Ecclesiastes 4:12 New International Version (NIV)
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
When I read that verse above, it reminds me of my marriage to my husband, Michael. And it reminds me of how far Jesus has brought us from where we once stood. We celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary yesterday; had we never divorced two times prior, we would have celebrated twenty one years this year.
Yes, you read that correctly. We have been married to each other twice before and both times ended in divorce (for about 1 1/2-2 years in between) because we did not have God as head of our home, our lives or our family. We tried to make both previous marriages work, but it’s difficult when both of you don’t have the same beliefs and values. There were illnesses and addictions involved in making the first two marriages crash and burn. It took a lot of soul searching and seeking guidance and prayer to make it to number 3.
Many of our family and friends thought it was ridiculous to marry twice, so sharing with them that we were going to do it for a third and last time seemed too difficult. So we only shared it with one close friend and our children (from our marriage). Our son was ecstatic, our daughter was wary. She was old enough to remember how the first two times worked out and was skeptical, this time would be any better.
This time was different. Why and how was it different? My husband had always believed in Jesus, but he had never really given his life to Jesus. Totally surrendering all to him. He had proposed several times and I had politely refused, even though my love for him was still very strong, citing past history and the emotional turmoil it created in our lives. I was sure I didn’t want to head down that path again. I shared with him that I had started attending church again and I was alive for the first time in a long time. I had come back to the Lord and would not remarry him if he did not have the same passion about Jesus that I did. That was the one and only time I have ever given him an ultimatum in the 23 years that we have known one another. I knew this was not something that I would feel right about in my heart and God knew that too.
For all intensive purposes, we had a “probationary” dating period of 6 months. Anyone can say that they are a Christian and profess to love Jesus, but I wasn’t taking any chances this third time. I needed to know in my heart of hearts that this was what God wanted for both of us and our families. He said I’ll try going to church with you, but I’m not too sure about all of this. As it turns out, he loved going with me and got involved in the Men’s Group and Celebrate Recovery groups and on June 9, 2008 we were married for the final time.
We had planned on telling his two older daughters (from his very first marriage) and the remainder of our families slowly. Not wanting to cause undue stress on our lives or hear many bitter opinions as why is was not a great idea. Unfortunately, the best laid plans of “man” are not the same plans God has for our lives. Within two months of being remarried, Michael was diagnosed with colon cancer and knowing that it would be up to me to make any decisions if he wasn’t able to, telling all of our family became a priority.
Our parents weren’t really surprised and only wanted what was best for our family. The older daughters were more agitated about not being invited, than not knowing. Our siblings had quite different opinions, but because siblings love you no matter what, everyone dealt with it.
After the diagnosis, we prayed harder, enlisted prayer warriors, cried, worried, and then I said something to the effect, “If the Lord wanted us to be back together, than he will carry us through this and whatever is necessary, we will do together.” Part of living out your faith in Jesus, is “living” it out, not just saying you have faith and then when something comes along that takes your breath away, sink into a pit of despair and not do anything.
I am pleased to say, my husband is a cancer survivor. He had a major part of his colon removed in 2008, but never required any type of Chemo or Radiation treatments. Praise God! That moment in time, strengthened his faith in Jesus. He was so overwhelmed that God would answer the prayers for the surgeons to get it all and he wouldn’t have to have treatments, just yearly checkups. His first words upon hearing, they had gotten it all and the lymph nodes looked good, was I can’t believe Jesus loves me this much! Tears of joy were shed that day. Tears of thankfulness to a Faithful Savior that is always there.
In the past 8 years, we have had many tests as husband and wife, but the difference now, versus the previous 2, is that we have God at the center of us. God has taught us what mercy and grace are all about. He has taught us what it means to truly love one another .
Mike, used to get upset with me when I would share our testimony with others, always saying it was in the past and that’s where it needs to stay. For me, sharing Jesus and what he has done in my life and how far he has brought me, are part of my story. It took a while for that to be okay with Mike. We have two totally different perspectives. Mine is if I have gone through something and learned from it, healed from it, or grown from it, than when the time is right, I need to share with those that need to see how the Lord works in my life. Mike’s perspective has always been, it’s no one’s business, my life is my life and I like to be private. If people like me, they like me for who I am now, not who I used to be.
It became a major topic for a long time, until he realized that everything he has been through in his life, has made him the person he is today and when he stops and thinks about it, he also realizes that Jesus was and will always be with him.
2 Corinthians 1:4 New Living Translation (NLT)
4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
Being married means you have to be able to love and accept all the quirks and flaws you perceive your husband/wife to have. You have to be able to realize that there will be many valleys and mountains to climb, that not all days will be smooth sailing, but that God will direct the sails if you trust him.
We continue to attend church together and are involved in the Women’s and Men’s ministries and continue to grow in the Lord. Being married is work, hard work, but well worth it when you finally realize that God has to come first or nothing will work right in your lives. God has plans for all of our lives. And he will use any mess, any mistake, anything that is not of him and he will use it for good according to his purpose and his plan.
I look back on the past 23 years of knowing Michael and I can say without a doubt that God has grown both of us and stretched our faith in many challenging times, but in the end grace always wins.
Remember that Jesus Loves You! No matter what you are facing or where you are in your life right now, He is always just a prayer away.
Blessings to you,
Mike and Carlene -Married June 9, 2008