If I’ve learned anything from the pain and heartache of a fractured marriage, it’s that true love can endure, does not fade nor falter, and hurts like mad.
When you choose to love, you run the risk of being hurt. But in knowing that, forgiveness must also share a space with love in your heart.
Love does hurt. Sometimes. Oftentimes. Because sometimes and oftentimes we hurt the people we love the most. And because hurt people hurt people. So, when you stand for a relationship and for another imperfect human being, you must accept that love can and does hurt, but having a spirit of forgiveness can help with healing.
I’m not advocating that you live life in love as a doormat. I’m only suggesting that some love stories are worth fighting for and that even when lovers hurt each other, marriages can be resurrected if there is room in your heart for forgiveness and second chances.
When the man I chose to love made a choice to exit our marriage five years ago, I never stopped loving him. Even after he explored other relationships, my heart never changed. Love stayed buried in the recesses of my heart and soul.
In the depth of my grief, I cried out to the One who gave me life, who understood my broken heart and who collected every tear I cried. “Change my heart or change his,” I lamented day after day. And then one night while drowning in despair, I came upon Psalms 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
And so in the wee hours of the morning in my painfully quiet bedroom, I committed my life to building a meaningful relationship with my God. I sought to delight myself in His presence, eager to learn more about His character, His love, His faithfulness and His forgiveness. For far too long, I’d neglected nurturing the only relationship that truly mattered at the end of the day, at the end of life’s last breath.
My biggest mistake was not in loving my husband but in making him my rock and my refuge, a place reserved only for my Creator. When my earthly rock shifted, I was completely thrown off balance, teetering on the edge of insanity and rocked by grief that shook my core.
I knew God had not caused this shift, but He allowed it. In allowing it, He made Himself available, capitalizing on the perfect opportunity to draw me closer to Him. He wanted to be my rock, my fortress, my protector, my safe place. Rightly so since He chose me even before I was formed inside my mother’s womb. Our God is a jealous God. He desires us above and beyond our own desires for other people.
One of the first Bible verses that I felt God laid on my heart as I grieved a lost relationship was Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.”
God was preparing me for a long, arduous journey along a path of pain and uncertainty, but one that would ultimately teach me to trust Him, wait for His perfect timing and find hope and joy in the midst of my trials. He did some mighty things during that valley experience and continues to show up in ways today that leave me astounded and amazed. This God I serve has proven faithful, loving and merciful beyond my imagination.
Making all things new
Little did I know God was working behind the scenes not just on me but on my husband as well. He was making me new and giving my husband newness as well, unbeknownst to me. One night when I felt like giving up on this man I’d come to love so dearly and moving on with my life, God whispered to my heart to stay still: “Wait for the Lord: be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalms 27:14)
During our separation, my prayers for reconciliation took a backseat to prayers for my husband’s salvation. His wayward soul became more important to me than our reunion. If God’s plan didn’t include saving my marriage, I prayed instead He’d save his soul.
Three months later, after I first uttered that salvation prayer, my husband recommitted his life to Christ and began his own journey of restoration and reconciliation. His journey is his to tell, but I can attest that he is a different man than the one who walked out on me five years ago.
Just two years after his exit, he asked for a reconciliation. I saw a prodigal seeking forgiveness for all the wrongs and hurts he’d caused, but yet I was still healing, reeling and unable to embrace the thought of restoration. The betrayal, infidelity and rejection had chipped away at my heart, leaving it riddled with holes and cracks that I thought were unfixable.
No one would understand why I would even consider it after all that had transpired. I truly didn’t expect my friends and family to understand. After all, they were privy to so much of my heartache, brokenness and depression. Embracing the one who’d heaped such pain and caused such hurt was unfathomable to them.
Many likely would never agree with my decision to try again, I thought. So why did I? Maybe it’s my inner spirit that can’t accept defeat or give up at any cost. Maybe it’s that I long to believe in the best in someone, especially someone whom I love dearly. Or maybe it’s knowing that Christ lives in and through me, and that He would never give up on me nor fail to give me another chance even after repeatedly breaking His heart through my sinful actions.
One of my favorite preachers, Joyce Meyer, captured my sentiment perfectly.
“Love keeps giving the other person another chance,” Meyer wrote in a daily devotional. “Love keeps trusting them over and over again, expecting them to do the right thing the next time, believing the best of them.”
Even he asked me why I would ever take another chance on him. My answer then and still is: “Because I believe in you and I believe you have what it takes to be a man of integrity.”
If God was behind this unimaginable turn of events, then He would have to make a way, I thought. He would have to soften the hearts of those who’d also been hurt on the peripheral. And He would have to help me muster the strength to offer forgiveness. I thought it would be an impossible mountain to climb. But faith can move mountains and with God, nothing is impossible.
And so I waited. On God’s perfect timing and His leading. And He did what I thought was impossible. God moved a mountain and resurrected a relationship! He gave me a spirit of forgiveness. And He gave those closest to me the same. Collectively, we in turn extended the gift of forgiveness, ultimately demonstrating the unconditional love of Christ who gives us new mercies every day even when we don’t deserve it.
Love is a choice
My prodigal and I have been reunited now for two years. We can both testify that God orchestrated our reunion in His perfect timing and in His perfect way that is much higher and better qualified than our own. We trust Him for every good thing that comes our way. And we know that our relationship thrives because we allow the Great Conductor, the Healer, our Deliverer to direct our paths.
“But I was given mercy so that in me Christ Jesus could show that he has patience without limit. Christ showed his patience with me, and the worst of all sinners. He wanted me to be an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16)
We’re also aware that Satan roams the earth looking for souls to devour. He tries at every twist and turn to fill our heads with lies in an effort to destroy what God has ordained. But good always prevails if we put our trust in the One who can cause all things to work for our good.
Love is a choice. We wake up every day and choose to love the person with whom we’ve committed to growing old with. Yes, love hurts. But love is also patient, kind and never proud. It trusts, hopes, forgives and perseveres. And love keeps no record of wrongs.