Monday, January 16, 2012

A Wasteland of Ruins

Do you ever look back?  Back at all the twists and turns of this road we call life?  God has shown me this past year, how important it is to look back occasionally.  Not with a longing for what’s been left behind (like Lot’s wife), but rather for a reminder of our personal story of redemption.

By looking back, we not only find ourselves in awe of a God who loves us so… so passionately, but we can also use those stories to encourage others.  That’s what my friends, Bryan and Jenny, have done and today the three of us have worked together to help tell their story (from Bryan's point of view).

Bryan and I grew up going to school together and he was like a fourth brother to me.  This past year of he and Jenny’s lives have been amazing to watch.  Theirs is a story – not about religion, but about finding a relationship the One Who offers to exchange a life that is worthless for one filled with hope and joy.

If you or someone you know is at a place where your marriage seems hopeless, read this.  It is an amazing example of what God wants to do with broken lives.

A Wasteland of Ruins

It was 2005 when Jenny was first diagnosed with Bi-Polar.  That was the beginning of... well, almost the end. The effects it had on Jenny physically and mentally were devastating. Jenny felt that she had lost her identity, and that her old "self" was lost. She was ashamed and embarrassed. She didn't want anyone to know. She had to leave her job since she felt she was no longer useful.  She thought of herself as being a drain to the company - unable to perform productively. At the time she was angry at God for allowing this to happen to her. It took a long time for Jenny to finally accept her diagnosis.

The Bi Polar was hard on our marriage, and it affected every aspect of our lives. I had to apply for FMLA time at work to be able to help care for Jenny. After a couple of months, I ended up losing my job. The costs of Jenny’s medications were astronomical without insurance, thus adding more stress to our struggling marriage. I didn't think it could get much worse.  Instead of turning to God as I knew I should, I just dove deeper into a bottle, trying to numb the stress through my addiction to alcohol.

As our lives continued spiraling downhill, we were faced with yet another devastation.  A former friend of mine began telling Jenny that I was cheating on her.  She didn’t believe him at first, but over time he was able to break down her trust in me.  In the end, he convinced her that the best way to retaliate was by having an affair with him. 

The damage an affair has on a marriage and family is indescribable.  I lost all of my self-esteem, my self-worth.  My trust and respect for Jenny was gone.   She, on the other hand, was filled with guilt and shame.  She felt betrayed knowing he had taken advantage of her at a weak time in her life.  Not only that, she felt hatred towards herself for being, as she called it, “stupid enough to believe his lies”.

As she struggled with her private pain, I struggled with mine.  I lost all trust for others and began to build walls of self-defense in an effort to block every one out of my life on a personal level.  I couldn't trust anyone and I felt betrayed and alone.  My anger raged inside me, and the only thing that kept me from doing what I instantly wanted to do, was God intervening.  He kept reminding me of my boys and that killing that guy – or even hurting him, was not worth the risk of losing my boys.  

I thank God still that He was intervening even then in the midst of all of our sin. He had a plan for us and He was laying the ground work through all of this, to bring us back to Him! Looking back, I can't believe the grip my alcoholism had on me and I continually sought comfort in it instead of God.

In the meantime, Jenny continued to struggle.  As the burden of guilt and shame began to weigh her down, so did the pain from the realization that her actions had had a profound impact on our kids, our family and our friends.   She didn't realize the pain would ripple through all aspects of our lives like the tidal wave of a tsunami. 

We look back now and see two people who had little to live for.  Our world had crumbled into a wasteland of ruins.  We had hit bottom.


I knew all along what we needed to do, I had turned my back on God since I was 18 years old, yet even after all the sin we had committed, God didn't give up on us!  It was while living in that wasteland of devastation and despair that God came knocking.  Out of the blue, my two childhood friends, Tobey Schwartz and Joel Troyer began inviting me to go to church with them.  At first I turned them down, but eventually their persistence paid off.  I’ll never forget the first time I entered that building.  The Spirit of God overwhelmed me when I walked through those doors for the first time.  It was as if He ran to embrace me, His prodigal son, as He welcomed me to a new life of hope and joy. 

It was January 23, 2011 when I rededicated my life to God.  My life had been redeemed!!  I was able to let go of my hurt and anger and in my relationship with Jesus, I found peace like I had never experienced before.

I began begging God to work in Jenny’s life - to save her also from the chains that the devil had us bound in for so many years!  I wanted this redemption and freedom for her as well!

On March 13, 2011 Jenny couldn't take anymore.  She had seen what God was doing in me and wanted the same for herself.  That day for the first time in our marriage, we walked through the doors of FFM with the same desire - for God to save her and our marriage.

Jenny carried with her that day a great deal of fear and shame of her past, and was afraid what people would think of her  She worried that she wouldn’t be worthy of God’s forgiveness.  As soon as we walked into the sanctuary, she said she felt God’s hand reaching down to her.  She thought that if she could just raise her hand to His and ask for forgiveness and salvation, perhaps He would set her free from the burden she’d been carrying for so long.

During the worship service Jenny felt the presence of God reach down and take her hand.  She lifted her arms in surrender to Him and in that moment all the chains fell off!  The burdens… the shame… the guilt were all washed away!!!  She recognized the love that He had for her – the desire to give her a life worth living.  That day she accepted God’s gift of grace and mercy.  She no longer was worried what people thought of her, she knew she had been redeemed!

Since that day, our marriage and lives have been blessed in so many ways!  God has been there for us to lean on.  Later that summer, Jenny was baptized.   Our marriage isn't perfect, but compared to where it was and where God has brought us is nothing but a divine miracle.

God has helped us in our ability to forgive each other and work through our problems and disagreements.  Jenny's motto for us is "Forgiveness is an unnatural act, but by the grace of God we have become supernatural".    

God has healed our broken marriage and restored our family.  We still have trials and short comings – we’re certainly not perfect, but with God in our lives, we have His power to help us overcome so much more.  We grow daily in Him and He sustains us through it all!  We are blessed beyond measure!
Bryan, Jenny with sons Byron and Chandler


If you would like to share your story or request prayer for your marriage, you can contact me here.  I will forward your words of encouragement on to Bryan and Jenny as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful.