Prodigal Marriage Part 2 – Fearless Friday

Prodigal marriage Part 2 by Peter Williams  Read Part One HERE

 “Your wife and children left you because you were caught up in a cycle of domestic abuse”. My pastor spoke coldly and frankly, his chilling words echoing in my head while he drew out a visual for me on his legal pad. I was stunned. The words pierced my heart like a javelin. No man dreams of growing up and having an abusive marriage.

“When you get home tonight your wife and children will not be there. They want you to know that they are somewhere safe, but they won’t be there.”  I stared at my best friend in unbelief, as he met me by my car after work. My biggest fear had come true. My family was gone and I was alone.

At the time, I was suffering from PTSD and I was experiencing depression and anxiety. I was all over the map emotionally and  mentally. To avoid dealing with the pain, I became controlling and paranoid to levels that left my family feeling unsafe and helpless. I desperately needed some help but I was completely unaware of how unbalanced I had become. I didn’t even understand why my family had left.

Coming home to the empty house, I knew something needed to change. I took the first step I could think of: I cried out to God in prayer.

The one thing I wanted to know was would He leave me too? Would God write me off as well?

I knew the Bible said that He was with me and would never leave me, but I started asking Him to show me for certain that this was true.

Eleven days later He answered my prayer while I was out on a walk. There is this little green bridge by my house that has wooden planks to drive across. As I stepped onto the first plank of wood, God filled me up with His love. It felt like I had gained 200 pounds in an instant and my legs wobbled beneath me. I was only able to take very small steps forward because my shoes felt as though they were encased with cement. But with each step forward I felt more and more loved by God. Joy welled up within my heart and I began to laugh. For twenty minutes, all the way across the bridge and back, I took one childlike step after another, laughing and feeling completely loved by God. It was relief to my weary soul, even though I must have looked quite the site as I laughed my way across the bridge.

As I struggled through the agony of being separated from my family I took time to reflect and pray. I faced the man I had become. Nothing was off the table. Saying I’m sorry was not going to cut it. I needed to face where I was wrong and to say so. As a man, this was difficult for me to do, because I learned growing up that to admit I was wrong; was to admit that I was weak and broken, that I didn’t have what it takes, that I was not good enough.

I learned growing up that to admit I was wrong; was to admit that I was weak and broken, that I… Click To Tweet

I sought out help and started seeing a clinical counselor after my family moved away. It was through my counselling sessions that I learned that these unhealthy beliefs about being a man were really keeping me from taking full responsibility for my wrongs-which is in essence-what a good man does. Learning this was critical for me because I was caught up in a web of rationalizing my selfish behavior and justifying my wrong choices as coming from the best of intentions. I even saw myself as a victim, for a time, and I blamed my wife and others, as well as the circumstances, for why my wife and children had left. Truth be told, these were my responses to many of the problems within my marriage for years. The sad part is that when my bride believed my rationalizations it enabled my wrong behavior to continue. This led to the worst discovery of my life.

“Your wife and children left you because you were caught up in a cycle of domestic abuse”. My pastor spoke coldly and frankly, his chilling words echoing in my head while he drew out a visual for me on his legal pad. I was stunned. The words pierced my heart like a javelin. No man dreams of growing up and having an abusive marriage.

From that point on I began to feel a deep compassion towards my family, and now understanding the last six weeks of my wife’s hostility towards me and her unmasked pain over being abused. For the first time since arriving home to an empty house I felt like my families’ exodus finally made sense to me. I wanted to say to my pastor:  ‘Why didn’t you tell me this six weeks ago when my family left?’ Looking back I can see that God did a lot of work in my heart during those first six weeks, so that I could hear my pastor’s words, see the cycle we were in and not flat out deny them.

The words of James 4:6 kept being highlighted to me at that time: “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. What I needed and wanted more than anything else was God’s grace. It was time to take the path of humility.

I needed a lot of help. I needed to change my ways, which meant I needed to change my thinking. That was where I got to know the Holy Spirit. His ever present counsel and comfort enabled me to confront and change my wrong beliefs and my unhealthy thinking. He had an open invitation into all of my thoughts and rants. He would step in at just the right time, every time, to walk me through seeing my sin, confessing I was wrong, repenting, receiving forgiveness, and replacing one lie after another with the truth in my daily thought life.

You can never go wrong by inviting the Holy Spirit into your thought life. I depended upon His counsel and wisdom every single day just to get through each day. When I sat down to read my bible I was no longer reading the words with just my brain, I was reading them with the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. The words of scripture became alive inside of me as the Holy Spirit began to teach me about living out of my identity in Christ.

While my relationship with the Lord grew closer, my relationship with my wife was in shambles and grew increasingly distant. She refused to listen to any progress I was making in counselling, or of the changes I was experiencing in my life. I felt helpless. I didn’t know if I would ever see my wife or children again.

In the past, to avoid feeling helpless I would try to control the situations I was in. The Holy Spirit was now instructing me to trust Him, which meant giving up trying to get the outcome I wanted, and to start taking responsibility for myself and my actions. The first test of trusting God came when my pastor held a three way phone call with my wife and myself. I hadn’t spoken with her in two months. My pastor communicated to my wife that I had recently met with him and had learned about being in an abusive relationship. My pastor also proposed a new idea. Since we were both in shock over the state of our relationship and grappling with the enormity of it, now would not be a good time to make life-altering decisions. He proposed that rather than seek divorce, or reconciliation, that we should both pursue a year of individual healing through counselling and pursuing Christ. My wife agreed. However, my wife wanted to remain three provinces away, at her mother’s house with our three children. She felt safe there, and she wanted the help and support of her family while she picked up the pieces of her shattered life.

In that moment I had zero assurance that my marriage would ever be restored. I had zero assurance that I would even be allowed to have any meaningful role in the lives of my children after the proposed year of healing was finished. I felt trapped in my pastor’s office as he and my wife awaited my decision. I had no idea how to proceed, so I prayed and asked the Lord what I should do. His said to agree to the year of healing. So with peace in my heart I agreed to it.

I missed my children so much in the months that followed. Each evening I would call them to hear how their day at school went, but it never seemed to fill the void of their absence. I wanted to spend time with my children. The distance made that impractical. I began looking into getting a court order that would outline a shared custody agreement between my wife, Holly, and I. This would give me the time I wanted with my children, but it would also mean going against my wife’s wishes to remain at her mother’s house until she had completed the year of healing we had agreed to. I kept pursing the matter on my end, completely out of my own frustration. Then one afternoon the Holy Spirit spoke three words that halted me in mid thought: “Don’t oppose, Holly”.  I dropped the matter entirely. I laid down my last ditch attempt to control the outcome I so desperately wanted. I simply trusted God to be God. I trusted that in His hands alone, I would be okay, and my family would be okay, whatever the outcome would be.

377 days later, after a season of tiny miracles and many opportunities to trust God, my wife gave me a hug on Christmas Day. It was the best Christmas gift I had ever received. We had been in counselling and working through assignments our pastor gave us. I had hope that we could have a relationship as parents, but no indication that we would ever be a family again.

I left that Christmas night praying for my family’s restoration and hoping that the New Year would bring a new future.

A week later my wife gave me a ring. It was a symbol of a fresh start. She told me that she didn’t want to view me through the lens of my past, but instead see me as God sees me: Not a write-off or a mistake, not an abusive husband or a mental health case, but as a much loved son, who has been given a second chance at life. I cried with joy as we forgave each other.

In my own strength and attempts to avoid pain, I had tried to control outcomes and the efforts cost me my family. As I chose to trust God with an ending I couldn’t prescribe, I received my miracle.

A new beginning with my wife and family.

Today, we have been together for over a year and a half. Our progress continues as we pursue God together, and continue marriage counselling. We have chosen to live a slower pace, making self-care a priority, which in turn makes our children and marriage a priority. We have come a long way, and we hope to inspire every marriage with the message that God can redeem and restore, when you put your trust in Him.

peter-bio

 

Peter Williams is a full-time homeschooling super dad of three children! He is passionate about prayer, photography and going on adventures. He is very proud of of  his wife Holly, as she steps out to fulfill her call to write at http://www.hollycwyse.com (seriously, check her out, she’s amazing!)

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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