“And we know that God causes everything to work together
for the good of those who love God
and are called according to his purpose for them.”
Romans 8:28 (NLT)
One of the discussion questions that was asked of us during the recent small group study at my church was, “Looking back on your life, what is the best decision you have ever made and why?” It took me less than 30-seconds to come up with my answer, and it’s an answer that, I think, would surprise some people.
Eric’s father, Emmett, and I started dating when I was 15 years old. We married when I was 21 years old, were blessed with Eric when I was almost 25, and were divorced shortly after my 29th birthday.
Our relationship and marriage, like many, had its share of problems. It takes two people to make a marriage work and I, by no means, blame Emmett for our failed union. During much of our relationship and marriage, our issues were, however, fueled by his struggle with addiction. Anyone with knowledge of addiction will tell you that it is, most certainly, a family disease. Emmett may have been the one suffering from the disease of alcoholism but, in hindsight, I was just as sick, only I suffered from co-dependency. And of course, let’s not forget that I was the world’s greatest enabler, because I was just sure that I could “fix” him! Hindsight truly is 20/20, as they say!
In the past 32 years, Emmett and I have been through the good, the bad and the ugly, which is why many people would be surprised that, second only to choosing to follow Jesus Christ, marrying him is what I consider to be the best decision I have ever made. Of course, we were blessed, through our marriage, with our wonderful son, Eric, but that is the obvious reason for my answer. It goes much deeper than that.
The last years leading up to our divorce were the most difficult times I have ever faced. I remember feeling such desperation and wondering when and if the chaos would ever end. This is not the appropriate forum to share all of the messy details, but I can say, without hesitation, that I have never before, or since then, felt such despair.
I always had “religion” in my life, but it wasn’t until going through these difficult years, that I began to actually have a real relationship with God. During much of this time I was angry and broken-hearted, and it was only when I turned the circumstances of my life over to God, that I began to heal and grow. It truly is amazing what God can do with a willing heart.
They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I believe there is biblical truth in that. Romans 8:28 is often cited as a “feel good verse,” telling us that everything in life is going to work out for good. The verse is often misquoted by people, and I, in an effort to comfort people, have been guilty of doing that myself at times. I don’t think that God is referring to our earthly definition of “good” here, but rather to what He deems to be “good.”
We tend to overlook the second half of the verse which states that the first half applies “for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” I believe that God has many divine purposes for our earthly lives, but that His main purpose is for us to become more Christ-like. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT)
It was during these turbulent years of my life that I best learned what it means to show compassion, be merciful, and offer forgiveness; which are all Christ-like qualities. I am far from perfect in these areas, but I clearly see that it was these tough times in my life that spurred the most growth for me in these virtues.
My marriage ended in divorce and while, from a human perspective, there is absolutely no “good” in that, from a spiritual perspective I can see how God used the situation to stretch my limits and refine me. God did not cause or condone our divorce but He used it for our good, for His purposes, in His timing.
Had I not married Emmett, I would not be the person I am today. While I am still a work in progress, I am grateful that God was able to take something awful and use it for good, not only for me but also for Emmett.
A few years ago I had the privilege of speaking at Emmett’s support group, in honor of him celebrating his tenth year of sobriety. If someone would have told me fifteen years earlier that I would be standing in front of a group of people talking about Emmett and his life, my immediate thought would have been that I would be giving his eulogy. That sounds harsh, but I say that because Emmett’s life had gotten just that bad.
Today, Emmett’s life is good and he is doing amazing things for others. He is a gifted paramedic and a compassionate, charitable man. He has dedicated his life to helping others, not only in the physical sense as a medic, but by sharing his experience, strength and hope with others in recovery or in need of recovery. Eric and I are both so proud of what he has accomplished in his life.
God truly does cause all things to work together for good, for His purposes and in His time. While I would have been spared some heartache by not marrying Emmett, neither of us would be the people we are today and countless people would have missed the opportunity to be touched by Emmett’s life.
Emmett is alive; sober for over a decade and doing what God clearly created him to do. I have grown stronger in my faith and have been able to use my experience to help lessen the burdens of others going through similar situations. Emmett and I are no longer married, but, solely by the grace of God, we are still family in every sense of the word.
Only God could have taken the mess we made and worked it into something so beautiful.