We went to a nearby jewelry store and spent an afternoon searching for wedding rings that we liked, that fit well, and wouldn’t cost a second mortgage. Greg’s choice – a nice silvery, slender ring that was thin enough to feel comfortable. My choice was a little more detailed. The unique design featured tiny diamonds across the band and looked extravagant without the high price tag. To me, it was perfect.
Before we left the jewelry store, we debated on whether to purchase a lifetime warranty. The warranty required cleaning and diamond tightening every six months and, following this regimen, there would be no additional charge if a stone was missing. If we, meaning I, procrastinated and took it for service only when a diamond fell out, the jeweler would make the repair, but at a cost of $100 per rock. We paid for the warranty. The jeweler sized the rings and within a few weeks, we had both boxed in anticipation of our wedding day.
As time passed, we found there was a design flaw in the ring and the diamonds began to drop out. We were happy that we had purchased the plan to cover the repairs. The first diamond came out and we took it in for repair. All fixed. Then it happened again, then again, then three more. It was clear that more intricate repairs needed to be made. I had to leave the ring there to be sent off. It would take a couple of weeks -UNCOMFORTABLE! I asked Greg take me straight to the department store in the same strip mall and buy a $15 “fake” ring as a place holder. The pseudo ring was not as pretty, turned my finger green, but I felt comfortable until the real ring returned.
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Before Greg and I were married, we invested hours (days, weeks, months) into discussing everything you can imagine – responsibilities, finances, goals, housework, sex, parenting, grand-parenting, aging parents, work, and on. God guided us to connect spiritually, mentally, and emotionally before we connected physically. We knew this was important and meaningful, but it wasn’t until later in our marriage did we realize God had helped us invest in our own lifetime warranty.
Our marriage has been through so much in five years – loss, conflict, stress, healing, change, grief, moving – life changing events. All of which we carefully navigated as to not take a chunk out of our relationship – the diamonds – the good stuff, the God stuff that holds us and keeps us walking together as partners and friends. Sometimes, our diamonds just fell out, like my wedding ring, and there was nothing we could do about it. We learned to recognize the missing piece and hand it over to God for repair.
In August 2013, Greg’s position at the company we both worked for was eliminated. Shocking! But from that day forward, despite our disappointment, we prayed and trusted God to unfold His larger plan. For six weeks, the transition from full time employment to full time job search was challenging. For a man, who had worked to support loved ones since he was 15 years old, to suddenly not be in that role was alarming. I viewed my dearest friend the same as always, strong, solid, deliberate, loving, courageous, but what he saw in himself, well, it was a very different view.
Greg shut down and decided to deal with this tilted image on his own. He became another identity – distant and distracted. I watched the space between us grow and saw him suffer. The conversations stopped. A diamond has fallen out and it was nowhere to be found. I prayed ardently and often. I prayed for Greg, for me, for us, for the future.
Within a few weeks, Greg was contacted by Amazon about a management position. We would have to move out of the area for him to accept an offer. First, the job was to be in Indianapolis, then, just before his interview, Amazon changed the location to Central Pennsylvania. He received an offer and accepted the job. Plans went quickly in motion.
With new employment secured, I thought things would swiftly go back to normal and all would be well. The diamond would just pop back in with no effort. I was wrong. Greg continued to wrestle with himself, with a conflict I could not see to help. I continued to pray and look for answers that were not forthcoming.
Then, one evening, God put it on my heart to talk with Greg about one topic. Not job loss or feelings of failure or even his internal struggle. It was about his father.
I thought, “Well, that’s totally unrelated to anything, but ok, I’ll give it a shot.”
We walked through the backyard to our “discussion spot”, a bench with a lovely view of the lake.
I said, “Greg, God wants me to share something with you. The struggle you are dealing with is about your father.”
That was all – silence. I said nothing more and neither did he. Greg went into his purposeful analysis, as he usually does, to ponder the weighty statement. I had no expectations of resolving anything in that moment.
I knew God was up to something and I trusted Him to do the work. He is the expert, after all. The following day, Greg revealed his contemplations and conclusions. It had nothing to do with the layoff, yet that was the trigger for the central battle. It truly was about his father’s impact on Greg’s life, self-esteem, and resolve.
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Greg was 12 years old when his parents separated. By age 15, his mother was injured in a mining accident and his father stopped providing financial support. Greg went to work at a nearby hotel. He worked nights and weekends doing whatever job the hotel needed, cleaning rooms, front desk, night auditor, banquet events, even hiking up and staying during snow storms to cover for those who could not make it in. He also remained in school full time.
The first week of his senior year, his father committed suicide. The abandonment was complete. Struggling through the grief, Greg made a choice – a resolve. If he ever had children, he would never, ever abandon his fatherly responsibilities, regardless of life, marriage, or circumstances. He had a wonderful example of fatherhood from his uncle Russ and emulated his paternal attributes after him.
Through a separation and divorce, emotional and spiritual recovery, Greg had a constant commitment to keep his children close and care for them. But now, during the job loss period, the ghosts of the past had crept in to offer him a skewed look at himself, an unfounded feeling of inadequacy that was not reality. His children were all grown, he had been a good father despite life circumstances, and he had fulfilled his self-declaration of being the parent he desired for himself.
Greg realized his mission was complete and the goal had been reached. His feelings of inadequacy had come from a deep hurt that had not been healed – the string of abandonments from his own father. With God’s message, Greg wrestled, realized, and resolved the internal struggle. He was battling with something for which he had already attained victory. God helped him heal from a decades old wound and the diamond was back in place.
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Greg started working for Amazon in October 2013. The relocation process would take months, so Greg rented an apartment in Carlisle, PA, and would work during the week. He returned to Virginia on the weekends. We didn’t leave anything to chance. We knew the time apart would be challenging and without knowing what life was going to produce next, we vowed to start a devotional. We worked on it during our weekdays apart and on the weekends, took time to review and discuss. It brought us closer together and closer to God.
Life doesn’t let up. It gets messy, bumpy, and down-right unfair sometimes. Just like my wedding ring – the diamonds are going to fall out despite our best efforts to keep it safe. It requires maintenance, tightening, and cleaning. Our lifetime warranty is through the best, most talented Jeweler of all, Jesus. Just as I learned to let go of the wedding ring when it is sent off for warranty work and repair, Greg and I challenge ourselves and each other to hand our marriage over for maintenance – for repair to God –the Craftsman, Fixer of all things, the Creator of the diamonds.