I had been dreading this day ever coming, but I knew that we still needed to have that “day of reckoning,” the long awaited for disclosure of the result of his three months of praying about our marriage. No efforts had been made at bringing healing to our marriage. In preparation I set up a Skype session with the counselor once again to discuss how to handle the situation. I knew that Dobson’s “Love Must Be Tough” advocated not empowering your mate to continue living in a sinful lifestyle by granting him the privileges of “family” while being disobedient. But my struggle was, did being ignored constitute grounds for instituting “tough love.” I did not want to leave my husband. I discussed back and forth with the counselor the reasons for staying. I knew I was not promised love as a condition for being married. So, was it ok to stay with him if the only problem was that he didn’t love me? My counselor assured me that yes, it was. And so I reasoned in my heart that I could be strong enough to stay with him and pray for a miracle to transform his love once again.
My husband reluctantly agreed to talk to me and took me to a crowded version of Haiti’s McDonalds to allow us time to talk without disruptions. Music was blaring, and people were crowded in tables next to us allowing for no privacy. Perhaps he felt it would keep things from getting too emotional. His declaration came as no surprise. He said he still didn’t love me and that he just wanted to continue things as they were. In spite of preparing myself, I sat there dumbfounded really not knowing how to respond. He gave me no plan of action, except that he still wanted to continue on in our marriage. We left the restaurant and started on our way home in the busy rush hour traffic of Port au Prince. As he was driving, I felt led to ask him if he was having an affair. He immediately popped out with, “Why would you ask that?” He did not deny it, nor did he admit to it. As I pushed once again for an answer, he responded heatedly, “You should ask yourself why you haven’t been the wife to me that you should have been!” I again repeated my question, and he said that he had always had to have other women to talk to and do things with, and that sometimes that involved inappropriate physical contact, but that he did not want to tell me any details until he had talked to a counselor about it. I asked him about a particular woman from over 20 years before because I felt that if there ever was an indiscretion from the past, it would have been with her. He once again said, “Why would you ask that?”
He refused to discuss anything further, and we rode home in silence. My heart was sinking, and I didn’t even want to pray. He cheerily greeted everyone we passed while I felt like vomiting. He dropped me off at home and continued on to teach a Bible study. He didn’t understand why I did not feel able to go, nor why I did not want to have people over for dinner afterwards. I took the dog out for a 5 mile brisk walk around the villages crying as I walked. By the time I arrived back home, I had calmed down tremendously and could begin praying again. When my husband returned later that evening, he was at the computer and out of the clear blue, I felt prompted to ask him a question, “If you have always had other women, why do you want to stay with me?” He reluctantly responded that he guessed he just didn’t know what else to do. I know God had been working in my heart through counseling and reading and I replied with little thought or emotion that until he figured out what to do, that I needed to leave him. I could not share him with other women even if there was not any physical contact. But until he decided to commit to our marriage, I could not live with him.
I was calm, but heartsick. “God, what are you going to do with us?”
I am very incredibly blessed to be celebrating this first Christmas as an almost divorced person with my loving and supportive children. I know they are all banding together to help me through this first time, and perhaps they need the support of all of us being together as a family as well. That big hole in the family is going to be hard to overlook. In the middle of all of the drama it is sometimes hard to remember that Christmas does extend beyond me personally and my circumstances.
I’ve grown up in church and was always encouraged to keep Christ as the center of Christmas, but so often that is hard to do. As a child I know the gifts took pre-eminence, and as an adult, I think family has taken that place. It is hard to not get so excited about seeing all of my children that I allow it to take the forefront of my thinking. In the past we would always make plans as a husband and wife to welcome them back home and to plan fun activities while we were all together and so that is what causes it to be hard now. The happiness of Christmas really revolved around us being together as a family. So, I must readjust my thinking and put the emphasis back where it really belongs.
For the first time I am in a church that includes advent as part of its celebration. I am really enjoying the daily devotionals that go along with this. It is helping me to recognize the significance to me personally that Christ came that first time in order that He might offer me salvation and then He will return a second time in victory establishing His kingdom. And that second time is my hope, my assurance for getting through life now. One day there will not being any more mourning, crying, or pain because all that I was, all that I did, will have passed away. In spite of the mess that I have made of this life, He gives me a chance with a brand new me without any of the scars or pain from my present life! And, just as at Christmas long ago, God is going to live with us; He will be with us as our God (Rev. 21:3-4). I’m not ever again going to doubt that He is there, or feel like He is a million miles away. He knows the cry of my heart to want to see Him. What incredible promises!
This hope is a “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Heb. 6:19) and when everything around me is topsy-turvy, when it seems like I am about to go under with all the circumstances, I have this hope that is set before me. It is that hope for which I “wait eagerly,” (Rom. 8:23) and it fills me with all “joy and peace in believing” and by the Holy Spirit I can “abound in hope” (Rom. 15:13). I am so excited about that promise of joy and peace– do I ever need it! And in this Christmas season I am not going to just be barely living in the midst of grief, but “abounding!”
As we stepped off the plane from that final counseling session, we arrived back in Haiti ready to spring into the final preparations for an open air crusade. It was exceptionally busy allowing for little personal time for the things we were encouraged to do in counseling. Ministry can be an easy way to avoid your problems at home; there is always something else to do. As our last counseling session had come to a close, I expressed a concern as to whether my husband was willing to work on our relationship. I asked him pointedly in front of the counselor and he skirted the issue.
I was very fearful of that evasion tactic because I knew that evasion too often meant that he did not want to admit that he was not going to do it. However, the counselor did not catch the omission, and I did not point it out. I felt that perhaps I was trying too hard for commitment instead of trusting God to bring his heart around to wanting to do it. We were sent back to Haiti with some DVD’s to watch together as a couple and made arrangements for Skype sessions to be able to continue with counseling. We watched about 20 minutes of one video and that was where my husband’s efforts stopped. He also avoided making any arrangements for his first Skype session with the counselor. I was so disappointed, but hoped that when the crusade finished, that he would renew his efforts.
During the crusade, we had a traumatic occurrence. We had a team of 12 people down from Indiana. This team had become good friends with us through their many mission trips to our place, and my husband’s visits to their church. One night about midnight, one of them came banging on my door shouting that they were being attacked in the guest quarters by men with guns. My husband hurried to the rescue with another Haitian, both armed with pistols, and chased the men away as they exchanged gunfire. Five of the team were shot, none with serious injuries. They, of course, wanted to immediately fly back to the States. So, after my husband spent the night at the hospital with those who were shot, he took them to the airport where the team spent the day as they were flown to Florida by private jet in two different flights. I assumed my husband stayed with the ones waiting for the second flight, but when I called him to check on how it was going, he was out doing “other things” in town. I thought it was strange that he left them to fend for themselves after such a traumatic night. Now I can look back and think he was probably getting his comfort from another source.
In spite of the gravity of being in a life or death situation, it did nothing to draw us any closer together. The chasm continued widening. I corresponded with my counselor via email, and then set up a Skype session with him. He encouraged me to continue drawing some boundaries in our marriage that should not be violated. He helped me to realize that it was not wrong to have certain expectations of my husband. But he encouraged me most of all to honor my husband, and that by doing so, I was honoring Christ. I asked God to open my eyes to ways I was dishonoring my husband. The emotional distance continued to grow, and even though my husband tried to spend some time in the evenings with me, it was always sitting before the TV until he was falling asleep. I would sit next to him hoping he would put his arm around me or talk to me, wanting desperately to bridge the gap, but not knowing how.
My cry during these days was to the One who promised to give wisdom “generously to all without reproach,” (James 1:5). I knew there was an answer to this whole mess, and I was waiting to see how God was going to provide.
…to be continued
I was so excited to see how God had blessed my obedience in following Him one step at a time. God’s answering was such a subtle process to me. I had been spending hours reading my Bible, praying, memorizing verses, and asking God, “What on earth am I going to do?” I kept seeing things that I needed to change in my life, and began working on them. The counselor I had corresponded with through the blog had encouraged me that I was at a place where I needed counseling, and that if I was willing and prayed about it, that God would provide at the right time. But it was still in amazement and shock that just as the counselor had promised, God made a way clear for counseling. And with absolutely no prodding on my part, He even worked in my husband’s heart to make him willing to go as well! God opened the door wide in His own unmistakable way and all I needed to do was step through it. I ran gladly through!
I sat nervously filling out the paperwork as we waited in the reception area of the counseling center. I had never been to a counselor before, nor even contemplated ever having the need to consult one. It seemed like something other people might do, but never me. My emotions were all over the board. I was scared to death because I had no idea what would happen in that office, what I would be required to say, whether I would be able to present myself clearly, or if I would be able to feel comfortable with the counselor. And yet I was relieved to be there because it meant that we were committing ourselves to finding a solution to our problem. I knew my husband was as nervous as I was. I desperately wanted our marriage to be fixed, but was fearful about the hurt that might arise in order to make it happen.
We started out the first day with individual sessions. It was here that we each told our viewpoint of the problems we were having. I found myself so relieved to be explaining what was happening, my fears, my jealousies, my hurts, and to explain what I had done to contribute to the demise of our marriage. There was no evaluation of right or wrong doing, no pointing of fingers; it was simply a time to gain an understanding. That veneer I had put on for so long was able to be stripped away. I didn’t have to pretend to be alright. The next two days we had joint sessions, a time to acquire some tools for relating to each other.
Sleep was rather elusive those nights in the hotel. I had found that since our three month hiatus on marriage began, that I could not turn my mind off with all the thoughts going around in my brain. Talking to the counselor gave me even more to contemplate, and in the hotel I found myself not being able to fall asleep until 2 am and then awakening by 4 or 4:30. I spent time reading the Bible and praying and in the exercise room trying to work out that nervous energy. It’s a good thing that I have a God that “neither sleeps nor slumbers,” because I kept Him busy! I was tentatively hopeful that we would be able to fix our marriage, but could tell that it was going to be slow going and require a lot of effort on the part of both of us. I knew it was possible, and I knew it was what God wanted, but the real question for the days ahead was, did we want it? Were we willing to do the work it would take? …to be continued
If you were to take a survey of Christian parents and ask them what their thoughts are on participating with Halloween, you would receive a variety of answers. The truth is, many Christian parents aren’t sure what the right answer is, or what the Bible says about participating in this holiday. Some may be aware of its pagan origins, and some may see Halloween as a fun way for kids to get dressed up in costumes and get candy from their neighbors. But, what’s the right approach?
The Origins Of Halloween
Halloween began as a Christian holiday called “All Hallows Eve”. Originally, it was a day that the church observed in remembrance of the martyrs. Some historians believe that the Celtic holiday Samhain is responsible for the Americanized version of Halloween that we know today.
Samhain is a festival that is still held by those practicing the Wiccan religion. It refers to the time when the door to the “Otherworld” becomes opened, allowing the passage of the dead, fairies, and other mystical creatures to enter into our world. Costumes were commonly worn as a way to disguise yourself from these spirits, some of whom were evil. And treats were later included in the legend as a way to bribe the spirits into going back into their “Otherworld”.
The Christian Response
The most important thing a Christian parent should remember when making the decision about whether or not to participate in Halloween is not to respond with superstition. Superstition is a basic pagan response. As Christians, we are to be enlightened by the truth we find in God’s Word. Satan and his demonic influence is prevalent on the earth, regardless of what day of the year it is. However, we can be assured that “Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4).
We are also called to approach any situation with wisdom, and wisdom comes from God. The real problem with Halloween as we know it today is not cult-related activities or satanic rituals. The real reasons to proceed with caution are children who are unsupervised and have the ability to cause harm to homes, cars or other property, drunk drivers, and strangers in your neighborhood.
It is important to teach your children to approach Halloween with the correct attitude. Halloween can be an excellent time of year for them to talk to their friends about the love of Jesus. With so much talk about death and evil, Jesus can be presented to their friends as an alternative to that.
You should be sure your children understand that the “evil” that the media and Hollywood has created (vampires, monsters, etc.) is not real. Those things are all fabricated beings that were made to evoke feelings of fear. Fear is not of the Lord, and so those characters should be avoided. Incidentally, they also ended up making a lot of money for retailers who sell those types of costumes.
There are many different ways you can go about celebrating Halloween. Many Christian parents decide that they simply aren’t going to acknowledge it at all. This might result in some ridicule from your children’s friends at school if this is your stance. Your children’s teachers will probably also not be very understanding about your decision. However, you should stand firm if you believe that is how God would have you proceed. Just be sure you children know what the rules are about ghost stories and all of the traditional things that go along with Halloween celebrations.
Some parents look for ways to participate with Halloween with their church. Many churches hold Harvest Festivals where they have games and other activities for the children to participate in. A popular activity at these festivals is for the church members to park their cars in the parking lot and give the kids candy from the trunks of their cars. Dressing in costume is fine, but not required. And usually there are no scary costumes allowed.
That being said, there really is nothing “evil” about candy, or putting on a costume that doesn’t evoke scary feelings, or going from house to house in your neighborhood. And if you make the decision that you’re going to celebrate Halloween in that way (as many Christian parents do), as long as you have prayed about your decision and don’t feel God convicting you of it, you should feel free to do so. Choose costumes with your children that are just fun and innocent. Also, be sure to check their candy when you get home before they eat any of it.
If your children’s behavior is honoring God that night, you will have a lot of fun as a family and get a lot of great treats in the process!
Great News! As of this week, Convergence Christian Counseling Center is certified for Prepare and Enrich pre-marital and marital enrichment counseling.
PREPARE/ENRICH is the leading relationship inventory and couples assessment tool. Scientifically validated as a foundational program for premarital counseling, marriage enrichment, couples therapy, marriage mentoring and marriage education. PREPARE/ENRICH automatically tailors the content of the relationship assessment to fit each couple’s unique relationship stage and family structure.
We are excited to partner with Life Innovations and look forward to the relationships Prepare and Enrich’s unique assessment will help prepare and repair marriages.
by Rebecca Spalding
As my husband’s words “I don’t love you anymore,” continually echoed through my mind, I attempted to adjust to the new normal. Life for my husband seemed the same as ever as he continued in ministry. He was even teaching a marriage class for Sunday School. I didn’t comprehend how he could continue in ministry with this huge problem, but I knew that men compartmentalize and handle problems better than women do.
Meanwhile I was struggling with how to treat my husband during this three month period. Sexual relations had stopped shortly before he told me he didn’t love me. He had asked me to not “chase” him. So this left me feeling very awkward. I felt like I was back in high school with a crush on a guy that didn’t like me. I found that whenever my husband was not home, and that was most of the day between 6:30 am and 9:00 pm, that I was constantly suspicious of his activities.
Every wife in ministry has experienced jealousy over the women her husband encounters in his ministry. I was no different, but up to this time my husband had always reassured me that I was his love, and I knew that when everyone else went home, that I was the one he took to bed. I was the one he shared life with. However, questionable situations continued occurring, and my husband had no desire to keep himself out of them. He explained it away saying that it was the mission field, and that life was “different.” I became very uncomfortable with this, and found myself monitoring his activities—visiting his office to see if he was alone with a woman or calling him when he was out to see where he was and who he was with. There was no trust in our marriage because there was no commitment anymore.
He had already broken the vows to love me “till death do us part.” What might he be tempted to do? As I struggled, I needed to hear God not as I had heard Him over the past 50 years of my life; I needed a God I could count on to be in a relationship with me. So I began to both read the Bible and memorize verses in Creole and my efforts to understand the Bible in a second language caused me to ponder the meaning of each word. This allowed God to speak to my calloused heart. I wanted to change to be the woman He had planned for me to be.
The climax came a month into this trial period as my husband came in to tell me he was going to town once again. He became agitated as I asked him my normal suspicious questions, and it hit me that I did not want to be his policeman. I was his wife and needed to be able to trust him. Either I was having problems with excessive jealousy, or our marriage needed some major work. But either way, I knew that I had to go for counseling.
I didn’t know it had happened, but God had worked to make me ready to make this decision. At that point I gave him my wedding ring. I felt we both needed to have a visual reminder that those vows were not standing any longer. My husband responded by saying that he was the one that needed counseling. I said I was going for counseling, and that if he wanted to go as well, that was his decision. He asked me to find a counselor in the Miami area and we would take a trip back for a few sessions. Having no knowledge of any counselors, we used the list of counselors on the Focus on the Family site. I was excited that we were taking this step.
At last we were going to get help… all was not lost!
by Rebecca Spalding
As a missionary for over 25 years, I lived through the horror of our children’s near death accidents and illnesses and I lived through the horror of an earthquake, but I will never forget the altogether different horror as I heard the words coming out of my husband’s mouth as he sat beside me on the couch, “I don’t love you anymore.” As he continued, he asked for three months to not be working on our marriage, time to think and pray about the situation so as to not make any rash decisions, and he wanted us just to live like normal during that time. At the end of those three months, he promised to give me his decision as to what he would do about our marriage. It was only eight months before that we had discussed that our love had dwindled and agreed to work on it, but never did I expect to hear this declaration. We were not only Christians, but missionaries. We had stood before over 300 people exchanging our vows to love, honor, and cherish, and to forsake all others till death do us part.
Not knowing what else to do, I sat there numbly agreeing to his plan feeling like I was putting a noose around my neck. How could he even propose that I could live life normally as if there was nothing wrong? I felt so overwhelmed, but had no idea of where to turn to. One of the most difficult things of being in ministry is where to go for help. As a wife of a missionary I knew that if I shared my problem with the wrong person, I could ruin my husband’s ministry, and this meant not only his livelihood, but his reason to live; indiscretion on my part could jeopardize everything in our lives. So, I took a cautious route to get help and began blogging anonymously on the Focus on the Family website. It was a very scary thing for me as I was fearful that someone would read the blog and recognize my identity and that the repercussions would be irreparable. You can imagine my horror when I saw that almost 2,000 people read my blog to Focus on the Family.
With the Pastoral counselor’s help from this site I realized that I was not responsible for my husband’s actions, but only for how I responded. If I did not want things to continue as they were, even if my husband was not willing, I could be the one to initiate the changes that would give us the only possibility for restoration. It was such a relief to share my situation, but for the first time I was hearing the words I would not even dare to allow myself to think: separation and divorce. I understood that tough lines needed to be drawn, but my heart did not want to take the chance of drawing a line and destroying any small possibility that our marriage could be fixed.
Counseling could not fix the gaping hole in my heart, however. Most of my Christian life I lived in my own strength with an occasional outcry to God for the crises I encountered. But this was something I could not fix in my strength; it tore out my insides, and in the many sleepless nights of those three months I learned to pray as I had never prayed before. I was hungry to read the Bible and hear God. The God who had been my casual acquaintance became my constant source of strength to just keep moving on. He became my ever present Friend, and my source of joy. Did I have to be so headstrong and independent that God had to use something so horrible to bring me to this place?
In spite of the awfulness of it all, it was a good place to be.
…To Be Continued
Fellowship with others is one of the most effective ways to stay connected with both God and Man, and a Christian men’s group allows you to connect in the way most suitable for your spiritual needs. In fellowship with others, you will have the opportunity to share your experiences, discuss your thoughts, and examine the Word of God for advice.
There are several forms that a Christian men’s group may take, and you may want to start or attend more than one.
The Accountability Group offers you the opportunity to discuss with others your failings and your problems. Admitting that you were wrong about something is rarely an easy task, especially if you are used to leadership. However, in most circumstances, those you are used to leading will not be attending the same group as you, so your admissions of wrongdoing will not undermine your established authority. The Accountability Group also offers a place to confess problems that you may have difficulty speaking about around women. These concerns are natural and normal, and by holding each other accountable for your actions, you and your fellow men will be able to overcome together the trials that you may have difficulty overcoming alone.
The Study Group offers the chance to discuss the Bible, doctrinal teachings, and your own ideas in a setting that promotes participation and deeper understanding of the Word of God. This is particularly important for Christian men because most weekly sermons will not dive deeply enough into the Bible to generate a true understanding. A Christian men’s Study Group also provides an environment where you can study in the way that works best for you; different people, especially those of different genders, often have their preferred method of learning, and trying to use the same method for everyone probably won’t offer maximum understanding. The small group setting of the Study Group also provides the opportunity to discuss things with a Priest, Pastor, or other minister that you may not have the time to speak about otherwise.
However, not all groups will be focused on the indoors. An Outreach Group offers the opportunity to share the Word of God in and around your community by focusing on those outside of your Church. Outreach Groups have a number of options, from putting on music shows for children to making and distributing meals for the homeless. Outreach Groups offer Christian men a way to improve the world around them directly and build up a sense of trust in the community around them, and positive impressions formed by these activities may bring new members to your church. Outreach activities by Christian men’s groups should be done under the supervision of a leader of your church (or a Church-accepted proxy), and you may need to contact your city or county Government for permits, depending on local laws.
You and the other Christian men of your church are unique individuals, with different needs, different desires, and different problems in your lives. However, a Christian men’s group can help you grow in faith, grow as a man, and become more capable of living a Godly lifestyle by allowing you to better understand what it truly means to be Christian men and put that knowledge into practice throughout the rest of your life.
We are so excited for the Couples in South Florida !
It is that time of year again – Would you consider bringing a Group from your Church, Friends, or Family to the
Fall ” Weekend to Remember ” Marriage Getaway in Delray Beach, FL - September 2012.
Our goal is to partner with the local churches each year to help strengthen, encourage & even offer hope & healing to those couples in need. We want to return those couples back to your church family with the goal of
making your families & ministries stronger for the Lord. Each year our church brings a group of couples to the
conference and in return our Pastor & Church family receives the blessings of couples who have had a chance
to focus on themselves & God’s plan for their marriage/family.
Below is the Event Information :
Weekend to Remember – Marriage Conference Getaway
Location: Delray Beach
Delray Beach Marriott
10 North Ocean Blvd
Delray Beach, FL 33483-7011
Date: 09/07/2012 – 09/09/2012
Price: $79.50* per person
Register on-line with our special Group code: MARRIAGEREGISTER
(Otherwise it is $159.00 per person.)
Special getaway hotel room rate: $115.00/ night
Hotel phone: 877-433-5729
You are responsible for making your hotel reservations. When making your room reservation, mention you are attending FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember in order to receive the discounted room rate. To guarantee this special rate you must reserve your hotel room at least three weeks prior to the getaway.
-What you and your spouse will hear during the Weekend to Remember® is the result of more than three decades of biblical research by a team of men and women who distilled what it takes to have a successful marriage and family. Our speakers will show you exactly how to pursue a marriage that really works through stories of their own breakthroughs and blunders. We want you to leave the weekend with encouragement, hope, and practical tools to build and grow your relationship. That’s why we call this a Weekend to Remember.
Use the Special ” Group Code ” below so your Church couples can take advantage of the discounts & opportunities:
Registration: **** $79.50/ per person with our Group Code ” marriageregister ”
Otherwise it is $ 159.00/ per person.