Since "two becoming one" takes divine work, we need to hear stories of victory. I want to give something precious to my Marriage Mondays readers in October. When a marriage relationship goes to the hardest of places, Survivor Stories give us hope that we, too, can experience the sweetness of being one.
Each Monday in October (there are 5!) I'll share a "Survivor Story" to encourage you. Along with the beauty of the love you'll read in each one, our first Survivor, Antoinette, has donated a gift to be given as a giveaway with each story. She is a generous soul who loves to lavish by making jewelery, and so I have the joy of giving a weekly creation from One of a Kind Jewelery to someone who comments on that post or comments on the Come Have a Peace Facebook page that day. That makes it easy to enter. I'll announce the winner the Wednesday following. If you want to catch a glimpse of today's necklace and matching earrings (Orange/white in honor of UT football season this week!), you can see the photo on the CHP Facebook page.
When Clarence and Antoinette moved to our city for law school twenty years ago, she remembers that they "thrived on love, but had no idea of what was need to make marriage work." Her childhood was spent with a single mom, and Clarence was left to the foster care system when his mom died when he was just an 8 yr. old boy. Clarence remembers walking past a window as a boy, peering into a New Orleans restaurant, longing for the steak he saw on the plate inside. With little stability and no role models for a strong marriage, Antoinette admits it was a "recipe for disaster."
Clarence was driven to save whatever money they made, and Antoinette was driven to spend for any momentary pleasure she might get to enjoy. Finances, conflicts over parenting their first child, and communication mysteries were complicated by an inability to conceive another child. After the first ten years of marriage, Antoinette knew her husband was "checking out." She explains with certainty that, "My marriage was dead."
Antoinette was 30 yrs old when they gave up on infertility treatments. A month later, she experienced new life as she began a relationship with Jesus Christ. Not long after, she and Clarence separated; their marriage needed a miracle. Antoinette never could've anticipated what Clarence would tell her soon after. In "checking out" of their marriage, he had an affair, and the woman was pregnant.
She wondered if her God had deserted her. It was almost too much for her new faith, but she believed they could work through it "by the grace of God." Her husband still didn't know Christ as his Savior, but she decided that "the most important thing to me was to be in God's will."
And then she realized her own menstrual cycle was a day late. After four years of trying for a baby and the shock of betrayal, her own pregnancy test showed that SHE was pregnant, too. The two women would carry the same man's children within days of each other. Antoinette's tender heart recognized that the other mother was experiencing pain, too, and would be a single parent. She decided to stay in her marriage and demonstrate Christ to the woman who was part of her pain. "If my Heavenly Father hates divorce, I should hate what He hates." Even if oneness involves trials and tribulations, she was determined to obey. "The door was always open ... I would've been there waiting for him." She also knew that it was "too big a burden to bear without Christ."
In God's kindness, Antoinette delivered her baby first; Serena was born at the end of November, a month early and a month before her 1/2 sister Maya. Antoinette called to tell the "other woman" that she would love little Maya as her own.
She knew that the right attitude began with her. She reflects:
- If you sow unforgiveness, you reap unforgiveness.
- If you sow mercy, you reap mercy.
- If you sow forgiveness, you reap forgiveness.
- If you sow kindness, you reap kindness.
And the "other woman?" She told Antoinette, "You are truly a woman of God." There is no unkindness between them, and Maya spends every summer with her beloved "nearly twin" sister, Mommy Antoinette, her older sister, and her Daddy. They admit that it isn't always easy, but it is sweet.
And the "hurtful husband?" When the baby sisters were just one, their Daddy went to a wedding and heard the marriage vows. It was as if "scales came off of his eyes," and he came to know Jesus as his Savior. To show that he was a totally new creation, Clarence shaved his head, and he'll keep it that way as a reminder of leaving the old man behind. Antoinette says, "He is a man after God's own heart. I see fruit in his life abundantly ... God was the only One who could save our marriage." Now he asks his loving wife, "What can I do to make our marriage better?" She just wants him to keep growing in his walk with Christ, alongside her. She says she never wants to see "that man" again! She has a new marriage! She has a new husband, and she says the new one is an awesome husband!
Painful? Yes. She says, "My first marriage crashed, died, burned." But she also knows, as only a triumphant and grateful Survivor can know, "To experience the fullness of all marriage has to offer, you have to have Christ."
Is your marriage dead? Is the burden too much to bear? Do you feel deserted by God? God doesn't want you to stay the "old wife" married to the "old husband." He wants to make your marriage new, and He can. Hold out for the fullness!
Thank you to Antoinette who so lovingly made the 5 creative gifts I'm giving away in October. Thank her also for her willingness to share their story, so others will be encouraged to let their old marriages die and experience the fullness of all marriage has to offer with Christ.