It was difficult to believe that Ed and Lisa had been married for 27 years. Lisa sat slowly stirring her tea this morning as she reflected upon all of that time. She recalled how she met Ed at a friend’s barbeque during college. They hit it off almost immediately and talked into the late hours that evening.
At first, they couldn’t believe all that they had in common. They both liked to read, enjoyed the outdoors, and loved animals. Their faith and their family held places of importance to them. This seemed like a match made in heaven and it wasn’t long before wedding plans were in the making. At this point I would like to wrap up the story and say that they lived happily ever after . . . . . but I can’t.
Lisa pondered those early marriage years. Both she and Ed began high intensity careers that energized them. A couple of years into their marriage they found themselves pregnant and were thrilled at the prospects of beginning a family. This caused Lisa to temporarily place her job on hold, but it wasn’t long before she was back at it in full swing. The birth of their first son was soon followed by another son and then twin daughters.
As these four children grew, Ed and Lisa’s lives became full – very full: two full-time careers, four children of school age – all involved in activities – soccer, gymnastics, school plays, football, and seemingly endless tournaments and competitions. They seemed to be doing all of the things that their friends and neighbors did – but it just felt overwhelming, and more importantly, unfulfilling. All of the children graduated from high school, some with honors, and were off to various colleges. Then it happened – Lisa looked at Ed one day and realized that she had no idea just who he was. They had fallen madly in love 27 plus years ago and had big dreams for their life together. But somehow all of that had gotten lost in the business of doing life. She no longer knew her husband and wasn’t even sure that she wanted to.
For years he had seemed to ignore and dismiss things that were important to her. He was no longer interested in things that mattered to her and just seemed to go about his own life. He wasn’t particularly mean or unkind – he just wasn’t interested or interesting. Their life and become predictable and – well – boring.
In her confusion, she just couldn’t seem to find any answers that met her at the point of her pain. There was an attractive coworker who had shown her special attention lately. Feeling noticed and appreciated hit her like water on parched lips. It scared her to realize just how much she had missed a real connection. Wisely though, she knew that getting involved with someone else would only mask her real issues and would create a relational mess throwing the family into crises.
She knew that wasn’t the answer. Girlfriends of hers had listened and offered advice, but she noticed that most of them were in relationships as lacking as hers and some were even worse. However, one particular friend had suggested that she talk to her pastor. She had even recommended a couple of scripture references to her. “How weird,” she thought. While these seemed like well-intended thoughts – what would God, the Creator of the Universe know about bad marriages?
“I mean,” she had told her girlfriend, “God is in the business of placing the planets in the cosmos and hanging the stars in the skies.” “What could he know about boring marriages and the challenging uninterested spouse that I am married to?” But then her friend had said something very interesting. She suggested that she read the third chapter of the book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament. She promised that she would but hadn’t thought much more about it until this morning.
Here she sat with her tea and her Bible. She had read this passage in Jeremiah that had been suggested and she was blown away by it. While she knew that the nation of Israel was God’s chosen people and that they had been likened to His bride, she had never given that perspective much thought. As she read this passage, she became more aware of God’s relationship with His bride – the challenges, their lack of interest in the things that were important to God, the nation’s dismissal of God’s love and care, and even Israel’s blatant and repeated unfaithfulness.
In Jeremiah 3 she gained a completely different view of God. He had been betrayed, rejected, ignored, and dismissed. He had been treated as she had been and even far worse. She began to realize that God doesn’t just keep planets spinning but that He relates to us – truly understands and relates. Lisa grasped a picture of a God who hurts as we do, who grieves loss, who sets boundaries when He needs to, and is always willing to forgive. He longs for an intimate, vibrant, healthy relationship with His bride – His people. And He is willing to engage in the battle for the relationship. He doesn’t just remain in pain – enduring.
He doesn’t look to walk away from his bride and find another that might love Him better. He doesn’t resort to commiserating with friends. He engages – He is rejected – He engages – He is ignored – He engages – He doesn’t say “there is nothing I can do, nothing will ever change, I am miserable and stuck.” He engages from a place of love and longing for relationship. He is willing to wade into those vulnerable places.
In Jeremiah 3 she saw a God who told His bride that it could be good again. Those dreams that existed in the beginning don’t have to be destined for the trash heap. What Lisa learned was – God can absolutely relate to her situation. Perhaps she would contact her pastor after all; and in addition, a Christian therapist who could help her to address her own issues and provide direction in navigating this journey. The critical piece that Lisa learned that was foundational to beginning her move forward is that, better than anyone, God understands our relationships. And from there – answers begin.