Today I have been married to my soul mate for 22 years. Sometimes it seems like just yesterday and other times it feels like 100 years together.
What began in 1986 as an adulterous affair has been rescued, redeemed and restored by God into an increasingly treasured gift!
I met Gerald Neil Couchman in April 1985 while still married to my ex husband! Having been forced into an unplanned marriage due to an unplanned pregnancy I was frustrated with my life and was seeking some attention and excitement. I found all that and more from Gerry! We met when I first returned to work and my first born son was 6 months old. What began as a fun side kick soon turned into a serious love affair which took both of us by surprise!
We were both just looking for some adventure that was missing in our marriages! Within 6 months Gerry asked me to move to Cape Town where he had relocated for a new job. After a short romantic week together I made the decision to get divorced and make the big move.
I must confess that God was nowhere to be found in my life at that time or for the 22 years I had lived. He was just a “party pooper” who had nothing to offer and people of faith were just religious nut cases whom I avoided like the plague. Except for my one best friend Heather who in her gentle quiet way was my only contact with Christianity.
I managed to stage my own divorce which was finalized by May 1987 and in August that year I moved to Cape Town to join the love of my life. My son would turn 2 years old in September but Gerry was still very much married with 2 homes to support. I knew nothing about the pain, anguish and guilt he felt as he tried to get divorced and had to leave his 2 children to start a new life with me. We are not proud of this part of our coming together because it caused pain for all our children. It was almost 2 years later that Gerry and I were able to make our marriage vows to one another on 13th April 1989.
And here we are 22 years later!
At the tender age of 23, I had a 2 year old son and I inherited 2 more sons aged 8 & 5. Looking back I am so thankful that the boys were young enough to give us time to become a family that was called “dysfunctional” but we were sometimes more normal than families untouched by divorce. Learning to be a step mother was one of the biggest struggles for me as a young woman. I was naive enough to think it would be easy which was probably a blessing in disguise. If you had told me that my cooking would be critiqued and compared to another woman’s, that we would only spend every alternate Christmas altogether as a family , that birthdays would present huge challenges geographically, that I would still say “your kids” 20 years later, I would have probably run a mile.
But in spite of the enormous challenges of being a “blended 2nd family” we have come to realize that its been an amazing opportunity for every one of us. Its been hard for the kids to be a step brother, a half sister, a step grandchild. Its was fun telling people that at 30 years old I had a 17 year old, a 14 year old, an 11 year old and a 6 year old!
We’ve had the privilege of welcoming 2 daughter-in-laws into our family plus our 1st grandchild!
We’ve seen God do miraculous heart surgery in our lives and in the lives of our children.
His grace and His forgiveness is what has enabled us to still be madly in love and fully committed to one another after 25 years together! We know that its only through God’s intervention in our lives that we are celebrating today!
His work began in 1993 when I experienced the incredible grace of God in my life followed by Gerry in 1996.
Since then we have committed our lives to serve Him and live according to His ways.
We responded to him in 2000 when we heard His whisper to join him in his kingdom work and we took the plunge in 2004 with the big move from Cape Town to Pretoria to join Willow Creek Ministries.
We have been blessed beyond our wildest dreams and we have experienced God’s incredible goodness in ways I cannot begin to count. We share the same passion for the local church, the same vision for the church to be relevant and lead by “leaders” not managers, the same holy discontent when its not working right or as God intended! Its only since serving God that I have been able to travel with Gerry! Its only since serving God that I have travelled internationally! Been able to use my gifts and talents in a meaningful way! Been able to love others unconditionally! Been able to live with plenty or with little! Been able to make a difference in people’s lives! Been able to uplift and encourage God’s people! It has not been an easy journey and the transition into ministry life has presented some challenges! I am convinced now more than ever that with God all things are possible! The last few years have enabled me to live out my faith and rely on my faith like never before! My faith has become more real and reliable. It has become the very essence of who I am and how I live my life! It governs all my decisions and leads me to make the right choices. (Not without mistakes along the way! Not without things going wrong!)
I believe our faith and our individual journeys with Christ is what has kept our marriage thriving, growing and exciting! Its what keeps us committed to one another, our children and our life together! It wakes us up every morning to pray together before we start the day! It generates lively discussions and debates about life itself. I do dream of one day renewing our vows before our faithful God! What started in sin has been made pure & holy and continues to grow from glory to glory! We know without any doubt that without God our second marriage was doomed for destruction! But we also know that with God at the centre of our marriage we will grow more and more in love with one another and He will enable and empower us to remain faithful, committed and devoted to the very end when one of us will draw our last breath. That is God’s desire for every marriage!
I pray that you will see the significant difference between a marriage with and a marriage without God! We are living proof that marriage with God is the only way to ensure happiness and a long blissful life together!