What do you mean I can't come home?" I asked my dad, shocked.
"I'm sorry, Jamie," he replied, "but if I allowed you to come home, I'd be interfering in what God is trying to teach you."
"But I hate it here!"
My husband, Mike, and I had been married only a few months. We'd just had one of our first major arguments, an issue so important I can't even remember now what it was. In a fit of rage, I stormed onto our back porch and called my parents in Michigan, letting them know I'd be on the first flight out of Philadelphia. I expected them to take my side, to say, "Of course! Come home!" Instead, my father informed me that was not an option.
"You've never told me I couldn't come home! Why are you being so unfair?" I accused.
"Jamie, your gut reaction has always been to bail when things get difficult," Dad replied. "Your marriage vows were for better or worse, until death do you part. I know you didn't think the 'for worse' part was going to come so soon, but it did, and you need to learn how to deal with it. You're not welcome in our home under these circumstances. You need to work out things with Mike."
Although I knew Dad was right, in my stubborn pride I wanted him really to understand why I needed to come home. I didn't get far in my tirade against Mike before Dad interrupted me.
"Everyone has problems. I'm sure Mike is equally frustrated with you. Think about how committed God is to you. Does he leave you when things get tough? No, he's committed to you for life and there's nothing you can do to make him go back on his promises. That's how committed you need to be to Mike."
At the sound of my sobs, Dad's voice grew gentler. "I love you, and that's why I can't let you come home. I'd be hindering what God wants to do in your marriage. You need to pray—a lot. Become saturated in the Bible and let that influence the way you treat Mike. You're equally at fault in the argument you just had. Now go back inside and apologize."
"Thanks a lot, Dad," I said sarcastically.
After I hung up, I reluctantly grabbed my Bible and opened it to Genesis 2:24: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." As I meditated on this Scripture, I realized my impulse to run home whenever Mike and I fight is disobedient to God. Sticking with my husband isn't a choice or something I do only when I feel like it-it's God's will for my marriage.
I broke down in tears-but this time they were tears of joy for a father who knew what was best for me and pointed me to God. I went inside, truly broken at the way I'd treated Mike. While my first instinct was just to walk past him, God reminded me I couldn't ignore the problem. So after a brief internal tug-of-war, I sat down humbly and explained the phone conversation I'd just had.
"I'm sorry I turned to my parents, instead of to you," I said. "From now on I promise I won't try to run home when things between us get tough."
"Jamie, you need to understand that I'm here for you," Mike replied. "I love you and I'm committed to our marriage. I'll do whatever it takes to make it work."
Since that time, I've experienced the fruit of my father's advice. Now when Mike and I argue, I'm not tempted to go home. Talking things through, not running away, helps me achieve my ultimate goal—for God's grace to be displayed in my marriage.
I still miss my parents. Living at home with them made me feel safe, and some days it's difficult knowing I'll never have that same security again. I'm learning that's not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it's a good thing. Because when I leave my parents, I experience the joy that comes from cleaving only to my husband. And in doing that, I know I'm pleasing God.
Mike and Jamie Bartlett have been married one year and live in Pennsylvania.
Been married five years or less and have an issue, challenge, adjustment, or rant about marriage? Tell us about it! We'll pay $150 for each story that's featured in this column. Send it to: Starting Out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2006 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine.Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.