in my heart that there was a very real bond between us, and I had a strange sense of peace that is next to impossible to describe.

As I have participated over time in various Divorce Care and other groups where people have openly shared about separation and divorce, I have become more convinced than ever that whatever this "one flesh" bond is, it is very real and very powerful. The reality of that bond is why I think separation and divorce are so devastating to people. That is probably why God says "I hate divorce."

I think this bond is sort of like gravity. It is not something we can taste, touch, see, hear, or smell, but we know from experience it is as real as the chair we sit upon.

My Scriptural Background

Just a short note about my scriptural background.

I have not been formally trained as a theologian. I took a few courses in college taught by a pastor, including Old Testament Survey, New Testament Survey and Wisdom literature.

I started studying the Bible as a teenager and I am now 50 years old. I have gone through various levels of intense study and reading of Scripture to times of doing none at all.

Some people who have highly influenced my knowledge of the Bible have been Beth Moore (http://www.lproof.org/), Jay Adams in "Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible", John Piper (http://www.cbwm.com/ and http://www.desiringgod.com/), David Reagan (http://www.lambandlion.com/) and Grant Edwards (http://www.fellowshipchristian.org).

I am a layman who has taken some time to study and think about the Scriptures, but who is still developing in his understanding.

Scriptures about Marriage & Divorce

I think I have located and linked most of the major scriptures about marriage, separation, and divorce. I encouragement you to try to read through them all in one sitting. It took me about 30 to 60 minutes to do so. If you prefer a different Bible version, you can find others listed on http://www.christianity.com/. Just click on the drop down box next to New International Version. http://www.biblegateway.com/ has even more versions available.

In another other posting, I will discuss my own observations.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Finding Hope During a Separation

One of many struggles that I had during my separation from my wife, was finding hope that our marriage could turn around.

Part of the struggle was that at first glance, most of the couples I knew in our church that had separated, had eventually divorced.

Fortunately over time with God's help I did find some in our congregation that I knew that had been separated or at least in a major marital crises and had recovered. That was hugely encouraging.

One time I was out of town visiting a men's breakfast, and just briefly mentioned my situation as a prayer concern, and a couple of men came forward afterwards and spent the day sharing their testimonies of their restored marriage.

Another day I went forward for an altar call at an out of town church, and the couple who prayed for me, had been through a major crises of their own and survived.

I was so thankful for these rays of hope.

Other places I found huge hope was the Reconciliation lesson that was part of Divorce Care and The Chosing Wisely Before You Divorce series Both of them had some awesome testimonies of marriages recovering from things such as adultery, domestic violence, etc.

I didn't know about them at the time, but the Braggs at Inverse Ministries, have a testimony of being separated by 12 years and 3000 miles. I think a video of their testimony is on their website and I have heard them in person and it is awesome.

Rejoice Ministries has an awesome testimony of Bob and Charlyne. They actually got divorced because of his affairs and then his wife was convicted by God to pray and fast for him, and they have been back together for years now. They have other testimonies on their website.

Joe and Michelle Williams with Reconciling God's way were married multiple times before each other then went through a separation of their own as Christians. Out of that trial they wrote the study "Reconciling God's Way" which is designed to be used if even only one spouse wants to save the marriage.

As I researched the possibilty of asking Sharon to a Retrouvaille conference, the intake person I was talking to shared her own testimony of going to a Retrouvaille a number of years ago with her husband while he was still having an affair. I was moved to tears as she shared about the turn in their marriage probably ten years ago.

All of these resources are listed on my Emergency Links section of this blog. With God all things are possible.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Jesus/Resources

Sometimes, maybe it seems I have too much confidence in resources to save marriages. I realize the real confidence is that when at least one party is willing to try, Jesus can save seemingly impossible marriages. Many of the resources I share directly point people to Jesus and His principles.

Even some resources that are not overtly Christian, often share alot of Christian principles. Dr. Phil, from my memory of reading his work, quietly talks about his faith and where he goes to church. Many secular resources now are talking about the benefits of such Christian concepts as forgiveness.

Sometimes in my own crisis situation, I backed off on resources specifically geared towards saving marriages, and moved more toward ones that grew my relationship with Jesus, such as Believing God by Beth Moore. One of the things that I was believing God for was the healing of my marriage, but in that study I also learned a whole lot about Jesus and His Word that has application for all of life.

It is amazing when you think about it that as important as marriage is to God and how thick the Bible is, how short the scriptures are that specifically talk about marriage and divorce. I think this is because He shares all over the scriptures about how to have good relationships. So, if we apply those relationship principles to marriage, we will have a good marriage.

Piles of Resources

As I have put this blog together and compiled resources, I am amazed at the amount of help available for saving marriages.

I found some good sections in First Things First/Chattanooga and First Things First/Richmond about saving marriages even when one partner wants out. Smart Marriages, on their home page, has a section about unwanted divorce.

I struggle with knowing how to inspire people to keep trying.

Rejoice Ministries is filled with Godly practical help for people in seemingly impossible circumstances. Michelle Weiner-Davis with Divorce Busting is a bulldog for hanging on to marriages.

I am thankful that in spite of my wife continuing to say she was done with ours, I kept on searching and trying, and I am thankful that Jesus honored my efforts and we were reconciled.

It discourages me that often when there is a separation, a spouse files for divorce, or a spouse threatens divorce, that the consensus, even in the church, seems to be "It's over; they're done; get on with your life."

It is amazing how often in life people rise to the occasion when the chips are down, and if they do they are admired for it. But, in marriage it seems like so often when the chips are down, and only one has any desire to try, that the consensus is that it is over.

In what other endeavor in life do people quit so easily?

If a ball team is way behind at half time do they just concede and go home? How often has a pro sports team had several losing years and just closed up shop and disbanded? If someone has a life threatening illness, how often do they just quit and not seek medical attention, and if they do delay medical attention, how often do friends and family push them to go rather than to let them waste away? How many companies have a few losing quarters and just close up shop, sell out, and quit? Sometimes, yes, but not often.

How many parents, especially Christians, totally give up on a child who has a drug problem, an out of wedlock pregnancy, an illness, financial crises? Some do, but I don't think it is the default posture.

When it comes to marriage, it seems like even among many Christians, accepting defeat is the default posture. In spite of a plethora of help, over and over it is said about struggling couples, "I don't know what else they can do. It looks like they will get divorced."

One of the reasons I am passionate about this is that during my own separation, when my wife was unwilling to work on our marriage, and I was desperately seeking for solutions, I was subtly and not so subtly being told that it was over and there was nothing I could do.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Faith, Hope, Love

I have been pondering my three-legged stool of determination, hope, and practical tools.

The words faith, hope and love crossed my mind.

Faith is connected to determination in that faith is the conviction of things not seen. It takes faith to hang on to a marriage when a partner wants out.

Hope. In Romans 5:5 Paul says, "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

Love. Agape love is related to practical tools because agape love is a love that takes action in the best interest of others.

The best thing about love, Paul says at the end of 1 Corinthians 13, is that love never fails.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Three-Legged Stool: Hope, Determination & Tools

Having struggled with separation and hopelessness about my marriage, it seems to me that three keys for people getting back together are that at least one has to get some hope, get absolutely determined that they are committed to their marriage even if it appears their spouse isn't, and that they need some practical tools.

By the time the marriage is healthy again, both spouses will need hope, determination and tools.

Discouragement

After we got back together I was so thankful for what Jesus had done for us, especially when I just kept saying no to a dissolution. In spite of much pressure to give up get a dissolution, I really wanted to share and help others.

I am discouraged right now because it seems so few really are interested in going to the wall for their marriages. I feel like I really don't know how to inspire others.

After much of the training we have done the past few years, I have tried to follow up with people to see if they are implementing what we taught. More often than not the answer is "no". Often they are stuck in the same place or they are worse.

I don't know how to inspire many of them to really keep trying in their marriages.

Why All of the Resources?

During our separation, I went on a search for resources to help me hang in there. I found alot that were life changing, and literally a lifeline of hope at a very dark time for me. Since then I have found even more resources for help. I want this to be a place where anyone who is struggling, or who knows someone who is struggling, can come to and quickly get help. There are many different flavors of resources, because different things work for different people at different times.

In conversation I also tend to share many resources. Often neither they nor I have the time to write them all down, or I am afraid that I will tell them something is a dot org when it really is a dot com.

Someday I may organize all of this into a website, but I think this is a good, fast way to start getting help out there.

Short Testimony

My wife and I were married about 17 years and were in marriage counseling when she told me to leave our home. We had two teenagers whom we were home schooling at the time. Reluctantly, I did leave our home and moved into our RV.

I was very hurt, shocked, and angry, and eventually became very depressed and spent a month in Meijer Clinic, a Christian out-patient treatment facility in Battle Creek, Michigan.

A few months later my wife told me she was getting a divorce. I got extremely angry, left for a few days, and got very depressed.

After I calmed down, I told her very firmly that I would not give her a dissolution, because I believed that Jesus had said "let no man put asunder what God has joined together". I believe that for me to participate in a dissolution would mean participating in putting my marriage asunder.

We did try to mediate a legal separation, but those negotiations broke down.

Our relationship dwindled to nothing but the essentials of taking care of our farm business and any major issues with the kids.

I started attending three Divorce Care groups to get some help so that my emotions would get stabilized.

My wife never did file for divorce. Our counselor and his own wife were going to give a seminar called PAIRS (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills). I invited my wife and after wrestling all night with God about whether to try anything else, she very reluctantly came. By God's grace, with the tools, we were finally able to communicate some very intense emotions and hear one another out.

After the seminar, we started communicating more, using the tools, and within a couple of months moved back in together. Since then we have gotten more training in the various tools of PAIRS to help other couples. We hope to help others avoid going through what we went through, and if they are already in a mess, to give them some hope on how to get out of it.

We are also getting trained in coaching so we can even better help couples.

Well, that is a short summary. I will share more in days ahead.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I hope this blog becomes a good resource place for those concerned about issues surrounding Christian marriage, separation, and divorce.