In 1991, My Heart Was Breaking

Successful Marriage

For all those who live “Beyond the Honeymoon”

Some friends, some of them for 40 years and some of them for two, have been having difficulty in their marriages. I have been exercised in prayer for them and concerned for the health of their families. With a few, I have shared this short article that I wrote in 1991 when I was dissatisfied with my own marriage.

My wife never knew.

We had been married for six years. The previous year we had moved from California to Illinois to plant a new church in the Chicago Suburbs. It was going to be a “church-planting” church filled with a diverse group of Christ-followers that reflected the ethnic diversity of the community. Eventually, there would be people from 23 countries of birth represented in the congregation and it would help to plant seven other churches in its first nine years.

But in the summer of 1991, just before it had its first service, I was having a crisis. I was unhappy in my marriage. Fortunately, before the crisis reached a climax, God led me to His arms and to His word for guidance.

I ran to Him. I cried out to Him. And He, like He promised He would, guided me to His word. What I learned as I poured over His word in the wee hours of the morning eventually were worked out in the crucible of this thing called marriage and designed by the creator to shape us for His glory. Eventually, in the Fall of that year, I wrote this article.  

For a number of years, a friend of mine on the national speaking team of the “Weekends to Remember” has used it at the close of one of his messages. He has found it helpful in opening the eyes of couples to the joys of obedience to God. I hope it does the same for you. 

Difficult Truth

by Marty Schoenleber, Jr.

Two Years Before We Came to Illinois
Two Years Before We Moved to Illinois (My bride with Meredith and Marty III, Aubre came 3 years later.)

Loving our wives, particularly when it is most difficult, is the measure of our love for Christ. I hate writing those words. But the truth of them is irrefutable. Every man who has been married “beyond the honeymoon” has experienced the trauma and angst of his own inability to “love his wife as Christ loved the Church.” I have.

            I am married to a wonderful woman. She is wise, discerning, and sensitive. She is an excellent mother to our three children. She is a satisfying lover and a finely crafted helpmate for all of the gaps of my life. She sees the things that I don’t. She is attuned to the things that would drift by me unnoticed and unappreciated. She slows me down. She speeds me up. She is publicly proud of me (and there is no husband who does not value the beam cast by a proud wife’s smile). My wife is a unique and precious gift given to me, crafted and designed for me, by a Holy, wise and loving God who knew all of my needs and created her to help me become all that He wants me to be. She is the chief conduit of joy in my life.

            Some will read those words with envy.

            You are living with a woman who you deem is neither wise nor loving. The woman you are living with is seemingly bent on destroying every dream you ever had. You can’t remember the last time your love-making was satisfying. She seems more interested in Headline News and the Weather Channel than she is any kind of physical relationship with you and more and more frequently, you find yourself thinking that there must be a woman who will appreciate and respect and cherish you as an object of desire and pride. You’ve heard your priest or minister give sermons about “loving your wife” and how God wants to use your wife to complement and bring joy to your life. But, somehow, you missed out. You find yourself saddled with a woman who no longer communicates any passion or joy in your presence. Sometimes you cry. The pain and the loneliness of it all and the frustration over what to do, how to retrace the steps to an earlier time escape all your probings. She is the chief conduit of pain in your life.

            I know, — because I’m married to the same woman.

            That shocks some of you. The first paragraph and the second paragraph don’t fit. You wanted to meet the first woman; you’d do anything you can to avoid even one more interaction with the second. I assure you, I am not married to two different women. My beautiful and precious gift from God is sometimes (often?) a source of pain that borders on despair. There is no melodrama in those words. They are the sober, honest, unvarnished truth.

            I write them at close to one o’clock in the morning. I write them because I cannot sleep. I write them because I am frustrated at the growing gap between my wife and myself. I write them because of the frustration I feel at not knowing what to do. I write them in the hope that they will prove helpful to someone else in the future. I write them because I have learned that the wife of the first paragraph will return when I grow in the skill of loving my wife “as Christ loved the Church.”

            I write them because I am beginning to learn that active obedience on my part to the command to love my wife as Christ loved the Church creates in the woman I married, the ability to respond to me in the way that my heart longs to be responded to. I am learning that I am in the process, by the way that I love her, of creating the woman who brings either joy or frustration to my life. I am learning that if I don’t like the woman who my wife is becoming, I need not look any further than my own reflection in the mirror for the cause.

            My problem is not my wife. My problem is my disobedience. You see, I’m learning that loving my wife, particularly when it is most difficult, is the measure of my love for Christ. And it is the only hope we have for a fulfilling future in our families.

            It’s the measure of your love for Christ as well. A difficult truth indeed.

2016 P.S.
So glad for the whole of my life with this woman. I love her more today than the day I asked her to marry me. She is a treasure.

The Cross-Bought Life

James ChalmersThe following brief bio is from Kairos Journal.
I confess. I love these short snippets on the lives of great men and women. They give me a window to how others have lived a cross-bought life and shape a desire in my heart to live in similar patterns of courage, boldness, and sacrifice for the cause of Christ.

I hope it does the same for you.

Missionary to the Cannibals—James Chalmers (1841 – 1901)

Little did James Chalmers and his missionary colleague Oliver Tomkins know, as they waded ashore at Risk Point on Goaribari Island, New Guinea, that they were walking towards their deaths. It was Easter Sunday, April 8, 1901, and the villagers rejoiced at their arrival, inviting them into the newly constructed dubu1 for refreshments. Yet the festive mood was in stark contrast to the piles of human skulls nestled around the crude wooden idols in the corner of the hut. Without warning, the natives attacked and dismembered their two visitors, passing the limbs to the women to be cooked, mixed with herbs. In those few moments, Chalmers and Tomkins passed from Easter faith to Easter presence.2

The Pacific islands were one of the first areas to be evangelized in the modern missionary era. Most of the indigenous population lived in primitive conditions, immersed in cannibalism, licentiousness, infanticide, and constant warfare. Yet by the end of the 19th century, most of this region had become Christian through the faithful and sacrificial service of many missionaries who proclaimed the gospel despite the constant threats of disease and death.3

Chalmers, the son of a stonemason in the West Highlands of Scotland, was converted during the 1859 revival. Even as a boy he wanted to be a missionary to the cannibals, and eventually he arrived on the settled island of Rarotonga in May 1867, where he served with the London Missionary Society for the next ten years. He was a pioneer at heart and set off for New Guinea (modern day Papua New Guinea) to preach the gospel. For the next 23 years he labored up and down the coast, visiting 105 villages, 90 of which had never seen a white man, and establishing a chain of Polynesian teachers to continue the work. He always went unarmed, knowing this would allay native suspicions while leaving him defenseless in case of attack.

Chalmers, who outlived two wives, longed for the unreached to hear the gospel. “I dearly love to be the first to preach Christ in a place,” he said, and he had the joy of seeing communities transformed by the good news. Declining an offer to work as a government official, he declared: “Gospel and commerce, yes: but remember this: It must be the gospel first. Wherever there was the slightest spark of civilization in the Southern Seas it has been because the gospel has been preached there. The ramparts of heathenism can only be stormed by those who carry the cross.” Despite innumerable hardships, Chalmers counted it a great privilege to sacrifice everything for Christ.

At a time when many churches have championed the prosperity gospel with its “promises” of health, wealth, safety, and comfort, imitators of Chalmers are sorely needed. He sought neither personal protection nor glory; his faith did not rest on riches or long life. Instead James Chalmers lived with his eyes focused on heaven so that others might share his knowledge and confidence in the Savior. It cost him his life, but he would have been pleased with the exchange.

Footnotes:

1  This is a communal house for fighting men which could not be used without a human sacrifice. The natives had decided the next visitors to the island would serve for the consecration and feast.

2 This article is based on John Pollock, “Cannibal Easter” in A Fistful of Heroes (Ross-shire: Christian Focus, 1998), 174-180, and Eugene Myers Harrison, “The Greatheart of New Guinea,” in Giants of the Missionary Trail (Wholesome Words Website, 2005) http://www.wholesomewords.org/missions/giants/biochalmers.html (accessed March 9, 2005).

3 Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk, Operation World: 21st Century Edition (Cumbria: Paternoster Publishing, 2001), 58.