From Chicken Soup for the African American Soul

A Miracle for My Heart

It’s pretty hard for the Lord to guide you if you haven’t made up your mind which way you want to go.

Madame C. J. Walker

Imagine a boulder jarred loose from its solid rock foundation after a series of earthquakes. Can you see it perched precariously on a crumbling, rocky overhang midway down a steep mountainside, one aftershock away from violent descent and disintegration into millions of tiny fragments? If you have a mental picture of that, then you can visualize my marriage from 1991 to 1996.

After nine sometimes challenging but mostly wonderful years, my standard response to any cheerful, “Hi, how are you?” was a flat, “Hey, just trying to stay married.” And I wasn’t trying to be funny. I was just keeping it real. When had reality evolved to this? I had to dig deep to resurrect our first reality, the happy one, the beginning. . . .

Our first official date at a restaurant ended with us hanging out at his mother’s house with his sister and her boyfriend. Lots of talking and laughing, meaningful glances, teasing, testing. But more than anything, I remember feeling incredibly comfortable and connected. Somewhere near the end of the evening, this funny, spiritual, musical, ambitious, solid-rock-steady, bold, beautiful black man became the brand-new owner of my heart.

Gradually, the tart aftertaste from my previous relationship was invaded by the fresh sweetness of our three-year romance. We laughed and played, kissed and cuddled, shared and dreamed. I didn’t have to wonder what heaven was like. Being with this man was the closest I’d ever come to being on hallowed ground.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Naturally, I’d always understood God as holy and Creator, but I’d never experienced Him as friend and companion. I realize now that if there had been a simpler, less painful way for me to learn that my God—not my fiancé—was to be the number-one man in my life, events would have unfolded differently.

So what was all the talk about “Marriage is work”? Marriage was marvelous! I didn’t know who all the other women in the world had married, but I had a prince! That’s why I was careful not to rock the boat, not to say or be anything that might jeopardize this miracle on Earth. I was determined that nothing would separate us—not careers, or children, or “growing apart,” or “irreconcilable differences.”

I wanted it to be a perfect marriage, but I didn’t understand that perfection grows from the seeds of humanness, watered by divine grace. How could I possibly know that the turbulent waterfall we were headed for eventually surfaced in pristine pools of calm, clear, deeply peaceful waters? I had read that God’s strength was made perfect in our weakness, but I had to live it to learn it.

It was the mid-1990s. I was oblivious to politics, the economy, world events, whatever. I only knew that I had forgotten what it meant to be a vibrant, versatile participant in a meaningful life. Everything that could possibly go wrong in our marriage gradually did. I suddenly found that my duties as a wife, mother, homemaker, RN, and church deaconess were performed with robotic obligation, completely devoid of joy or purpose. God seemed to be on extended vacation, and I sure hoped He was having fun, because I definitely wasn’t.

In fact, if this was to be my life, I was no longer interested. How had my failing marriage come to represent my self-esteem, my accomplishments, my entire world? And when exactly had my emotional whirlwind of anger, resentment, irritability and depression settled into a mindless state of numb indifference? It would take a miracle for my heart to live and breathe and thrive again. And that is exactly what God had in mind.

By the time my husband invited me to hear him play with a jazz band one evening at a local function, I didn’t care enough anymore to have any man in my life, divine or otherwise. God, however, was a sweet and faithful song, looking beyond my faults to see my need. Even as I refused my husband’s invitation, ignored the flicker of hope that faded from his eyes as I claimed to be without a babysitter, angels must have been hastily dispatched to do the Master’s bidding. While I returned to my magazine, he finished loading up his instruments and paused at the door.

“If we can’t support each other anymore, there’s no reason to stay together. If you really don’t want to go tonight, it’s okay. But I already packed a bag, and I won’t be back after the concert.”

He couldn’t possibly feel the chill that instantly descended on my heart and stilled the flow of blood in my veins. He could only see my brief upward glance, and the casual shrug of my shoulders. He only heard a flippant “Okay, whatever,” before turning slowly and walking out.

I remember the crushing silence that followed the closing of the door. Finally, it could all be over. Why wasn’t I relieved? What was that strange stirring in my heart that in some mystical way made me struggle to catch my breath and order my thoughts? Fear? Indecision? Desperation? Or was it simply the unmistakable fluttering of angels on assignment? I tried to refocus on my ridiculous magazine, but the words blurred into a haze of gray and it fell from my hands.

A silent prayer exploded in my mind, God, you said you’d handle this and you didn’t! I talked to you over and over again about this and trusted you to work it out, but it’s falling apart. What about my children? My family? I did my part but you didn’t do yours!

I slid off the couch and collapsed face down on the carpet, knees drawn up under my belly, arms outstretched in abject surrender.

“God, please . . .” For the first time in my life I felt truly connected to the Savior as my lifeline. “God, please . . .”

My humanness was swallowed up in His divinity, His peace was mine.

An intense restlessness suddenly dispelled my calm and compelled me to my feet, willed me to the phone. Three attempts. Three failures. No babysitter. A jumble of disconnected thoughts: Maybe my marriage wasn’t meant to work? Why can’t I just read my magazine? I don’t want him to leave! But it’s too hard; I already tried. It’s too soon to give up; it could work. Swallow your pride. You know you still love him, and you saw his eyes, he loves you back. But I’m so tired.

The shrill ringing of the phone vaporized my thoughts.


It was a close family friend. “Is there something you’d like to do tonight? I can babysit for you if you want.”

“What?” How was this possible? (Obviously my faith was quite a bit smaller than a mustard seed.) “I thought you were at a program tonight,” I whispered.

“Well, for some reason I think it’s more important that I babysit for you. Do you want me to come?”

A surge of excitement. Crazy hope. “Yes!”

He didn’t see me slip silently into an empty seat in an unlit corner, but his eyes periodically swept the room, purposeful, persistent—things I’d always loved about him. When he found me his face lit up like the sun. He grabbed the mike and announced to 150 people that “a very special person has just arrived, and I’d like to ask my beautiful wife to please stand.”

Even as my tears threaten to spill over at this moment, I would be lying if I said it was easy after that night. We would return to the brink of collapse more than once. But that night we both knew that God had engineered a miracle to keep us together. And today, two weeks from our twentieth anniversary, I am still amazed at the shift in my chest when I see him across a crowded room, at the ache in my gut when I miss him and hear his voice on the telephone across the miles, at the way I bask contentedly in the warmth of his eyes and the sweetness of his kiss.

And I never cease to wonder that my own personal God loves me enough to send angels on a mission to transform hurt into healing, and grant me a miracle for my heart.

Karlene McCowan

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