Chapter 21 – My Journey

In this chapter, I’d like to share a little about my own marriage, how it nearly ended, and how God restored it. Much of what I’ve written in this book, I learned while my marriage was being restored.



As I discussed earlier, when Jenny and I got married, we were opposites in some ways. I had an intense zeal for the Lord, but I also had great weakness in the area of pride and selfish ambition. Jenny was less intense than I was and she had a natural humility, selflessness, and deep love for those close to her. We were also different in terms of our doctrines. We grew up with the same traditional evangelical background, but when I became a young adult I was exposed to a handful of charismatic ministries and assimilated some of their doctrines.


For the first few years of our marriage, I felt like the enemy was constantly whispering to me that Jenny would hold me back from my calling. This caused fear to rise up inside me because, as I said, Jenny was less intense than I was. I didn’t know what my calling was. I only knew that fulfilling it was the most important thing in the world to me.


Whenever I brought this to the Lord, I felt as though He was saying I needed Jenny to fulfill my calling. She was an asset, not a liability. If I had known the extent of my pride and selfish ambition, perhaps this would have made more sense. But pride had a way of blinding me to my own condition. I didn’t begin to understand how deeply I needed Jenny until after our marriage almost ended.  


The Breakdown of My Marriage

My marriage broke down, in part, because I took one part of the biblical picture for how to make decisions as a couple and took it to the extreme – the part where the Lord may sometimes impress upon a wife to follow her husband’s lead even if she hasn’t felt the same specific direction for herself. I became deceived and driven to expect this with every decision. No room for discussion. No room for considering other options. Only – “I am the head, God has spoken to me, and this is His will, so we have to obey.” Imagine how Jenny must have felt as she contemplated a lifetime of this kind of approach to major decisions.

This deception was intensified by idolatry. I made an idol out my outside-the-home calling and it became more important to me than my marriage. If I had been willing to listen to my wife, God could have used her to protect me from this idolatry. But I didn’t and it took ahold of me. 


A Warning about Hearing God’s Voice

Another factor that contributed to the near destruction of my marriage, and possibly my faith, was a serious deception in the area of “hearing God’s voice” that grew slowly but steadily over the course of about ten years. In this book I’ve shared a handful of times I felt the Lord put something on my heart either through an impression or a dream. However, I can say without exaggeration that for every example I could give of the Lord “speaking” to me in this way, I could give dozens of the enemy speaking to me. In some cases, I knew it was the enemy. In other cases, I initially thought it was the Lord and only realized later that it wasn’t. In other cases, I still don’t know and may never know. I could also give many examples of mistaking my own imagination for the Lord’s voice


By the end of those ten years, the vast majority of what I thought was God’s voice was actually the enemy. I was in great danger yet I sincerely believed I was in the center of God’s will and had sharp, clear discernment. There is nothing anyone could have said to open my eyes. Believe me, they all tried – wife, parents, in-laws, friends, and pastors. All they could do was pray, which they did with fervor. It is truly miraculous that my marriage and my faith are intact today.


Restoration Begins

After our marriage fell apart, Jenny and I agreed to stay with an older couple in another part of the country who walked us through a period of restoration. There I began to realize my heart was gripped by idolatry. I could not trust any guidance I thought I was hearing from the Lord. A door had been opened wide to the enemy and he had a right to be there. I felt like a dangerous risk. I felt blind and handicapped. I needed someone to lead me by the hand. 


The wife of the older couple had something important to tell me. She was afraid to share it because she thought I would get angry, but fortunately I was able to hear it and it helped save my marriage. She challenged me to let Jenny act like the head of our marriage for six months and trust God to lead us through her. Whenever decisions came up that affected us both, I was free to share my thoughts and feelings, but the decision was ultimately hers. I felt strongly that this counsel was from the Lord and I was relieved to have clarity about how to move forward. We both agreed to this arrangement as we returned to our home. We also agreed to stay in regular phone contact with our mentors.


The next six months I learned so much from Jenny. Her approach to making decisions together was completely different from mine. I had always enjoyed the simplicity of asking the Lord for clear, specific instructions and then acting on what I thought He said. Every decision seemed black and white. Jenny, on the other hand, wanted to discuss our thoughts and feelings about the decision. She wanted to consider all the possible alternatives, compromises, and practical details. She wanted us both to feel good about whatever decision we made. I was not used to even considering how I felt about a major decision. What difference do feelings make? I thought. Only obedience matters. God knows best. The humility and gentleness of Jenny’s leadership style was an incredible example to me. She knew I felt vulnerable with her having the final say and she wanted me to feel comfortable and safe. 

Meanwhile, in my personal prayer times, I continued to hear the enemy’s voice as clearly as I had ever heard the Lord’s, and I knew it. Because I could not tell who was speaking to me, I gave up trying. It scared me having this evil presence in my life that was constantly pretending to be God and trying to speak to me. It scared me that I could become so deceived. I knew my character was not strong and I could be deceived again. I was vulnerable. I was in bondage. I needed help.


I regularly asked God for assurance that He would protect me. Although husbands are responsible to protect their wives, in response to this prayer God made it very clear that Jenny was also protecting me. Without her, I was easy prey to the enemy. I could feel how true this was.


There was a passage of scripture I felt especially drawn to during this season. I read it nearly every day for months. It is a handful of verses from Proverbs 4 that depict the wisdom of God personified as a woman. Since God frequently imparts wisdom into our lives through a spouse, the passage seemed appropriate and applicable when I thought about my wife:


“Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; love her and she will watch over you… Prize her, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a garland of grace; she will present you with a crown of beauty… Guard her, for she is your life.”


At the end of six months it was clear to me I was not ready to be the head of my marriage. I told Jenny and our mentors I wanted to continue our arrangement for another six months. They all agreed. I don’t know if my marriage would have survived if I had not requested this extension. 


The battle for my heart continued those next 6 months, but I steadily felt the grip of idolatry loosening as God opened my eyes to His perspective of my marriage. When the 2nd six months ended, neither I nor Jenny even mentioned it. But things felt safer. I had started to see our marriage as a partnership. I felt ready to be the head again. I felt like I knew how to make decisions together.


A few months later we faced our first major decision since our restoration and we did not see eye to eye. It felt scary and emotional for both of us after all we had been through. We agreed to pray about the decision both individually and together for a set period of time. We also agreed to talk intermittently with our mentors so they could help us through it. 


The Lord made two things clear to me about this decision:


1)      The process was more important to Him than the outcome. If we walked through the decision in a way that honored Him and each other, it would be a victory in His eyes, regardless of the outcome.


2)      It was Jenny’s decision. Even though I was the head again, if we didn’t agree after the set amount of time was complete, He told me I should yield to her. 

I could feel the enemy coming against me, trying to bring back old patterns. But the work God did in my heart had not been wasted.  When we didn’t ultimately agree and I yielded to Jenny, I could sense God’s intense pleasure. I knew it had been a great victory in His eyes. Also, after some time passed it became clear that Jenny had been right about the decision and I was very glad I listened to her. 

Black and White versus Relational Decision Making

As I said, my method for making every major decision was to seek direction from the Lord (at least I thought it was Him leading me) and obey. It was very black and white; not much room for feelings or preferences. This may sound deceived or unhealthy. In my case, it definitely was. However, it can also be deceived and unhealthy to assume every major decision is open to preferences and not subject to specific direction.


There are times when God relates to us as a friend (John 15:15), but there are also times He relates to us as a bond slave (1 Corinthians 7:22). There are times for exercising unquestioning obedience like a soldier (2 Timothy 2:4), and there are times to enjoy the liberty and freedom Christ bought for us (ex. 2 Corinthians 3:17, Galatians 5:1). I think this can change from one major decision to the next or from one season of our lives to the next. The key is to walk through the decision as a couple and be sensitive to how the Lord is relating to us. 

Black and white thinkers like me appreciate the simplicity and clarity of being treated as a bond slave. We find it easier than others to sacrifice our personal preferences. We appreciate doctrines like the fear of the Lord and dying to self. We feel uncomfortable with the uncertainty that comes with freedom. We ask, What if I miss out on God’s best or choose the wrong path? Black and white thinkers can also be very intense, lacking love, humility, and relational skills in how we lead others or make decisions.

Relational thinkers prefer decisions that are open to compromise and preference. They appreciate doctrines like God’s fatherly approachability, His delight in us, and His sincere interest in our hopes and dreams. They find black and white thinking restrictive and oppressive. They are more easy-going and harmonious in how they lead others and make decisions. However, relational thinkers can sometimes lack discipline and surrender of will.


I think God sometimes brings black and white thinkers together with relational thinkers (in marriage, as well as other co-laboring contexts such as ministry leadership) because we complement each other. We refine and balance each other. Each of us has something the other needs. Each us of has an aspect of God’s nature the other can learn from.


She is More Important

After my separation, I began praying that God would help me to see my marriage from His perspective. Prior to this, since I had always been a big-picture thinker, there was a part of me that honestly considered that having an impactful ministry might be more important than a strong marriage. I reasoned that a ministry could impact many people, but a spouse was only one person.


This flawed perspective began to change one day when God made it clear that Jenny was more important than me – not in a vague, sentimental way, but strategically more important. In terms of measurable fruit, my wife was called to make a greater impact than me. I felt the same would also be true of my children.


I don’t know what Jenny’s greater strategic importance means specifically; I don’t know how He plans to use either of us in this lifetime or after He returns. But I strongly believe it is true. Therefore, the most important aspect of my calling is to help my wife and children fulfill their callings. Every time I walk through my front door, I am surrounded by people who are literally, measurably more important than me.


Now when I think about my calling, I think of it as two-fold: My Inside-the-Home calling and my Outside-the-Home calling. I am mindful that my Inside-the-Home calling is the more important part.



In the next two chapters we will learn about the vital link between marriage and eschatology, which is essentially the study of events leading up to Jesus Christ’s wedding.