God, Cats in the Cradle and a Renewed Marriage
“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.” — Ephesians 5:25
By Jim Shoffstall
The Flame Volunteer Writer
I met Cheryl shortly after beginning a new career with an air medical provider based in St. Louis. I did not know it at the time, however I later learned that she was soon attracted to the ’80s style “mullet” of curly hair which I sported. It wasn’t long before we started dating and became the topic of conversation among our co-workers. Though none of them had really gotten a chance to know much about me, based on what they thought they knew about my future bride we were given little chance of experiencing a long-term relationship. Regardless, we continued to build our relationship and were married in April of 1998, a year to the day of our first official “date.”
While I am not sure she would confess this, I suspect that those days during our engagement and subsequent marriage were tough on my bride. Underneath the curls which caught her eye was the soul of a man which struggled with insecurity, jealousy and forgiveness. These are all characteristics which are poison to any relationship. I recall times when I would let days go by without saying a word to her because I was angry over something. My silence was causing harm to her. I refused to acknowledge that, because I chose to remain in my own pool of self-pity.
It was in August of 2000 when God set the stage to bring about a change in our marriage. Cheryl had decided to look for a church to attend. At the time I had no interest in such activity, so every Sunday morning from then on she would leave to worship the Lord while I remained behind to worship the world. This continued until one winter day in February of 2001 when she called me at work to inform me that the church was home to a men’s softball team, and she was curious if I would be interested in being a part of the team (we had held previous discussions of my desire to play softball, I just never pursued it).
My interest was sparked and I decided to begin attending church with her. That was when God took hold of my rebellious heart and began to do what God does — destroy the old and create something new. I began to learn things about Jesus that I had never wanted to learn before. I was excited about a restored relationship with Almighty God and began to read the Bible. The problem was I had not yet been broken. I was nothing more than a fool now armed with the Word of God and sought ways to use those words of wisdom to “lord it over” my bride. I recall that my favorite scripture during that time of spiritual immaturity was found in Ephesians; “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord,” (Ephesians 5:22). While I often pulled this scripture out of my pocket during times which, in my mind I was “just joking,” my bride was suffering still more harm to her spirit.
I reached my breaking point in February of 2002 during a trip with the men of No Greater Love Ministry. One night during the evening worship service a brother in Christ took the stage and started playing “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin. As this song was repeated men began dropping to their knees in tears. It wasn’t long before I joined them. Many were lamenting failed relationships with their sons or daughters. I was convicted of the sinful ways in which I was treating God’s daughter, my bride. Jesus made it very clear to me that I was slowly destroying my relationship with Cheryl. I dropped more tears on that ground in Pass Christian, Mississippi, than I had shed in a very long time. The man Cheryl had married in 1998 died that night in a tent just off the same Gulf of Mexico where we had exchanged wedding vows. Jesus destroyed the unfaithful man and began to fashion something new. I ended that trip with a new scripture:
“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.” (Ephesians 5:25)
And thanks to the power of Jesus Christ, my bride was presented with a new husband!
This is my story, the story of how God’s Grace through Jesus Christ changed the heart of a man and brought new life to a marriage!
All scripture from Holy Bible, New Living Translation
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