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A Fresh Start for Marriage

January, 2008

By Paula Friedrichsen

Did you know that even failure can have value in God's economy? When a life has been redeemed by His grace, when a marriage has been restored by His goodness, it must be told.

And for that reason, I want to share with you my story of failure almost fifteen years ago. But bear in mind, the point of my story is not that I failed. We all fail at times, in one degree or another. The point is that I got back up. Emotionally bruised and spiritually shaken, I took steps to seek forgiveness and restoration from God.

He did forgive... and restore... and so much more! He gave me a passion to see men and women's eyes opened to the truth that their heart's desire is often no further away than the person lying next to them in bed each night.

Playing With Fire

I loved my new church! It was vibrant, exciting, and on the cutting edge. When the pastor preached, the Bible came alive to me as never before. He was like no other speaker I had ever heard.

My husband, Jeff and I had just relocated to this town, and although he was not a Christian at the time, Jeff was supportive of my desire to get involved in my new church.

In the course of time I became close friends with the pastor and his wife, in addition to others in the church congregation. Many times when the pastor's wife and I were having lunch at her home, her husband would drop by for awhile and we would all chat. Since the pastor and I had similar personalities we found each other charming, witty, and irresistibly funny. We could laugh and talk for hours.

Over several years our friendship grew, eventually escalating to the point where we were talking on the phone every day. Of course Jeff had no idea that the pastor and I were in daily contact:this was something I was hiding from him.

This seemed wrong...I knew it was wrong. But I continued on.

Then the dream came...

In my dream I saw the pastor come around the corner of a building. As he approached me, I heard the voice of the Lord above and behind me saying, "You are spending too much time together!" I sat bolt upright in bed, knowing I had just had an encounter with God. I was literally shaking with fear.

I knew God was calling me to leave that church immediately. But leaving a church I loved so dearly seemed too drastic. I decided to just make a concerted effort to put some space between the pastor and myself. How hard could that be? I loved my husband. Jeff was a wonderful man: hard working and kind. So what was the problem here? Nothing, really... just a little harmless flirting, that's all.

All hell broke loose one July afternoon. My little boy was down for a nap, and I was having my daily chat on the phone with the pastor...when he revealed his interest in me as more than just a friend.

Thus began the worst season of my life; what ensued was a three month inappropriate romantic relationship. Eventually the elders found out and I was asked to leave the church immediately, and within a few months the pastor was also asked to leave the church.

After I was asked to leave the church I confessed the whole ugly situation to my husband. To say he was disappointed would be an understatement. Jeff was understandably hurt and angry, but he forgave me. And ultimately, he took comfort knowing that nothing had happened sexually between the pastor and me.

It took time, but my marriage recovered. Eventually it grew stronger and more genuine. I realized just how much I loved Jeff:really loved him. In time we moved to another city and found a new church, and that was when my husband became a Christian.

I came away from that time in my life convinced of two truths:

Truth #1: Many women grow cold to the wonderful qualities that first drew them to their husband in the first place.

After my flirtatious and destructive friendship with the pastor ended, I ran for the safety and security of my husband. It was as if the clouds had parted on a deeply overcast day and the sun shone brightly for the first time in months. With complete clarity I comprehended my admiration, desire, and love for Jeff:and it has only deepened with time.

Truth #2: The approval we long for can only be found in our relationship with Christ.

I began that arduous season devoted to Christ and my husband, but every time I turned a deaf ear to God's rebuke, I wandered a little further down the path of destruction.

In the same way that I returned to the safety and security of my marriage after the inappropriate relationship with the pastor, I also ran quickly to the protection of my first love, Jesus. It was in that place of repentance and prayer that I remembered God is my "all in all." He is more than enough.

What I discovered about that ordeal is this: It's only as I am found in Christ that I can be content in my relationship with my husband. If I'm fulfilled, it's not because Jeff came through the door last night with long...stemmed red roses, a love poem, and dark chocolate. Rather, I'm fulfilled by the ultimate Lover of my soul.

This leads to great contentment. And because I am deeply contented in the quietest and most secret places of my heart, by the love and approval of Christ, I can then reach out in love to my husband and receive his love freely. Best of all, I can put my expectations where they properly belong:on the shoulders of the Lord.

January is a great time for a fresh start...a time to remember and recall all the reasons why you fell in love with your husband in the first place. No matter what has transpired in your marriage in 2007, I encourage you to commit the following year to God's care. Ask Him to enter into your marriage as never before and trust Him to help you and your husband deepen your commitment to each other and love each other more deeply in 2008.

© Paula Friedrichsen
Paula Friedrichsen is a conference speaker and the author of "The Man You Always Wanted is The One You Already Have" (Multnomah 2007). She lives with her husband and daughter in Northern California.


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