I didn’t think things were that bad. Don’t get me wrong. I thought my marriage was bad. I knew deep down that there was no way God wanted this kind of marriage for my spouse, for me or for my children, and yet I didn’t think it was that bad. I liken it to the frog in a pot of water that has no idea it’s slowly being boiled to death because the temperature is going up in such small increments. I would journal things on a regular basis that seemed not quite right and I would occasionally toss them out in my circle of friends and they would sometimes gasp, but I still just thought we weren’t a good match. I’m no fool, I assure you, but I stayed because I honestly didn’t realize there was actual abuse taking place.

I’m tenacious. I ran for vice president of my class when I was a freshman, sophomore and junior in high school. I lost each year but kept going back for more. When my first manuscript was rejected fifty-one times, I didn’t give up. I’m grateful, because it finally found a publishing home with my fifty-second try, and that turned out to be one of my life’s best surprises. In other words, when the odds are stacked against me, I tend to fight harder for the thing that I think I’m supposed to have. I stayed because an intact marriage was something I was certain I was supposed to have.

I know that people are watching my life. There are people in my life – family and friends – who don’t believe in or follow Jesus. I know they are watching to see how I handle life’s ups and downs. I have readers and audience members who want to believe that what I write and say match how I live my life. I believe in marriage. I believe God wants marriages to stay together. I stayed because I didn’t want to let people down, I didn’t want to turn people off from God, and I wanted to be the kind of person who does what she says. 

I promised God I would stay. I told myself innumerable times over the years that the only reason I was staying was because I told God I would. I made a promise, a vow. I entered into a covenant. I don’t take that lightly. I want to be the kind of person that people count on, that God can count on. I stayed because God is my authority, the One I will answer to, and the thought of disappointing him broke my heart on a regular basis. (It still does.)

Only God knows the rest. I suppose I could keep going. I suppose there is a reason that I stayed versus left for every day that I was married. I’d pick my daughter up out of her crib and know that I wasn’t going anywhere that day. Or I’d sit with a friend in a hard marriage and know that my staying helped her to stay. Or I’d hold the hand of a stranger after a speaking engagement and pray that she would have the strength to stay and do the hard, right thing. Or I’d watch my son be taught how to throw a baseball by his dad and realize that he wouldn’t have this memory if I hadn’t stayed. I stayed for a thousand reasons that I know of and a thousand reasons I can’t even see. 

But bottomline, I stayed because of God.

In part three of this four-part series, I answer the question, “As a Christian, how did you stay so long?”

In the final installment of this four-part series, I answer the question, “As a Christian, why aren’t you staying forever?”

(c) Copyright Elisabeth K. Corcoran, 2011

Elisabeth is the author of At the Corner of Broken & Love: Where God Meets Us in the Everyday; One Girl, Third World: One Woman’s Journey into Social Justice (Kindle); He Is Just That Into You: Stories of a Faithful God who Pursues, Engages, and Has No Fear of Commitment (WinePress), In Search of Calm: Renewal for a Mother’s Heart (Xulon), and Calm in My Chaos: Encouragement for a Mom’s Weary Soul (Kregel).

Visit her blog here or watch Elisabeth and her friends spread hope through Africa with Samaritan’s Purse.

Elisabeth is a proud member of the Redbud Writers’ Guild.