Melinda Merritt Marriage Testimony
Melinda Merritt is a friend in ministry and is married to a police officer in Texas. She offers encouragement to others via the online platform, This Little Light of Mine. Melinda routinely has instructive insight, so I asked her to share her story with our readers. Her compassion will resonate when you read, “I would say this as I gently cup your face in my hands, ‘Don’t give up.’”
Admittedly, this is a lengthy post, but if there is frustration in your marriage, you may find it worthwhile, because it offers hope in Christ.
– Jim McNeff
Had you asked me years ago how I would feel about my husband going into law enforcement, I would have been completely against it. But God had other plans.
Both my husband and I grew up in the country, from completely different towns, but small town kids, nonetheless. He comes from a good hearted, humble family with several members in law enforcement.
In the summer of 2002, I began classes at the local technical school. When I wasn’t in class, I spent time with our admissions advisor. She recruited for the school and, as a student ambassador, I often tagged along.
Hanging around her office meant I got to see all the new prospective students listed on her dry erase board. I will never forget the day I spotted the name of a particular new student. Little did I know, that would be the man I would marry!
Three years after we met, we said “I Do.” Our first child was born, two years later, in August 2007. And that’s when things began to change.
It’s important to understand how God views marriage. And it’s equally important to understand the priorities that He established from the beginning. If you get nothing else out of our story, I pray you understand what God intended.
Along the way, our priorities shifted. I wasn’t involved in church and being far from my family, I really didn’t have much of a support system. We had friends, and I’m thankful for them. But I couldn’t even begin to think I had this marriage thing figured out. The only thing I knew was that I was right, and my husband was usually wrong.
I began to focus most of my time and energy into our child. I put our marriage and my husband on the back burner. Our infant child needed me. As time went on, I began to feel more and more lost as to my identity. Since the baby arrived, partying was no longer a priority, and close friends became distant.
In the fall of 2008, we joined the church we still call home. And that’s when God began His work!
With a small child at home, and a husband I wasn’t connecting with, I jumped at the opportunity to join the coed softball team. I enjoyed playing ball and the fellowship with my teammates. But what I didn’t realize was the separation it was putting between my family and me. Our little boy was normally in bed by the time I got home, and my husband too, as he had to work early the following morning.
This was another slow fade in our marriage.
Going from two individuals to a family of three can be a hard adjustment. Things that I took for granted became things of the past. Waking up at 6:00 a.m., sometimes earlier, on the weekends made it hard to get much needed rest. Lack of sleep does a number on your emotions and your stress level climbs. I loved our little bundle of joy, but missed some of the freedom we had before. In an attempt to let my husband sleep, I was the one getting up early with the baby. He didn’t realize I needed help. But then again, I didn’t ask.
This cycle led to resentment towards my husband. I held it in assuming he would see I needed help. Why did I have to ask? He should know. Holding things inside creates pressure. It’s never pretty when things burst.
I was tired. I had lost myself. And I felt so alone.
Through my tears, and through his confusion, he would often say, “Just ask. Tell me what you need. I will help you.” But without two-way communication, things continued to fade.
As the slide continued, I enjoyed time away while he enjoyed time at home. I’m an “On the run, fun, fun, fun” kind of girl. I have a hard time slowing down, and I began to take on more responsibility trying to fill the void I felt. There is a Jesus shaped hole inside all of us. It’s a hole that only He can fill.
“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, GOD, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10 MSG)
Some of our darkest days came in 2009. We had grown apart. We didn’t really try anymore. Or not in the way it was supposed to be. I’d look around and see how other husbands treated their wives. My mind and views began to be distorted on what I thought marriage should look like. I would hear those sappy love songs on the radio and think, “He should treat me like that.”
I became so selfish, yet was blind to it. I thought my husband didn’t fit my mold, that surely I had married the wrong guy. I began thinking I deserved better! That’s what this world had taught me.
“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.’” (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT)
One morning, as we readied ourselves for church, putting on our happy faces, and assuming the “perfect family” picture that I wanted us to have, I broke down in my bathroom. I melted into a ball of confusion, anger, emotion, and tears. Part of me didn’t really want to go through a divorce. But something needed to change. Another part of me just wanted to get back to the way things used to be.
In the midst of my meltdown, I pled with God. “If you really want this marriage to work, you need to change things. And you need to show me what you want us to do. I don’t want to be like this any longer.”
Oftentimes, I found answers to things I was struggling with through our pastor’s message on Sunday. No doubt, he would be on the topic I had prayed about during the week. However, that day, I listened, intently, and even closer than before. Waiting for a personal message from God—a sign or billboard—telling me exactly what I should do. Stay!
As our pastor finished his message, I sat quietly in my chair. No word from God. No signs. Nothing but a message intended for everyone but me. I was heartbroken. Sitting quietly. Feeling defeated. This was it. It was over. That must have been my sign. God must have given up on us.
But God wasn’t done yet.
Our associate pastor took the stage to give announcements and prepare to dismiss us. As he wrapped up, he told of a new six-week class that would be coming soon. It was a marriage class that was intended to help those who felt they had lost hope in their marriage or for those who wanted the tools to grow and learn more about the marriage fundamentals, established by God, and laid out in the Bible. It was centered on the movie Fireproof.
That was the sign I was waiting for!
At first, my husband wasn’t on board. He still didn’t understand what was wrong with our marriage. Why did we need to go? That was for couples experiencing real issues. We were doing just fine. He reluctantly went.
I remember sitting in the room that night feeling like my entire marriage had just been recorded and played out on the big screen. I watched in tears through the feelings portrayed by the actors. And I remember thinking, “God, I pray that my husband would ‘get it’ like the husband in the movie.”
As we left that night, we received a free copy of the Love Dare book. Thank goodness, because my husband needed it!
As we left, he still didn’t think our marriage was that bad. And yet, I didn’t understand how he was unable to see it wasn’t that good either.
He isn’t a reader. But he committed to reading through and doing the 40-day Love Dare journey.
I expected a few things, simply because I knew what the movie had revealed. Certain “tasks” that would happen. For instance, I knew he would cook dinner one night. Other things came as a surprise, like revealing conversations that had been absent. We discussed painful things that needed to come out.
After the book ended, I saw the transformation, and I was happy again. God really did work in him, and I could see the difference. I just knew once God “fixed him,” we could live in our happy marriage that we were supposed to have.
In time, the happiness wore off. Once again, I was back in the pit of hopelessness.
I finally hit a point where I felt I had enough. In the midst of a heated argument, I uttered the words I swore I would never speak. I wanted a divorce.
The days that followed were cold, dark, and lonely. I didn’t want to tell our family or friends because I couldn’t bring myself to face the hurt and anger that was sure to come. I also didn’t want to face the fact, in all the years of my life, I swore I would NEVER resort to divorce. And yet, I had just given in.
Things didn’t last because I needed a lot of work, too.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 GNT)
I didn’t want anything to do with my husband. Didn’t want him touching me, I had nothing to say to him, and didn’t even want to look his way. But one morning, on my way to work, I finally surrendered. I knew I wanted my marriage to be saved, but I had massive piles of “yuck” on the inside. God was helping me break through the walls of pride, anger, and resentment and the piles left behind of those demolished walls remained in my heart. Bitterness had taken root and grew like a wild vine, and I didn’t know how I could ever love my husband again.
Deep in my heart I knew God wanted us to make it work. And that was finally my prayer. “God, if this is really what you want. If you really want to save our marriage, then you are going to have to take all this junk away. I don’t want it anymore. I give in.”
At 9:38 a.m. as I sat at my desk at work, something began to happen. It was as if God reached down from Heaven. He began in the tips of my toes, and worked His hand through my entire body, eventually out through the top of my head. He completely cleared me of any and all “junk” that had consumed me for so long. The weight was gone. I had been set free. Not only that, but I couldn’t wait to get home to see my husband.
“In my distress I prayed to the LORD, and the LORD answered me and set me free.” Psalms 118:5 NLT)
As I arrived home that night, I fell into the arms of my husband, and I cried, and kissed him, and for the rest of the night, sat silently in his arms. Not willing to let go. Very confused, we talked things out. I felt more love for him than ever before, and I wanted nothing more than to learn as much as I could about marriage. I wanted to ensure our marriage not only made it through, but it lasted.
The following weeks opened up more doors than I could possibly imagine. As I broke down and shared our struggles with a lady at work, she shared the Jimmy Evans Ministry with me. We began counseling with our pastor. One of the groups at church began the “Love and Respect” series. And most important, God opened my eyes to all the work that needed to be done in me before any transformation could continue in our marriage.
My husband had said, months before, he wanted to get the leather bound version of the Love Dare book. So that became part of my gift to him. I found it and began my own 40-day transformation journey. Through that book, God worked in ways I would have never thought possible. He opened my eyes to all the blessings that are at our fingertips when we simply learn and apply biblical principles in our marriage.
One of the best places we can look for values in marriage, is none other than the life of Jesus. Christ is my priority, then my husband, putting his needs ahead of mine and vice versa. Selflessly laying our lives down for one another.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31 NIV)
I’ve been down the road, and I can tell you, it’s difficult. I wanted to give up so many times, and yet, we continued forward. It was hard work. It was Heart work. But as I look back now, it was something I’m so glad we went through. God saved our marriage. He saved us. And He continues to help us every day as we now depend on Him to keep our marriage strong. It’s God given strength we needed to carry us through the tough times that have come, and will continue to come until the day He calls us home.
It’s a rock solid foundation built on Jesus Christ. I thank God for His intervention in our lives. I can’t imagine doing this thing called “life” without my husband by my side. He has truly become my best friend. He is a grounded man of faith that I look to with pride and tears in my eyes.
God has called him to the streets. Had we not gone through the transformation, I’m not sure we would have made it through all that’s come. Every time I see that saying “God made police officers so firefighters would have heroes!” I laugh! But every time I see, “God took some of the strongest women and made them police wives,” I get teary eyed. Getting strong doesn’t just happen. He knows what He is doing. And He does everything with purpose.
If this struck a chord with you, and you are at the breaking point, I would say this as I gently cup your face in my hands, “Don’t give up.”
If God has put even the slightest ray of hope in your heart through our story, surrender it to Him. Pray, seek, knock, and ask for the help you need. Jesus stands ready, at the right hand of the Father, waiting to intercede on your behalf.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:28-32 NIV)