“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” … Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” Romans 4:18,20-21
Late last Friday afternoon I was replying to an email and had typed “…remarried 20 years…” when it hit me. We are only days away from having been remarried for two decades after correcting the horrible mistake of our divorce. The date, July 7, did not sneak up on me. Charlyne and I have been looking forward to this special anniversary, but suddenly it is here. I realized Friday afternoon that we now have four grandchildren older than our youngest son’s age when we divorced!
On one hand, it seems like ages ago that we went through all of the horrible mess. I think about some of the things I did, while pretending to be a Christian and cannot believe that it was me. On the other hand, it seems like only yesterday that I suddenly walked back into the home where we still live today, but as a remarried man.
On one hand, not much has changed. The church where we were remarried in the Pastor’s office, with an hour’s notice, still sits within walking distance, across the park from our home. Our children married and moved out, giving Charlyne and me each an office at home, and today all have families of their own, but when the grandkids have “sleep overs,” they stay in the former bedroom of their Mom or Dad. On the other hand, a lot has changed. My parents have both graduated to glory and no longer live down the street. It is now our home where adult children confide in their parents, and where grandchildren stop by when they need batteries or a dollar.
I cannot look at the 20th anniversary of our remarriage without wondering how much different my life and Charlyne’s life would be today, if she had followed everyone’s advice and had given up on me. Yes, I could have convinced another woman that she needed me for a husband, but before long she would have also become a victim of my sin. I doubt that any woman on earth would have prayed for me during life-threatening illnesses the way that Charlyne did. No other woman would have forgiven my mistakes since remarriage the way my Charlyne has.
When I look back beyond 20 years, I also have to wonder what Charlyne’s life might have been like if she had starting having coffee with a man from church, justifying, “We’re just friends.” You and I both know where the slippery slope of “Just friends” usually leads, as we start enjoying the company of someone of the opposite sex, and then start confiding in them, and then …
Each of the twelve physicians Charlyne worked for had the “perfect man” for my wife, then in her late 30’s, working in an administrative position, with a great personality, and divorced.
It was true that Charlyne deserved “someone better” than what I had been for the 19 years before we divorced. (In case you do not know, I was abusive, unfaithful, and guilty of quite a few more sins.) Anyone who heard our story would have told Charlyne, “God doesn’t want you to live like that,” and many people did.
The friends, Pastors, Doctors, and Counselors were correct. Charlyne deserved someone better. God did not want her to continue living as she had been. But God, in his infinite wisdom, and according to His Word, did not give my wife a different husband. He gave her a new husband, in the same overweight, balding body of the man she had married in 1966, and who had fathered her children. Why did God do that? In answer to the prayers of a faithful, but forsaken, wife, who had taken a stand with Him, and chosen to swim against the tide of popular opinion, against educated counsel, and against the circumstances. My wife wanted to see our marriage problems fixed God’s way.
If I could describe my wife in a word, what would I say? Friend? Wife? Lover? Teacher? Wise? Trustworthy? Honest? Popular? Godly? She is all those things, but above all else, my wife is consistent. From the day she got up from the church altar, on a Sunday in April, over 22 years ago, until this day, my wife has not backed down from what God told her to do, namely, to take a stand with Him, trusting Jesus to heal our home, in His way and in His timing.
Of all my wife’s good traits, the one that did the most to draw me home was her consistency. I attempted to push her buttons, but aoon discovered, time and again, that they were disconnected. No matter what I said, no matter what I did, Charlyne stood firm that God was going to restore our marriage and rebuild our family. No matter what I needed, my wife was willing to give all that she had.
The dictionary defines consistent as: “Marked by harmony, regularity, or steady continuity; free from variation or contradiction.” That describes so well the woman I married twice.
Charlyne does not appreciate me making her a super stander, but that is what she was two decades ago, and that is what she is today. From that eventful Sunday in April, until I came home, not once did I hear my wife threaten to give up her praying and standing for me. I did hear about her waiting in a rocking chair until she was 80, and about how I was going to miss the best years of our marriage, but even those comments were always delivered with a smile in her voice.
I also wonder how our lives might have been differed if Charlyne had been inconsistent. What if I had heard, over and over, “I was standing, but gave up. Now I am really standing for you.” I knew in my heart that even if I had gone through a series of non-covenant marriages, and fathered a child on every block, that consistent Charlyne would be standing with her Lord, praying and waiting for me.
During your marriage struggles, God has not called you to win a popularity contest among family, friends, pastors, and counselors. He has called you to stand with Him for the salvation of your spouse and for their homecoming, both to the Lord and to their spouse.
Charlyne was consistent with her pastor. My wife had registered for an out of state faith conference. Her pastor called her in to caution her about getting “mixed up with that crowd.” What did consistent Charlyne do? She loaded up her old car and attended that conference, where she was greatly blessed. Now that is swimming against the tide.
Charlyne was consistent with the other person. There was no hair- pulling, no name calling, no threats, when God allowed consistent Charlyne to sit in a restaurant booth, across from the other woman, and explain what God had called her to do. My wife expressed to the other woman that even if the other woman and I married, Charlyne would be sitting in that rocking chair, waiting for me. That, my friend, is consistency.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
Do you know what I would appreciate as an anniversary gift? For you to become a consistent stander, a person sold out to Jesus Christ, following His leading, doing things His way, being consistent in standing with Him for marriage restoration. If you could become consistent, day after day, week after week, month after month, and yes, even year after year, your prodigal spouse will sit up and take notice. The day will come when, like me, your beloved will sense in their heart of hearts, “Can’t beat ’em, might as well join ’em.” That is the point when prodigals come home.
A question I asked Charlyne more than once is a question that your absent spouse might also be asking: “What will be different if I come back?” Charlyne had an answer, just as you do, but beyond that, my wife demonstrated what would be different by her consistent living.
May I offer a word of warning? Consistent standing, like consistent Christian living, is observed, and not announced. If you manipulate for your prodigal to get wind of your new consistent standing, and then fail to do so, it will blow up on you faster than a defective July 4th firecracker. Consistent standing is walking a walk, day after day, not simply talking the talk.
Every day people contact us. They buy books, tapes and CD’s. Some of those people even openly state they are looking for Charlyne’s “secret” to our restored marriage. Today I have given you the secret in a word: Consistent. There is no limit to what our Lord God could do if you seriously became a consistent Christian and a consistent stander. Above all else, people you love could be won to Christ Jesus by your example. For certain there would be changes in your life and in your Christian walk. Beyond that, no prodigal can long stay away from the God personified by a consistent spouse, living as such, even in the midst of adversity. Know what else? The prodigal for whom you pray will start to take notice, without you doing or saying a thing, after your life becomes consistent.
Happy anniversary, Honey. Thank you for your example of “Consistent Charlyne,” to me, to all of our family, and to people around the world. We all love you very much.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” I Peter 5:10
Bob, R.P. (Returned Prodigal)