My husband, Keith, and I will be empty nesters in the fall, and we’re planning on doing some major changes to our house—rooms used for different things, different people staying with us for a time, and much more. So I decided it was time to purge.
When my husband was on call at the hospital in another city all weekend, I took time to weed through a ton of stuff. In the process of all this weeding, I came across several old photo albums that belonged to my deceased grandfather. The albums contained photos of me from birth to age ten. As I looked through them, I realized something: Every photo made me sad.
The older I get, the more I realize how God uses a good marriage as a healing salve on many of our old hurts.
I was such a lonely child
And such a sad child. You can’t always see it in the pictures, but as I looked through them, I remembered what I felt.
I was sad because it was just my mom and me, and she was sad. She was an amazing mother who loved me and who never wanted things to turn out as they did. But she had very little say in it. She had always wanted a big family—and to be a stay-at-home mom—but instead, she just had me, and she had to go out and support us, leaving me in daycare when I was just a little over two.
I always felt like there was something missing
It was hard being an only child. It was hard with my mom sad. It was hard having to go to babysitter’s and camp and relatives’ homes in the summer because my mom had to work and she didn’t have a choice. It was just hard.
And because of that sadness and loneliness, I leaned too hard on friends in high school. Every minor rejection was blown out of proportion. Heartaches never seemed to go away.
And when I met the man who would share my life, I was so intense I scared him off for a time. And his rejection—even though he changed his mind and came back—still hurt me horribly.
What struck me the most, though, as I looked through those pictures, is that my story today is different.
If I look back on my own family photo albums, it’s not loneliness I see. It’s two little girls—my daughters—who love each other and who played and who had laughed. And who have grown into beautiful young women.
When I think of childhood now, I don’t think of loneliness. I think of ballet tutus and cousins and parties and laughter.
Being a mother has been healing for me, because I’ve seen how childhood is supposed to be. I’ve see how confident little girls are when they’re in a safe place. And I’ve seen my girls go through heartaches and disappointments and confrontations and handle them so much better than I did, because they have a greater sense of who they are and of who God is in their lives.
And yet it is not motherhood that has healed me.
It is, instead, their father
God did most of the healing in my life before I was married. He taught me to see that I am of infinite worth and that only he can love me perfectly. He wrapped his arms around me when I was 19 and 20 and 21 and helped me overcome so much. When I truly encountered Jesus and understood the way Jesus hurt when I was hurt, a part of me began to heal. I saw Jesus as a wounded warrior—someone who would go to battle for me. But in the meantime, my hurts were also his hurts. I was not alone.
But God didn’t stop it there
He sent me a man who has always epitomized safety to me. I am completely safe in his arms.
I know that we are to find our total worth in God, and that only he can complete us. I absolutely know that. But I also firmly believe God uses relationships in our lives as healing balms to soothe some of the hurts and rough edges and scars of our past. That is what God has done with my marriage.
I feel safe
And I know that even if I were to lose my husband, Keith, I would never really feel alone again, because I know what it is to be truly loved.
That’s a beautiful gift of marriage.
I think one of the ways God sends healing to us is to send us a really good man. If a man has hurt you in the past, then being with a man who cherishes you can soothe so much of that. I’m not saying we don’t need God, or that it’s not God who heals; I’m just saying I think marriage is one of his tools. And it’s really lovely.
Yet the story doesn’t end there
I was speaking to my mother before church yesterday morning and telling her about my grandfather’s photo album. We started reminiscing and got a little nostalgic, and she told me that she really is healed too—even though she never remarried.
After church yesterday she was driving two hours to a missions team meeting for a trip she’s going on in August—her eighth one to the Mulli Children’s Family in Kenya (we’ve been with her three of those times). And she’s taking her 15-year-old adopted granddaughter with her.
My mother’s life is just so big.
God has brought so many opportunities into her life to love others and to share and to serve, and she has taken them. And she is so busy, and so happy, and so full of life.
We’ve come a long way, the two of us. My mom only had one child, but she has six grandchildren—and three aren’t even mine. She supports other children all over the world. She’s helped so many people out of crises and counseled so many women in pain.
God uses time, too …
… to help us put things in perspective and to use our hurts as the ingredients to help us help others.
I still get sad when I look at photo albums from my childhood—but I love looking through my daughters’ albums. This is who I am today.
I don’t know where you are, but I do know this: God can take your hurts and he can heal them.
Maybe he’ll use a wonderful man to be part of that healing. Maybe he’ll use your children growing up well to show you what life is supposed to be. Maybe he’ll show you how he created you for a purpose, and he has so much that you can do to bring more life and more love into this world. I don’t know what he’ll do—but he will do something big in you.
I didn’t have a great childhood. Some of you are mourning the childhood that your kids have. Things didn’t work out as you wanted them to.
They didn’t work out as my mom wanted them to, either. But her life is so full today. God was big enough to take care of me, and he is big enough to take care of your kids.
And maybe, just maybe, he’ll use a really great man to bring some healing into your life, too.
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Used with permission. Sheila Wray Gregoire has been married for 25 years and happily married for 20! She loves traveling around North America with her hubby in their RV, giving her signature “Girl Talk” about sex and marriage. Sheila’s written 8 books about sex and marriage, including To Love, Honor and Vacuum and 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. Read her blog at tolovehonorandvacuum.com.