If God intends the holy union of a man and a woman in marriage to be a symbol of redemption and re-creation, ours has certainly tested that intent to its fullest.
There is no relationship more vulnerable, none that will require so much of us than that of marriage. To be joined with another, to choose to give of your beauty and strength time and time again, not always assured of the outcome, is one of the hardest things we can ever do. It will undoubtedly show us where we are broken. That’s where the redemption and re-creation come in. God orchestrates the perfect storm, using it to bring peace, if we will allow him.
May you glean from it, and be encouraged to draw close to Jesus for your own redemption and re-creation, and maybe be inspired to write a letter to someone yourself.
Twenty-five years ago, I stood before you a very, very broken 19-year old girl. Though I pledged to give you my heart, it was so shattered and splintered already by 19, that I had only a small portion of the whole left to give.
Today, 25 years later at 44 years old, I stand before you a survivor, whose heart and life are still healing. I have begged God to fulfill his promise in Isaiah 61 to heal the broken-hearted; I have begged him time and time again to gather every shattered piece of my heart and bring it back into the whole; to tend each broken piece tenderly and gently. This has required me to go with Jesus back to many places I’d rather forget, in order to retrieve those shattered pieces. I have sat with Jesus in and with my pain, and pleaded with him to set this captive free as he also promises in Isaiah 61; free from trauma, free from my demons, free from the lies in those places, free from my sin, free from all my fears.
Control was, and sometimes still is, my way to protect myself, my way to take life into my own hands to ensure a certain outcome. At times, I have sought to control in you what I couldn’t control within myself. At times I criticized you harshly because, in essence those were the places I was actually most critical of myself. I did not understand that the command of Jesus to love others as you love yourself also meant that I would not be able to love you any more than I can love myself. It is not a narcissistic love of self, but truly a love that flows from God; a choice to receive his lovingkindness toward me; and in turn, reciprocate that love back to him and to you, as well as others.
I have sought perfection in us both, but of the wrong kind. A wise young friend once defined perfection in the Kingdom of God this way: perfection in Christ is when something, or someone, fulfills its purpose. That changes everything. I may not live flawlessly; I will fail you and others at times in a moment of selfish passion – even though I won’t want to.
But today, as I continue to let Jesus heal me…
I return myself fully back to God to allow HIM to perfect me so that I may fulfill my purpose as his daughter, his beloved; also that I may fulfill my purpose as your bride, your wife, your lover, your best friend, your confidant, your safe haven, the one whom you long to come home to; and today I return myself back to God to allow him to perfect me so that I may fulfill his purpose as a mother of six incredible children, Drew, Ashley, Jeremy (son-in-love), Emily, Mason (son-in-love), and Abby (I know I didn’t birth two of you, and you both already have incredible mothers, but I receive you lovingly as sons also because you have chosen our daughters to be your wives); and I return myself to God that I may fulfill my purpose as a grandmother one day, as a daughter, as a sister, and as a friend.
I give myself time and time again to God to heal me, so that I can give myself time and time again to you. To each of you. God has changed my prayer over the years from, “God make me a better wife and make me a better mom” to, “God show me how Andy needs me to love him; show me how my kids need me to love them.”
In all the places I have tried to control you or control the outcomes out of shear fear, I am sorry. I am asking God to help me trust him to be the Holy Spirit in your life, and our children’s lives; to help me be quick to listen, to him and to you, and slow to speak, so that my voice is not so loud you cannot hear his voice. I choose to bring my heart’s deepest needs to God to validate and to heal me, so that you are free to love me without fear that you will not be enough.
Andrew Brian, I chose you 25 years ago, I have chosen you every day since, and I choose you again today…and every day going forward. You are the one with whom I still long to share this life adventure. Before I knew you, I never felt safe, ever. Nor did I feel safe even through the first decade of our marriage. That was not because of you, or even me. However, because of God’s healing in us both, I have known for quite some time now, as you have even told me, that with you, I am safe.
Twenty-five years have shown us this life is certainly full of the unexpected, the unplanned, and even the uninvited. Good things we only dreamed we’d be able to experience, having married with barely a dime to our name, a baby on the way, and four total kids to follow in only five and a half years. Hard things we never would’ve imagined living through. Things we wish we could reverse time over and undo. Yet, together with God, we did live through them. We are living through them. And we will continue to live; together. My prayer has become that we will not merely survive, but that, with God’s life pulsating through us, we will actually thrive.
Your Bride, Melissa
It was more than a year before I was able to create and finish the wood art piece that hangs over our wedding day and 25th anniversary day canvases.
The 25th celebration was to be the pinnacle of healing from a dark story of abuse that tainted everything about the original wedding day. Because of that abuse and more, I wrote this letter to Andy and our children, along with a letter to my 19-year old self twenty-five years back (more on that later). It took the life out of me to do it, but the release opened up a deep well for God to pour his love and life in, working the theme of restoration.
Meanwhile, Andy outdid himself planning a surprise ceremony with our grown-up kids and closest family and friends. Many treats awaited me. What followed cannot be contained in small enough words for this post. But you get the propensity of the day. We ended it with feasting, celebration, and one last secret to be revealed. A video on the floor-to-ceiling screen announced the trip that awaited us, a 7-day cruise to the Western Caribbean! Second honeymoon, first cruise. (Not to mention, our entire initial honeymoon first married had been upended.)
After our vow renewal, the next several days were spent experiencing pure wedding bliss for the first time ever.
Then, like the snap of Thanos’s fingers (nod to the Marvel fans), everything changed.
Stealing the pandemic’s thunder before it could have the chance to announce itself to 2020, Andy’s mom died. Suddenly. Unexpectedly. Just before we were leaving for the cruise.
More death. More loss.
Then the pandemic isolated us all in our grief, shut us tightly in the vices of our anger. Stole our chance to sail all year. In addition, I became severely ill due to a disease that flared, often confined to the bed, unable to walk. These are some of the reasons I couldn’t work on the wood piece I’d been dreaming of creating for so long.
I wrestled openly and honestly with Jesus over the scriptures up against our experiences.
It seems laughable that the word God had given me for the 2020 was hope. That God would be about the work of restoring hope amidst such catastrophe on top of catastrophe.
Through the wrestling, God asked me where I am really placing my hope. On all things working out here and now, in this world? Or the next, when he returns? In the shakeup of the year, God was restoring the placement of hope. My hope must be anchored deeply in the coming of Jesus now, right into my suffering, and in the final coming of his Kingdom when truly all things will be made new. That is the only true, safe place for hope.
From this and more, I wrote a short story. It is being expanded and revised and will be available soon: HOPE: A Short Story for the Long Haul.
Through perseverance and patience with myself and God, I embraced His words for the next season to breathe, take it slow, and let Him set the pace. Those themes played out right into the making of the wood sign. It took hours broken up over months of time due to health and life events. Not to mention, I encountered a lot of trial and error over the from-scratch piece I had no instructions for. In it, I see the love of God, working with raw materials to form a new creation. Even fun work comes with its own hard challenges, but the end result is joy!
Where have you experienced redemption and re-creation? Or a renewal of hope that was once deferred? Or joy from hard work? Share in the comments below.