How God repaired and restored a shattered life.
by Therese Marszalek
I stared at the once-broken flower vase. Careful hands had rearranged the clay pieces and glued them together. Inside a small candle burned; the flame peeked through the jagged cracks, creating a beautiful reflection in the darkness of the room. The damaged yet lovely vessel lingered in my thoughts, reminding me of my once-broken life.
In the fall of 1987 I gave birth to my firstborn son. In the midst of a demanding career and a crumbling marriage, James became my refuge. Six weeks after James’ birth, his father, Paul*, announced he no longer wanted to be married. He’d already rented an apartment and opened separate financial accounts. He was leaving us.
Memories flashed as my worst fears were realized. Paul regularly met friends at bars after work hours. I often sat at the dinner table with an empty place setting, wondering why my husband never included me in his social life. I became accustomed to being left out of his alcohol-rich partying, ashamed, knowing that the only place he had any use for me was in the bedroom. Even there, I felt used and then discarded. Yet I feared losing him. I didn’t want to be alone, even if it meant being miserable.
Lies and deception
Mental and physical abuse became the norm. I struggled to distinguish between Paul’s lies and the truth. Deception snowballed when lie upon lie piled up. Paul couldn’t keep his stories straight. After claiming to be a former mafia hit man, he’d threaten, “Don’t tell anyone, or you’ll see your last sunrise.”
In my quiet moments, I wondered what was worse: his taking credit for gruesome fictitious acts or my finding out his stories were true. I fought mental torment as I tried to sort through the lies. The more Paul attempted to frighten me, the more power he appeared to possess. As he repeated his tales, they became reality to him. Fabricated stories floated around in my head as I searched for the truth.
Upon returning home from a business trip, Paul flopped his suit bag over a chair and headed upstairs to shower. While he cleaned up, I gathered a pile of clothes for dry cleaning. I emptied the pockets of his suits and froze when I discovered a stack of condoms. My heart raced; we’d never used this form of birth control.
I ran upstairs to confront him. “What are these?” I asked.
“I’ll explain later.” His cold response shocked me. I knew he needed time to create an explanation to cover his indiscretion.
Deceit and anguish
The deceitful story he came up with left my heart in total confusion. By the end of it, I didn’t know what to believe. I wrestled in my mind. As I listened to his smooth, dishonest words, my stomach tightened. I knew Paul was lying. He had been unfaithful and, as always, I accepted the lie that somehow it was my fault.
Now Paul was leaving our newborn son and me. On my knees, I begged him not to go, desperate to hang on to the very life that was destroying me. But Paul had made up his mind. He left, seemingly unmoved by the mountain of hopelessness and anguish he left behind.
Although I’d planned to leave my career to care for James, I now had to return to work. I wept while interviewing childcare workers; no one seemed good enough for my boy. For James’ sake, I pushed away my tears and pressed on in search of a new beginning.
God had my attention. Surrendering, I laid my failed marriage and shattered life at the feet of Jesus. Although I had tried to shoulder my pain alone, I could no longer bear the load. I gave the Lord my mistakes, failures, and broken heart all I had.
As if taking me by the hand, the Lord poured His unfailing love into my open wounds, gathered the broken pieces of my life, and began to rearrange and rebuild them for a new future. Day by day, I trusted Him as we walked from the valley of trial into the promised land of victory.
While I focused on rebuilding my life, my path crossed with Tom. Full of an integrity I’d never witnessed before, Tom treated me with respect and honor as a woman and mother. Because I was accustomed to abuse and disrespect, the respect I received from Tom seemed unfamiliar, even uncomfortable, to me. Tom patiently taught me how to receive genuine love.
Gift from God
Now mesmerized by the reflective light shining through the cracks in the flower vase, I pondered my early days as a mother, the once broken life that now radiated God’s glory. The fractures in my past no longer hurt. I no longer suffered abuse but instead daily walked in God’s abundant blessings.
As I stared at the cracked vase, it seemed as if God whispered, “Do you see the fruit?”
I quickly recalled the harvest God brought while walking me through the fiery trial. One is a thriving marriage to a man divinely chosen by God as my life partner. Tom’s love and care for me are patterned after Christ’s love and care for the church (Ephesians 5:25-29). Tom, who adopted James at age three, is a gift from God.
Passion for women
“Yes, Lord,” I smiled. “I see the fruit.”
“There’s more, daughter,” the Lord seemed to whisper again. “Do you see it?”
I saw it. A passion burns within my soul to see women fulfill their God-ordained destiny. When I brought my empty vessel to God, He fueled me with a divine fervor for broken women who, despite past wounds, can find victory in Christ Jesus.
God comforted me and now enables me to offer His comfort to others. Second Corinthians 1:3, 4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (NIV).
I learned that God doesn’t waste pain but instead uses it for our good. He brings fruit, even from broken lives like mine, by using what was meant for harm to instead help others. As that flower vase proved, God can pick up broken pieces and rearrange them into a glorious life in Christ.
* Name has been changed.