Marriage (Excerpt)

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Genesis 2:24 (NKJV) – “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh.”

From the beginning, God intended for one man to join with one woman, and for the two to become something new and whole entirely. This is what biblical marriage looks like, as ordained by our Heavenly Father. The first family—Adam and Eve—were created to compliment one another unabashedly. In fact, verse 25 of Genesis chapter 2 states, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” The first union should have been perfect, if not for human nature. Adam and Eve’s fall from grace ushered sin into the entire world, and erased perfection from marriage.

Today, television and movie screens paint marriage in many different facets, ranging from the perfect high school sweethearts who live out perfect lives in the west, to the perfectly prearranged middle-eastern marriages that survive lifetimes without trials. While such tales make for interesting entertainment, the truth of marriage is seldom a smooth-sailing route.

Marriage is work. Make no mistake about it, the happy-ending romantic dramas displayed for our entertainment usually oversimplify the complexity of the union between a man and woman. Real marriages often face insecurities, incompatibilities, compromises, deceitful choices and silent moments; all of which are firey darts shot for one very specific purpose. Sin constantly wants to destroy biblical marriage. If your marriage in under fire, take comfort in the fact that you are never alone. Anything worth having, must be fought for.

My True Story – For Tasha

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Tasha,

What I am about to share with you is a true story. It was written in dramatic fashion simply because I’m a writer at heart, and that’s just what I do. But, make no mistake: the events played out in our marriage and ultimately led us to a life of love in Christ Jesus.

Tasha, the devil will stop at absolutely nothing in his efforts to destroy a marriage. After all, if he can get to the parents, the children will most likely be affected as well. “Steal, kill and destroy” is not just some snappy catchphrase, sister. That’s exactly what the enemy plans for marriages and relationships.

Sister, I want you to fight for your marriage. When I say “fight”, I’m not talking about airing your private emotional reactions all over social media. Believe it or not, by doing that, you’re actually doing precisely what the enemy wants you to do! I’m talking about genuinely and diligently seeking the Lord’s guidance in all matters concerning your marriage. You’ve gotta pray unceasingly and trust in the Lord to work out what is good for you both. It’s the hardest task you will ever undertake, Tasha. Honestly, a lot of couples don’t make it. But those who survive the fire come through it stronger than ever.

And so, I want to share our story with you. Misty and I decided to share this story with the world last year. It was included as one of 40 testimonials published in a book called “Trials and Triumphs“. My prayer is that this story encourages you (and Zack) to dig in and fight for your marriage. You’ve both been through so much together. I believe that together, there is nothing the devil can throw at you both, that you cannot handle with God’s grace and mercy. This story is called “Going The Distance“.

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Hearing the family van park in the driveway, I typed out the last words of my text message. I pressed SEND, and stuffed the phone into my pocket. My wife, Misty, opened the front door, glanced in my direction, then diverted her eyes elsewhere.

“Hey,” she said, disinterested.

“’Sup,” I replied casually.

“So…can we talk? I have something on my mind.”

“Sure, what’s—” My phone buzzed. A return text had come in.

“No, not right now. Besides, someone needs you, obviously.” She pointed toward my buzzing pocket. “Maybe we can go out tomorrow, for a drink.”

As she walked away, I reached for the phone.

‘She’s a liar, and you need to leave her,’ read the message from a female colleague. Recently, I had taken to confiding in her regarding my marriage. ‘You can do so much better, Ennis. You deserve someone who can take care of you.’

The next day, Misty and I drove to the riverfront. We walked along the boardwalk making small talk for awhile.

“All right, we’re here, Smith.” I turned toward her. “What’s on your mind?”

“Our marriage,” she said solemnly. “I think…maybe…we should try separating for awhile.”

And there it was. We were now talking about the pink elephant in the living room.

“It’s really not… you. I just think I need time to myself to discover who I am, and where I need to be.” She stared out over the gray rippling waters of late fall.

I didn’t put up a fight. I agreed to the separation. In truth, I was tired of the nagging feeling that my wife might have embraced a life of infidelity. I had also begun to believe in the soothing words of my newfound confidant, who continuously shared her own marital problems with me. Our stories were similar, and I had come to view her as a shoulder to lean on.

Two days later, my fears were proven correct. The phone bill arrived. I scrutinized Misty’s cellphone portion and discovered dozens of calls made to a specific number over the past month. I dialed that number, and my heart sank when a familiar voice from her past answered the call. It was him. The man I’d had to deal with almost ten years past. Once again, it seemed he’d returned to her life. I couldn’t speak; could only end the call with a trembling hand. Hurt immediately turned to rage. I called her, demanding an explanation, and insisting on a divorce.

“I want you out of my house!” I yelled. “If you want to be with this idiot so badly, you can leave tonight. I’ll let the kids know you won’t be coming home.”

“You can’t take my kids a—” she started.

I abruptly ended the call. Spitefully, I gathered up our five children and announced our divorce. The three oldest were rocked to the core, understanding fully what that meant for the family. The youngest two didn’t understand. Having to explain divorce to my three- and six-year-old children only intensified my rage toward Misty.

She never left the house, and for a week, we tip-toed around one another. I spent most of my time drinking myself into a stupor to cope, while she openly continued her separate life. One weekend, we sat in our bedroom and talked candidly about our failing marriage.

“I can’t understand why you just can’t be honest with me,” I said.

“You want the truth? I don’t know why I don’t love you anymore,” she said. “I don’t even know why I see other men. That’s right; other men. It’s not just one. I think I love him, but I’m also seeing his best friend unbeknown to him. I can’t stop it.”

My knees buckled, and I collapsed to the floor. My pride broke and I cried out to God. In that instant I rationalized that this whole situation was payback for the thousands of indiscretions I had perpetuated over the years. I had once given my heart to the Lord, but had backslidden and become worse than before. I’d lied to my wife, behaved selfishly, cheated and stolen to get my way, so many times. I deserved everything that was transpiring now. My tears flowed and I pleaded with God for forgiveness. I apologized to Him for everything I had done.

Two weeks later, I found a small home to rent. My wife had settled for an upper flat to move into. As we packed our belongings and prepared to go our separate ways, she came to me one afternoon.

“Dear, are we doing the right thing?” Her eyes seemed so sincere, but emotionally, I had already departed from her.

“Yeah, I think we are. People divorce every day. The kids will adapt.”

“Can we try one last time? I think maybe we should give church a try.”

I was appalled at the idea. It was the fact that she had come up with it. I stalled for time, having already fixed my mind on starting a new life without her.

“Sure. I guess a few visits wouldn’t hurt.”

Six months later, Jesus recaptured my heart. Up to that day, we had church hopped until settling on a large congregational Pentecostal church. I struggled to accept the worship music, and often fought against the messages of the pastor. Because of my hard-heartedness, our marriage sputtered along slowly. By all appearances, we were fine: still in the same house together, still one big family. But, we each fought our personal demons, maintaining one foot in the world while trying out Christianity. And then it happened.

I attended a men’s ministry meeting, one Wednesday evening. The speaking guest, Bill,  was the author of a small book entitled, 30 Minutes in Hell. During the altar call, I reluctantly approached, fell to my knees and immediately felt the sensation of burning pressure fighting to remain over me. I remember pounding my fists on the altar. Bill approached and laid a hand on my shoulder.

“Woo!” he screamed. “Brother, I don’t know what you’ve got going on but some burden you’ve carried for a long time is lifting off you, right now. Don’t fight it! Let that thing go!”

It was hard, but I did. I released years’ worth of misguided anger against my wife, that very night. God set me free, and almost immediately I saw a change in our marriage.

On January 31, 2010, Misty and I were baptized together. For a few months afterward, Satan came against us with vengeance. Misty struggled to severe soul ties with other men, and I struggled with forgiveness, drinking, and releasing my own negative ties. But we maintained our dedication to the Lord and He has continued to strengthen our marriage and family.

Recently, I got the chance to witness our two youngest children, now seven and ten years old, raise their hands unabashedly in worship to the Lord. I cried tears of joy, knowing the Lord blesses and keeps us.

On our return home from the two-day children’s rally, my wife wrapped her arms around me and hugged me close. “I didn’t realize how much I loved you until you were gone away from me.”

“Me too. I really missed you.”

Today, I’m giving God the praise for helping us to go the distance.

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Fight for your marriage, Tasha. Satan is the father of lies and we cannot defeat him on our own. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Tasha, you have to recognize that this is THE battle of your life! Your faith comes down to right here and right now. Dig deep and seek the Lord’s Divine counsel. He will tell you what needs to be done, and he will walk you through his will, Tasha.

I’m praying for you and Zack, sister.

What Can I Do For You, Dear?

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I have a married friend who struggles with pornography. His wife simply isn’t interested in sex anymore. Every time he advanced, he was met with violent opposition. So, he simply stopped asking and chose to turn to the false satisfactions of the internet.

Another friend of mine was addicted to promiscuity. Her husband was so bent on climbing the corporate ladder, that he never made time for her. Eventually, she began to date outside of her marriage and became a slave to the lifestyle. By the time their marriage began to heal, she couldn’t stop.

And then there is that one friend we all have, who doesn’t understand he’s married. He still frequents the after-hour spots, or “window shops” women or constantly bombards Facebook with skin-selfies. Maybe your friend’s a married woman. Either way, they’re completely dishonoring their marriage and just don’t understand or don’t seem to care.

Sometimes I think my wife and I could have avoided many of the marital pitfalls we traveled through, had we submitted to God before we were married. You see, we’re both forgiven adulterers. We both had to deal with selfish pride driving us away from one another. If we had a genuine love for the Lord before we made our vows, maybe we would have embraced the enormous responsibility and cherished the great honor that is marriage. It took us a while to get to the place of love and trust, but God’s grace and mercy saved our marriage. While listening to John MacArthur this morning, I was reminded that the fight for our marriage is never really over, as long as we breathe. Satan has a plan to not only destroy our marriage, but all Godly marriages as well.

In his radio message, “To Marry Or Not To Marry”, pastor John MacArthur preached on biblical marriage, straight from 1 Corinthians 7. But this wasn’t a boring sermon. Instead, pastor John hit his listening audience in the face with real talk. You should have seen me feverishly scribbling notes while I listened, because I didn’t want to miss a thing. With my iPod handy, I wrote down a few direct quotes from pastor John; quotes that I think every husband and wife need to remember.

  1. “You have an obligation in your marriage, to give to one another what you owe to one another.”

When I married Misty Nielsen, I spiritually tied myself to her. I promised to provide for her every need, without question, and she did the same. God expects me to honor that cheerfully. I owe her happiness, to the best of my ability. Don’t misunderstand me here: only God can provide her with joy unspeakable. But, as her husband, he entrusted me with her marital happiness. If I’ve been saving up for a 2015 Honda CBR 650f motorcycle and my wife has desired a family vacation for five years, I better use that $9,000 to fulfill her wishes, and I’d better do it cheerfully. That attitude carries over into marital intimacy, as well. Our culture teaches us the attitude, “I’ll do what I want to do, and nothing else.” But, if that attitude binds my wife’s happiness, because of my selfishness, it’s no good. This brings us to point number two.

  1. “When you withhold from your partner for any reason, you put that partner in a place where Satan will tempt them toward their lack of self-control.”

Let me put it to you this way: if you continue to deny your spouse what he or she asks for, you will literally drive them toward the very temptation that your marriage was designed to keep them away from.

“Babe, I was think that we could—”

“No. I don’t feel like it.”

Strike one.

“Honey, the kids are gone. Maybe we can—”

“Not tonight. I just want to get some sleep. Don’t forget you promised to take my sister to work in the morning.”

Strike two.

“Sweetness, let’s—

“Gosh, get away from me! Is that all you ever think             about? I’m really not in the mood!”

Strike three. You’ve just given Satan the green light to tempt your God-given husband. Remember the friend I told you about, who fell into the sin of promiscuity? Her husband chose his career over their marital happiness. Satan came calling, and she accepted. Pastor John goes so far as to reiterate the point in this manner: “Anytime you withhold from your partner that which is rightfully theirs, you become the agent of Satan.”

Whaaaaaattttttttt?! You mean to tell me, by denying my wife’s happiness, I’m doing the work of the enemy? Let’s visit point three.

  1. “Now you say you love your wife, men; women, you say you love your husband? Then don’t ever put your wife or husband in a situation where they are open to the temptation of Satan, simply because you’re selfish!”

My married friend, whose wife simply decided to stop having sex with her husband, comes to mind here. He is responsible for seeking out the internet trash, but she didn’t help him much by denying him. In 1 Corinthians 7:4, Paul says, “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.”

Our culture is so backwards, that married men would rather spend hours in the gym perfecting the look of their bodies than to spend that same time in intimacy with the wife God blessed them with. It’s perfectly okay to workout. But, if you’re working out to maintain a certain look, and then plaster that look all over social media, who are you really trying to satisfy; yourself or your spouse? My body doesn’t belong to me, and it certainly doesn’t belong to Crystal, Michelle, Stacy, Evette, Julie, Kimberly—and every other woman I know—to enjoy through Facebook! That kind of activity will drive my wife, the one person who isn’t seeing me half naked, straight into the carnal mindset. This brings us to John’s last point.

  1. “If I say I love my wife; if you say you love your husband; if that’s really true, then you will never willfully, openly put that person in a place where Satan begins to tempt them to carnality.”

The carnal mind is set on the desires of our flesh; our lusts; our fantasies; conquests not of God, but of ego. If my selfish ego causes me to deny the desires of my wife—desires placed in her heart by God, for our marriage—then how can I actually expect her to remain totally faithful to me? It can’t be done! We’re human living in a fallen world. What’s her motivation for remaining true to a guy who seemingly doesn’t want her? Why would I expect her to be strong enough to deny her physical needs with others, when I’m too prideful to fulfill her desires?

Pride’s a monster. It tells us that our wants and desires are more important than anyone else’s. It’s the author of divorce. It’s the instigator of numerous marital spats. It’s anti-love. It has no place occupying space in a Godly marriage. What if your spouse asked you to do something totally uncharacteristic for them? It would bring them joy. Deep down, we all know what makes our spouse happy. For whatever reason, we choose to cater to our own desires instead of pleasing them.

I think this is a good place to pose a question for my married readers. Tonight, can you put your pride aside and submit to your spouse without them asking you to do so? Would you let pride, hinder that happiness?