Choosing to Love

What God did with the rotten remains of a failing marriage.

by Kathy Collard Miller

When Larry and I had been married seven years, we were completely disillusioned with each other. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t love me anymore. He certainly was far from being the Prince Charming I’d married. Oh Lord, what’s wrong with him? I moaned. What’s wrong with me? I thought we were going to have a perfect marriage because You brought us together. But now we’re such strangers, we might as well be divorced.

I’d tried everything to restore intimacy between us, but nothing seemed to work. The very character qualities that had attracted me to Larry when we were dating were now the sources of irritation in our relationship. Why did I ever think his ambitiousness and opinionated attitudes were charming?

Angry words

One morning Larry announced he was flying to San Jose for the day. I quickly suggested, “I’ll get the kids ready and we’ll go with you. . . .”

“Kathy, I’m sorry,” Larry interrupted, “but you can’t go. I rented a two-seater plane, and I’ve already asked Joe to go with me.”

“But we never see you. Can’t you stay home just this once? You’re either flying or working so many hours.”

“Now I’ve already explained that I’m working all those hours to secure our financial future. You just don’t appreciate all I’m doing for this family.”

My face grew hot with fury. “Money isn’t helping me cope with these kids!” I snapped. “Darcy makes me so angry sometimes.”

“That’s just typical motherhood blues,” Larry assured me. “You’ll be fine. I’ve got to go now.”

Larry walked down the hall as my hands on my hips registered disapproval and disgust. I felt like screaming, “Why don’t you love me anymore?”

He walked through the laundry room into the garage, closing the door behind him. To me, it was as if he’d slammed it in my face. I had been eating an apple when our conversation started, and before I realized it, my hand with the half-eaten apple pulled back and sent it flying toward that door. The apple shattered on impact, and red and white pieces flew throughout the laundry room and adhered to the ceiling and walls. I whirled around, marched into my bedroom, and knelt beside my bed. “Lord, make that plane crash! I don’t care if he ever comes home again.”

Anger and manipulation

Larry’s plane didn’t crash, but I felt as if my life had crashed into a pit of uncontrollable anger and depression. If only I could make him see how much he’s hurting me, I thought. If only I could make him stay home more, if only I could force him to do what I want him to do, then I could be happy.

My angry efforts at manipulation and nagging totally failed. During the months following, the pieces of apple remained on the walls and ceiling of my laundry room and began to rot. I saw them as a memorial to the rotten marriage that God could not or would not change.

Divine prodding

One day several months later, I sensed God say to me in my heart, “Tell Larry you love him.”

I was shocked. I didn’t love Larry, and I believed he hated me, so I wasn’t about to give him ammunition. If he heard those three little words that I hadn’t said or thought for over two years, he might think I approved of his negligence. Saying “I love you” was the last thing I wanted to do.

I flatly refused. In my perfectionist thinking, since I didn’t love Larry all the time, I couldn’t say I loved him at all.

God gently spoke to my heart the same message a second time, and I adamantly refused again. Then a third time the Holy Spirit caused a sensation in my heart, but the message was a little different: “Then think it the next time you see Larry.”

That’s strange, I thought. If Larry doesn’t hear me, then he can’t use it against me. All right, Lord. I’ll do it, even if it’s not true.

A small step

That evening Larry returned from a flying trip. As he walked toward me, I stared, gulped, and thought, I love you. After a pause, I added, But I don’t really. Although I was obeying God, I still couldn’t believe it was true, because my feelings weren’t loving toward him all the time. Therefore, I concluded I must not love him at all.

But the most amazing thing happened. By making that choice to love Larry – a small step – and as I continued to make that loving choice, the feelings of hate dissipated and more loving feelings took over. I also recognized that I’d been holding Larry completely responsible for my happiness. My “all or nothing” thinking was changed to the realization that Larry couldn’t meet all my needs; only God could.

Corrected vision

God continued to work within my heart. He convicted me of my sin of trying to control Larry and all of life. Through prayer, reading books, Bible study, and asking other women to hold me accountable for my own growth, I began to view my situation in a different light. My vision was corrected when I realized I couldn’t change Larry; I could only change myself as I surrendered to God.

On the day I began to see myself and my situation through God’s eyes, I went into the laundry room and washed off those rotting apple pieces. I no longer needed a memorial to my rotten marriage. Symbolically, I washed the rotten attitudes off my heart and mind and began to trust God with my marriage and my life.

In time, Larry noticed that I wasn’t as angry and demanding of him, and he agreed to go on a couples retreat with me. God used it as a turning point in our marriage in 1978. Today we are best friends and consider each other the most important person in our lives. We tell each other “I love you” several times a day, and we commit ourselves to the best for each other.

Now I enjoy a laundry room free from rotting apple pieces, just like my heart is free from bitterness and anger.