Let the Redeemed of the Lord Tell Their Story
By Katelyn J. Dixon
This is the latest post in a series where guest bloggers share how God has shown up in the stories they never expected to live. May these stories stir you toward hope and give you a glimpse of God’s goodness. Read previously published stories here.
Several days into my honeymoon, I found myself alone in bed while typing the words “How to get a divorce in Washington state” into my phone. It was the summer of 2013, a few short days after our wedding. We were in Italy, but my husband was nowhere to be found.
During dinner that night, I had walked away from an impossible fight. My husband’s words were cruel and cutting, which made me scared and confused. Trudging a mile uphill in the dark, I prayed for safety. Surrounded by the festive sounds of outdoor music and the rhythmic crashing of waves on the beach below, I had never felt more hopeless.
I reached our hotel room and collapsed into bed, wondering how it was possible the man I married had become a different person less than a week later. Several hours passed before he walked back into our room, smelling of alcohol. We talked and agreed to keep working on our marriage, but my heart felt like stone. Afraid and ashamed, I felt imprisoned by the hopeful vows I had made only days earlier.
As I tried to sleep that night, I was restless with shock and disappointment. It was surreal—how many people have to choose to stay married on their honeymoon? I thought I had done everything ‘right,’ had followed all the Christian rules and sought the will of God, yet my marriage was falling apart before it had hardly begun.
“It will be better when we get home,” I thought.
What followed was two and a half years of emotional abuse, my husband’s alcohol addiction, and repeated marital unfaithfulness. My husband had been severely abused as a child, which I knew before marrying him. What I did not know was the extent to which he would take out his unresolved trauma and rage on me.
Throughout our marriage, a soul-numbing cycle of abuse, forgiveness, and further abuse became normal. Just when I thought we had made progress through hours of counseling and prayer, the ground beneath me would crumble once more—giving way to a faulty foundation of lies and secrecy that lay just beneath the surface of all I thought I knew.
It was only after switching from a theology degree to a counseling degree in the middle of graduate school that I learned the abuse I was experiencing in my marriage was:
a.) Not my fault.
b.) Not something I could fix through more love and forgiveness.
c.) Not something I had to hide or endure for the sake of preserving my marital status.
It was in my training to help other people work through their pain that God began to show me the truth about what I could not name about my own painful reality: although what happened in my marriage was not my choice, I did have a choice in what I chose to do going forward.
My work with my own counselor brought me to the freeing realization that God’s idea of redemption was much bigger than my own. This truth set me free to choose the impossible: letting go of my dream for my life in exchange for His.
One night, when I simply could not bear one more ounce of pain or betrayal, I chose to walk away—this time for good. Leaving my marriage was the most difficult and shame-evoking decision I’ve ever made, but the healing and identity formation God has worked in me since is like nothing I’ve ever known.
When I look back on my marriage, I feel the pain of trauma and the sting of regret. Yet I also see the undeniable presence of God surrounding me and pursuing me in my pain. I see faithful family and friends who did not turn their back on me, even when I had nothing left to give. I see redemption woven like a golden strand through the dark tapestry of suffering that symbolized my marriage.
I see how God’s persistent love helped me turn to Jesus for the healing and comfort I so desperately needed during my marriage and divorce. In the Psalms, I found my own pain and supplication reflected in the prayers of David. In Isaiah, I read about God’s redemptive presence with his people through fire and flood. In the gospels, I encountered the Suffering Servant who experienced betrayal, abuse, and death—for me, for love.
I watched in amazement as God provided the encouragement I needed to keep trusting, keep hoping for one more day. He did this through scripture, but also through the presence of His people who walked with me through the beginning and end of my marriage—many of whom are still walking with me today.
An abusive marriage and divorce is not the story I would have chosen for my life. In my pain, I could not see what I see so clearly now:
God was writing a better story of redemption for me than I could have ever written on my own.
Even though I desperately wanted redemption to look like a miraculously healed marriage and happily ever after, God showed me the multitude of shades and colors that redemption his way can take—and it was more beautiful than I expected, more wonderful than I ever dared to dream.
Most beautifully of all, God was faithful to keep his covenant promise of love to me—even when human unfaithfulness broke my heart.
Through suffering, I met the God who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). Through the voicelessness of abuse, I met the God who sees us in our sorrow and keeps His promise to never leave or forsake us. Our God can bring beauty from ashes and hope from despair.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story!”Psalm 107:1-2
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