Right now, exactly 26 years ago, I was sitting in the bridal room at Sagemont Church waiting to be wed to my best friend whom I had dated for over ten years. We had done everything “right”. We had followed all of “the rules” of dating in a Baptist church and upbringing. We had planned an amazing future together that would be made easier by our amazing families, friends, college degrees from Texas A&M University, and lifelong planning for our futures.
There was literally nothing I would have changed about that moment in time. We celebrated our wedding day with 450 guests, family members, and friends. We had been extremely blessed for our entire lives leading up to that moment. I am thankful that I did not know what the future held for me on that day. I was able to bask in God’s abundant blessings on that day. There is a reason that God wants us to focus on today only because, as He clearly says, “tomorrow has enough worry of its own.”
God blessed us with two healthy and beautiful children exactly as we had hoped five and six years after we married. They are the joy and light of my life today. What I didn’t know that day is that our “fairy tale” relationship and marriage would end abruptly with an affair that would end our marriage and, about 3 years later, a cancer diagnosis that would drag on for five years and take the life of my children’s father when they were 13 and 14-years-old.
Thank you, God, for not letting me know what the future held for me on that glorious day so long ago. The smiles and beauty and friendship surrounding that day were too wonderful to spoil with a glimpse into the future.
Things I have learned that I feel compelled to pass on today as I wrestle with what to say to two dear friends who have recently been given the news that their 28-year-marriages are over because their husbands decided to leave. As I wrestle with watching some things going on around me that are not healthy, good, or best for the people I love. As I wrestle with knowing how to guide some friends who have asked for guidance in areas of their marriages and lives, I sit here and think of the journey I began 26 years ago today.
There are some truths I have learned (from either God or wise Christians who mentored me along the path) that I repeat over and over to my children and anyone else who will listen.
1. Focus on what you KNOW is true. God loves you. He will never leave you. Things you know are steadfast and true. No, you cannot tell your children that you will never leave them. You have no idea what your future holds so you cannot promise that to your children even if it is your heart’s desire to be with them until you are 90. We are not promised tomorrow so do not give that false promise to your children. Believe me, I struggled a lot with that one after my children’s father died. They wanted to know I was going to always be there for them, but I could not promise them that. Only that God would be there for the rest of their lives. That is enough.
2. Remember that you cannot control another person. You can only control yourself and your reaction to that person. You can’t force them to change their decisions, their heart, their words, their actions, their behavior, or the consequences of their choices. Period. You will wear yourself out trying to force a person to change. Only God can change another person.
3. Pray for a teachable heart for you and your children. Be willing to accept lessons that are being taught that may be eye-opening and difficult to swallow at times. Be willing to seek out wise counsel and listen to what they are saying. Be willing to admit areas of weakness in your own life that need to be addressed and changed. I will be transparent here and say that I definitely saw some things I needed to change about myself. I have always struggled with worry, anxiety, and fear. My mind goes non-stop and never stops worrying about scenarios and people who I cannot control. I have been working hard for years now to stay on top of that and God has clearly shown me that this is the sin of unbelief and that I need to trust Him more. Believe me, I work on this daily in my own life.
4. Stay in God’s word and stay connected to people who want only what is best for you and your children. If someone is bringing negativity into your life or causing you to walk down dark roads by rehashing bad memories, stop spending time with that person. You must surround yourself with people who are trying to help you move forward and learn from the experience.
5. Ask people to pray for you if you are too exhausted to pray for yourself and your children. After about two years of “trying to handle it” by myself and actually falling into a physical depression, I finally realized I needed to ask others to pray for me. I was too tired to pray for myself and my mind was reeling with fears and anxiety about my future and the future of my children.
I know this is starting to sound too businesslike so I will stop here with my “what-to-do-when-you-are-taken-out-of-commission-by-an-expected-event” list right now. The thing I will leave you with on this anniversary of my life-changing walk with God is that you can trust Him. Trust Him with your life. Trust Him with your children. Trust Him with the journey He is leading you on right now.
Yes, I know it is excruciatingly painful at times. It can take the life and joy right out of your heart if you let it. It can take the life and joy right out of your children’s hearts if you let it. Whatever you do, do NOT let it. Fight with everything you have to allow God to bring joy back into your heart and the hearts of your children. Let God get a hold of your heart. Be teachable at all times. Be willing to hear what He is telling you to do. Be willing to hear His voice guiding you in the wilderness. You must lean in and listen to everything He is saying and then DO what He is telling you to do. Do not ignore His promptings and I will guarantee you will see His blessings all along the road as you travel back towards joy and happiness.
I pray that this helps you on your unexpected journey.