The Perfect Storm of Grace

When I met LeRoy, he was a confident, self-assured, college student. He smiled easily and laughed freely. We’d talk non-stop for hours, baring our hearts and sharing personal dreams. Childishly, I entered marriage expecting it to be something like a romantic fifty-year date.

He entered marriage thinking it would be a breeze:

Going into marriage I thought, “Well, I’m a great guy and will make a good husband. Any woman would be glad to have me. This is going to be great.”

I thought it would require little or no effort since we were both believers, both loved the Lord, both loved the Word. A good marriage was inevitable.

But once we were married, he changed. My once outgoing, confident, lover gradually began to lose his smile. He no longer carried himself with the same self-assured air. He retreated into a cave of dark solitude. The more I attempted to pull him out, the deeper he retreated.

The walls between us grew thick . . .

I remember one day thinking, “How long has it been since I’ve seen him smile? He’s so cold and silent. I can’t even remember what his laugh sounds like!” I reached the point where I gave up hope of experiencing happiness in marriage. LeRoy struggled in deep depression.

My kind and gentle husband was bitter and frustrated from years of walking through an emotional minefield, never knowing when to expect a heated outburst, an icy response or a verbal onslaught. Our conversations were brittle and brief.

I no longer respected my husband. In fact, I didn’t even like him. I knew that my feelings for him were wrong and I struggled with my attitude, but I justified my resentment every time I saw his dark expression. I kept thinking, “If he would just realize how much he’s hurting me and be willing to change—we could have a happy marriage!”

No couple starts off their marriage planning to spend their lives as strangers or in daily warfare, but that’s the miserable state where many exist. The drift doesn’t occur over night, but at some point intimacy is lost, and the couple realizes that somewhere along the way they’ve settled into functioning more like room-mates than lovers.

I’m afraid our experience could be retold, with basically the same script, hundreds of thousands of times by couples who are left injured, bewildered and confused—searching for answers to what went wrong. How can the same two people who once stood at a marriage altar with hearts and hands joined, vowing to love and live with one another “until death do us part,” come to this place in their relationship?

We were caught in a vicious cycle of pain. Neither of us understood what was happening or why we couldn’t seem to fix it, but we both knew we were miserable. We didn’t yet see the rest of the story. God was at work, we just didn’t see it then. Now, my husband describes that period of time as a “perfect storm of God’s refining grace.”

Like most young couples, we entered marriage with unrealistic expectations. Christian couples who know the Lord and have a heart for God but come together with different backgrounds and personality types have real challenges. God was bringing the perfect storm into our lives through our marriage. It wasn’t a storm meant to destroy—but it was the perfect storm of God’s purifying and refining grace. We didn’t know it then, but we can look back now . . . and recognize His hand at work in the pain.

God used the painful circumstances of our marriage to bring us to a place of looking to Him alone as our source of rescue. When we came to the point of humility, admitting our need to change how we treated one another, acknowledging our blind-spots and inviting the Spirit to apply His grinding work of grace to those areas—His refining work began.

If your marriage is caught in a storm today, I encourage you to check out our story by listening to these programs or reading the book, Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior.

Excerpt from Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior Moody Publishers © 2012 by Kimberly Wagner