My husband was absent from dinner again. I could see him at the other end of the table, but he couldn't see me. For two years, his mind had been elsewhere — not on bad things, just busy things like his job and the church's building program. He worked 50 hours a week as a construction manager and volunteered 25 hours a week heading up our church's building project.
The weight of our home life was on my shoulders, and though I tried my best, many important things slipped off my plate and splattered all over the floor. This one-sided season was changing me, and I knew it.
After dinner one night, I went into the living room where my husband was looking at notes from a recent meeting. I swallowed hard and sat down. I opened my mouth to speak, and my eyes filled with tears.
"I need to ask your forgiveness for something," I said. "You know I've been very hurt and angry over how things have gone these past two years. During my prayer time, I realized that though you've been absent, I am the one who has committed the greater offense. You've stayed kind through it all. My heart has grown cold. Please forgive me.
"I am going to make a conscious effort to love and care for you. I want all of what God has for me, and I am going to do what He asks me to do."
Kevin's mouth dropped open. With each word I spoke, it seemed another scale fell from his eyes. After I finished, his voice cracked, and he asked, "Is this what my choices have been doing to you?"
I put my face in my hands and wept. Kevin came to me and wrapped me in his arms. There we sat, two imperfect people, desperately in need of God's mercy and grace.
When you said, "I do," did you have any idea that life with your spouse could become a lonely burden? Are you carrying more of a load than you bargained for?
Everyone who marries will eventually encounter a season when the weight of the relationship ends up on his or her shoulders. Spouses get sick, distracted, selfish or overworked; they pursue further education or start new businesses; they overcommit or overspend. Life happens, the weight shifts, and suddenly we find ourselves wondering, Is this how God meant it to be?
Sad to say, many Christians are either "getting out" or "checking out." They come upon an imbalanced season in marriage, and they either walk away or disengage from the relationship. It's easy to consider our spouse's busyness as our license to do what we want. And yet the choices we make during this difficult time are critical to the health of our marriage.
Just how do we safely make our way through a one-sided season?
Drop negative emotions.
While worry, self-pity and anger are normal, it's important not to carry these emotions with you. They will slow you down and make your journey through this season more arduous. Deal with them as they come up, and guard your heart with diligence.
Turn your back on worry by relying on God's faithfulness. Make the choice to trust Him. Fight self-pity by counting your blessings. Though times get tough, you are still blessed.
Defuse anger by getting real with God. Rather than pretending to be a happy Christian spouse while anger overtakes your inner life, bring to God every emotion you are feeling. Talk to a Christian counselor, and understand that there's a difference between bashing your spouse and seeking godly counsel.
Run from conversations that stir up negative feelings. Guard your speech, and talk about your situation only with people who will help you regain a godly perspective. Rehearsing and revisiting offenses only re-injures the soul and the relationship. Turn from a complaining, grumbling attitude and embrace hopeful expectation instead.
Redeem negative experiences.
Loneliness, disappointment and imperfection are things we would rather leave by the roadside, but inside each of these burdens is a blessing in disguise. Use lonely times to nourish your soul by spending time with the Lord.
Allow your disappointments to redirect your prayers so you may believe God for better days. Embrace your imperfections (and your spouse's) so that you gain a fresh understanding of your own frailty and God's mercy. Use this difficult season to cultivate a deeper walk of faith.
I kept my word and made the conscious effort to love my husband while he struggled to overcome his workaholic tendencies. And to be honest, there were days I moved toward my husband simply out of obedience to God.
Over time, though, I saw something magnificent happen. Kevin slowed down. He saw what he was missing and didn't want to miss it anymore. Contentment replaced his personal ambition, and though he still had an overdeveloped work ethic, he had an even deeper conviction to fulfill his God-given role at home. Little by little, we both made deposits into a relational account that had been emptied over the past two years.
We learned to put strict boundaries around our time and tenaciously guard our date nights. Now every morning we bow our heads in prayer and commit the day to the Lord. This keeps us in step with each other and with God.
Years have passed, and when I look at my husband now, I find a love in my heart that almost overwhelms me. He has worked hard to make choices that have protected our home and rebuilt my trust. I see God actively working in him, and he sees God actively working in me.
Ever feel like you need to wear a mask to cover up who you are? Are you concerned that, if people knew who you really are and how you really felt, they wouldn't understand?
One minister, two jobs and the family that's at the top of the list. The number of bivocational ministers, those in full- or part-time ministry who carry an additional job, is estimated by some researchers to be as high as 30 percent of ministers nationwide.
"You should see the church they attend," Lucille said, armed with bulletin and newsletter. Creases formed across my brow as celebration gave way to comparisons a trap that had sprung too many times.