Two years ago today, I did something. Something some of you know. Something some of you’ve wondered. Something some of you may be surprised to learn. And something some of you will question how and why I could choose share.
Two years ago today, I packed my bags and walked out of my house and I left my husband. I was only gone for 10 days, but I know wholeheartedly that those 10 days needed to happen in order for us to get where we are today.
To be clear, this post has been shared with permission, and every word was read by my husband’s eyes before it was made available to yours. These words have been stirring in my soul for a very long time. Not because I want you to feel sorry for me, not because I want you to feel differently about me or about my husband, and not because I want attention. But because I know in my heart that there are people out there who are in a marriage that’s on life-support, hanging on by a thread, thinking about calling it quits, who are in desperate need of hope.
From his perspective, if you’d asked him then how he felt about it, I’m certain he’d tell you that he did nothing to warrant me leaving. That I was impossible to please and that he didn’t even miss me when I was gone. I’m not certain he would say that now.
From my perspective, leaving was easy. I felt unloved, betrayed, misunderstood and was in deep pain. I was so blinded by my own feelings, I couldn’t see that my husband felt the very same way. We were seemingly living in parallel universes.
I spent 10 nights in a family member’s basement. Nights when he asked for the girls, I cooperated and agreed. He had them 4 of the 10 nights I was gone. On nights when I was alone, I’d spend hours praying, crying, reading, journaling, meditating, and seeking consolation from family and friends. The family I stayed with attended Daystar Church, and would encourage me to watch sermons from the last couple of weeks. As God would have it, those sermons were about conflict. So it seemed fitting that I watch them.
The night of Halloween, we trick-or-treated as a family in our neighborhood, the kids slept in their own beds and I left to go back to the place I was staying. In bed that night, I recall weeping for hours. Crying out to God for help, for wisdom, for understanding. I cried out for a miracle. I began to meditate while listening to soaking music (instrumental worship music intended for deep prayer and meditation). I meditated for almost 2 hours. I recall opening my eyes and looking at the clock in disbelief that my mind had transcended time for so long. It seemed like minutes. But it was in that time of deep meditation on that very night that Jesus met me in a profound way. I got a very clear, almost serene vision of Him carrying me, in His arms, while walking slowly down a beach. He was wearing a white robe, my feeble body in His arms as He whispered to me, “It’s ok. It’s all ok. I’ve got you. Don’t look back.” As He continued to tenderly speak to me and slowly walk across the sand and along the shore, I recall looking over His shoulder and seeing my husband standing there, wearing what he wore on our wedding day, just watching me be carried away. He didn’t move toward me. He only looked at me. His arms stretched out almost as if asking, “where are you going?”
I was met by the Holy Spirit in an incredibly profound way that night, and I was shown that going home was exactly where I needed to be. Leaving may have been easy, but coming back was easier.
2017 was an awakening year for me. That January, I quit my job without a plan, and while I had my husbands support, little did I know that our interpretations of what was happening would be so vastly different. For me, I literally heard God telling me to slow down, to stop the chaos in my life, and to go inward. Once I went inside I found I had blockages of the heart in areas of shame, addiction, anger, comparison, and bitterness. God began a deep work within me, and while I grew at a rapid speed and felt liberated in my discoveries, I vividly remember my husband saying to me one day, “you’re not the person I married, Candice.” It was in that moment that I believed I had outgrown him. He wasn’t ready or willing to change, and in his eyes, he didn’t have anything to change and viewed me as already gone. I recognized that my growth was at my pace and my journey, and while beautiful to me and not to be taken for granted, was very different from what Reid was going through. I longed for him to grow with me, and at the pace at which I was growing. I longed for him to get in the river with me and to be called to where I felt God was leading me, but instead of him growing with me it seemed I only pushed him further away in my attempts to love him. We grew farther and farther apart and before I knew it we were literally living as roommates.
The mistake I was making and couldn’t see then: his growth was his journey and not to be compared with mine. I was expecting him to go where I felt God was calling me, and how could that be fair to him? His choices were his choices, and it was never my place to judge him or expect more out of him. It was my job to love him for who he was, in all that he was, and to trust God to work out the rest.
If there is one person in a broken, seemingly hopeless marriage that is reading these words right now, please hear me when I say to you: Do not give up hope. Marriage is hard. Truly loving someone is hard. Loving someone for who they are without controlling them and without wishing their behavior would change – just accepting them right where they are – is really hard.
Marriage counseling helped us tremendously. It’s not something we did prior to getting married, and I’d encourage anyone to see a marriage counselor before getting married. I think we have this naive expectation that once we find “the one” and we get married, we just exhale and we’ve arrived. That it won’t be hard. That it will be bliss. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Finding a church home where we both felt like we were part of something bigger than ourselves has been critical to our healing and finding (and staying on) our road to a deeper love. I went back home on November 1, 2017. We went out for our “first” date on November 3 (Reid’s birthday). And we walked through the doors of Daystar Church for the first time on November 16.
We found our way into small groups and people that started off as strangers quickly became friends. Hearing the life struggles of like-minded people without judgment personally gave me a feeling of hope, purpose, and encouragement. It’s no coincidence that we actually had small group last October 22, one year from the day I walked out, and the topic that we discussed was forgiveness.
A year ago, I started to feel the breakthrough I’d prayed about was taking place. That we’d begun to scratch the surface of exposing our wounds, and that we are learning to love the way God called us to love. I’ve watched my husband grow into the man God called him to be. I’ve felt the scales fall from my own heart, allowing me to truly love and be loved the way God designed me to love and be loved.
Marriage is not meant to be easy. Relationships in general can be challenging. I believe that even in their worst states, relationships are meant to build us up, to strengthen us, and to show us things about ourselves that we never knew existed. I knew that if I gave up on my marriage, I would possibly find myself an old lady alone in my bed one day, looking back on this experience in my life, wishing I had done more. Regretting that I didn’t try harder. Wondering where it all went wrong. And I’d potentially be alone, with myself still left to heal.
To anyone struggling, I also tell you to have faith and reclaim endurance. In a society where our pace is so fast and we thrive on the instant gratification of one-click ordering and notifications, we’ve found ourselves in a world where we need everything now. We have forgotten what it’s like to have endurance. We don’t know what it’s like to be patient and we get frustrated with people when things don’t work out as we had expected.
I’ve learned that expectation is resentment waiting to happen. I’ve learned the importance of mindfulness and being appreciative of the moment I’m in now rather than reliving past hurts or worrying about the future. And this is often hard for me. It’s been helpful to pray for eyes to see my husband (and all people) as God sees him, for only then am I able to love freely, without judgement and see areas of pain and brokenness. It’s been extremely helpful for me to view myself as the problem, rather than focus on what needs to be changed about others. Like we often say in our house, “If you spot, you got it.” Meaning, it’s much easier to see weakness in another rather than to look at our own junk, but trust me when I say that what we see in others is often a reflection of what’s in our own heart.
Last October, I paid a visit to my most favorite tattoo artist, and had one single word inscribed on my right forearm. Intentionally placed on my dominant arm so that I would it daily, and hand-lettered by a dear friend, this tattoo reminds me that the battle has been won. It reminds me that the battles we fight here on earth are not with our spouse, our coworker, our sibling, our friends. The battles we fight are spiritual, and whether you believe in God or not, please believe me when I say that we are not human beings having spiritual experiences. Rather, we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Choosing to forgive and to love others no matter what they’ve done seems countercultural and counterintuitive. We must lead with choices and let our feelings follow. And coming from a highly-sensitive person, I have to remind myself of this on a daily basis. I can’t get too worked up in trying to control a situation, an outcome, the events of my day, or the behavior of someone else. I have to remind myself, It is Finished.
According to John in the Bible, the last words Jesus spoke before dying on the cross: “Tetelestai” / Greek translation: it is finished.
I’m so thankful that I never gave up on my precious husband. I’m so thankful that God blessed us with two beautiful children. I’m so thankful for our love, for our past, for our present and for our future. I’m honored to be his wife and know our best days are yet to come.