Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Truth(s) About Marriage

From her book, For the Love

In my rant about persevering through the hard of marriage *see post "I'm Not Sure I Want To Be Married Anymore"* I shared that Clay and I have had some sucktastic years. Long story short: all of our marriage problems were Clay's fault. 
(Ha! I couldn't even type that with a straight face.) 
No matter how much I told myself this fallacy, it wasn't true; but I did learn a few truths along the way...

Truth #1: Marriage can be a crutch. 
For the first ten years, Clay and I sailed along smoothly. Our "autopilot" had a lot of Biblically-based tendencies. Our parents had taught us some healthy habits. We were happy. 

Even though our marital harmony managed to hang on many years after the honeymoon, something was missing. I desired a spirit-filled, God-centered life, and I knew that God was second (or maybe even fourth?) on my list of loves. Christianity is a calling to more, so I prayed that God would help me to love HIM even more than I loved my husband.
(Did you just wince when you read that? Did you yell at the screen, "You idiot! WHY would you pray for something like that?!!")
How was I supposed to know that God would ask me to give Him my marriage? I thought he already HAD my marriage. (You know, because of all the happiness.) 
How was I supposed to know that I had SO MUCH in common with the rich young religious man in Matthew 19? He was too tied to his possessions to give them up when Jesus asked; and like him, I thought I was doing everything RIGHT, I had no idea that I would hold on to Clay with a vice grip when God asked me to place our marriage in His hands. 

Marriage can become a crutch for unhappy couples too. They keep leaning on their marriage expecting it to make life better, or they blame their marriage for their emptiness. Scripture is full of verses that say only GOD satisfies. 
(spoiler alert: Your spouse is NOT God.)

Truth #2: Marriages fall apart when we don't trust God.
God heard my prayer, and Clay started a new job which had him traveling A LOT. 
I became ticked A LOT.
GOD GAVE HIM THIS JOB. We sat in our living room with tears in our eyes and goosebumps on our arms because it was so clear that God provided this position. 

It was a perfect situation for spiritual growth. I am confident that Clay and I could have depended on God, prayed diligently for each other, made healthy choices about our time together, created healthy boundaries for his business, edified and built each other up, and remained a strong team. Um, those are not the choices that we made. 
When God allows His children to walk through the fire, they can CHOOSE to trust Him with each moment...or they can leave His protection and get burned. Can I just say, "Ouch."?

Truth #3: We are called to surrender. (That means quit fighting.)
A few years in, I was tired of being gracious. 
I wanted my old marriage back. I was mad at God. 
Clay was no longer funny. (Please acknowledge this as HUGE. Clay being funny and reminding me to breathe has always been a vital part of our marriage.)

Eventually, I couldn't fight (or cry) anymore. I finally decided to accept the life I had rather than keep fighting for the marriage I CRAVED. 
I had a clear vision of holding up the white flag of surrender. 
In war, no side will surrender unless they reach the point where the fight seems more painful than death, or enslavement, or imprisonment. I had reached that point. I was bloodied and battered from the battle, and I would accept this new marriage - as long as I didn't have to fight anymore. I was going to trust God. I was going to depend on Him. 

Soon after my surrender to God, Clay became funny again. 
I honestly wonder if God hardened Clay's heart for a while until I waved my white flag. I had to CHOOSE to love God more. To die to myself. To love Clay because he has innate value. 
In the past, I had loved Clay because he satisfied my needs, but we are called to love our spouses even when they don't. I needed to love Clay out of obedience to God...and not because he made me "happy".

I wish I would have fought the spiritual battle from the start - but I chose to fight Clay instead. God allowed me to make that choice. 
Thank you, Lord, for letting me learn that lesson. It brought me closer to You. You still used my poor decision for good and your glory. I definitely learned to love you more than Clay. 

Life improved for a while. Clay and I both made healthier choices for a couple of years. We got a reprieve from pain, enough to recover for round two. There was so much more to learn.

Truth #4: We twist scripture to support our selfish attitudes. 
Did you know it is possible to become so close to God that you don't even CARE about your spouse? Oh wait, I was sinning when I did that...

A few years ago, Clay once again became cocooned in an isolated work/stress bubble. 
I didn't want to fight this time. I knew I needed to turn to God. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided that God was ALL I needed.
Then, I twisted this spiritual decision into a convenient little package of lies.
I came to expect nothing good from Clay. (So he couldn't let me down.)
My running commentary became, "He won't. You are alone in this. You don't need Clay. You have God. God is enough."

I read scripture about marriage and husbands. I decided what our life was SUPPOSED to look like, and judged Clay when our marriage didn't match the picture in my head. 
CLAY was supposed to lead. HE was making unhealthy choices. HE needed to turn to Jesus. (All those sentences were true. There's the rub.)

Depending on God and searching His Word are healthy. 
Using that dependence as an excuse to harden my heart toward my spouse? Twisting scripture to judge him? Neglecting my responsibility to love and edify him?
The work of the enemy. 

All scripture and interaction with God should be applied to OURSELVES first. 
His word is used as a weapon against THE ENEMY. 
(Spoiler alert: Your spouse is NOT the enemy.)
I was making unhealthy choices and needed to turn to Jesus too.

I've seen it with my own eyes.
If both spouses turn to God, victory is guaranteed.
If only one spouse looks to God, it gets harder...but still very possible.

On many occasions I have seen men fall humbly to their knees and beg God to heal their marriages. Even when their wives had cheated on them, or if their wives had hard hearts toward them, I witnessed God prevail. It took repentance. It took obedience. It took leadership. It took consistency.
We woman are made for relationship. It is hard for us to resist a godly man...because he loves unselfishly. He considers us. He provides for our needs. He points us to God. 

Scripture also tells us that a man can be won over by the behavior of his wife (1 Peter 3:1). My own father preaches the validity of this scripture when he speaks of my mother's faith during THEIR harder years. Her life was a testimony showing him that God was worth trusting.

Clay and I have been slowly healing. We have (finally) been laughing again.
Prayer has been the biggest catalyst for this health.

Truth #6 God wants us to pray together (Matthew 18:20)
One morning when the alarm went off, in the dark quiet, I listened to God's leading rather than judging Clay for NOT leading. I held my husband's hand and started praying out loud.
(Let's be honest, I'm the verbal, passionate gusher in the family. If I want more out-loud processing about spiritual things in our marriage, it is probably MY job to initiate it. In our marriage oneness, Clay's half is passionate about music and generosity and side has most of the words.)

I prayed for this man I love. I prayed for his job. I repented. I begged for wisdom and unity.
The next day, I prayed again.
By the third day, Clay joined in the prayer after I finished.
After a week or so, Clay even began initiating some of our prayer sessions.
One day, I watched him pray over our youngest son in a moment of frustration.
We were experiencing God's power. Home was becoming a safe place. Through prayer, we saw that we had common goals. We acknowledged that we were still a team...of THREE.

Truth #7 The Bible has instructions for healing a marriage.
God's word is alive and active. Sharper than a double edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12)
God's word WILL cut down the enemy. God's word will prune away all the ugly in us.
It will also change the way you look at your spouse. God's perspective changes things.

After praying, Clay and I were primed to listen for God (and to God).
I can't really tell you all the lessons Clay started learning. (I'm the gusher, remember?)
But I saw him on his Bible App in the mornings, and I noticed his schedule choices improve, and his BEHAVIOR softened. When we did talk, he would interact more and clam up less...and we would laugh.

As for me, I asked God to put a guard over my mouth. (Psalm 141:3)
I started TRYING not to correct, or rebuke Clay (or our boys). Instead, I put my energy into edification. (1 Thessolonians 5:11, Romans 14)
It's easy for me to trust that God will get me through big, hard situations. He has repeatedly proven himself faithful to solve those problems. Trusting Him to do a mighty work in daily issues while I hold my tongue, however, is not so easy. 
(It feels downright IMPOSSIBLE some days.)
I haven't really given God much opportunity to prove himself faithful in that area.
It's time.

We are climbing out of the hard; but Clay is still stressed at work, and I still like to tell people what is wrong with them. (You read my last post, right?) 
So we cling to the truth: God is faithful. 
(Really. He is.)

"He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philipians 1:6

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