by Daren Laws
I’ve often joked that marriage will either make you like Jesus or not! The truth is, allowing any relationship to make you more like Jesus is a choice. Just like deciding to follow Him in the first place. For those who have decided, the Bible teaches us that following Jesus is to be our central focus of living. One of the many things that drew me to Tracy was her unmistakable passion for following Jesus. I knew that if she loved God wholeheartedly, she would have enough love for me.
Everyone needs a higher power, a greater authority, in their marriage to anchor the relationship within a larger narrative more important than individual fulfillment. Our lives connect to their ultimate purpose when pursuing a reason for existence grandeur than ourselves.
Endeavoring to live like Jesus in our marriage has given us timeless principles to live by. Our values are based on ancient traditions found in scriptures that have proven the test of time. Both my wife and I are submitted to living out these principles. They provide a foundation that serves us well when we face challenges, conflicts and the greatest adventure of all, seeking first the kingdom of God.
Divorce was a word we promised never to use, so we didn’t, but naturally it lurked in the back of our minds. Here’s what happened.
In 2005 - at the end of a very long year - Tracy and I discovered the power of forgiveness in communion. In a twelve-month period, I oversaw a two million dollar downtown theater renovation, while remodeling our own home. The two projects would have been a lot but then add a crisis to it. The 300-foot berm that held the water for our small lake at our church property began to leak. If the berm broke, within minutes, thousands of homes in the development across the street would have been flooded all the way to the adjoining highway. Fixing the berm was another $300,000 in unplanned expenses and this project had to be completed before winter, as did the Theater and our home.
In the midst of all the construction, we paused for our 20 year anniversary getaway. Tracy was experiencing unusual symptoms on our trip. We returned home early. She had an MRI and we waited for the doctor. We were then informed that Tracy had Multiple Sclerosis.
Not only was this news horrifying but sudden! We were already spiritually, emotionally and physically spent. We had no emotional reserves to support one another. We were like two drowning people who had been lost at sea for nearly a full year.
Then came New Year’s Eve; a holiday filled with joy and hope for things to come. But, exhausted and weary, we did not go to bed with “Auld Lang Syne” ringing in our ears. Instead, we laid there wondering what kind of future we might have, if any. My wife was ill; my youngest son had cerebral palsy. In addition, I had helped care-give for my dad who was crippled early on, in my childhood years. Tracy and I, desperately needed each other, but had no personal strength to give.
That’s when Tracy came up with the idea of ending our marriage as we knew it and starting over. She said,
So, with every ounce of faith and hope we had left, we got out of bed and started afresh. We received communion together, and prayed a simple prayer of forgiveness. In doing so, we each gave to God all our expectations and decided that when we woke, we would no longer see each other through the lens of expectation, but rather what we could give to one another. Each gift being received as an unexpected blessing. We started over and it worked!