Excerpt from Before the Last Resort
John and Amy’s Story
In their first counseling session with Dr. Kenworthy, Amy announced that she had already been to two Christian counselors and both had advised her to file for a divorce. The reason Amy claimed for this assessment was that she didn’t love John anymore. In fact, Amy made it painfully clear that she was “in love” with someone else and, as far as she was concerned, it was time to move on.
Since John and Amy had been attending the church where Dr. Kenworthy’s was pastoring, they decided to see him before they called it quits, their last-ditch effort to salvage their relationship. After listening to them each vent, he began by asking them 3 questions. The way a each person responds is fundamental to their future success together.
Do you believe that there is a God?
Are you willing to apply the principles of God’s Word to your life?
Will you pray that the Spirit of God strengthen you and your spouse?
Both John and Amy said they believed in God. Both agreed to apply the principles of God’s Word to their lives. And, both said they would pray for the Spirit of God to touch them and their marriage. This was a healthy start.
Then, like pouring cold water on the spark of hope in John, Amy informed him that she was unwilling to give up her relationship with her lover. The thought of leaving someone who had become her soul partner was too much to ask.
Amy maintained that her lover understood her: he knew how to meet her needs; he cared for her in ways that John “never” did; she loved him with all of her heart. And, since she no longer loved John, how could she turn her back on her lover? Amy knew that God did not approve of her adulterous relationship. But there was nothing that could convince her to abandon her boyfriend. Yet, God could.
Dr. Kenworthy and John were prepared to wait for the Spirit of God to convict her and give her the strength to do what was right. From his years of counseling experience, Dr. Kenworthy knew conviction could come soon, or much later.
In the meantime, Dr. Kenworthy provided them with a number of practical tools and guidances he often used in his marriage counseling: how to do a “communication date”; how to handle conflict in a biblical way. They broached sensitive topics like their intimacy talked and examined their family backgrounds. They explored how they could show love for each other. Each session was closed with prayer and a reminder that when the Spirit of God touched their marriage, they would know it.
After about nine months of counseling, Dr. Kenworthy recommended that they take a vacation together even though the “other man” was still very much a part of Amy’s life. Would time alone with each other for 2 weeks help rekindle their marriage? It didn’t.
After returning home, an angry Amy called Dr. Kenworthy and fumed that her time away with John was awful and that she had had it with their marriage. She was canceling her counseling appointment for the next day and would contact her lawyer to officially file for divorce.
About thirty minutes later John also called Dr. Kenworthy echoing Amy’s conclusion. He said, “George, our time together was an absolute disaster. Amy’s still in love with our neighbor. We’re wasting our time thinking there is any hope for us. I have also contacted a lawyer and am filing for divorce.”
John and Amy both were feeling more weak and hopeless than ever felt before. But the God they both said they believed in had not quit.
About an hour after her first call, Amy called Dr. Kenworthy again. “I just got back from driving around the city,” she said. “While I was out, I saw a billboard that just said ‘473-PRAY’. When I got home, I turned on the TV and I saw an ad with the same billboard with the same message. I dialed the number and spoke with a prayer counselor for about fifteen minutes. I can’t explain it, but I believe God has spoken to me. I think he wants me to end my relationship with my boyfriend and work on my marriage with John.”
Thrilled at this breakthrough Dr. Kenworthy gently reminded her that was what they had been praying for the last nine months. She just “heard” the voice of God. Until now she heard words from Dr. Kenworthy and others about God, but now she heard them from God Himself. He asked her what she would do now?
“I need to tell my boyfriend what has happened today”, she said. As it turned out, she felt an urgency to confront her boyfriend that evening, which she did. She told him that even though she still loved him, she has to do what God told her, and broke it off that night, moving out of their shared apartment shortly after.
Amy didn’t just hear the voice of God — she trusted it! With the distraction of her lover gone there was still more “work” to do in a counseling setting, but now there was real hope. Gradually, John learned how to meet Amy’s needs. Both learned how to communicate love to each other.
While still a pastor in the Twin Cities, Amy stopped by the church to visit Dr. Kenworthy. She was carrying her newest addition to their family! With an infant nestled in her arms and a wide smile on her face, Amy couldn’t wait to let him know how happy she was, how well they were doing, and how thankful she was to the Lord for what He had done. He told her he fondly refers to her as “The Billboard Lady”. He asked Amy how she explains her marital restoration to her friends, her face lit up and she replied, “It was a true miracle!”
Alison and Kevin’s Story
What happens when a man doesn’t understand or attempt to meet his wife’s need for relationship? She can easily feel like he does not love her and, in time, conclude that she does not love him, either.
Kevin was a dedicated husband. He truly loved his wife, Alison. Since his “love language” is acts of service he works long hours to provide for Alison and their family. He is the classic strong, silent type. Unfortunately, his wife’s primary love language is “words of affirmation”. More unfortunately, Kevin was not good with words. Alison is sensitive, caring, outgoing, and highly relational. He is dedicated and hard-working. As husband and wife, they were a wonderful compliment to each other, but their love language differences led Alison to erroneously conclude that Kevin did not really love her.
One day a man who worked with Alison (and at a vulnerable moment for her) expressed words she longed to hear from her husband. This co-worker started writing her long love letters and these expressions by him confused Alison’s feelings which threatened her marriage with Kevin. The other man was speaking Alison’s love language. Kevin needed to learn how to connect relationally with his wife. In order to succeed, he had to learn how to speak this language, too.
In their first session, Kevin was encouraged to express his love for his wife in words, not just his acts of service. Since the other man was already writing long love letters, Dr. Kenworthy suggested he try something different. When Kevin drew a blank, Dr. Kenworthy reminded him that “God is the author of creation and creativity. Why don’t you ask him to reveal to you a unique way to express your love for your wife?”
At the following week’s session Kevin revealed that God led him to write notes that he put on Alison’s mirror in the master bathroom twice a day. When asked how she felt about getting these notes Alison started to cry and said the notes were great. She reached into her purse and pulled out a large stack of 3×5 cards. She carried the notes with her wherever she went.
Some of Kevin’s notes read:
“You are my precious one and for that I am truly thankful to the Lord. I can’t wait to grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord and together. Love, KC.”
“I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy holding your hand as we drive. It communicates so much to me without saying anything. Love, KC.”
“Thanks for the love and patience that you have with the girls with their school work. I love your charm as a mother! Love, KC.”
Kevin is a husband who proves that what Peter says in 1 Peter 3:7 is true, a man can learn new ways of understanding his wife. When he does, it can save his marriage.
Linda and Dan’s Story
At 2 Restored we know God can do the impossible because of what He did for Dan and Linda. This is a remarkable couple who attended the church where Dr. Kenworthy served as pastor. He had the privilege of watching them walk from utter brokenness to complete wholeness. This is a powerful testimony and their story should melt away disbelief that God can radically transform hopeless relationships.
After five years of marriage, Linda and Dan’s relationship was becoming strained. They were growing emotionally and physically distant. Dan’s job required him to travel overseas for weeks at a time, which only increased the gap between them. During his busy Christmas work season of 1995, she told Dan that if he was not able to change the choices he was making in his life, he would need to leave their home. Unwilling to change, they began what would be a 3-year separation.
Linda desperately thought, “There must be a way to fix this” and immediately searched for counselors. She wanted to engage Dan to talk about their marriage and admits she tried to force progress to happen. It didn’t take her long to realize that God needed to be in control, not her.
She placed her reliance on the Lord, who faithfully sustained her. Regardless of what Dan did, or the eventual outcome of the marriage, God was very clear that she, Linda, needed to be spiritually aligned with Him. He gave her the strength to make it through each day, working full-time while raising their 2-year old. God filled her up in all sorts of ways: she would sing herself to sleep at night using praise song sheets from the Sunday bulletin. This helped to fill her up with peace of God and fend off sorrow, anxiety and troubled sleep. During the separation she literally got down on her knees prayed for God to grant her peace in their difficult situation, especially the times when Satan was trying to exploit opportunities to pull her, and her marriage, down. She remembers the many times saying aloud, “Get behind me Satan, you shall not prevail — not in my life and not in my marriage!” To calm her anxiety and doubts she would recite the verse, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
God also showed her she needed to surround herself with people who would encourage her to be God-focused rather than self-focused. She joined a family bible study through church, one where she could also bring their toddler, which was a stabilizing, consistent opportunity for her to nurture her faith and have ongoing prayer support.
She says God also granted her a heart of grace so that she did not become embittered toward Dan and tried very hard not to lecture him. He needed to come to terms with God, and she was not to play a role in making that happen in her terms. After several years, friends and family would ask how long she was going to wait for Dan to come around. She reminded them she was waiting on God, who does not use the same clock.
Linda believes that marriage is for a lifetime — it is not a commitment that one only keeps when it feels good to them, or when one is happy. She understands that God does not promise happiness, He promises peace in Him under all circumstances. She also learned that love is not a feeling, it is a choice and during their troubled years was terribly sad for Dan. She knew what she was seeing in him and hearing from him was not the same man she married, nor was it the man God intended him to be.
As the separation went on Linda watched Dan running further from her and God. She was completely helpless and had no control over it. She could only pray and read Scripture to continue to affirm her own beliefs on marriage, which, in turn, enabled her to grow deeper spiritually.
Dan wanted her to let go of the marriage. Surprisingly, Linda was the one who finally initiated the proceedings, and not because she wanted the divorce. Linda was ready for whatever was to come. Dan would finally be forced to face a decision. She had already grieved the loss of her marriage and now accepted that no matter what happened, God was her Savior and He would not let go of her, or Dan.
By summer of 1998, they had gone through divorce mediation and all the papers were drawn up and decisions finalized. They even went through what is called “marriage closure therapy.” Linda was at peace with God and just waiting for Dan and his lawyer to add their signatures. Yet Unbeknownst to Linda, Dan was still wrestling with God, and God (in His grace) was not allowing Dan to take the final step in the divorce. Dan came to a point that summer when he no longer could cope with the sinfulness, emptiness, and loneliness of his life circumstance. He says he knew he needed to return to God, and in order to do that, he needed to return to Linda.
Then, at the 11th hour, Dan called and humbly asked if Linda would even consider reconciliation. Her first thought was, “Of course! This is what I’ve been praying for three years!” Neither of them had a clue how they were going to rebuild their shattered marriage except to keep trusting God to lead them. God knew how to bridge the gap between being in the same room together and actually moving towards restoration. God’s plan for them included attending a weekend marriage workshop she knew of from a brochure given to her by a friend two years prior. She had saved it all that time “just in case”. Dan can attest that for Linda to be able to find a single piece of paper after one week, no less 2 years amongst her multiple cluttered piles at home was itself a miracle. The workshop turned out to be the foundation they needed to jumpstart working together again. “The rest of the story” is that today Dan and Linda are still together — happy and content — and living proof that God can do what the world’s culture deems to be impossible.