It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Mark and Lynda Chapman had already overcome much worse — 10 years of Mark’s drinking, his lies and his manipulation. The endless cycle of tears and forgiveness, followed by more lies and manipulation. Confrontations that would have sent most spouses packing.
Through faith and prayer and support from loved ones, they’d managed to weather those dark, dysfunctional days and come out the other side; scarred and scathed but more committed to each other than ever.
So why now, after all they’d been through, were the Chapmans once again fighting over anything and everything?
“We couldn’t agree on the color of the grass,” Mark says. “It was constant bickering, arguing and general unhappiness. We were strong believers by this time, but we couldn’t find the solution.”
Mark hadn’t touched booze in years, but Lynda says it was like their marriage was “in the ditch again.”
“We even separated a couple times, for a week or so, thinking we just needed some distance or time apart,” Mark says. “We were starting to question if God even wanted us together.”
Out of desperation, Mark called his friend Tony Elrod. Mark told Tony what was going on at home and that he had no idea where to turn for help.
Fortunately for the Chapmans, Tony had an idea.
The early days
As newlyweds in 1986, Mark and Lynda lived in south Texas. “We had a great first five years of marriage,” Lynda says, “living the culture of tequila and the fast life on South Padre Island.”
By the early 1990s, the Chapmans had relocated to rural Indiana, where living amid the cornfields with a new baby brought a screeching halt to the young couple’s carefree lifestyle. Mark thought he was hiding his drinking, but Lynda knew. They began to fight — not just about the alcohol, but about everything.
Another argument, another baby, another move … this time closer to Indianapolis. Somewhere along the way, Lynda recalled the faith of her youth. Somehow she knew that God was their only hope. She began praying for Mark and their marriage.
The breaking point came on a Friday night in the fall of 2002. Mark’s birthday. They had another blowup, and this time Mark trapped Lynda in the bathroom.
“He never hurt me,” Lynda says, “but I knew it was time to leave and let God be in control.”
That night Mark drove away. When he came back, Lynda and the kids were gone. Two days later, alone in his truck in the parking lot of his children’s school, Mark bowed his head in surrender to God.
When she returned home, Lynda says, Mark was a different person — his desire for liquor supplanted with a drive to learn everything he could about his newfound faith.
Mark became the spiritual leader in our family,” Lynda says, “and he was determined to help others struggling with addiction.”
The Chapmans teamed up with local pastor Dan Johnson, and in 2006 they started a ministry for addicts and their families. Things seemed to be going well until late 2010, when the couple’s relationship started veering back into the ditch.
When things went from bad to worse, that’s when Mark decided to give Tony a call.
A fresh start
Turns out that Tony knew a guy — a board member for what is now the Focus on the Family Retreat Center. Based in Branson, Missouri, the retreat center is dedicated to restoring marriages in crisis through the three, four and five-day Hope Restored marriage intensive programs.
Mark and Lynda arrived in Branson in December 2011. During their three-day intensive session, the Chapmans learned how to stop giving into their fears, how to embrace their differences and how they’d failed to prioritize their relationship over work and ministry.
“I learned that, although I love Mark and am happy with him, I can’t look to him to fulfill my need for happiness,” Lynda says. “That comes from a relationship with God.”
The Chapmans say there is a night-and-day difference in their marriage today, and they want to encourage other couples struggling in their relationship. “Everyone needs help because marriage is frequently challenging and stressful,” Mark says.
And in case they ever forget what they learned, the Chapmans keep some reminders close by.
“When we were working with Robert [our counselor], he drew illustrations on large sticky pages,” Lynda says. “To this day, those posters hang on our bedroom wall as a reminder of how to take care of our marriage.”
Do you know of a marriage in crisis? Learn more about Focus on the Family’s marriage intensives by visiting HopeRestored.FocusOnTheFamily.com.