From time to time on this blog I have shared parts of our story and how Jesus has worked through us. I want to share a condensed version of it so that it will make more sense in context of the larger story.
Sharon and I met in our church small group in the fall of 1984. We began dating and then married in December 1985. By the end of the first year of our marriage we had started counseling which continued into our second year. I thought we had a good first year, but in my male cluelessness I did not realize that Sharon didn’t feel that way and I did not understand why.
Early in our third year of marriage we discovered that I had testicular cancer. I had two surgeries and then chemotherapy. A couple days after I started chemo we found out that we were having twins. We were so thankful to God because prospects for children had not been looking good. Matt and Sarah were born perfectly healthy in February 1989 at the beginning of our fourth year of marriage.
We took all of our unresolved hurts from prior to our marriage, our first year’s disappointments and communication missteps and buried them for years just dealing with my cancer and the children’s births and then life in general with its normal ups and downs.
In 2000, I realized something wasn’t right within myself and I started counseling. Sharon joined me shortly after that. Sometime during the summer or fall of 2002 we were trained as marriage mentors by our church and mentored our first couple. One couple we took through pre-marital mentoring seemed very encouraged by what we taught them, but told us later that they realized we were struggling.
By August 2003, just months before our 18th wedding anniversary we came home on a Saturday night from a marriage mentoring team meeting, had a disagreement, and Sharon told me she wanted me out of the house. When I asked, “When?” she said “By Tuesday.”
I moved into our RV and we switched counselors. I did not get along well with the new counselor so I went back to our old counselor for awhile and eventually started seeing the new counselor as Sharon’s spouse, not as a client myself.
By late January or early February I was so depressed that I could barely function in life. We farm and January/February is tax season which I had done for years. I would see Sharon’s signature on a check and start crying. I realized that I needed more help so I went and spent a month in www.meierclinics.com in Michigan which is a Christian out-patient intense therapy program.
I did improve. After I was home Sharon and I started working through a program called Reconciling God’s Way (now Marriage 911) which teaches you to focus on God and then with His help to reconcile to your spouse.
On our third or fourth Reconciling God’s Way date we were at a lake near home and Sharon told me she was done with our marriage and was getting a divorce. I mostly held it together until we got home and then I got out and slammed her car door so hard that it leaked air for years. I jumped in the RV and burned rubber as I left. After a few days, I got calmed down and came back home.
Somewhere along the way I informed Sharon that I would not give her a dissolution of our marriage because Jesus had said, “Let no man put asunder what God has joined together”, and I believed a dissolution where I would be asking a judge to end our marriage would be a violation of that command. The only way left out of our marriage would be for Sharon to file for divorce. Thankfully she never did, although she did retain legal counsel.
We hired a trained marriage mediator who typically mediates divorces or dissolutions. I refused to mediate a dissolution; Sharon refused to mediate a reconciliation, so we tried to mediate a legal separation.
I went away for some intense times of prayer. Our communication dwindled to as little as necessary to operate the farm together since she paid all of the bills and I was the primary manager, supervisor and a major worker. We also communicated on essentials about the kids.
I continued to look for resources to help us and got involved in Divorce Care which helped me calm down and actually have hope for our marriage.
During the summer of 2004 our counselor had been trained in some communication tools from the PAIRS Foundation. He started to use them with me and our relationship started to heal. He was also being trained in coaching through Life Forming Leadership Coaching. His coach training also helped our relationship to improve because it was a different methodology than counseling and worked better with me.
Finally in October 2004 our counselor and his wife were doing a PAIRS workshop one weekend. I invited Sharon and after an all night struggle with God she reluctantly came. With Jesus’ help we made it through the whole day and finally communicated at a depth and honesty with civility that we had never had in our marriage.
We continued to implement the tools by e-mail, phone and in person and by December we reconciled and I was living back in the house. On January 1, 2005, we had a recommitment ceremony at our church attended by many friends, church members, pastors, elders and counselors to celebrate what Jesus had done.
Later in 2005 we moved to Washington, D.C. for Sharon to work in a marriage ministry. That didn’t work as planned but God used that time in the D.C. area for all four of us to reconnected as a family. I kept farming in Ohio by traveling back and forth and also started a trucking company. Eventually we were trained in coaching by Life Forming Leadership Coaching, in marriage coaching by Grace & Truth Relationship Education, and in PAIRS communication tools.
In the spring of 2009 we moved back to Ohio. We continue to farm but have also formed a non-profit ministry, Stubborn Pursuits, through which we do various marriage education, coaching, mentoring, personality assessments and more. We continue to strive to learn new skills both to improve our own marriage and to help others.