Grieving couple starts over

th-2Marti introduced herself to me last night. We shook hands. I told her my name was John and she asked me if I spelled it with or without an “h.” What was she doing? She was illustrating that as a couple, we have a choice. Having gone through the devastating reality of sending our 15-year-old son away to a place that will provide for him what we could not, we can let this reality drive us apart as we each deal with the guilt and failure by sinking deeper into our own isolation and irritation, or we can realize that this reality has significantly altered us. We are simply not the people we were before, and the positive side of that is that we are now new. Our relationship is new. Let’s find out who we are. Thus, the introduction.

My wife is brilliant. Of course you could say this is true of any relationship, every day, since we are always in the process of change and thus there is some sense in which we do not know who we were yesterday, but even more so after going through something as devastating as this. This is vital. Failure to do this is to fail the relationship. This is why so many marriages end in divorce after going through some kind of personal trauma. Instead of embracing each other anew, they go further into isolation and drive each other further and further apart until they are beyond reconciliation.

I mentioned in yesterday’s Catch how little things in our relationship were suddenly magnified — how I suddenly had to be right about the dumbest things. That’s the way we’re headed if we don’t realize we are each dealing with a new person now. And part of dealing with that new person is realizing what the Bible does and does not say about relationships. (And what is does not say is almost as important as what it does say, because so many teachers have tried to make the Bible say what they want it to say, instead of really finding out what it says with no pre-thinking going into it.)

The following, therefore, is a bit of biblical reinterpretation I offer to you in Marti’s words to consider in terms of not just marriage, but all relationships. I’m also going to suggest you read the following many times over — maybe print it and put it on your refrigerator — because this kind of re-directing of our thinking won’t happen overnight. This is inspired.

There is, however, no real manual offered on the market on how to recover from loss or to repair what is broken. Not even the Bible is available as a “How To Fix Her Up”er. Rather, the Word is a comforter, a source of unending discovery, and a collection of words that the Spirit interprets into our hearts.

The Bible will not tell us how to maintain or improve our marriage, but it will convict us on how to love completely.

The Bible does not tell us how to hold onto each other, but it can, if we let it, gather the arms of the Father around us both.

It is not a book of personal conviction; it is the heart of conviction.

The Bible speaks to the isolated, but it will encourage the need to identify and then reach out to others.

The Bible will not tell us how to raise our kids, maintain our homes, or save our marriages, but it will help us recognize what we are really missing in our lives.

The Bible will not tell our partners what they need to change for what we need, but it will illustrate how we can accept the differences with joy.

The Bible will never tell us that we must be all things for all situations in all areas of our partners’ lives. The Bible will not address our differences in biology, personality, upbringing, current responsibilities, and life experiences. However, the Bible will help us to understand the numerous perspectives we have from one another. These different perspectives were never designed to create conflict.

The Bible does not appreciate timelines, so, therefore, does not penalize one person for being farther behind than the other, or consider one person’s pace better than the other’s.

Also, the Bible does not consider an “A” personality better than a dreamer — in fact it counts both as being desirable. Strength is not considered a Godly characteristic and should not be confused with someone who is supportive. In fact, the Bible teaches strength often gets in God’s way while asking that we come alongside as the preferred way of caring.  

The Bible is full of those who act out of emotions — and God likes that. The Bible is also full of people who take turns with emotional control — and God likes that too. And while I do not know if the Bible supports those who find the other’s silence frustrating and infuriating, I know John is often irritated when I pressure him to talk.

The Bible offers no sure way or single path that couples follow who do well together. There is no formula, no sure series of steps that will guarantee a good outcome. Each couple starts at a different place, has different problems to deal with, has different resources available, and brings different histories (including different past experiences with other losses), different values, and different personalities to the situation.

So each couple’s journey is unique – and why I will always be with John for this journey we share, and I trust he will be with me as we struggle to build a connecting and always-challenging relationship before God.

And the journey we share is not dependent on whether John understands or has experienced my pain or loss, nor am I expected to know his. We are, however, to embrace one another — always — in all situations in all areas of our lives … until death do us part.

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11 Responses to Grieving couple starts over

  1. gregory krejci says:

    I really love this. My wife and I had to make the same sort of decision for our child. He was more than we could deal with on our own. The pain at the time was searing and constant. We did not know what was going to happen but we knew that God did. 10 years later God has proven himself faithful as He always has.

  2. Mark Seguin says:

    Luv today’s Catch! And think/believe it’s brilliant too – let me please offer a suggestion Pastor John there is power in words! Plz consider and think about No longer using your words like the ones you chose to use above: “guilt and failure” It’s a failure – becauz you decided it is – No one else does!

    I truly love what you suggested to read a few time. To me it SCREAMS out to seriously consider reading a book(s) by Dr. Robert Rohm, the DISC Method of Understand Personality Styles – I’ve suggested a few times, yet from your writing I think may have gone ignored(?) although, I simply do not know… 🙂

  3. Carole in Midland says:

    Y’all are empty nesters now. That in itself is a huge change after years of raising fledglings to fly on their own. Chandler may have fledged a bit before you hoped, and in a manner you would not have chosen, but maybe you could think of it as his graduating to a more specialized nest that will further build on the strong foundation you two have laid.What a blessing that is and will be to him! This is a new beginning for everyone and new beginnings mean new adventures. They don’t mean doing the same things over and hoping it will turn out better this time, or trying to fix (even if it’s only in our heads) old missteps. It means discovering and learning (not just REdiscovering and RElearning). Your race is still being run; press on ahead toward the PRIZE; it’s still there for all of you. God did not save us to drop us on our heads; it just feels that way sometimes.You are well loved, J & M, and by SO many. Call on us as we all have called on you time and time again. It’s our privilege to pray for y’all. It is an honor to be counted as your friends. You are not alone (whether you like it or not!)

  4. Lois Taylor says:

    Thank you for sharing. We care.

  5. Brian says:

    I just returned from a 2 week trip to Uganda. I read this before any of the other posts I missed. I was confused – surely John is not saying that they sent Chandler away. Not the little boy that I’ve “watched” grow up?

    My heart is breaking for you & Marti and my prayers are with you. His will be done.


  6. Sandie says:

    What a testimony of what a marriage should look like! My husband and I have been married almost 46 years – I’ve lost count of how many times we have ‘re-invented’ our relationship! One thing was sacred to us even before we were believers (the Holy Spirit was leading us even then!)…NOTHING would be allowed to come between us. The world has seen us falter – the world has seen us get a grip and help each other to regroup and carry on – always stronger for the experience. Perfect? No way…but with the Lord we keep on ‘keepin’ on.’ And so will the both of you! Thank you for laying your lives bare – in doing so the rest of us can see Jesus.

  7. Lisa in Sunland says:

    Some wonderful and wise words here, and much needed. Thank you (and Marti) for once again blessing us, even during your own pain. Transparency is one of the best blessings you can give us!

    I know school is such a struggle for kids with learning differences that don’t fit with the school’s style of teaching. Yet kids with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and even ADHD, so often are very intelligent, creative, logical; able to see three-dimensionally with an artists/architect’s eye, and to follow a thought down a path to an amazing, unthought-of, yet logical conclusion. Often wise beyond their years about others, but unable to see themselves objectively. But also often successes! In acting, photography, videography, science… the list goes on. My own often sad/angry “learning-disabled” son graduated high school (admittedly barely); he is a capable musician on several brass instruments, artistic, eloquent, and is employed full-time at a videography company. His “drugs” of choice seem to be procrastination, refusing to sleep, arguing with his parents and videos/games, but he functions, and I pray he learns to function well. But he can’t be doing too badly at work… he just turned 19 a few days ago, and there is talk of making him general manager down the line.

    Hope this one story is of some comfort. Today (yet again) you have been of help and comfort to me! Blessings on ya as you remain in His mighty grip.

  8. Janet Licklider says:

    Even before you told us what was going on with Chandler I sensed that something of that magnitude was going on and started praying for you both and Chandler, the way you have prayed for me and my requests in the past. God will see you through this. His grace is sufficient as you have often told us. All of us handle things differently but that doesn’t mean we are not feeling the same thing. We just cannot express it in the same way. Give each other time to deal with this. Let our Heavenly Father wrap His arms around the both of you and bring you closer together. I am not as eloquent as you in expressing myself but I hope God will help you understand what I am trying to say. Love and blessings.

  9. Mary Strawsma says:

    I have been reading your work since you were with Rick Warren, You are the opening in my day. You have been an encourager and a comforter to my prayer life. As Facebook has given me other sources of reading for learning I still remain with you as a source of strength built from your own weakness through His power. So I pray with you and for you on this morning. Lifting you up.

  10. TimC says:

    Brilliant !

  11. Jim Heigl says:

    John, I sent my son away at 18, an alternative to him wandering the streets. At 21 the lord called him back again, and that time he came back into Jesus’ arms and then ours. I just spent the weekend with my now, 33yr old. Two days of fun and laughter, too much of our favorite food, late nights sharing bumps in the road and a wonderful Sunday morning in his church.
    The Lord is so faithful. He is the model of the always hopeful, loving and inviting parent.

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