By REBECCA LEE
How God healed my ‘fantasy’ marriage
Imagine a fantasy year of marriage: Someone else pays your bills and funds your husband’s post-graduate degree, no debt exists, and you have a flexible and well-paying part-time job; free time abounds to be together and with friends; you gain SCUBA certifications, explore New Zealand and Australia, and spend your second anniversary on a secluded island on the Great Barrier Reef for free; and you’re connected to a thriving church body. This was life during our second year of marriage while my husband served as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in Brisbane, Australia.
Then … reality hit. We moved to the Jackson area for my husband to start medical school, and I began seminary while working in collegiate ministry. We were not prepared for the demands that school and work put on our marriage. Our paths grew apart as we weren’t connecting like before. I felt neglected because of the many hours of studying and time spent at the hospital. Bitterness began in me, mostly toward my husband.
We were involved in a great church and small group, but did not join in extra gatherings or deeper connection because of our stressful and busy lives. There was an alliance for medical wives at the hospital, but I didn’t have time to participate in that either. So, as busy as I was, I often felt very alone.
During this time, I poured out my heart and questioned God in my prayer journal. Looking back, it was a lot of complaining and expressing selfish desires. I was deceived with many of my thoughts. I didn’t stop and listen to the Lord as often as I should have — though I was obedient when I sensed the Lord telling me to leave my ministry position after two years.
Changing jobs helped. But I still tried to fill the void in our marriage with triathlons and friendships. These became disastrous idols or replacements as they took focus and energy away from our marriage. Satan was clearly trying to destroy our marriage, and I was letting him.
We landed in Little Rock, Arkansas, for residency, but carried a lot of baggage with us. In the middle of our time there, our marriage was struggling, but thankfully, we decided to seek counseling. This helped get us on the right path, but only so far. Some older friends mentored and helped us through this time as well. Awareness, conviction, forgiveness, humility and guidance started the healing process. Grace re-entered. We had to let go of all hindrances toward our marriage, and work to prioritize it. Our God began a hard but beautiful work in us to get us on a solid path with healthier habits to restore our marriage.
After five years in Little Rock, we moved back to the Jackson area with a growing family. We continued our healing process and sought new counseling, which took us deeper. Eventually, through a powerful prayer ministry, Jesus healed our emotional scars and the roots of our brokenness.
Our marriage is not perfect today. However, we have tools to help us connect emotionally now. We approach our struggles differently, as we have grown so much in 21 years of marriage. We serve and support each other better. We’ve created margin in our lives and can sense more quickly when life gets too busy, which allows us to adjust. We trust the Lord with all aspects of our family as we’ve witnessed His powerful work of reconciliation, restoration and beauty from pain.
A few years ago, I decided to challenge myself with a marathon. It was so different than my specialties of middle-distance races. Each type of race requires different strategies and preparations.
Marriage is definitely more like the marathon. You have to pace yourself to endure the long haul. You don’t know what every turn will hold, but you can prepare for it by exercising muscles of faith in God consistently and doing the small things daily to strengthen a marriage before challenges arise. We’ve learned to be thankful when life is cruising and when obstacles come our way.
Ultimately, we’ve learned to live loved by God and not depend on each other as our source of love. We disappoint each other at times, but God satisfies our every need.
Rebecca Lee lives in Madison with her husband, Chris, and three kids: Alex, David and Luke. She coaches cross-country at St. Augustine School in Ridgeland. She also co-leads a local chapter of Side by Side, a Christian ministry to wives of medical and dental trainees and professionals.