Sunday, February 23, 2014

February Love Letters- Love Can Lift and Heal Your Heart by Bettina Gigliello

It’s a running joke among my friends and family that I possess the unique ability to simply forget negative events in my life.  On many occasions I’ve had conversations with my mom or with friends about a particularly difficult time in my life, and they’ve brought up an event of which I will simply have no recollection.  I consider this a blessing because it allows me to forgive easily.  My father calls this “forgiving to a fault” because I have a tendency to permit someone to hurt me repeatedly before I protect my own heart. 

Needless to say, because of this trait, sharing my story of divorce and finding love again  is difficult because it requires me to open old wounds and delve into a time I simply chose to forget.  It does, however, remind me of the sovereignty of our God, and his deep desire to bless us despite our flaws and failures.  

I hope that this story gives you the hope that true love does exist, that God is incredibly good, and that you do, indeed, deserve to be loved “as Christ loved the Church.”

My first marriage was over about eight years before it was truly over. 

I was married for eleven years.  Seven of those years were spent in counseling, both Christian and secular.  I gave it all I had, and then I hit rock bottom.  The details of how I got there are of little circumstance.  How God lifted me out of the deepest, darkest hole and healed my broken heart is one of the greatest miracles I’ve witnessed. 

I carried the stigma of divorce like some carry the stigma of drug addict, thief, or murderer.  

To me, it was simply not an option.  But as I lay face down on my bedroom floor sobbing and beating my fists into a pillow, I remember simply begging God to help me.  I do not pray out loud, but on that day, I cried out to Jesus.  

My heart was utterly broken. 

I begged for forgiveness for giving up on my marriage.  I remember that prayer as if it were yesterday. 

The peace and calm that came over me was immediate.  God spoke softly in my ear these simple words, “I forgive you.”  

The next months are a blur of memories, both good and bad.  God laid a path before me that was clearly marked.  I leaned completely on him.  I can honestly tell you, the biggest hurdle I faced was the way many of my Christian friends responded. 

The divorce came as a shock to most.  We were young with two small children.  We came to church every Sunday.  Aside from my pastor, my parents, and my best friend, no one knew what went on behind closed doors.  I was not only trying to get out of an abusive marriage, I had lost my home and had to file for bankruptcy.  

The shame was overwhelming. 

One Sunday, a woman in church came up to me and told me that I better reconsider my decision or I would be “damned to hell”.  It cut like a knife.  On the contrary, the support and love I received from most of the congregation was overwhelming.   I focused on that love and my faith to keep moving forward.

Start to finish, my divorce was finalized in less than four months.  I focused on work and my children.  I continued to draw closer to God.  I prayed for him to bring people into my life that would support and love me.  I did not expect him to bless me with the greatest love I’ve known on earth.

The summer before my divorce I had gone on a whitewater rafting trip down the New River in West Virginia with my best friend.  It was a group she had been going with for years.  She invited me knowing how much I had been struggling and thought it would cheer me up.

My husband, Ro, shares the story of us meeting on that trip, and it overwhelms me how intricately God weaves our lives together.   He’d been fervently praying for God to bring him a wife, and shared at our life group a few weeks ago that in truth, he realized, he had been praying for a relationship with his Lord and Savior.  God blessed him with that relationship by bringing me into his life.  He would just have to wait patiently.  No wife has ever heard sweeter words.

We wouldn’t speak again for over a year. 

It was a casual email send out to the entire group that had gone rafting.  That simple group message sparked a series of email conversations and a budding friendship.  He shared that his father had died when he was a baby, and that he had been raised by a single mother.  He reassured me that I, too, was equipped to do the same.  He prayed for me and quickly became the person I could confide in.  

He didn’t know me.  He didn’t have to choose sides.

What happened with time was unexpected but somehow felt completely natural.  Our friendship slowly grew into love. I remembered my prayer of protection.  That wall was still heavily constructed around my heart, but he was beginning to dismantle it brick by brick. 

I didn’t date and turned down anyone who asked.  I was content being a single parent.  I was discovering myself and allowing God to reconstruct me at will.  It was a time of growth and change.  

Ro never demanded anything of me.  He didn’t push his way into my life.  He just seemed to fit, very naturally.  Communication was effortless.  He gradually introduced himself to the children.  They grew to love him as I did.

Three years later we were married.  Next to the birth of my children, it was the happiest day of my life.  Five years later, I’m thanking God for every struggle and heartache that led me to him.  God prepared my heart to receive his love.  Had I not been through all the heartache, I’m not sure I’d have the humility to appreciate a man of his caliber.

I’m astounded when I look at the trials we’ve faced together and how it hasn’t phased our marriage.  He puts his faith before me, and it has made all the difference. 

I used to get so frustrated reading Colossians 3:18, but I finally understand what Paul was saying.  It is easy to submit when you are being loved completely.  I have a husband who doesn’t expect me to control every situation.  He leads our family by seeking God’s will first.  He puts me ahead of himself.  He allows me to be weak, to break, to falter, to get mad, to fail.  He is quick to forgive me when I wrong him.  He is a patient and loving father to two children, who don’t know the love of a biological father.  They are proud to know that he chose them. 

One of the most selfless things he ever said to me was shortly after we were married.  We were discussing the idea of having a child together.  He shared that he didn’t want Sam or Elena to ever worry that he loved his biological child more than he loved them.  We prayed and decided not to have a child together.  The way he loves my children reaffirms on a daily basis that he was brought to me by God himself.  I am blessed.

We aren’t sad we didn’t have one another for the first 33 years of our lives.  We know that God prepared us for one another.  He shaped us perfectly to love one another.  He continues to grow that love more deeply by the day, and we are comforted knowing that we have the rest of this life and the next together.

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