by Florence Bastin
It seemed like my husband cared more about people in the church than the kids and me.
Greg was pastor at our church in Nantes, France, and he had some sort of meeting almost every night. He didn’t seem to understand how isolated I felt. Greg was gone so much that we rarely had time to even talk.
Before long my unhappiness about our marriage grew into an unhappiness about everything in my life. I became a critical woman, often shouting at my husband during arguments.
Greg was thinking of leaving the pastorate because our 10-year marriage was failing. We knew we needed help, but we didn’t know where to go in France to find it. Greg had done an internship with a church in Arkansas before he began pastoring in France. So he contacted this church and asked if our family could come for a three-month sabbatical. They said yes.
When we were in the U.S. we went to one of FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. At first I was excited about going, but on the morning we left for the conference, Greg and I had a bad argument. I don’t remember what it was about, but I do remember that we had a complete misunderstanding. I said to a friend, “It’s not worth going to this weekend.”
I’m glad that Greg and I went to the getaway. In one weekend our marriage was transformed from hopeless to hopeful. We realized that we were not alone. Other couples were just like Greg and me—they had the same struggles in their marriages.
Still longing to be loved
We heard three sentences at the getaway that were life-changing for us. This first one especially touched Greg: “Your spouse is a gift from God.” After Greg heard this he realized that he could not look at me any longer as his enemy.
Two speakers at the Weekend to Remember, Gary and Lucy Stanley, told us about problems they had experienced in their own marriage. Lucy had even said once to her husband, “I love you, but I hate our marriage.” That was our second key sentence. When Lucy said those words, I thought, That’s it! That describes our marriage.
Sometimes our feelings were so hurt that we felt like we hated one another. But we realized that our marriage was the thing we hated. But both of us were still trying to love. Both of us were still longing to be loved by the other.
The third key sentence that we heard at the getaway was: “If you are not moving toward oneness in your marriage you will drift toward isolation.” When Greg and I heard that, we knew that we needed to change completely and needed to work on oneness, with God’s grace and help.
A burial for our marriage
Gary and Lucy also described to us an unusual service they had conducted years before. After their marriage turned around, they decided to “bury” their old marriage as a statement of their determination to start over. Greg and I knew that was something we had to do.
By the end of the getaway weekend, God had made the miracle we couldn’t imagine. He gave us pure hearts and renewed our hope. We asked for forgiveness and we forgave each other. We felt like newlyweds again.
After the getaway, Greg and I chose a date for the burial service. Then we each spent some time alone with God and wrote down all of the hurts, frustrations, and hates that we had in our hearts. We wrote down the bad memories about our marriage and one another. Then we asked God to forgive us, and with God’s help we forgave one another.
Greg and I took our lists to a nearby lake. We found a quiet place and began by praying and thanking God for the miracle in our lives. We thanked God for the power of His forgiveness. I read through my list, saying, “Greg, I have been hurt by these things and I already forgive you for them … “ Then Greg did the same.
It was an emotional moment; we discovered some hurts that we hadn’t known about. We each realized how bad we had been and asked for forgiveness. We knew we would do our best to never go back to destroying our relationship.
We tied the lists to rocks and then threw the rocks into the lake as a symbol of our forgiveness. Greg read about forgiveness in Psalms 23 and 51.
Buried in that lake were 10 years of unmet needs and selfishness. Ten years of trying to change one another. Ten years of criticizing instead of encouraging.
We returned to the pastorate in France, and today Greg is working on his Master of Arts in Apologetics and right now he’s taking a course in biblical counseling in marriage and family. He knows that God can put hope back into any marriage. After all, that’s what He did for us.