When Courtney asked me to write on marriage recently I didn’t know what to say. I feel really inadequate to write about this topic because the picture I want for my marriage and my role in it, is not what you would see day to day in my marriage. The truth is, my marriage is hard. My husband in all his wisdom married someone with a lot of junk and while sometime it lends itself to be a strength, I am not an adapter. I see most of life in black and white and in his mercy The Lord has begun to teach me about the grey-the place where most of life is lived. He has been doing a work in my heart for many many years if not decades about this grey and the importance of being there and getting comfortable with the unknown.
The first year of our marriage, Jon and I both laugh and say we thought we married an alien. I mean I thought I knew this guy and it seems from the moment we said “I do,” the gates of hell broke loose and we were assaulted. Before the honeymoon was over we were dealing with an attack-sickness, more sickness and did I mention sickness-physically.
Today, ten years in, Satan is using the very same weapon of choice against us and for all the training we have had we are not good at this yet. The interplay of our junk amidst the dynamic of a sick wife and annoyingly healthy husband, is the training camp we have found ourselves in year after year.
When you grow up without a mom, its shocking to deal with a wife, not to mention a sick one. And when you grow up being sick in a family that is used to people being sick, it doesn’t set you up to be a very kind human to someone who is trying to figure out this new family dynamic. “Where mercy is shown, mercy is given.” Let’s just say my strong suit is not mercy.
But, here we are ten years into this thing and neither of us is leaving and if “Jon tries to leave, I’m going with him,” to steal a line from Voddie Baucham. I need him. Sometimes I don’t want him to know how much I need him but the truth is I do. He is my partner. He is my leader. Apart from Jesus, he is my model when it comes to serving and leading.
There have been so many hard times. So many. If you are in one I want to tell you to fight. Fight the lies to your heart, “It’s not worth it.” “It’s always going to be this way.” “He will never change.” “I will never change.” “What is wrong with me/him? I thought this was supposed to be fun? I must have made the wrong decision.” And on and on they go…..
I have been reading the Action Bible with Marshall and I have to say I think it is ministering to my heart more than his. The stories we are reading in the Old Testament are jam packed with people facing challenges that seemed insurmountable. Moses didn’t want to tell Pharoah to let his people go. He faced him time after time after time when The Lord caused plagues to come onto his people and Pharoah continued to lie and give false promises and hope. I am sure Moses must have felt discouraged. In my mind I would have been saying, “God you keep saying you are going to free us and this guy isn’t budging.” “He is going to kill me if you keep punishing his people and not setting us free.” “God when? WHEN are you going to move?” “The people are growing restless and I don’t know what to tell them when I am not sure I even believe you anymore?” “I think you need to find a new leader. I am tired. What I have to say isn’t working. I can’t do this anymore.” As I read to Marshall I kept thinking to myself, I don’t know that I would have that tenacity?
Story after story I am seeing how God works outside of my small paradigm.
When his people don’t know how to get through a wall he tells them to march around it seven times and it will fall. When the people worried about light he made the sun stand still. He fed the Israelites Mana from heaven everyday! Can you imagine going outside to collect your food off the lawn?!?! The stories go on and on of how God does not work in the limitations of my humanity. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego refusing to worship false idol and submitting to being thrown in the fire-only for The Lord to allow them to be fully human and alive while simultaneously being in a fire! I have to include this passage because this position that they take is a great example for us in our imperfect marriages. Pay close attention to verse 18. This is key I think for us.
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
This is the God that I serve. This is the God who was there as I made a covenant with him and Jon and committed in sickness and in health for richer or poorer til death do us part. This same one cares immensely about my vows and about the legacy of my little story. Even if God does not bring me happiness, I will refuse to let my marriage and family be taken down by the messages of the culture I live in. The whispers you hear in the night when everyone else seems happily snuggled with the one they love and you went to bed angry-again. Choosing to serve The Lord knowing that, “even if he does not…” we will serve Him.
I know my marriage is more challenging than many of my friends, but I also know that God is just as present with me as he is with them. He is just as bought in to the outcome and the story that is happening in my family, as he is in theirs. That he is FOR me, and that he never promised me an easy or happy life. In fact it was the opposite, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 I used to read that and say yeah I believe that of course you have but I really didn’t get it. Once I started reading story after story in the comic strip Bible version to my son, I noticed. You have overcome the world. You are not limited by anything.
As I read, The Lord started to do something major in my heart. I noticed when I was sabotaging myself in my marriage. I noticed when I was choosing to believe the worst instead of the best when Jon would show up late or be in a bad mood. I gave him a generous explanation-for myself. It was hard at first. I didn’t want to do it because I had formed pathways that made it easy for me to go to a place of “This ALWAYS….” I was losing the battle in my mind and it was affecting my heart and my home. I have been sick for months and felt so weak and yet this verse from Joshua 1:9 has spoken to me so deeply, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified;do not be discouraged, for The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Go back and read the context. It’s huge. The truth is I don’t deserve a “generous explanation”. Generous explanation is terminology I stole from our pastor, Andy Stanley’s, series called Staying in Love.
As I look to the people I know happily married for decades, this generous explanation concept, is the main thing they have in common. BUT, I want my husband to give me one when I am having a bad day. When he comes home and there is a pile of laundry, no dinner and screaming kids, I want him to choose to believe, “wow she must be really sick today, I am so glad that I am healthy and can come home to give my wife a hand.” And on the days when I am not sick he says to himself, Lord, thank you that we have a hot meal on the table. If the meal is burnt he says, “I am sure she was loving on our kids while this sat in the oven for five too many minutes.” He isn’t thinking geez she burnt our dinner AGAIN! Or, why can’t she just buck up and get the house in order? Can’t she do anything? If he thought like that every time I would live in a different home and me choosing to give him a generous explanation for something going wrong is the same grace that Jesus paid for on the cross. That high price that he paid for me, he gave that same gift to Jon. For me to not offer the gift in my imperfect way is in a sense saying something pretty prideful. Who do I think I am? Better than Jesus? And yet I act this way too often. For our marriage to be healthy and endure the seasons of life I need him to give me a generous explanation and he needs the same from me.
The truth is that Jon does this very well. The problem in my marriage is often me. I have a long list of reasons why it wasn’t me, and I am sure you may have some yourself, but the only offering I have to give to The Lord is me. He did not give me authority over Jon, so my friend we gotta take our husbands off the table and offer what we have to give.
Our God is a God of order. He wants us to give him full authority over our marriages. We start with US. We offer ourselves and say YES to our commitment. To nurturing the family we have. We want to have a big impact on our kids and lead them to love this Jesus-we keep watering the grass in our own yard. We pray. We ask for prayer and accountability for the things we are struggling to do ourselves. We go to counselors and spend money we may have meant to save. (Maybe we spend thousands of dollars over years of time.) We give generous explanations. We serve when we don’t feel like or they don;t deserve it and our hearts will follow-it could take time but we know that God is not limited by our small circumstances that seem overwhelming. We devour truth-have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous……
**DISCLAIMER:I am not a marriage expert. I am well aware there are a plethora of people more qualified to write to you on this subject. I only hope that some of my experience and learning from my walk with The Lord will encourage you to stay in the game and perhaps experience more joy and contentment in whatever situation you are in. If you are in an abusive situation, please go to a pastor and/or counselor to seek help and wise counsel. We are not meant to do this life alone. Shine the light on your deepest struggle and get the help you need.***