Scott and I married in October of 2004. It was a second marriage for both of us with three kids between us, and we lived happily ever after. The end.

Well, OK…maybe it didn’t actually go down like that. Here’s our story.

Scott and I married in October of 2004. With stars in our eyes and hearts thumping out of our chests for each other, we took the plunge into marriage with nothing but love and positive outcomes for the future dancing in our heads. Cue the mentally ill son, the vindictive ex-wife, the overly dramatic toddler, the socially unattached other son, the fact that we were step-parents, the wounds and perceptions from past marriages, the decision to adopt older children out of foster care, and BOOM we found ourselves in a deep pit of daily chaos and an escalating pile of resentment for each other and our circumstances.

With each failure within our family – and there were many and often – we individually took on messages about our own worth and the other’s intentions. Long story short…in 2015 our marriage was coming to an end. Just as much as Scott hated me, I hated him. We each thought about how life would be easier if the other weren’t around. Had we made a mistake in joining our two families? A Christian marriage counselor we had been seeing thought perhaps it was a mistake and called us back to her office to work out the terms of our separation the following day. By God’s grace, despite truly wanting to call it quits, we showed up to that meeting and told her that we weren’t going to separate. (We ended up firing her, by the way.)

In February of 2015 Scott attended a Men at the Cross weekend, and because of the miraculous change I saw in him, I went to Women at the Cross that April. We credit what God showed us at our MATC/WATC weekends for saving our marriage and for completely changing the way we look at ourselves and others. The truth of who we are in God’s eyes coupled with the awareness of how our heartbreaks and failures have shaped how we respond in life was a recipe for Scott and I to see ourselves clearly and to recognize ways we are triggered and the negative ways we react to try to get our needs met. The awareness we gained because of this has allowed us to be proactive in meeting each other’s needs through effective communication as well as to recognize when we are leaning toward damaging coping skills rather than looking to God to get our needs met. An added element, that has been vital to our success, is the authentic community that MATC/WATC offers – men and women who care enough to call us out of our false ways of living, who are vulnerable and real in the context of community, and who are intentional in working on stepping into the truth of who God says they are instead of wallowing in the messages that life and our human nature want to throw at us.

Yes, life still has its challenges, and marriage is not easy. The difference for me and Scott now is
that we each see our own worth through God’s eyes, and when we’re tempted to turn to false and destructive ways of living, which always squashed love, we now turn to Grace and Truth. It’s made all the difference. Our marriage is thriving even in the midst of continued difficult family issues, and I am so happy that God met us in such a profound way at Men at the Cross and Women at the Cross and that we have such an amazing community of authentic Christians to walk through life with.

— Heather Papay, proud wife of Scott Papay