Today’s guest post is from Christine Leeb who has a burning message to share about marriage. Just when they thought theirs was over God stepped in.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
1 Corinthians 13: 4-7
Our journey together began in college in the fall of 1996. He was the Graduate Assistant for the marching band and I was on the dance team. The first time I saw him, I thought he was the cutest guy I had ever seen. It didn’t matter that he was wearing a Huckleberry Hound t-shirt, khaki shorts with white socks and sandals, he had the most amazing blue eyes. I was instantly smitten.
Our relationship was not pretty. In fact, anyone who knew my husband and I when we first started dating would have voted us “The Couple Most Likely to be Divorced”. I’m sure that some of our friends that knew us are shocked that we are still together today, and frankly, so am I. I say this, not out of disrespect for marriage, but because we didn’t do anything right from the beginning. Even as a dating couple, we were a disaster.
We loved each other, but we didn’t do it well. There was a lot of breaking up, a lot of fighting and finally after 4 years of dating and an ultimatum later, he finally proposed. Why? Only God knows. Ultimatums are not a good way to start out a marriage. Regardless, less than 6 months later, on July 8, 2000, we were married,
Marriage for us was not easy. In fact, a book describing our marriage for the first 8-9 years would be called What Not To Do For A Successful Marriage with a subtitle–Whatever Brad and Christine are Doing, Do the Exact Opposite! This was difficult for us because my parents had been married for 30some years and Brad’s parents had been married for over 40some years at the time. So why couldn’t we do it?
No one ever told us how hard marriage was. It was frustrating.
There was definitely love there. There was definitely friendship. There was definitely common ground. And when things were good, they were really good, but when things were bad, they were really bad. In 2009, our marriage completely fell apart. It all happened right after a 4 year struggle with infertility. Right after we miraculously got pregnant with our beautiful boy, Ben.
That was when our marriage almost ended in divorce. It’s embarrassing to admit it, but it’s true. Now, our marriage is stronger and better than it’s ever been, but we can’t believe how close we came to ending it…to giving up. Don’t ever doubt Him! Brad and I get teary-eyed just thinking about the fact that had we not fought to save our marriage, we wouldn’t have had two more blessings added to our family! Thank God, for not giving up on us!
Even though it seemed to us that Ben came at the worst time in our marriage God knew that it was the perfect time. He always does, right? God knew that if He blessed us with a child at the exact same time that our marriage was about to end, we would fight to save it.
And, so, we went to marriage counseling. I remember feeling embarrassed that we had to go. I didn’t even want to tell my parents. When I did, though, my dad says (in his Mattoon, IL southern accent–yes, we Illinoisans have a southern accent) “Well, I’m sure you’re mother and I needed marriage counseling, we just never went to marriage counseling.”
The first two or three maybe even four of our sessions were just Brad and I talking and yelling at each other while the counselor just sat there with his mouth open. For over a year we continued to go to counseling, and we made progress, but trust me, it got worse before it got better. It seemed that for every step forward that we’d take, we would take 100 steps back. It felt hopeless. It felt like we were never going to move forward and heal. I wanted to give up, but I didn’t.
At this point either one of us could have left. Either one of us could have given up, but we didn’t. We never gave up on us! We kept trying to make it work! It was tough. It was not fun to hold the mirror up to our faces and to really take a good at ourselves and see how much we had hurt each other. But we both faced our demons head on, and we were ready to get it all out! Look out!!!
So much came out during these sessions. We realized that we lived over 8 years with a marriage that was not God-centered. It was a marriage that was not protected. Because of that, the enemy attacked our marriage in every way. The enemy seeks to kill, steal, and destroy every marriage. We had so much brokenness that we didn’t even realize it. We struggled with jealousy, selfishness, lack of trust, disrespect, lack of communication, lack of time together, lack of making our marriage a priority, depression, oh—and, don’t forget the 4 years of infertility thrown into the mix, and the list goes on. All of this mess built up into 8 years of resentment, lack of forgiveness, and anger towards one another. It was ugly.
I will never forget the turning point for us: I got so angry at him one night that I screamed and screamed at the top of my lungs about how mad at him that I was. After that, I’m convinced that God said: “Ok, you’ve said your piece. Now be quiet.” He shut my mouth for eight days. Yes, eight days. We didn’t talk to each other at all. Instead we wrote letters. We wrote and wrote—page after page. We got everything out. Thousands of words. Miles of hurt. Eight years of questions. Eight years of pain. Eight years of destruction. Out. FINALLY—-We were free. Praise the Lord. There was hope.
Not to say that things were perfect from then on, but it was a start—a fresh start! A start to freedom. A start to a healthier communication. A start to an amazing NEW friendship and love. A start to rebuilding a marriage with a foundation of trust. A start of a new marriage with God in the center just the way He intended marriage to be!
In June of 2010, Brad and I celebrated our 10th anniversary. After a year and a half of literally starting our marriage over and building it from the ground up, we chose to celebrate our fresh start in a big way. We traveled out to Napa California.
We wore our wedding attire and we renewed our vows on a hot air balloon ride over the valley. It was beautiful. It was amazing. It was heavenly. I could feel God smiling.
Even after almost 16 years together, we are still working on our marriage. Marriage is always a work in progress. We, as individuals, are always a work in progress. Brad and I thank God for pursuing us, changing us, and loving us so much that He used our past to help us build a better future. He helped us to grow closer to each other and to Him. And we are now able to set an example to our children as to what a healthy marriage should be. We are so thankful that God never gave up on us. He kept trying. But that’s not all there is—we had to never give up too. We had to keep trying too.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU
No matter what your struggle is- obviously for me, it was my marriage. For you, it might be your marriage too or it might be something else. No matter what your challenge is, just know that God will never give up on you and He will always keep trying to find new ways to pursue you. In any way that you feel hopeless, may God bring you hope.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12: 12
Together, Brad and I came up with a list of 10 tips that have helped us to have a healthier marriage. We pray they help you too…