Every one of the guys in my men's group was struggling.
Some had serious health issues. A couple of the guys had been out of work for a long time. Some were dealing with huge financial problems. Several had prodigal kids.
One guy was having legal issues with his girlfriend and actually spent some time in jail. We didn't know the truth of the situation, but we knew we were being called to love him unconditionally and to speak the truth in love.
Another man was going through a nasty divorce and had been thrown out of the house by his wife, who also took out a restraining order. The men from our group jumped in and moved his stuff out of the house for him.
Our simple motto became, "We're in your corner."
It seemed odd to me that several of the men in this group were either struggling in their marriages, were going through a divorce, or had recently gone through one. But I counted it an honor to minister to these men through whatever circumstances they were experiencing.
When My World Came Tumbling Down
The words still ring in my ears: "I just don't want to be married to you anymore." I found myself in a struggle that I never expected, although it was a long time coming. I wasn't blindsided. Heidi and I had always known we had to work hard on our relationship, but I wasn't prepared to hear those words, and neither were our four teenage kids.
Suddenly we were separated. Heidi moved into an apartment, and I moved into a dark valley of the soul. I stepped out of my staff position at our church so I could focus on my family and try to reconcile with my wife. I didn't know what to do, but I did know that I wanted to trust God no matter what. I wanted to love my wife unconditionally and sacrificially. I wanted to fight for our marriage, even though there seemed to be little hope.
I fought with all the "why" questions that ran through my mind, and I knew I couldn't fight this battle alone. I needed God, yes, but I also needed the guys in my group. I needed them to be in my corner this time—to minister to me.
God showed me some areas in my life that he wanted to change. He used my painful circumstances to cut down my pride and need for control. I went to my group and confessed my sinful attitudes. I opened up about how my ways of relating to Heidi had caused her pain and brought us to this point. I admitted to them how I had put my ministry before my marriage. The men in my group didn't shame me, but they also didn't tell me it was all okay. They affirmed me and my vulnerability. These guys cared for my soul and loved me unconditionally.
There were times when I was tired of working so hard to reconcile with my wife, and I felt like giving up. I admit that I desired an easier, less painful path—and divorce sometimes seemed a lot less painful—but the guys in my group reminded me about what was most important. They prayed for God to strengthen me and for the Holy Spirit to direct me. For months, the men in my group encouraged me, prayed for me, and held me accountable. They were models of how God works in the lives of people who trust him. Those men gave me strength and spurred me on, to continue serving my wife.
Choosing My Marriage
One day I received a call from a church on the other side of the country offering me an opportunity that my daughter called my "dream job." It was the perfect fit for my experience, skills, and passions. If I didn't take a job within a month, my severance and family's health insurance would end. Several pastors and counselors said I should take the job. It would provide for my family, and it seemed God was providing the opportunity. My daughters even said they'd go with me. But I knew that taking the job would split up my family and would basically be my acceptance of divorce. I could have an opportunity to make a kingdom impact if I took the job, but at what cost to my family?