Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An Open Letter to my Fellow Participants in Marriage Matters

I am so glad you are here.  I hope you find, as my husband and I have, that this is a place of healing and restoration.  You will be given tools to strengthen healthy marriages and repair broken ones.

My husband and I were on the verge of ending a fifteen year marriage when we came to Marriage Matters.  The world was telling me that I had to be strong for myself and initiate divorce proceedings.  Through Marriage Matters, I heard the voice of truth.  God spoke to my heart, saying, "Don't listen to the lie of this world that says, 'be strong for yourself and divorce.'  That is the voice of the enemy who seeks to kill, steal and destroy you.  He's a liar, and the wisdom He offers is bankrupt.  Instead, allow Me to show Myself  strong!  I am stronger than your brokenness, stronger than your pain, stronger than your sin or the way you've messed up your life!"  I am so glad that we listened to that voice of truth and turned our marriage and our lives over to Him (not just in word only, but in action and in deed).

I came into Marriage Matters thinking I was the "right" one, feeling sorry for our table leaders because - boy, oh boy! - were they going to have a hard time "fixing" my husband.  On the surface, many of the problems in our marriage could be laid at the feet of my husband.  But, friends, I am telling you....being the wronged party is a spiritually dangerous place to be.  If we are not wise and mature, we can easily fall into the enemy's trap of pride and self-righteousness, feeling contemptuous and haughty towards our mates.

I didn't see it at the time, but I was a complete fool when I entered Marriage Matters.  In my heart, I sat in smug judgment over my husband.  But praise God....there is hope for fools who earnestly seek Him!  I give God all the praise for opening my eyes to my own sinfulness.

I remember well the morning I saw the "light."  I was in the bathroom getting ready for work, and my husband was ranting and raving about not being able to find a misplaced item.  His short fuse and the outbursts that ensued were such a turn-off to me!  As I silently applied my makeup, I thanked God that I was "above" such temper tantrums!

As my husband continued to rant and rave, I withdrew, retreating further and further into my stony silence.  I can't say this was a pattern that worked particularly well for us, but it was familiar.  The louder he got, the more I withdrew; the more I withdrew, the louder he got.  It was a vicious cycle, but we felt powerless to stop it.

For some reason, that morning I was given a glimpse into our future.  I saw us, old and gray and wrinkled, engaging in the same destructive behavior patterns.  The thought terrified me and brought me to my knees!  I didn't want to be seventy years old and still stuck in the same old rut.  At that moment, I was desperate for change, desperate for a better way, and I cried out to God in my neediness and pain!

Oh, praise Him!  He answered me!  It wasn't the answer I wanted, but it was the answer I needed.  He gave me a glimpse into my own heart, and what I saw made me recoil in disgust.  I saw that my heart was full of pride, and I saw it through God's eyes:  as an offending odor, a putrid stench in His nostrils.

No wonder my husband reacted to me the way he did!  No wonder my silence drove him crazy!!!  It was full of unspoken superiority.  I had sat in judgment over my husband.  I was haughty and arrogant and self-righteous.  One of my favorite verses is Philippians 2:3, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  But in humility, consider others as better than yourselves."  I had done the exact opposite!  I had thought of myself as better than my husband, and the weight of conviction pierced my heart.

Immediately, I went to my husband and humbly confessed my sin and asked for his forgiveness.  I believe our real healing began that morning as we committed to walking in truth and humility before each other and before God.  The way we relate has changed one hundred percent; when we find ourselves reverting back to old patterns and behaviors, we stop and pray together.  Prayer has changed our hearts, and I can honestly say that I love this man more richly and deeply now than on the day that we married.  Our relationship is sweeter and more tender now than it was when we were dating!

Please don't give up on your partner or your marriage.  We serve a God who is in the life-transformation business!  He is making all things new....bringing beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, peace for turmoil and love for apathy.  He is "mighty to save," and your restored marriage can be a powerful testimony, attesting to the fact that God is alive and working and moving in this world!

Please refrain from just "going through the motions."  Let's agree that for these eight weeks, we will diligently do our homework.  If we apply the tools that we are given, we will be empowered to break our old destructive habits.  We will come to see that our past does not have to dictate our future, and joyful expectation can replace our pessimistic doubts.    I have been praying for each and every one of you.  Submit yourselves to His pruning process, and your lives will overflow with blessing and abundance.

I can think of no more apt or fitting words to end this letter with than those of Paul in Philippians 3:12-14:  "I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be.  I have not yet reached that goal, but I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine.  Christ wants me to do that, which is the reason  He made me His.  Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do.  Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead, I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above."

What glory He will receive when you are able to stand and testify that that which was once dead is now alive and thriving, all because of Him!  May our lives bring Him glory!!!

In His Grip,
Kristy Ufheil

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