Fear almost cost me my marriage. No, divorce was never an option; at least in the legal sense. But we were divorced in an emotional sense. Did you know that you can be emotionally divorced from your spouse? When trust is injured, vulnerability wounded and intimacy scarce, emotional divorce occurs.Like a small turtle who crept out of his shell cautiously but quickly retracted when met with the harsh elements of his environment, so were my husband and I during a tumultuous time of our marriage.The birth of our first baby was just weeks away. My husband’s job became increasingly unsteady and my maternity leave paychecks were finished. We were living off of savings and our stash was diminishing. My trust in the Lord seemed to recede as our bank account depleted. Our financial foundation cracked and so did my faith.My circumstances were exposing my weaknesses.
Be vigilant. For your enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
I distracted myself with all things “baby” choosing to ignore, as best I could, the churning anxiety within. Giving birth scared me but I decided to believe that my labor and delivery would be a breeze. I would go the natural path; no evil painkillers or drugs to make it easy for me but hard on my son.
Isn’t that how God would want it? Surely, if I do it His way, He’ll make it quick and easy. After all, we have enough things to cope with right now.
My hour came at 4 in the afternoon on a hot, sunny day in Hawaii. Just a few contractions and I was sure the devil was on a conquest to break me into pieces. Hours of labor turned into days and as my pain overpowered me, the nearness of God seemed a lie. With no reprieve in sight and forty-eight hours of torment behind me, my son was no closer to his first breathe than before. I finally got the epidural I had been begging for and I rested peacefully as I watched the medicine drip down the IV bag and into the tube attached to my arm. It was enough for four hours. I drifted in and out of sleep, constantly checking the supply of drugs next to me and reminding the nurses that I would need more very soon. No one seemed very interested and soon the anguish began to creep up again. As the pain intensified, so did the scene in the delivery room.
A final attempt was made to sever the anatomical connection between me and my baby. A fetal vacuum irritated the birth canal and blood poured out of my body onto the floor. No stitching or pressure applied seemed to mend the broken tunnel of life and I was rushed into a “should’ve done this a while ago” C-section. Left with few options and no time to administer sufficient pain killers, the doctor cut me open and yanked my son out of my body with a force I will never forget.
The staff had no time to get my husband and I gave birth clenching my own fists instead of his hands.
In pain you shall bring forth children.” -Genesis 3:16
My son’s delivery burned my world. The horror of my experience burrowed roots deep within me and hovered over every thought I had and decision I made. I became afraid. Afraid of everything.
What if I get sick?
What if we run out of money?
What if we need help and my family can’t fly all the way here to Hawaii to help?
What if I can’t forget what happened to me?
What if I can’t see the Lord in my life ever again?
Post traumatic stress birthed a fear of the future and choked my hope, dismantling my security. I thought I could trust the Lord with the birth of my son but His lack of intervention at the most painful time of my life caused me to question His benevolence and love for me.
I could no longer see beauty in the Hawaiian sun that sank itself into the sea each night outside my back door.
For our battle is not against flesh and blood…but against the powers of this dark world.” Ephesians 6:12
Instead of casting my burdens on the Lord like the Bible teaches, I threw them on my husband. I yanked my fear out from deep within and forced it on him, beseeching my beloved to save me.
When he couldn’t deliver me out of my troubles, I attacked him.
I pressured him to get a new job. I belittled him by calling him a weak provider. I nagged him to help me with the housework. Nothing he did was good enough and slowly, I wore him down.
All because I was scared.
O May your loving-kindness comfort me…may your compassion come to me that I may live.” Psalm 119: 75, 77
Fear, like a flood, was washing us away and heaving at the strong anchor of our marriage.
Finally, after seven months of hardship, I convinced my husband that we needed to move back to my family’s home in New York in order to recuperate some finances. In our brokenness, we left our home in Kona, Hawaii.
A wise woman builds her home; but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.” Proverbs 14:1
In the presence of my family, my unfounded anger toward my husband simmered and my fears were kept at bay. Get-togethers and nights out with friends diluted the tension between us and allowed us to co-exist without confrontation. Despite the diversions, I knew the rift I created still divided us. Our love had been reduced to a superficial friendship. Instead of reaching out to bridge the space between us, I remained at bay. When he didn’t come to me, I felt deeply rejected.
I wondered if he still loved me.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is the tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12
My childhood home provided a sense of safety that allowed me to heal. I watched my son every day and took joy in his new life; untainted by the cruel world. Makaio fearlessly trusted in us. I lived vicariously through him and was inspired to renew my own trust in God.
One Saturday, I attended a women’s conference at church. I went alone, hoping for hope; longing for a miracle. I listened as the speaker told me to identify a past pain that altered the course of my life. I immediately knew it was the events that surrounded my son’s birth. She then told me that God wanted to use that pain to propel me forward into my life’s calling. That day I began to see that something good could come out of my suffering.
For I hope in you, O Lord…” Psalm 38:15
But could my marriage be restored? Could the love my husband and I shared become born again after all I had done to kill it?
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth a song of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:2-3
In brokenness and anticipation, I went to my husband and asked for forgiveness. I saw months of hurt in his eyes as he offered me the little happiness he had left. He held out his empty arms and embraced me with evident distance.
Over the next several months the Lord showed me that recapturing trust and building a new foundation of love and vulnerability in my marriage would take time.
Dear Children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
Wouter didn’t need to hear from my mouth that I had changed, he needed to see it through my actions. I could be trusted again because I trusted the Lord again. Time was the only solution.
When fears arose over impending decisions, I looked to the Lord for my confidence. When finances seemed meager I trusted in God to provide. When I wanted to plan ahead, I relinquished the future to the Lord.
I stopped pressuring my husband to be my savior and started to view him as my companion.
Over the next few years, my marriage changed from my battlefield to my bastion.
Patience, love and sacrifice have reclaimed it from the grip of fear. When my husband looks at me, I know he sees me as his ally, friend and lover. Through our trials, our love has been purified and we are reconciled.
When my anxious thoughts multiply within, your consolations delight my soul.” Psalm 94:19
These days, when I think of my marriage I think of a diamond. It is the world’s most exquisite stone; sought for its beauty and durability. A diamond is formed from extreme pressure deep within the earth. Before it can be truly treasured it needs to be taken from the depths, refined and polished.
Pressure from the depths has strengthened my marriage, made it beautiful and given it infinite value.
I know my marriage will face further pressures, and even has already, but by faith, it will never be destroyed, only refined and polished.From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:2