Messy, Beautiful Love
by Darlene Schacht, Messy, Beautiful Love: Hope and Redemption for Real-Life Marriages
I heard the hum of the garage door open and close. I glanced at the clock. It was only three thirty; the kids weren’t even home from school yet. Michael wasn’t due home for at least another hour, and if you know my husband at all, you’ll understand why this took me by surprise. Michael’s never been late for work, he doesn’t come home early, and he’ll miss a day only if he’s bleeding from the eyes. Whatever the case, I was just glad he was home. This was going to be an awesome night with the family, and I could n’t wait for it to get started!
Leaving his briefcase by the door, he asked me to join him in the living room. I wasn’t sure what was up, but one glance at the stone-cold look on his face told me that something was wrong — terribly wrong.
Sitting across from him, I’ll never forget the sound of his voice as it rang in my ears and ripped through my heart.
“Are you having an affair?” he asked.
Looking up at him, I quickly answered, “No. Why would you even ask that?”
“Please don’t lie to me,” he said. As he continued to question me, the heat rose in my face. My cheeks were numb; my mouth was dry; my body was weak.
“Did you have an affair?”
I hung my head, unable to look in his eyes. Sitting alone on the couch, I felt the fear of truth spin around me like the web of a spider until I was helpless to move. Barely able to speak, I lifted my chin in a nod and then in another. My house of cards collapsed, my shame crashing to the ground along with it.
My sin, the glorious fruit of lust, had enticed me into the pit where all I could think of was death. For death itself had enveloped me, and with it came shame and reproach. I had sinned against God, my husband, and my family. Everything I had once held so dear to me loomed above the pit of sin and shame I had dug for myself.
Every muscle in my body was heavy, tense, numb. I was disconnected from the pounding of the blood that sped through my head like a runaway train. Even if I wanted to speak — even if I had something else to say—I couldn’t. My jaw was locked; my throat was closed.
Michael stood up, and as I watched him walk out of the room, I realized that in every sense of the word, I was alone.
Through a fog of confusing emotions, I managed to get off the couch and go out to the car where I fished through my purse for my keys. Not knowing what else to do, I drove. I didn’t know where I was going, what I should do, or where I’d be spending the night. All I knew was that I had to go someplace — anyplace — but where?
Finally pulling into a parking lot, I stopped the car and collapsed onto the steering wheel. My thoughts were a dark and dusty swirl of emotions that ripped through my heart and beckoned me into the grave. Tears poured down my face like poison escaping a wound, and I sobbed until my stomach was raw from the pain.
I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a home. And I didn’t have a shoulder to cry on. All that I had were the shattered pieces of my life. A few hours later I made my way back to the house, where I started packing up a few things I could carry. Michael came into the room and sat down on the far corner of the bed.
Staring straight ahead, he started to talk. This was my husband, the man I had lived with for nearly half of my life, but in every way he was different, from the sound of his voice to the way that he carried himself. We were suddenly strangers.
We exchanged words for a while, but at the end of the day, I had nothing left to offer him but soiled rags, words of remorse that he couldn’t rely on, and promises where all trust was gone. My eyes were swollen from crying; my heart was heavy with shame.
“Do you want to stay?” he asked.
I didn’t know how to answer. All I wanted to do was stay with my family — to turn back the clock a year. Back to a time when being a wife and a mom was all that I knew and all that I wanted to be. But I was unworthy to be a wife, a mother, and a child of God. How could I stay in a place where I didn’t belong? How could I ever live on the surface again? How could I ever be trusted to love?
“I can’t,” I said. “I just can’t.”
Again he said, “That’s not what I’m asking you. Do you want to stay?”
Loving his wife as Christ loves the church, Michael reached down to me with a hand of grace when I needed it most. When every thought told me that I was unworthy of love, something miraculous happened that changed the way that I look at marriage and the way that I look at our Savior. It was the realization that I am saved by nothing but the power of grace.
Perhaps that’s how the woman who was caught in adultery felt when she was brought to Jesus. Face-to-face with her Savior, she was left with nothing but His hand of grace. What did Jesus write in the sand with His finger that day? Some say He was listing sins — and perhaps He was. But a part of me will always wonder whether it was an invitation that beckoned her to come home to a place where sin is washed away by the blood of an incomparable Savior.
There is incredible power in the words of Jesus Christ, who said,
Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more. – John 8:11
It takes incredible strength for a man to echo those very same words.
I didn’t deserve Michael’s love and forgiveness. I didn’t deserve a second chance. I didn’t deserve my family, and I didn’t deserve to be loved by those whom I hurt. But in that moment of darkness when one person in this world cared enough to display the covenant-keeping love of Jesus Christ to His church, I turned from my sin and clung to the grace of God that is strong enough to break the bonds of sin and death.
It’s strong enough to graft one man to a woman when everything in this world threatens to pull them apart.
There’s a good reason why I stepped out of my comfort zone to share the truth of my testimony, and it’s the same reason I’m writing this today — so that my marriage will be a testimony of the saving grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This testimony of grace is not exclusive to me or you or the sinner-turned- preacher who’s standing onstage. It’s the testimony of each and every person who takes the hand of another in marriage as we are called to bear witness to the covenant-keeping grace of our Lord:
The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church: and He is the saviour of the body. – Ephesians 5:23
When marriage functions as God intended it, both a husband and a wife bring glory to God. My mission is to remind women of this truth so that we might live out our purpose, which is to love our husbands, raise our children with intent, and manage our homes well. In doing so, we strengthen the bond of marriage and glorify God.
Regardless of how long you’ve been married or how strong your relationship, it’s inevitable that you will struggle in some way. Love is a beautiful thing, but it’s messy at times. Whether we’re dealing with a difficult spouse, financial problems, sickness, aging parents, or death, there will be trials that threaten the bond of our marriages, which is why it’s imperative that we are prepared.
I can’t imagine where I’d be right now — this very minute — if Michael’s heart hadn’t been prepared for the mess that I made. When I married him, I planned on spending the rest of my life with this man. I didn’t expect that his love for me would bring him to the cross.
That testimony of love powers my desire to be clay in the Potter’s hands. By the grace of God I want to be transformed into the wife my husband needs me to be.
Walking together through life — that’s a beautiful thing, but it definitely has its moments that are messier than others. It’s not a math equation that a routine formula can solve, nor is it straightforward or simple. Marriage can be complicated and frustrating at times — we’ve all been there — but when we yield our hearts to God, we experience the blessings that obedience brings.
Dear heavenly Father,
I bring my marriage before You and humbly place it at the foot of Your throne. I know, Lord, that You are able to do immeasurably more than I could ever do on my own. Please prepare my heart, teaching me to walk in compassion and grace and to be patient and kind when the going gets tough. Teach me to walk in humility, giving up my right to be right.
Help me to look for the best and to hope for the best in my husband, that I might appreciate him for who he truly is. Grant me the strength to step back while I allow him to lead. And may this covenant we share be a testimony to others that brings nothing less than glory and honor to You.
Lord, I know that there will be days when we fight; days when we are angry, frustrated, and hurt. I ask that You teach us to handle our conflict wisely. Please show us how to communicate with loving respect and to read each other’s heart. Teach me to be gentle and patient with him. Equip me to be the wife my husband needs me to be. A woman who is ready to stand beside him in battle and pick him up if he should fall. May You guide my steps and lead me according to Your will, that I might live according to Your purpose.
Father, I ask that You guide us as we seek to express our affection in ways that are pleasing to You. That we won’t take each other for granted or lose sight of our joy. Gently remind us to seize the day and capture the joy of each moment, giving thanks for the big and the small.
Teach me how to be a good friend, and help each of us build a strong friendship. And finally, may I learn to be content with this life that I’m given as I walk in virtue according to wisdom.
In Jesus’ precious name I pray and will continue to pray for my marriage. Amen.