Love is a strange thing. In the beginning, it’s mostly adoration and a starry-eyed view of both each other and the future. Put that same couple through hard circumstances and you will see that love change. Either it will fall apart . . . or it will grow deeper than either one imagined. So that by the time they reach their golden years, you can’t hardly imagine one without the other.
This Sunday is our 17th wedding anniversary. For 17 years, I’ve been married to this man who has turned my world on its head many times. The way I think, feel, love, talk, and forgive has been shaped by this man being in my life.
Notice I did not say that he alone changed these things in me. I will get to that.
In the past, I have many times wished I could get to the end of my life and say that I have no regrets. But I know this is not true. I am a sinner who is saved by the grace of my God. A woman who knows the piercing pain of conviction and sorrow. Yet, I do hope I can get to Heaven’s door and say: Perhaps the lessons learned from my mistakes may have helped someone else avoid them.
So here are some of the lessons I have had to learn through struggles and tears . . . and what I would do differently if I could do it all over again.
Be more in love with my Lord than I am with my husband.
This. You honestly wouldn’t have to read anymore – for this is the one thing I want to leave with you today. It will completely change who you are from the depths of your soul. It will change how you love both the saint and the sinner, how you forgive both the friend and the foe . . . and it will see people as eternal souls with risks worth taking to reach them.
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Matthew 22:37
I would have said years ago that I loved God with all my heart, but over time I began to realize how tightly I held onto my husband and my kids. What if God stripped me of everyone in my life? Would I be able to say then that I still loved Him with all my heart? Did I do things for Him and Him alone, or for others to notice me?
This was a struggle for me as I began to be convicted that God did not have His rightful place in my life. I wondered that if I fell more in love with my Lord, wouldn’t that make me love my husband less?
God was patient. He was forgiving. And in time, I slowly handed over my husband, each of my kids, and even my dream of having more children. I honestly cannot put into words what happened in my heart and I cannot type this without tears.
It felt as though God Himself said, “Now you are finally Mine.”
And peace flooded my being. I even found that not only was I not loving my husband and kids less . . . I loved them more – deeper, with a love that only God can give. It was like He stretched my heart fuller – not with my human love, but with His divine love flowing through me to my family.
If you are where I was a couple years ago, do this one thing: simply ask Him to deepen your love for Him until He completely sits upon the throne of your heart. This is where the joy is. This is where you will find the peace that boggles your mind. I honestly didn’t know true joy until I loved God more than anything or anyone in my life.
Some of you may be in really rotten marriages and wonder what I even had to struggle about. Yet although the devil is out to destroy as many marriages as he can, we can all rest assured that God extends the same invitation to us all. He offers the same joy, the same peace, the same grace to everyone.
My husband is not responsible for my happiness.
We women need to do our men a huge favor and release them from this burden of being our source of happiness. It has to get rather claustrophobic and suffocating for men to constantly feel like they must walk on eggshells around us women.
Once I released my husband from this huge responsibility, I found that I was my own woman. My moods no longer hinged on whether his were good or bad. My source of joy was still there amongst the rain and the tears.
When we find that our love for God is where our joy is . . . then our husbands can be who God really wanted them to be in the first place: a tool He uses to shape us for the kingdom. I believe marriage is not designed primarily to make me happy – but to make me more like Christ.
Marriage teaches me more about love. More about patience. More about forgiving when the pain is still raw.
Remove him from my list of renovation projects.
I think there are many young women who come to marriage with the idea that her new husband is going to be like her father. As little girls, we adore our fathers – at least those who are godly fathers. I know there are many of you who have been hurt by your fathers, and I pray God’s healing grace in your lives.
But it can come as a jolting surprise to find out that we are now married to a guy who is little more than a grown-up teenager who is ready to take the world by storm, and *gasp* we just volunteered to go along with him! This is when we begin to dig our heels in and say “But my dad didn’t do it that way!”
Oh dear. Yup. That is among the worst of worsties to say to your man.
It’s a huge wake-up call to realize you just boarded a boat heading out to open sea and the only other passenger is the captain . . . who is probably as young as you are and has never sailed one of these boats before. It’s so easy for us women to begin to think we must change this captain of our boat so that he steers us in the direction of waters a little more familiar to us.
If you do this, you will soon find that your hands are the ones guiding the boat and that handsome captain of yours has been humiliatingly demoted. He will be stifled, controlled, and much less of a man than the one you married. You will effectively have cut him off in his prime.
Instead we women need to let them go. Sure your boat may be heading to uncharted waters – but what can get more exciting than that? It’s time we ladies release our men to be the ones God meant for them to be. Sit back in your boat, grab your glass of iced tea, and cheer that captain on.
But what if there is imminent danger in the direction he is headed? Do something like this.
“Oh hon! I see an iceberg off to your right! Might want to watch out for that!” Then sit back, shut up, and pray. You know where you are going if it crashes anyway. If the man values his life at all, he will avoid it and thank you profoundly for that warning.
Sometimes all that is needed is to take our hands off the steering wheel. And say, “It’s all yours, Honey! I’m here to pray, cheer you on, and pick up the pieces if we crash . . . but the boat is yours.”
Allow God to use this man to change me for the better.
Sometimes in marriage you begin to believe a little lie: that in times of discord it is your spouse who is the enemy. When in reality, it is a spiritual battle and the devil is the one who is the enemy. Not my husband.
I am a tender heart and if you prick me, I will cry. Probably most women are like this. But one of my biggest struggles was learning how to accept my husband’s critiquing of my personal and spiritual life. And just so you know, in all of these points I am making here, they have not yet been totally conquered in my life. I still struggle, yet I still try.
One of the turning points for me was when I began to love my Lord more than my husband. It helped me to view his loving critiques through a whole different lens. Perhaps this was God speaking to me, loving me, trying to change me for the better – not just that my husband was disappointed in me. Not just that my pride had been hurt.
I realized that God was using this man in my life to make me more like Him. And I now am so grateful for that!
This post is getting long, but let me leave you with one more . . .
Be willing to dance to the tune of a different song.
Imagine a group of young women – all dancing to music. Some of them are looking around trying to match their timing with others, while some women are dancing to a tune in their head. It can look chaotic and not very beautiful at all. They look haphazard and worn out from trying to get with their peers.
But what about the one girl whose eyes are on a figure far ahead? She seems to be dancing to a tune that nobody else can seem to hear. Her eyes are glowing as they gaze on the Maker of music. It is His song she hears. It is His tune she dances to. It is for Him that her feet glide lightly.
She does not even seem to notice the other dancers . . . for her eyes are on her director.
Be this dancer. Be this beautiful woman.
Be the one who listens for the tune of her Maker.
When her marriage runs onto hard times, you would hear her whisper:
“Father, the world tells me to do this one way, my peers another. But I want to do it Your way. I am listening.”
Don’t let hard times take away your song.
Don’t give up dancing in your marriage . . .
just learn to dance to a tune that rings of Heaven.