My relationship with my wife is one of the greatest blessings in my life — possibly only second to the grace and mercy God himself has shown me through Christ Jesus. She has been with me through the lowest lows, and celebrates with me on the mountaintops as well. She knows all of my weaknesses and chooses to love me for them, not grumble, nag, criticize, manipulate or demand — and I genuinely seek to do the same.

I know that with the wrong person that being married can be a hell to which being single seems the only escape. And I know that the loneliness of being single can be a hell to which being married seems the only escape. But that is an endless cycle of disappointment because we are looking for another person of flesh and blood to fulfill our wants, needs, and purpose. When Mandee Fowler Ballinger and I were chasing the wrong things and had no firm foundation in our own lives giving us purpose, direction and value — we were “looking for more” when single and even still “looking for more” when married — and we hurt each other instead of building each other up. So it wasn’t just “finding the right wife/husband”.

Once we truly surrendered our lives to walk in a different way — a life of gratitude for what Christ Jesus has done for us — a life of accepting forgiveness and laying down guilt and shame — a life of offering forgiveness, love and sacrificial service to others laying down bitterness, expectations and demands on others — with a just, fair and faithful God ruling our household instead of us warring to rule over each other — we now know how beautifully two people can truly “live as one”.

My encouragement to you is that it wasn’t “learning a bunch of rules/tricks” or having to “find the right match”. The same person that was your fiercest enemy can become your closest friend when Jesus steps in and you hand it over.

So please don’t think that I’m bragging about “getting it right”. I’m telling you that I’ve been stupid. That I’ve done stupid things that ruined relationships and that ruined reputations and that broke trust. I’ve proven myself to be selfish, mean, cruel and demanding at times. I’ve overlooked being sweet, loving and caring at times. But even with all of my “getting it wrong”, my ex-wife has the beautiful life she deserves — and somehow I have a wonderful marriage that I neither deserve or could have hoped for.

I’m saying that no matter how many times you have gotten it wrong “on your own” — He has a way of turning ashes into diamonds.

I’m reminded of a verse in one of my favorite Psalms:

to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord , that he may be glorified.
Isaiah 61:3 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/isa.61.3.ESV

Can we see the match — set ablaze quite in the same way that one who is living out Psalm 61 should be ablaze — not as a key to unlock the chains and shackles ourselves — not even as the source of the light ourselves (since we are what is being consumed in the light giving process).

The flame of the fire itself is the key.

Thank you Jesus!