Sometimes it can creep into our lives with an unwelcome stealth. Ann Wilson will tell you she would never have conceived that she could be surrounded by a husband, kids, and friends, and yet still feel its clutches suffocating her heart. But there she was, married 10 years, two kids, busier than ever, and yet lonelier than she had ever been. And it seemed to her that her husband was totally oblivious to her needs and more often than not, to her! It’s a grace to welcome Dave and Ann Wilson to the farm’s front porch today…
He was a good man.
A cofounder of a megachurch, Chaplain for the Detroit Lions, inspiring on stage and a leader of men. Everyone loved him and wanted to follow him, but I was left in his dust.
My heart felt bruised and cold like the chilling winds that skate over Lake Michigan in the dead of winter.We were in a bad place in our marriage, and I didn’t know how to find my way back home!
That was my on and off again reality until—before I knew it—ten years had passed. Then out of nowhere, Dave suddenly wanted to make a huge deal out of our tenth anniversary.
He took me out to a very nice restaurant. After we sat down the waiter began bringing roses to our table. Each rose was to signify a year of our marriage.
Dave began to pour out his heart about the ten years we had spent together.
I had to admit that he was being very sweet. He was like a little boy that night as he kept waiting for the next thing he had planned to happen—I could tell he even planned what he was going to say when each rose arrived.
This was a sweet, and grand gesture and I knew he was trying to make up for lost time, but it felt too late.
On the way home he surprised me again by stopping to go “parking”…if you know what I mean.
I had made it through the dinner and his planned parade of roses, but the idea of being intimate, passionate, or spontaneous with him in a middle school parking lot was just more than I could handle at that moment. He had “that” look and I tried to ignore it, but eventually he made his move towards my direction.
In my head, I was thinking, Ugh, I can’t even… I cannot go there.
He seemed baffled by my lack of affection, and then he asked why.
I simply said…“I have lost my feelings for you.”
There. I finally said it. I wish the words would have brought me to tears, but they didn’t.
The look on his face reflected utter shock. He had just planned this romantic evening and instead of all he had dreamed of for the night, he was coming face to face with the reality that all I had dreamed of for my life was in ruins. I knew that my words killed him, but I was at a point where I didn’t even know what else to say.
He asked me to explain what I meant, so I said, “I feel like you’re never home. I feel like you’re not engaged with me. I feel like you’re not engaged with the boys. My heart for you feels dead, and I feel lonely and forgotten!”
I was gone.
I had given up.
I was in this alone and now, and I knew that since I had finally told him, it would be the beginning of the end for our marriage.
I don’t remember how long we sat there in silence as I waited for his reply, but instead, Dave said the most bizarre thing: “Honey, I just have to do something first.”
Do something? What was he talking about? Was he about to go somewhere?
Dave was going somewhere, alright… just not anywhere I expected.
A moment that should have been the beginning of the end for our marriage was instead the beginning of a new beginning.Instead of yelling at me like many of our other conflicts, Dave began to pray.
He somehow turned around in our Honda and put his knees on the floorboard—with the steering wheel in his back.
I was speechless.
Then he began to pray out loud, repenting of being too busy and being lukewarm—begging God to help him become the husband and father he was supposed to be, and not the hypocrite he had become.
His knees on the floorboard left me floored as well. I just sat there looking at him, barely able to believe what I was seeing. It was there that I realized my heart had become a brick inside of me—but in that moment, it began to break.
As he prayed, I could suddenly hear God gently whispering to my soul, Ann Wilson, you have been trying to get your happiness from your husband, and I never made him for that. I never equipped him to fill all your needs. I am the only One who can meet all your needs.
The message was undeniably clear. I hadn’t been willing to even kiss my husband of ten years, but when God’s words rang out in my heart, I became willing to do something even crazier: I turned around and got on my knees beside Dave.
I prayed, “Jesus I too want to surrender all of my life to you. I’ve realized tonight that I’ve been trying to find my life in Dave. I’ve been trying to get from him what only You—and You alone—can provide. I have been believing that if Dave would just be a better husband, then I could truly be happy. That is a lie. You are my true source of joy. I choose you again tonight as my life. Take my life and our marriage and do great things in and through us.”
As I reminisce some twenty-eight years later, I can tell you that our moment of repentance changed everything… and I mean everything.
The secret we had been missing for the first decade of our marriage began to become our new daily reality—and I now pray that this will begin a new reality for you, as well.
The simple secret begins with realizing that a purely horizontal marriage just doesn’t work.
There is no life—no power in ourselves alone.
Without the vertical—without God in first place—we search for life where there is no life. We realized that as wonderful as we both were as people, we made pretty lousy gods.
It took a vertical miracle to change our horizontal mess.
That night was the beginning of God crashing in on the loneliness of my icy heart! If He has the power to resurrect Jesus from the dead, He has the power to breathe new life into a dead marriage.
The answer to the longing and loneliness of your heart is not found in the…
It is found simply, yet profoundly, in Jesus.
Don’t waste another day like I did trying to find happiness in the horizontal.
Take the first crucial step…Go vertical!
Dave and Ann Wilson are co-founders of Kensington Community Church, a national, multi-campus church that hosts more than 14,000 attendees every weekend. For the past twenty-five years, they have been featured speakers at Family Life’s Weekend to Remember®, and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. They live in the Detroit area, where Dave served as the Detroit Lions Chaplain for thirty-three years.
For anyone who is married, preparing for marriage, or desperate to save a relationship teetering on the edge of disaster, Dave and Ann offer hope and strategies that really work in their new book, Vertical Marriage. Through their unique perspectives, they share an intimate, sometimes hilarious and at times deeply poignant narrative of one couple’s journey to discovering the joy and power of a vertical marriage.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]