Our God of Second Chances

Our God of Second Chances

By Elsie & John Radtke

What will you do today to show your spouse the importance they hold in your life?

Marriage for a lifetime is an expectation that every newly married couple shares. While the challenges of marriage and family life have yet to reveal themselves to the newlyweds, they will face these things together with the hope of satisfactory outcomes. Unfortunately, this does not work out for all couples. Both John and I had married with the clear intention of having it last forever. That was not to be so.

The effects of alcoholism and mental illness impacted each of our previous marriages in ways that did not allow either of us to stay in the respective marriage. The decision to end each marriage was full of torment, doubt and extreme sadness. Where had the love and respect gone? Why had we allowed it to disappear and force us to make choices that tore our hearts apart? The children we shared with our former spouses now found they were living in two worlds of strained relationships and financial jeopardy. It was not the dream either of us had for our family.

As divorced parents, we learned to navigate the tumultuous waters of single parenthood. In some ways life became calmer but it also was missing a depth of intimacy with another adult. Eight years after my divorce and two years after John’s divorce we met at a church leadership training event for Divorce Ministry. Not looking for a relationship, it took a few months before we chanced an outing. Only after a few weeks of frequent “outings” did we begin to understand that we were dating. It was my fifteen year old who told me that I now had a boyfriend. Odd, this was not part of my plan at all.

After three or four months of seeing one another a couple of times every week, I began to think it was too cumbersome to be a single mother with three teenaged children and to sustain a relationship with this man. I took my concerns to a meeting with my spiritual director. I told her I wanted to end the relationship and keep things in my life uncomplicated. She looked me right in the eye and challenged why I felt this way since I was obviously having a good time with this man. I made a list of my excuses to her and she gently took my hand and said, “Why do you think you are not worthy of the love of this man?” I felt tears come to my eyes with the stinging truth of her statement. She urged me to stop thinking so much and to let God work in our lives. I was holding on too tight. I was also still punishing myself for the divorce.

I thought about what she said. I prayed to God to help me receive this love if that is what was best for both of us. In time, that is what happened. After a year and a half of dating, we became engaged and married six months later. We had a second chance of a loving and good marriage. God was clearly in the center and we both trusted each other and him.

Between us we have six young adult children and knew that our decision to marry might be a challenge for them. They firmly told us that we would not be The Brady Bunch. We decided to marry in the chapel of an orphanage we help support in Miatcatlan, Mexico, near Cuernavaca. We pulled together our resources and flew all the children to Mexico. We toured the area, spent time with the pequeῆos at the orphanage and celebrated our marriage in the chapel there surrounded by our children, a few friends and many of the 850 orphans who resided there. It was beautiful and memorable for us all.

Having just celebrated our fifteenth anniversary, we are grateful to be together. Our children respect the marriage we have modeled for them. It has not been easy, but when God is in the center of the relationship, there is better success. We have been blessed.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8

About Elsie and John Radtke

John and Elsie worked through the former experiences they each held and forgiving themselves. As they forgave, they were able to move forward and experience a new beginning. Forgiveness is a journey. It does not mean forgetting, excusing or tolerating. Forgiveness will allow you to exchange the feelings of resentment and bitterness carried over from past experiences to peace and gratitude. Click on this program to embark on a journey of forgiveness.

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