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CBN.com This year, Deborah and Clayton Bryant are having an extra special Christmas. That’s because they get to celebrate it together with their new granddaughter. But in 1988, Christmas wasn’t a time for celebration.
They married in 1983. Both had children from their first marriages and hoped this time they could make it work.
Deborah says, “When things were good, he treated me like a queen. I never had that before. Anything I wanted, anything I wanted to do. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was really bad.”
Clayton had a short fuse, and his temper could erupt without notice. At first, Deborah held it in.
“It built up and built up and I let loose,” Deborah says, “and I would be just about as bad as he was at times. Throwing things, angry.”
Financial pressures and tensions within their blended family added more stress to their already strained marriage.
Clayton says, “I thought we had anger issues going on between the kids, and financially we were always stretched.”
In 1988, it all fell apart. Clayton’s parents sold the family’s metal fabrication business. Clayton ended up without a job.
“I probably resented the fact that I was unemployed and things like that,” he explains.
The fighting got worse. The pressure to make the money now fell on Deborah. She says, “I felt sorry for him, but at the same time, I just couldn’t deal with everything else that was going on. The stress with the kids just emotionally was just too much.”
Then two weeks before Christmas, Deborah took the kids, the furniture and left her husband.
“Once everything was moved out of the house, we stood in the basement and hugged each other,” Deborah says. “That was the end of it.”
Then Christmas came. Clayton was broke and alone.
“Christmas Eve, I went to town, went into a department store and wanted to pick up a couple of small gifts for the kids,” Clayton recalls. “It was the strangest feeling. I was walking in the store. Here it was Christmas Eve, all full of people, and I felt like I was all alone in the universe.”
Clayton had hit bottom. He realized he needed to reach out to God.
He says, “They say there aren’t too many atheists in a foxhole, so I said a prayer every night for the marriage to work out. It wasn’t happening.”
As the months passed, Clayton found work, and Deborah filed for divorce. Less than a week before the divorce would become final, Clayton gave up hope on his marriage.
Clayton says, “That night I changed my prayer. I said, ‘Lord, I just pray that my wife would find happiness.’ Less than hour later, she called me on the phone and said, ‘We gotta work this out.’ I couldn’t believe it.”
What Clayton didn’t know was that Deborah had also reached out to God.
“One night I don’t even know why,” Deborah says, “I guess I had been doing a lot of soul searching. God must have been speaking to me, because I just totally broke down and cried out to Him. I asked Him to come into my life and forgive me for all the things I had done wrong. I thought, 'I really want to make my marriage work,' as crazy as it sounded then.”
Deborah moved back in, and they started going to church. Eventually, both of them accepted Christ as their Savior. It wasn’t easy rebuilding their marriage, but they weren’t alone.
Deborah says, “The Lord did it. I could never have done it on my own. I don’t see how anyone else could do it on their own either. The Lord gave me the strength to forget all the hurt that I had and just concentrate on doing what He wanted me to do. That’s what I did with His strength.”
Clayton went into business for himself as a blacksmith. His specialty is candelabras, and he’s been at it now for 15 years.
The couple admits their marriage isn’t perfect. But through God’s grace, much has been forgiven and many wounds have healed.
“There’s always hope in Jesus,” Clayton says. “He can do miracles. He can. If He put my marriage back together, He can do it for anybody.”
Deborah concurs, “He gives us that bond that keeps you together. There is hope. There really is hope.”
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