Twenty years ago today my life changed. Twenty years ago today I walked down an aisle in a wedding dress sown by my mother, to commit myself to the man that I love. Twenty years in this day and age seems like a huge milestone to overcome in any relationship. But we did overcome and today we celebrate twenty years of marriage. I would say wedded bliss, but for anyone who has been married, you know that to make it twenty years, it wasn't all blissful. There was a time in ourmarriage when we decided to call it quits. We had had enough and wanted out. So, we separated. But God, who is rich in His mercy, restored to us the union of man and wife, and because of God and only God can my husband and I stand together today celebrating these past twenty years together.
You see, when my husband and I were married, I was a young woman of twenty and he was a young man of twenty two. But, to be honest, I was pregnant and “back in those days”, my parents expected marriage to happen. So it did happen. Back in those days a girl respected her parent’s wishes and did as she was told. For my husband, however, I was the one. The one he wanted to spend the rest of his days with. But for me, I wasn't so sure. I was young, had lived a pretty rough life already and the thought of settling down scared me. (You can read my testimony to understand what I was living like) But, I will never forget the look on my dad’s face when I told him, standing at the top of the aisle of the church, that I couldn't go through with it. What if this was not the man for me? He looked at me, grabbed my hand, put it on the crook of his arm and said, “It’s too late for that now” and walked me down the aisle. To this day, I thank God for my dad doing what he did; because had he let me walk away, I would not be married to my best friend of twenty years.
Marriage is not easy folks. If you are entering marriage thinking that there will be blissful days filled with rainbows and unicorns, then you are going to be very disappointed. There were good times in our twenty years, and there have been bad times. But God, in His mercy, brought us through them all. It was about four or five years into our marriage that things went from bad to worse. We had struggled throughout the first few years, but it just seemed to get worse and worse. We fought all the time, mainly over power- who was right and who was wrong. We fought and fought until eventually we just started to live separate lives. This caused a rift between us. Both of us went out and committed indiscretions, and sins against the other. We were both unbelievers at this time, and God was far from us and not a part of our marriage at all. But God, even though we did not want Him in our lives, He had a plan from the very beginning and was present through it all.
We moved to North Carolina and eventually the marriage crumbled. We separated. For almost two years we lived apart, not only physically but emotionally as well. Then one day I gave my life to Jesus Christ. I bent my knee to His glorious name and accepted the sacrifice that He had given for me. I walked and lived as a new born babe in Christ for about six or seven months when the Lord spoke to my heart one night. You see, my life had taken a tumble. I was living apart from my husband and my children. My life had been self-seeking, self-satisfying and this had cost me the privilege of being a wife and mother. One night, I was staying at my husband’s house visiting the children. I had tucked them into bed, read them their bedtime story, said a prayer with them and kissed them each good night. I sat there, watching my little ones sleep, and the Lord spoke to my heart about how I needed to repent and return to my husband, and my family.
The Lord broke my stubbornness that night. He broke my heart into a million pieces. I fell prostrate on the floor, face in the carpet and sobbed. I sobbed and prayed, sobbed and pleaded with the Lord to forgive me for all the pain and hurt I had caused my husband and my children. To this day I remember the cleansing flood of peace that ran over my heart. My God met me there, on that floor and showed me what it was that I needed to do. I had been running from marriage to this man since the day my dad walked me down the aisle. But He showed me that I had not been running from my husband, but I had been running from Him. It was that night, that night filled with regret and remorse that Jesus showed me what it truly means to turn my ashes into beauty.
I left my children’s room and walked into the living area where my husband was sitting at his computer. It was at that moment that God not only opened my heart, but He opened my husband’s as well. We spent the rest of the night and into the early morning talking about all that had happened, and God made a way that night for us to start again. Jesus opened the door not only for restoration but for forgiveness as well. I was finally broken, finally broken enough to see the error of our ways and the hurt our lives had caused our children. So, on that night, we decided to become married again. Now, twenty years later, I look back and I thank God for that broken heart. Had He not broken my heart that night, my husband and I would not be where we are today.
I write this testimony today not to make you feel sorry for us, but to show you that there is nothing beyond repair in the hands of our God. Isaiah 61:3 tells us that Jesus Christ will give us, “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” But it is not until we come to that place where we hand over the ashes of our lives that He is able to turn them into something beautiful. It is not until we hand over our garments of sorrow and pain that He is able to give us the garments of praise. In our brokenness He does His best, most glorified work. Because we were willing to hand over the ashes of our marriage, God was able to build a beautiful picture of His love for His bride in us. It didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t an easy aisle to walk down. But twenty years later, all I can do is praise Him for all that He has done in us and through us.
Wherever you are at today, whether you are married or single, or living apart from someone you love, know this and be encouraged that God can take your ashes and turn them into something beautiful. We just have to be willing to be broken to the point of ashes and then hand them over into His capable hands. I pray for you today, that those relationships in your life that are broken, God will restore you to wholeness and give you beauty for your ashes. In Jesus Name, amen and amen.