Nine years ago on January 18, my husband dove into a wave in the Gulf of Mexico and was rescued from the water a quadriplegic. Having lost our precious daughter in an accident only 17 months earlier, I could not comprehend how we were going to have the strength to endure another life-altering event in our lives.
We put our present grief aside and became immersed in what a life of quadriplegia was going to entail. We spent the following four months living in hospitals, learning absurd amounts of medical information. We spent little to no time invested in loving each other how the other needed. We were both incredibly tied up in our own hurt, pain and even selfishness.
It changed both of us for the worse. Ava’s death had seemed to drive us closer together and closer to God. But this? Neither of us had a clue how to love each other through yet another emotionally monumental experience.
I could not comprehend how a loving God thought we could weather another storm. I could not see how this was love from God. I continued to go back to the Old Testament, reading in Job about a man who endured far more heartache than I could ever imagine, and in his sorrow did not sin.
This did not mean Job wasn’t angry. I was pissed.
This did not mean that Job did not feel like his heart was physically breaking and the struggle to take another breath near impossible. I felt the same.
It made me feel that Job was human, not superhuman. Yet he endured his loss and maintained his integrity.
This is where I did not know where to turn.
In a marriage covenant, two people pledge their lives to each other. They become one in the eyes of God. I was one with my husband, despite all our loss, despite not knowing how to love him in the middle of our mess.
So I watched as his integrity slipped. I prayed. I pleaded with God. I thought Josh turned from Him because of anger at a God who would allow us to go through such tragedy. I thought Josh was confused about who he was now that so many of his abilities had been taken from him. With all the grief, heartache and deep pain that was part of a life that we did not choose, Satan began to slowly creep in. We didn’t welcome him; we know better than that. But neither did we send him away. Rather than maintaining our integrity, as Job did, we began to live a lie.
We were one. So I covered up for Josh. Rather than reaching out and finding the help we needed, we lived a life that was completely different once the front door closed and our lives were no longer under a microscope.
So many people saw God in our story, a story where we had nowhere else to turn but God. We were stuck in a place we could not find our way out of. People placed us on a pedestal, one where God was glorified, but we knew our personal lives did not. I knew my own spiritual life could not fix Josh. But I believed that God could heal his heart. I just questioned if God was going to do it.
How could we admit to sin and find help for ourselves when people called us the modern-day Job?
We were bogus.
And if we hadn’t been found out, where repentance was the only way to free ourselves from the bondage of sin, we would probably be living the same life today.
But God knew our weakness. He knew we needed HIM.
And sin came to light. Did it ever.
Now this man whom I had married, that I had promised to stay with come sickness or health, I was no longer expected to stay with. Biblically, I had a right to leave him, to rebuild my life without him. But I chose to stay with Josh because the Holy Spirit screamed it into my heart: Stay. Not because you have to, not because you want to right now, but because that is what I am asking you to do. Trust me.
So I stayed. And I watched this man, with his broken body and broken heart, turn back to the Lord. I swear I could hear the angels rejoicing that a lost one had come home. I watched as Josh began making phone calls to apologize for the life he had been leading. I recall a conversation where he told me that Jim Samra (the senior pastor at Calvary Church, aka the church that headed up the building of our house) was coming over to visit him. (I’m still thankful that I wasn’t there for that convo…). I watched my husband set up lunches and dinners so that he could be forthright and honest about what had happened. I watched my husband figure out what it meant to be the husband. I watched him pore over scripture. I watched as he wheeled his chair into his little prayer sanctuary. All these actions proved to me the reality of the changes he was trying to make. He began to do all these things—not because I asked or made them a condition of my decision to stay—but because the Holy Spirit was working in his heart. He could not fake this depth of his passion for God.
This man, the one so many saw as too much “work” because of the paralysis, the heart-breaker, was slowly becoming my husband again. God worked a miracle of forgiveness in both of our hearts. He gave us new eyes to see each other. He reignited passion, enabling us to trust each other as we entered back into intimacy. He gave us incredibly forgiving families and friends. He surrounded us with a new community where we were no longer living a lie, but were encouraged to be open about our own sinful, fallen selves, because that is what each and every one of us are.
With a God who loves us so much He will do whatever it takes to get us back to a heart of repentance, a life of truth and forgiveness, a life, after so much destruction and pain, turned into praise.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We continue to work on our marriage on a daily basis. We dig into the Bible and remember where it was we went terribly wrong. And we still screw it up, but we are assured because our feet are standing on a firm foundation with Christ at the center. Both Josh and I feel with strong conviction and faith that this is what it took for us to be able to eventually help others in distress and become spiritual mentors to those in crisis situations.
He prepared us for this ministry in ways I would never have chosen, but for the good of others around us. God’s prep course was the hardest class I hopefully will ever have to take.
So, watching my husband figure out what it meant to be a biblical husband, seeing him pore over scripture and books for parents raising a children with disabilities was much more convincing to the changes he was trying to make. He began to take on responsibility even when it wasn’t asked. Our children will grow to be healthier adults because of it.
So this ministry, run by a husband and wife team, is leaning on Him, knowing he will bring the people that need what we have to offer.
I sit here and shake my head at how far we have come.