Guest Post by Kim Gunderson
No one told me how difficult marriage could be.
Most of what I knew I gathered through observation. Observing my parents navigate cross-country moves and long work hours. Observing my newly-married friends enjoying one another’s company while striving to put the other first, learning the power of love and respect.
But no one told me marriage doesn’t always look like that. Challenging, sure. But no one spoke of the other kind of marriage. The darker side after saying “I do”. The secret longings and hidden hurts. The silent treatment and unmet needs. Fear-driven what-if-someone-finds-out thoughts locked behind closed doors.
Learning how to tiptoe through the eggshells.
That was the kind of marriage no one told me about. And then it happened to me.
My marriage began in crisis. Three months in, my husband experienced a devastating stroke. “Took out the left side of his brain” according to the neurologist. Who knew I’d live out “for better or for worse” before the better had barely begun? No explanation. No cause. Seizures, extreme tiredness, memory loss, and depression combined forces as we battled through the years that followed.
I think I ran on adrenalin during those early years. There were decisions to be made, appointments to attend, and health issues to navigate. Add to that raising three kids while pregnant with our fourth and working full-time and all we had was a recipe for exhaustion. Who even had the presence of mind to squeeze in a date night?
But then the other stuff began to reveal its ugly face. The stuff I still don’t share but you may know and think . . . me, too. Stories of broken dreams and unmet expectations. Stories of hopelessness and confusion as mental and physical health challenges dominate everything.
What do you do when your spouse’s brain doesn’t work like everyone else’s? When his broken pieces slice open your heart as you try to draw near? How do you ask for help when you know the answer you’ll receive is to have more sex, make more dinners, or offer him more respect? You know the need runs much deeper so you suffer in silence, adding to the pain.
For quite some time all I could see were the broken shards scattered about and the eggshells I tried to avoid. In those days my relationship with Jesus consisted of begging for peace in our home, and hoping to just make it through another day.
Until the day I began to do one thing that was within my power to do: I shifted my gaze. I turned my eyes from the details of my broken marriage to the One who could heal. “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:2, NLT)
As my gaze shifted, four crucial truths emerged:
1 – We may feel alone but we are not. “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there.” (Psalm 139:7-8, NLT)
2 – We may feel unseen but we are fully known. “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.” (Psalm 139:1-2, NLT)
3 – We may feel unloved but we are fully loved. “Long ago the Lord said to Israel: ‘I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.’” (Jeremiah 31:3, NLT)
4 – God is good, no matter what, and He will show us His goodness when we look for it. “Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13, NLT)
Learning these truths didn’t transform my marriage but they did transform my heart. Over time I began to embrace my reality and accept that God had allowed this broken marriage to shape me. I allowed God to woo me closer, learning to live fully dependent upon Him. I looked for His goodness in my life and even began to expect the goodness that fills the soul with overflowing peace and strength and the tenacity to keep on going.
So dear one, as you tiptoe through the eggshells, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Know that you are not alone, that you are fully known, and lavishly loved. These are not dependent upon you nor your circumstances but reside in the life-giving truth of God’s Word.
Kim Gunderson recently admitted she’s a true Midwesterner at heart even after living in the Chicago area the majority of her life. She loves watching the seasons change, hanging with her oldest daughter, and encouraging others through the tough seasons of life. Kim raised four kids (two by birth, two by choice) welcomed a son-in-law into her family last year, and is about to embark on a new adventure of remarriage, adding three more children to her heart. She’s the author of Breathing in Ashes, a memoir that shares her story of hope after the death of her youngest daughter. She also blogs over at www.abigumbrella.com and is a contributing writer for Ask God Today Ministries.