The Prodigal Marriage Part 1 – By Holly C Wyse
My hands gripped the side of the chair and I mentally calculated how many steps it would take me to get out of there. Fifteen, if I walked. Seven, if I sprinted. And three if I took a running start before leaping through the glass window in the office door.
We were in our pastor’s office and the question that was starting to make me sweat had been asked again.
I looked at the door and thought, “I wish the computer geeks of the world would hurry up and invent Star-Trek Transporter travel. I could be outta here in less than two seconds.” But I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t run away. I could no longer avoid having a real conversation with my husband.
He was here in the room, looking at me with soulful eyes. It was time we talked.
Before that, most interactions with my husband had included, “Don’t ever talk to me again”, “I hope you die” and “what time are you picking up the kids?”
We had been separated for over a year and a half. I had been extracted by friends from a controlling, abusive marriage that was starting to show signs headed toward physical violence.
Our children and I left Alberta and spent a year living with my mom four provinces away from him. My heart had never been so broken. Suddenly simple tasks like breathing and proper hygiene became difficult life decisions. And I struggled to find my way in life wearing a label I had never wanted to wear: Abused Wife.
It had taken twelve months for me to find the courage to have my own life, to feel my pain rather than avoid it and to trust that God was good even when my life resembled a train wreck the size of a category five hurricane.
As I started to stand on my own, the Lord made it very clear to me that we were to move back to Alberta.I thought He was asking me to move back to my old life. I wept for three days until my counselor reminded me that “God doesn’t move us backwards. Fear is deceiving you about moving back to your old life. God is inviting you to have faith and move forward in a new direction. Can you trust Him to keep your heart safe wherever He leads you?”“God doesn’t move us backwards. Fear is deceiving you about moving back to your old life. God is inviting you to have faith and move forward in a new direction. Can you trust Him to keep your heart safe wherever He leads you?” Click To Tweet
I studied my Kleenex and replied “Yes”, with a hiccup.
We returned to Alberta and moved into a house with an amazing family of eight. I enrolled in a course at our church that returned to the basics of knowing my identity in Christ, I found a job and started building a new life.
My interactions with my husband were limited only to dropping off and picking up our kids. I wasn’t interested in anything he had to say.
I didn’t care about the trauma he had from a life altering accident that landed him unemployed and diagnosed with a mental illness. I didn’t care that he had been given the wrong medication that caused side effects creating paranoia and enhanced his anxiety and controlling tendencies. I didn’t care that he spent months in trauma counselling working on his issues in our marriage and his own life.I really didn’t care.
I told my divorce lawyer as much. I told my pastor, my family, my friends as much. I told God as much. There weren’t enough reasons in the world that would ever make what happened to me okay again.
One Sunday at church, while taking Communion, I heard the Lord whisper to my heart, “Will you let Me write your story?”
I’m an author. I know what goes into plotting a story-the twists and turns you take a character on in order to achieve a story goal. Could I trust the Author And Finisher of my faith to write a good story for me?
I studied the communion cup in front of me and replied, “Yes,” with a whisper.
Shortly after that I found myself in my pastor’s office, arms gripped on the chair, studying possible escape routes from the room.
Our pastor had just drawn a picture of a boat with my husband and I in it. He labelled the boat FEAR. He wrote the word CONTROL next to my husband and described this as his response to fear. Next, he drew the word AVOID next to me and attributed this action as my response to fear.
He put down the marker and said, “I don’t think it would be helpful for us to sit here and wade through the waters, digging up all the issues that made this boat sink. I want to present a new idea.” He picked up the marker and drew another boat. He labelled it FAITH.
“You have a new invitation. You can leave this old boat behind and climb into this new one. And rather than using these old methods to deal with the storms of life, you can use your faith in Christ to navigate the waves. You both have changed and learned a lot, you will probably bump into some of the old stuff you sailed in. But this time you can work through it instead of trying to avoid it or control it. Do you want to step into a new boat?”
My husband nodded and softly said, “Yes.”
All eyes turned on me. I looked at the door.
My pastor gently asked, “What’s holding you back?”
“I don’t trust him.”
My pastor looked at me directly and said, “I’m not asking you to trust him. I’m asking you to trust God.”
“Can you trust God with an ending you can’t prescribe?”
I was starting to sweat. That was the thing, wasn’t it? Trusting God meant I didn’t get to dictate the outcome. I had to believe that He would be good, that He would restore me and redeem me. And I had to let Him do it the way that He wanted to…even if it meant forgiving my husband.
I studied the chair and replied, “Yes,” with a sigh.
Our pastor assigned us some homework. We were to meet for coffee, just the two of us, and answer the questions our pastor gave us. Our first date was the hardest conversation I ever had in my life. I wanted to run away. I wanted to hide and avoid. But the Lord whispered to me, “You can avoid now or you can choose freedom and be vulnerable.” It physically hurt to open up my mouth and be vulnerable with answers to my husband’s questions. The night felt like a total failure and I went back home and cried on my friends bed for an hour.
But it got easier. Each meeting with my husband had new elements to them and I found that he had made a lot of changes to his life and thinking. Slowly, I could see that God had been working on both of us, even though I had been completely blind to any of my husband’s progress,
One night during prayer, I sensed that the Lord wanted me to do a physical action to represent the change that was happening in our marriage. The story of the prodigal son had been with me for the past few days. In that parable, the returning son had been given a ring and forgiven and told to come home and rest. I sensed that I was to buy my husband and myself matching rings. Physical reminders that I wouldn’t view myself or him through the mistakes of our past, but like the returning son, that I would endeavor to see myself as God sees me and as He sees my husband.
I was scared and stalled for three weeks before buying the rings. I knew that once I gave them to him, there was no running back to the old days and throwing them in his face. We could only move forward.
The same question came up again, “Will you trust Me?”
I clicked the Buy Now button and replied, “Yes” with a hopeful heart.
When I gave my husband the ring, he started to cry. “I never thought you would forgive me for all I put you through.”
I started to laugh, “Neither did I.”
We sat in the restaurant, laughing as tears streamed down our faces.
God’s Word promises that He gives us beauty for ashes. That He restores what was broken and He redeems what was destroyed.
Though I have stumbled and faltered and fought to find my footing, I know that I am not an Abused Wife.
Armed with love and forgiveness, I am a Warrior Bride.
If you feel like you could possible be in an abusive marriage please seek help and counsel. Here is a link to help you gauge if you are.
Holly C. Wyse is the award-winning novelist of the book, The Restoration of Emma Carmichael She lives a messy, wonder-filled life with her husband and three children in Alberta, Canada. Having “found her voice” again, she is preparing to write more restorative fiction.