The past couple of weeks I have been sharing stories in this series: This Is Worth Fighting For. To learn more about the prompting and heart behind this series, please see the first post here
Today’s story comes from a couple that you may have seen once or twice on the blog already. Through the years of photographing their engagement, wedding, pregnancies, newborn babies and vow renewal , Jenn and Brad have become so special to us. We love this couple and are so very grateful to have them in our lives.
When people would tell me “marriage is hard”, I had a tough time relating to that. What’s so hard about it? You wake up, love-laugh-talk-party and wake up to do it all over again.
But it turns out we were doing it wrong. It is hard. It’s easy to love someone, as long as you love them less than you love yourself. That’s not how marriages last though.
To have a lasting and fulfilling marriage you must love like God loves. More than we know how. To meet the needs of someone, who might not necessarily be meeting our own, is not in our nature. That’s when it gets hard. That’s when you rely on faith.
During our separation I would glance over and see pictures from our wedding day. I’ll be honest, it was often times very painful. What I saw were just two kids in love….with no idea how or what love really was. We tried though, and the sad part was we thought we were killing it. In reality it nearly killed “us”.
It never occurred to me just how much I would treasure the images of our vow renewal. They reflect two completely broken people brought back together by a redeeming love. They are brokenness, forgiveness, and joy. No one knows all the details of our story, only what we choose to share, and that’s what makes our photographs so incredibly personal and special.
I married a tall, beautiful woman that’s smarter than she gives herself credit for. I married a strong and tasteful woman with a unique style and a quirky sense of humor.
I also lost that woman.
For the better part of a year, Jennifer and I struggled. I mean we struggled bad, even separating for a couple of months. Growing up in a split home I spent a lot of those nights away from my kids imagining them growing up and going through the same heartache and confusion I went through. As hard as that was (and it was hard!) I really missed my wife. I missed my tall, quirky and smart wife whose only lapse in judgement was agreeing to marry me in the first place.
I tried everything I could think of to convince her things would be different, things would be better if we could just go home. None of it worked.
I’ve heard people say that when you’re down there’s nowhere to look but up. I don’t believe that. I had dug myself a hole as deep as it could go and there I was, at the bottom, with my face in the dirt.
But then, someone reached down their hand and pulled me back up. It was the nail scarred hand of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I grew up in a Christian home but that home was a broken home. A small and poor home full of that heartache and confusion my children were about to face. I had spent my adult years running from God for fear he’d steal all the earthly things I enjoyed so much. Things like golf and alcohol that I selfishly pursued. Things that I had ultimately put before my family, my wife.
Now that I have a relationship with Jesus, the single most important thing in my life, I’m ashamed to even admit how I had spent my life running from Him. Even denying His existence at times. It wasn’t until I had no other option that I gave my life to Him. What should have been my sole desire, to follow Him, had become my last resort. All I had was a big, fat, stinking mess of a life and He took me anyway. He loved me anyway when it felt like no one else did. I am living proof of His mercy and grace.
The Lord knew that I was so stubborn, so selfish and so full of pride (all things I still battle) that He would have to strip me of all of those to make me realize I didn’t have the one thing I needed; Him. He knew I would have to be completely broken to let Him put me back together.
And boy did He ever put me back together! God is not a “quick fix.” He uses our most difficult times, our darkest moments, to mold us and shape us into reflections of Him. When He saved me, He started working on me right away. I gave up alcohol, I fasted, I started doing all of the things with my children, my home and, most importantly, Jennifer that I should’ve been doing from the day when we were married. It still wasn’t enough to convince Jennifer that our marriage would be better. But a funny thing happens when God is in your heart, people notice. Jennifer noticed the change and she’ll admit, she even became frustrated with me after I was saved. Here she was trying to work on ending our marriage and I was getting happier by the day. I was loving her better than I ever had before and she wasn’t even loving me back.
God used our broken marriage to call Jennifer too in fact, she was just baptized last Sunday. So here we are, a year removed from the darkest point in both our lives with the light of God in our hearts. We’ve still got two beautiful children and a third one on the way (I can’t say this child is beautiful yet because this may be the unfortunate one that looks like me. Pray for that unborn child that she favors her mother!).
It pains me to see marriages fall apart and I feel like it is happening to all of our family friends. When people hear our story, they act as though we’ve found some sort of secret to save a marriage and in a way I guess we have. The good news? There’s a book about it that tells you everything you need to know. It’s called The Holy Bible.
I wish everyone that reads this a very healthy and happy marriage. Most importantly, I ask that if there is anyone who reads this that does not have a relationship with Jesus Christ that you don’t be like me. Don’t let your sole purpose, to know the one who made you, be your last resort.
Rest assured, there’s no hole you can dig that’s too deep for Him not to lift you out.