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She Realized That a Lot of What We Used to Have—Had Been Good

  I think a good place to start my story is in saying I’m still here (as of this writing), attending the Separated Men’s Group—for almost three years now. This group has been so beneficial to me and the other men I’ve known—that even though God has blessed me with being able to reconcile with my wife; I’ve decided to stay in the group (I am currently a leader). Maybe you’ll be able to understand why if you decide to read the rest of my story.

One day as I was praying and meditating about my situation it reminded me that going through this “Separation Phase” was like the book of Exodus in the Bible: God saw that I was in bondage and not following Him to my fullest capabilities. So He led me in the desert, mercifully not for 40 years—(Although it seemed like it), but in my case it was 5 months, before He led me into the land of milk and honey (At times that’s also debatable; but better than where I was!). I ‘m sure I made a good Israelite because I complained and grumbled many times along the way. But just like God had the Israelites write down and talk about all the things that happened, I kept a journal so I could remember the long, hard path of growth, so (by His grace) I might not have to repeat it.

Second thought: Pain stinks; but its forces me to grow.

Starting the eighth year of our “Blended Family” marriage, my wife served me divorce papers. It caught me by total surprise because we were both Christians and each one of us had said that divorce would never be an option. Prior to that we were going to Christian counseling together for a year, to try and resolve growing conflict, but her hurt ended up being too huge - she called it quits and moved out.

Feeling devastated, overwhelmed and alone I decided, the following Sunday, to attend a different church - Saddleback Church. Although it was over 35 miles away I sensed a need to go there. God met me there in a mighty way. From the first day I came, it seemed the sermons were designed specifically for me, and they gave me hope. I like to look at this, in my “Exodus”, as “The Burning Bush” incident—God kept communicating with me in a personal way.

The next week, as I looked through the church bulletin I noticed a list of support groups and to my amazement there was a group especially for Separated Men! I had never heard of such a group anywhere. I felt it was an answer to prayer. So I called and they allowed me to start the next week. It was exactly what I needed: Support, fellowship (With other men in the same position), and godly leadership. It was a tremendous relief to have a safe place I could count on every week that wanted to hear my story. I remember the feelings during that time: Very hurt, angry, betrayed, abandoned, and bewildered (to name a few). Those feelings seemed like they lasted forever.

For comfort and healing, God was my #1 source of help, and I pulled closer to Him than ever. But I also continued to go to the counselor both my wife and I previously went to, and I had a husband/wife team of life coaches that came to my support (Besides adding the Men’s Group.)

It was the most devastating time of my life, but down deep I knew God was behind it and He would work it out to be for my good. The scripture that God gave me at that time was confusing to me, but hopeful: [John 10:10: I have come that you may have life and have to its fullness.] I didn’t like the pain and suffering but yes, I can surely agree I was full of life! Every emotion, thought and muscle was feeling it. It woke up emotions I never felt before and my body was feeling it because I started working out much more to reduce the stress – I guessed that was one way to feel life to its fullness, but not what I previously thought that scripture would mean! I also buried myself in prayer, God’s Word, Christian books, and support people.

When I asked my wife what I could do to help the situation, she said: “Nothing, don’t even try - it’s over, the only way I would ever think of reconsidering, was if God gave me “a clear sign—a miracle” from God”… So that’s what I started praying for. I called it “Working for a Miracle”. We guys are usually good at fixing things – so that gave me a focus. But I knew what she meant; I would have to change so much that it was impossible without a miracle from God. But she didn’t want to say it that way because she didn’t want me to get my hopes up. She was done!

My goal was to change. I knew there was some truth to the things my wife was saying about me, but I never thought it was so bad that she would stop loving me over it. It didn’t seem fair; I still loved her but she no longer loved me – where’s the justice in that?

I started digging deep into my heart and past. I agreed there were things I needed to change; for one; I needed to start showing that I valued her and our relationship more. I really loved her and knew at one time she really loved me, and I didn’t want to lose that, so how could I rekindle that love in a way that she would understand? That’s when the scripture verse, Ephesians 5:25 came into play: [Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.] But at times I felt like I was being used as a doormat. How would this work? Besides she didn’t even want me to try anymore and I had to honor that. I didn’t have all the answers but I knew that scripture was a key.

Weeks started to pass and although I felt like God was changing me to be a better man, my wife seemed to be drifting even further away. We hardly ever saw or talked to each other any more and when we did it was usually just her trying to work out some of the final divorce or kid issues. It was very hurtful and my emotions were continuing to go up and down – mostly down. I remember then, in my morning quiet time when I was hurting and reaching out for comfort, God gave me the scripture: [2 Corinthians 12:9: My grace is sufficient for you.] I thought yes, that’s right! His grace would be sufficient; if I would let it be. It’s up to me and my faith to believe in His promises. It was comforting to know that all the junk I was going through, God had an answer for: if I would only listen, everything would be okay.

That helped me for a few days, and then my emotions brought me down again, when God met me and reminded me: “Focus more on My promises than on your circumstances. My promises are eternal – your circumstances are temporary”. Which led into [2 Corinthians 5:7: Walk by faith not by sight.] That got me through another day or two on a positive note. And I posted those scriptures on my heart.

As I looked back I could see so many times that God intervened on my behalf, it all the more reminded me of the Biblical “Exodus” where God was always there – like the cloud above them at day and the fire before them at night. It brought me hope.

My counselor, whom I continue to meet occasionally, was also very instrumental in helping me keep on target with God. He encouraged me, affirming that I was on the right track. In the heat of my emotional battle I remember he reminded me that when I spend quality time with God: “Try not to feel you have to do anything – but to; just be”. He said grieving is normal—cry if I need to, feel it, but don't get wrapped up in it. That’s when I started discovering and recovering from the major abandonment issues I had throughout my lifetime.

My next “Words of Wisdom” came in the Serenity Prayer: [God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.] Those were very freeing words.
That led me to realize I couldn’t handle any more chaos, I had lost over 20 pounds and was only getting 3-4 hours of sleep most nights. As I prayed about it God revealed the 2nd part of Ephesians 5; that I didn’t give much thought about. I was still focusing on [5:25: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.] And all my support people felt that I was now doing all I could at that. But now I clearly saw a following verse [5:33: and the wife must respect her husband.] It appeared my wife had lost all respect for me and I couldn’t control her or her thoughts, she was done and I needed to accept that. She had moved on and asked for me to “let her go”.

So after four months of trying to hold on and reconcile – I had to let go!

I decided to write my wife a farewell letter, telling her that I loved her; that I want and will pray for God’s best for her, but that I am finally totally releasing her—as she requested.

To my delightful surprise, a couple weeks later, she called and said she wanted to talk. She told me that the previous night, as she was reading the marriage book I had given her (And she reluctantly accepted), something opened her heart. She realized that a lot of what we used to have—had been good. She said that she could see the nice changes in me and the miracle she was looking for seemed to have taken place. She felt it was the Holy Spirit that showed this to her—and I was not going to argue with her.

We made certain agreements and two months later we were back together again.

To this day we continue to work on our relationship and with God’s help we will one day fulfill our individual purposes for God - together, as man and wife. But I’m still like an Israelite (a child of God) and I make mistakes. It’s a continuing journey until He takes us home. That’s one of the reasons I’m still in this Men’s Group. All the leaders and the friends I’ve made along the way keep me striving to do the right thing. They help me be accountable and to remember the healing God has brought to me and to my relationship.

Since coming back together, both my wife and I have become members of Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA. And I have taken on the privilege of being a leader in two different areas of ministry, and I’m even writing a book on “Belonging” to a relationship. I can see that what Satan might have meant for harm; God has used for good. Or maybe God knew that the only person I loved enough–who could change me–was my wife. And He used her to get me headed in a better direction; into being more of the man He wanted me to be. Whatever the reason, I am now glad for the pain He had to bring me through.

Once again it reminds me of a parallel to Exodus, in the Bible: To accomplish what God wanted to have done (His Will), He called upon Moses to confront Pharaoh. The two of them continued to go back and forth and disaster after disaster had to come before change finally took place. Both of their lives were turned upside down to accomplish what God wanted to happen. It says The LORD kept hardening Pharaoh’s heart so that God’s wonders could be displayed. I can attest that I saw His wonders in my story; let the glory be His.

If you can relate to any of this and want someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to , I will try to have a caring, listening ear to your story—the story God is allowing you to go through—your Exodus. We either become better or bitter, the choice is ours.

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