The door slammed so hard, the entire house shook. My thoughts were, “Go ahead and leave. That’s what my dad did when I was sixteen.”
Three pairs of precious eyes stared at me as I stood in the middle of the kitchen, surrounded by shattered glass. They had just witnessed their mom at her worst. Screaming, yelling, and belittling their daddy as I threw a framed picture across the kitchen.
Honestly, I do not remember what precipitated the argument between John and me. However, I do remember the feelings of shame and hopelessness when it came to our marriage. We most likely would have filed for divorce during that time if it hadn’t meant John would lose his job.
Our broken marriage was a secret to be kept inside the four walls of our home. As a pastor and a pastor’s wife for a congregation of over one thousand, we were supposed to have it all together, an exemplary couple with a perfect marriage.
Today, we have been married 37 years. John is my best friend, my lover, and my spiritual leader. We just returned from a week’s vacation, just the two of us, and I really don’t think we fought once.
How did we go from the brink of divorce to where we are now?
#1 We both admitted that we were at fault in areas of our marriage.
I quit blaming him, and he quit blaming me. We made a choice to point fingers at ourselves instead of each other. John owned his faults, and I owned mine.
My biggest struggle was with anger. I had grown up in a house of yelling and screaming. It had become a way of life for me.
I memorized James 1:20, “Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” The Holy Spirit enabled me to understand that all the yelling and screaming in the world was not going to make John or my children behave in a certain way. As the Holy Spirit began to work this verse into my heart, my behavior began to change.
#2 We made a conscious decision to fight for our marriage.
I grew up in a home that modeled divorce. My dad was married four times; my mom was married three times. John, on the other hand, grew up in a Christian home with a mom and dad who loved Jesus. John and I made a promise to each other that we would never, ever threaten each other with divorce again. Making this promise to each other gave me the security I desperately needed.
#3 We chose to embrace biblical marriage.
John had not embraced being the spiritual leader of our home at that point. We didn’t pray together as a couple. We didn’t pray together as a family. John began to pray over me every night. He asked God to heal my broken heart. He asked God to bless me and encourage me as a wife and a mom. We also began to eat breakfast together as a family (even if it was a Pop-Tart) and pray over our children before they left the house for school.
I had not really been a helper to my husband. I began to ask John every morning, “How can I help you today?” At first he shrugged this off, but then he began to ask me to help him. Sometimes it was as simple as, “Can you sew a button on my shirt?” Sometimes it was, “I have a really important meeting today and need your prayers for wisdom.” In our culture the word helper is not esteemed. Yet, if the President of the United States asked for our help, we would feel honored to help our country. Shouldn’t we as wives view honoring the King of kings by helping our husbands as even more important?
As I am writing this article, I am surrounded by pictures of my husband, children, and grandchildren, in frames that aren’t broken. In God’s mercy and grace, He healed our marriage. Marriage is a gift worth fighting for!
John and Donna Avant serve on the leadership team of Life Action. You can check out more from Donna on her blog, RealLifeOnRockyTop.com.