It was May 9, 2005, and Patrick and I were ten days into our marriage. We had an overnight layover in London on the way home from our honeymoon. As soon as we got off the plane, we had a disagreement about where we should spend the night. We tried my suggestion first, but it was booked for the night. Patrick’s face said it all—he knew he should have taken the lead on that one. He walked about 6 feet in front of me until we exited the airport and got in a taxi to go to the next hotel.
When we checked into the hotel right outside of the airport, they only had twin beds. We were forced to sleep apart that night. As we both got into our beds he said, “We are not going to bed angry.” “I’m not angry,” I replied. “Well, I am,” he shot back, and the conversation ended.
The next morning we did not talk until an hour into our flight back to Texas. “Let’s not do that again,” he said. I agreed and we naively thought we had successfully navigated our first married argument.
But when we got home, Patrick kept walking ahead of me everywhere we went. He wanted to be a good husband, and he thought if he stayed ahead of me to take charge of our marriage, everything would be fine. I ended up feeling controlled and met him with deafening silence and a cold shoulder. When I shut down, he tried to control more. There was one thing we were definitely good at: butting heads.
We had short breaks in disagreeing and mustered up some temporary grace for each other. We had four beautiful children who lit up our world and taught us more about being selfless. But the underlying issue of distrust on both sides kept us on eggshells, waiting for the next conflict.
Patrick trusted me in the small areas. I stayed home with the kids and tried to be the supportive wife my heart longed to be. But when I strayed into trying to influence the major decisions for our family, he couldn’t let go of the hold he felt he needed to have. His heart and intentions were pure—if he made a good decision, he was protecting his family. If he made a bad decision, he would carry the blame for us all.
My creative nature began to feel threatened by his need to plan. I found myself escaping my reality by writing a new story for myself in my head—a story that did not include him. He found escape by working harder and sharing less. The more we escaped, the more we grew apart. We were relying on the state of our marriage to dictate the state of our identity.
In the ninth year of our marriage, Patrick changed. I did nothing to make him change. I can take no credit. In fact, I never could have made him change. I didn’t even know who I was. The grace I sometimes mustered up for him was not grace at all but was contingent on how he served me. It was based on works and tainted by the unbelief I still had in my own heart.
We started to realize that both of us got caught up in needing to perform and strive for God. This left us believing that the work of Jesus was not enough. Patrick started to get it. He began to believe that Jesus was who He says He was. He came to free us from our bondage, giving us right standing with God and granting us eternal freedom.
Patrick came before me with a repentant heart and apologized for the years he tried to control our lives. He asked me to trust him again. I’ll be honest: I hesitated. I needed some proof to soften my hardened heart. I wasn’t sure he could completely change. But in the process of watching Patrick walk out his newfound freedom, God began to speak to me. He began to shower love and grace on my own failures as a wife. When I apologized to Patrick, his response was not one of hesitation. He told me he forgave me and assured me that those failures do not define me, Jesus does. God showed me, through Patrick, that He makes all things new.
We no longer have a marriage based on performance. We believe the best of each other. We make decisions together. We walk side by side. We are equal, because Jesus died and rose again to make us new and restore the only relationship we need. We look to God on how to love. We see each other through the work of the cross and through the eyes of God: worthy.
- Unity through Grace - January 30, 2017
3 thoughts on “Unity through Grace”
Kelli, what a beautiful story. My husband and I have had similar aches. It’s ironic how naturally we try to manage/control others as we long for deep connection, true intimacy. Of course “control” accomplishes the opposite. And we know we need to let go, take our eyes of each other, stop blaming each other. Easier said than done. 🙂 God is patient.
Thank you, Amy.
Great story! I am only four to five months into marriage and I am hoping to keep stories like this in my heart for when my marriage hits the inevitable hurdles!