My next wedding anniversary will be our 20th. That seems like a really long time. I’m thrilled we’ve made it this far! I’m glad to still be married to my best friend – Julie Serven.
There were times when we both weren’t so sure. I think that’s pretty common, and we all know that half of couples decide it’s just not worth it. Many of the reasons they divorce are easily understood, however much you might agree or disagree with them. Many of the reasons are murkier, shakier, more difficult to either explain or hear.
Couples are tired. They’re confused. They’re angry. They’re ignored. They’re expected to do it all or told they can’t do anything. Sex is absent, or cold, or bartered/manipulated, or misplaced. It can be thought of as noble to leave the relationship, to release the other person to something better. Selfishness has many forms.
We didn’t know what to do in our hopelessness and despair. We’d done what we thought was the best we could do. We were selfish sinners who can come by it honestly. Where could we go with this hopelessness? I’d always been taught, and I’d tried to follow as best as I could, that I should be a godly husband. And this is where it had gotten me? Dude. This sucks.
We started driving to Dallas once a month to talk to a counselor. His name is Bruce Edstrom. I knew that counseling was for weak people – I was right. I knew it was for messed up people – like me. I knew Julie had a ton of stuff to work on – she did. But that wasn’t what I needed to be taught. I was there for my heart to be changed. I knew he had tricks up his sleeve to catch me and I wasn’t falling for it – I was wrong.
Bruce listened to me, and to us. He cried with us. He untangled things. We beat around the bush so long and hung in there that we eventually learned that walking with Jesus and with each other was different than we had ever imagined – and that bush wasn’t a nice one anyway. We told stories and heard ones that we’d never told or heard. We cried redemptive tears. We got angry. We drove back in silence, or excitement, or with brimming new thoughts. It was exhausting! But something was happening, and something is still happening.
Bruce wasn’t the savior. He pointed us to the Savior. He wasn’t the restorer. But the Restorer showed up as we learned what intimacy and honesty and grace truly are within the context of our hurt, sadness, disappointment and expectations. Bruce didn’t fix us. We were still sinners after all. But we started trying to tell our stories and share our lives differently, and we started to try to listen and respond differently. And then that starting started to work.
It was in the midst of that change that we wanted to try to walk with others in our church, friend group and the RUF students that had come out of our ministry. We couldn’t do as good as a job as a trained, credentialed, experienced counselor. We knew that. But we could try to walk together with Jesus as we opened up a place where we could attempt true conversation and acknowledge that marriage isn’t easy at all, but it might be possible to experience something different.
I’m thankful for those dark turns that have brought us to a greater light, a greater love. I’m thankful that Bruce and others helped us so much, to their great cost. I’m thankful that Julie wanted to help me figure it out along the way, and that we’re still walking together in far greater joy and freedom. I’m thankful that she’s my best friend, and our relationship is getting better and that I get to be with her in how awesome she is.
And I’m thankful that Bruce will be here this weekend for a Marriage Conference. It’s good to introduce others to him, and to let him speak into our lives – may the Lord redeem farther and further into our messy crazy lives. Everyone needs counseling.