Dave Lewis: Grace Triumphing
When my marriage broke down, the phrase that most easily described it was “being hit by a bus”.
My expectation was that Christian marriage should survive anything, and I had all the theology and Christian one-liners to back it up. I believed that if you did the right thing then pretty much everything should work out ok.
The period before the separation was probably the hardest, due to trying to keep my children from the impending hurt and pain. My strong protective instinct meant it became a time of great battle, as I struggled with the issue of trying to hold the family together. Waves of sadness for my kids, confusion, loneliness and depression would engulf me along with anxiety about my work, finances and how to keep the house and everything as normal as possible for the children.
My relationship with God however was very much alive and I sensed His presence steadying my heart. During the difficult months before my marriage finally broke up, I spent time each morning in God’s presence, listening to the Matt Redman album ‘10,000 Reasons’, dwelling on the Psalms and basically weeping a lot! The times of emotionally raw worship gave my feelings time to vent, becoming times of relief and healing in the midst of despair and the unknown.
God also gave me faithful brothers to walk with me through the minefield of hurt, grief, brokenness and emotions. Between them I had wise counsel, listening ears and even a few jokes ... I found humour could bring such clarity when I most needed it ... it’s amazing how you can end up laughing when you are potentially about to lose all that you hold dear! It was as if God’s grace was helping me cling on and believe that He makes all things work for good for those who love Him, even when everything looks hopeless.
When my marriage was finally over, I guess I went into battle mode. Suddenly I was single and having to relate to my friends who were nearly all married. Attending church could be hard as it was the place where I was known and I knew people were wondering how I was doing, but it was difficult to talk about it.
The battle mentality caused me to make a decision to dig deeper into God. I thought if the enemy believed he could take me out by destroying my marriage and family then I would fight back the only way I knew how.
The deeper I went the more I felt able to cope
I began to listen regularly to some of the great old preachers, in particular Martyn Lloyd Jones (MLJ). I remember hearing one preach by MLJ when he said something like, “God will use anything to get your attention, even a divorce!” I couldn’t believe it, could this be the great conservative evangelical saying such a thing? But as he said, “this is not to say that God created evil. God permits it and then overrules it” - I thought, “maybe God was much wilder in the way he deals with us than I had understood…”
I had read ‘Wild at Heart’ by John Eldredge, who had beautifully shown the wilder side of God in his book, but if I’m honest, my life before the break up was very neat and tidy. I had my perfect Christian family, I went to work and I tried to live an obedient and good life.
So, for a year and a half, I dug deeper. The deeper I went the more I felt able to cope with the personal loneliness and worry, even about my children. God gave me a mantra - “God is much bigger than...” Every time I felt anxious about anything I would proclaim He was bigger than it.
A year and a half later my life was still hard, but I felt strong in God. I had an understanding that God is much wilder. As the line in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S Lewis (no relation!) goes, “He’s not safe, but he is good”. God’s grace was continuing to enlarge my view of Him and the best was yet to come.
I met and later started dating Andrea. A beautiful woman who had been through some deep troubles herself and had similarly dug very deep in her relationship with God, just to get through. We were a perfect match. Both mature and done with the neat and tidy Christian life, ready for a new adventure! We dated for three years and then married.
God’s grace was continuing to enlarge my view of Him and the best was yet to come.
About six months into our marriage I was knocked over by another ‘bus’... But this time it was the message of grace. King’s preached a series on ‘God’s grace plus nothing’. I also heard MLJ saying, which reinforced this message, that if people don’t accuse the preacher of licentiousness, then they are probably not preaching the Gospel at all! After that I was asked if I wanted to attend a men’s night at Soul Church to hear Ray Bevan. He preached that God is for us not against us and that the Holy Spirit is focused not on convicting me of sin but of reminding me of my identity and His righteousness, and that he disciplines me as a dearly loved son.
However, God had not finished there with the ‘beauty from ashes’ story. Andrea and I began to start an intimate walk with God, focused on hearing His voice, seeking Him, finding space and silence and enjoying Him.
And so out of much pain and brokenness has come this amazing grace-filled adventure which I have done nothing to earn.