Rekindling A Fading Marriage
Uniting and Parting
During my college years, I met and fell in love with a girl at first sight. After dating for just half a year, we were married. My parents-in-law were impressed with my character and personal integrity, and approved of my marriage to their daughter. My own parents, however, warned me about a possible shaky future if I married a girl who had different ideas about a married man and woman living separately.
During our honeymoon, my wife and I traveled to Shanghai and later to Taiwan applying for jobs where we could work in the same city and live together—but our efforts proved futile. Exhausting our savings, we ended up working in different localities, and for the first eight years of our marriage, mostly living apart from each other. We tried to maintain our love by staying in touch through telephone conversations and letter writing.
After taking TOEFL and GRE tutorial classes, I applied and was admitted into a graduate program at an American university. When I was granted a student visa from the US consulate, my wife and I were both overjoyed. In August 1997, I left to begin my study abroad, saying goodbye to my beloved wife in China. Since we were accustomed to living apart, this separation was just a continuation of the way of life we already knew.
Since I had to borrow money to take advantage of the study abroad opportunity, I had to live frugally while in the States, which caused me a lot of stress. One day, a local Chinese pastor and his wife visited me at my campus apartment to express their love and concern. They brought me food and some cooking utensils to keep. They also prayed that I would let go of stress over studies and money and live by relying daily on God’s strength. Soon afterwards, I was offered a research assistant job, working 20 hours a week. This income helped to pay my tuition and living expenses for a whole year. With gratitude to the Lord, I remembered the promise I had made in prayer back in China when my student visa had been approved—that when I arrived in a Christian country, I would seek God. So, while attending a Bible study on campus, I openly professed Jesus as my Savior; however, I did not truly repent of my sins or submit fully to Jesus as Lord of my life.
While living separate from each other, my wife and I both faced tempting relationships with the opposite sex. For my wife, her male coworkers wanted to woo her. For me, there was a young, smart, innocent, and beautiful female student from China who attracted me intensely. Spending time with her in classes and at social events, I was filled with lust and sinful desires, even to the point that I indulged in browsing pornographic websites late at night. But deep down in my heart, I clung to the loving memories of my wife, knowing that we were mutually sacrificing for our future by my being in America. I eluded the fateful sin of an actual adulterous act with any girl, for which I thank the Lord today. In our fallen human condition, both male and female are vulnerable to sexual enticements. I witnessed this on my campus, seeing married students from China divorce their spouses to unite with new acquaintances in America. Such situations were so sad!
In late 1998, my wife, as the spouse of a working foreign student, was able to get a visa and join me in the States. When I saw her, she looked as beautiful to me as ever. We began attending church and were as happy as any newlywed couple could be. In October 1999, our daughter, Lily, was born.
Accepting Mental Illness
Soon after giving birth, my wife began experiencing severe depressive episodes, which would continue for the next 17 years. She developed a cycling insomnia, going without sleep for many days and nights. In the early years, I was super busy pursuing double degrees, with the goal of settling down in America and earning a lucrative income. Driven with this ambition, I spent less and less time keeping my wife company. I slept alone, using the excuse of having too much stress with my work and studies, while my wife slept alone with our newborn baby in seclusion next to my room. My wife, understandably, became disappointed with our marriage, and the symptoms of her manic-depressive outbursts became more disturbing. At one point she tried to kill herself by jumping from the third floor of our apartment. Shaken by this incident, I began to realize that my wife was indeed seriously ill.
Even so, it was very hard for me to accept my wife’s weird behaviors. She would throw clothes all over the floor and heap rubbish everywhere, making the house a total mess. She wasn't careful with our child—even dropping her once breaking her tiny foot bone. She was often restless and awake at night, wanting to talk. I would force her to stay in bed because I needed to sleep well to regain my energy for study and work. My wife accused me of not caring about her at all. But what could I do except drive her to see a psychiatrist and make sure she took the proper medications? There was nothing else I could do! I often lost my temper and scolded her vehemently, thinking my criticism would solve our problems. I would blurt out harsh words, yelling, “You’re a mad person! You’re crazy!” which only brought about fiery responses from my wife.
In 2000, I finished my degree and was offered a job in St. Louis, Missouri. During that year, our daughter turned one year old, and my wife’s parents came to visit us. They were also intolerant of my wife's erratic behaviors, unpredictable outbursts, and mood swings. With their help, we were able to put my wife in a hospital for a short stay. The hospital gave us a pamphlet about mental illness which said that patients like my wife should be treated with tenderness, not harshness. My in-laws and I prayed that God would give us wisdom to be able to love our afflicted relative with the same kind of love as Jesus, who sacrificed His life even for the enemies who killed Him on the cross.
From then on, I tried my best to keep a good attitude toward my wife—to be patient and listen more. Whenever my wife’s erratic behaviors erupted, and she became agitated with a violent temper tantrum, I learned not to argue with her. Knowing that she loved to shop, I would accompany her to the malls and supermarkets. As my attitude toward her changed for the better, and I spent more quality time with her, the atmosphere in our home became more relaxed and harmonious. By the time her parents had to return to China, my wife was well enough to carry on the normal duty of a mother and take her daughter to the nursery.
Because she was doing better, my wife began thinking that she should return to China. Her parents could help take care of our daughter, and she could get better treatment from a Chinese psychiatrist. It seemed a rational plan to me. I knew it would give me some relief and quiet time by myself. I booked plane tickets and took my wife and daughter to the airport the day of their departure. I had barely returned home when I received an urgent phone call from airport personnel telling me that my wife seemed to have had a nervous breakdown and was being treated at a mental health facility, and my child had been taken to a shelter. I left immediately to fetch them back home. These circumstances forced me to face the future realistically. My family had to have priority over my career. I had to push aside all thoughts of living a comfortable life. I had to take care of m y family!
Some Frightful Incidences
During the time my wife was ill, she continued to drive, which caused some frightful incidences. A characteristic of her illness was that she talked incessantly, often repeating tales about herself that happened long ago. Her constant talking irritated me so much that I would yell at her to shut up, and then both of us would become quarrelsome. Anger would follow with demands for a divorce, at which time she would get in the car and leave the house to go shopping—leaving me worried and fearful until she returned home.
One night, when my wife couldn't sleep at all, she swallowed six sleeping pills instead of two as prescribed by her psychiatrist. The following day, as she was driving home from the post office, the sleeping pills started to make her drowsy. Her car darted toward the opposite lane, slamming into a big tree along the side of the road before coming to a stop. The car was completely totaled. Luckily, my wife was unhurt except for a small scratch on her leg because the air bag had deployed. The road where the accident occurred was wide enough to hold six lanes of traffic, yet my wife was spared injury. We praised God because the consequences could have been more devastating and tragic.
The Great Healer
During the many years we struggled with my wife’s condition, I turned to God in prayer, and often the Holy Spirit would reveal some sin within me. I truly repented before Jesus and asked Him to give me faith, joy, and peace in the adverse circumstances we faced. Words from the Bible awakened a love for my wife that was deep within my heart:
“So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6).
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (I Peter 3:7).
“…So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth” (Malachi 2:15).
Because I truly loved my wife, she became the most important person in my life, other than God. I accompanied her to all of her doctors’ appointments and stayed beside her day and night when she was hospitalized. I helped my wife tend to our daughter and also assisted with household chores. The most important thing I did was to pray for her earnestly, drawing on all the strength I had from God.
One day, as I knelt down beside the couch to pray for my wife, tearfully asking Jesus to completely heal her, I felt a warm flow, as if a powerful stream of tears were entering my heart, giving me strength. There was an intense joy and peace within me. Being willing to forgive and be patient, without blaming my wife, our home had become a quiet and peaceful place once again. I prayed that God would grant me the endurance of real love so that I would really listen to whatever she had on her mind. With such prayers to God, not long after this experience, my wife stepped out of the haunting depression that had held her for so long. She gradually began to get better. It seemed that patience, love, and—as God promised—effective prayer had brought about healing.
Health, Happiness, and Home
After so many years of suffering, God marvelously revived and revitalized our marriage. Today, my wife and I have an increased faith in God’s miraculous power. We know that God has always been at work. Throughout the years when my parents-in-law from China visited us, they observed the church pastors and believers showing genuine care and concern for my wife. This opened my mother-in-law’s heart to God’s love, and she became a believer and was baptized. Her husband later followed.
My wife became a completely new person. During a missions conference at our church, she offered her life to serve Christ in full-time ministry. A year later, while on a business trip, I attended a sister Chinese church and picked up a pamphlet titled “Knowing the Truth.” What I read sent me on a serious quest for spiritual growth that ended in God’s clear call to me also for full-time Christian ministry.
On two occasions God reaffirmed my calling. In 2000, after hearing Dr. W. K. Tse speak at an evangelistic meeting, I was moved to walk to the front and publicly give my life to God’s calling to full-time ministry. Later, at a winter camp where Dr. Tse again spoke, my calling was reaffirmed. I began reading my Bible prayerfully from beginning to end and listening to inspiring sermons. I thank the Lord Jesus Christ because my wife fully supported my decision to quit my job and study full-time in a theological seminary.
In 2004, my family moved to Florida where I served in a church while attending a local seminary. After five years of study, I graduated and knew God was leading me to return to China, which we did. I am now doing missions and pastoral care in a church located in my native birthplace. My wife and I are walking with God in one accord, serving Him joyfully. May all glory and praise be given to our awesome God for His great mercies and love!