I’ve been working on a marriage book for three years now. (Three years? How can that be?) Yeah, it surprised me too. My parenting book took one year. But you see, I had to go through the lab. As with any growth, that takes time.
The book has morphed over that time… and I’ve learned more than will fit in even a long book.
So–I can’t help it–I’m sharing the first couple of pages.
THE MARRIAGE RENOVATION by Susan Cottrell
HOUSE TO DIE FOR HOUSE FOR, OR PROPERTY CONDEMNED?
Marriage is made in heaven, but can become a living hell.
At its best, marriage is full of love, passion, romance, compassion, tenderness, vulnerability—all that we desire in a lifelong commitment to another human being. Marriage reflects the beauty God offers in relationship with Him. We can rest in Him, trust Him, relax in Him and love Him with abandon… and then experience that same sweet intimacy with a spouse we can talk with and hold through the night. Like a beautiful home we pick out together, we can decorate it, relax in it, and feel safe in it. It becomes a place to enjoy a picture of our union with God, lived out in a daily basis with a real, live person. With God and our spouse, marriage, at best, is heaven. That is the plan, anyway.
But marriage can suddenly become a living hell, with no understanding of how it got there. At its worst, marriage can be irritating, confrontive, overwhelming, frightening, oppressive and interminable. We can come to hate this person we’re living with, and everything they do drives us stark raving mad. We can’t believe we ever loved them. It’s like living in a house with mold in the walls, and we don’t know why we are deathly sick.
We consider divorce, but where would we go, what about the kids, and would friends and family reject us? If we could kill our spouse and get away with it, we just might. (If you think I overstate the case, watch the evening news.)
On one hand, marriage can be a little slice of heaven, and we would take a bullet for our beloved. On the other hand, marriage can be a living hell and we want to put a bullet through them.
IF MARRIAGE IS MADE IN HEAVEN, HOW DID IT BECOME A LIVING HELL?
When I began this book, I had no intention of using our marriage as a visual aid. Our marriage was so good. Rob and I met in our late twenties and felt as if we’d found a secret treasure! Friends commented on the inspiration our marriage was to them.
Then, after twenty-some years and five kids, we fell. Hard. We were overwhelmed by anger and resentment. Despite the fact that we’d grown in Christ for decades: gone to conferences, read books and taught others, we were disturbingly unequipped to solve our issues.
We knew the information, and yet we watched our soaring union fall down a cliff.
I was already well underway on this book before I felt the first rumble of a stress fracture. Of course, if our marriage crumbled, my books, speaking or counseling ministry would be over. But far, far worse, I felt that our children… and we… would be destroyed. I told my grown daughter of our struggles and she burst into tears. “If your marriage can’t make it, I quit. If you and Dad can crash and burn, anyone can.” I knew that if those many years of loving intimacy could end in a heap, my kids would lose faith in marriage altogether. So would we.
Our Year from Hell, as I now call it [though it was actually a couple of years], was a frightening jungle of anger, pain and resentment. God dismantled us down to our component pieces and then rebuilt us, like a complete marriage renovation.
This book is the result of that painful breakdown and reassembly.
Continue this journey with me in future blogs.