Why Christian Pat Answers for Marriage Don’t Work

When Pat Christian Marriage Advice Doesn't Work

When my oldest daughter was married last month and we were planning the service, we had to choose Scripture readings.

And so we googled “Bible readings for weddings”. And all the typical ones showed up: 1 Corinthians 13:1-8; 1 John 4:16-19 (about how God is love, even though the passage has nothing to do with marriage); Ecclesiastes 4:12 (a cord of three strands is not easily broken).

It seems that only certain passages are deemed worthy of a wedding. But in reading many of them I didn’t even think they fit a wedding all that well. So we chose different ones instead:

Romans 15:5-6

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

and:

Colossians 3:12-14

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

We thought those were beautiful for a wedding–and for a marriage! In fact, I’ve been praying that passage from Romans over my own marriage ever since, because I think it’s so wonderful.

But it occurs to me that we do something similar when it comes to marriage advice.

If a marriage problem pops up, we immediately pull out “the marriage passages” of Scripture, and often leave it at that.

Ephesians 5:22-33: wives submit to  your husbands and respect them; husbands love your wives.

Proverbs 31: Be a virtuous woman!

1 Corinthians 7: Don’t divorce and be generous sexually with your spouse.

1 Peter 3:1-7: Wives, obey your husbands and “win them without words”.

And maybe we’ll throw in 1 Corinthians 13 (about what love is) or Genesis 2 and 3 (about the creation story and the fall, too).

It’s as if God wrote this massive book sharing His heart with His people, and yet we’re only supposed to search out those few verses when it comes to marriage.

Don’t get me wrong–these passages are wonderful and give lots of wisdom and direction for our relationships. Bu they are not the WHOLE picture. When we look at those passages in isolation, we often distort them and, I believe, interpret them wrong. Context matters, and you can only interpret Scripture by looking at the rest of Scripture.

God created marriage as the perfect analogy of how He feels about His people. It’s the most important human relationship. And so don’t we think that the REST of the Bible may also have important things to say about marriage–important things about this very messy relationship which can’t always be summarized in pithy sayings or stitched on a pillow?

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by Accident
My new book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage launches August 18, and I’m so excited to take the next two weeks leading up to that launch to talk about this concept of Christian “pat answers”–advice that we give that often doesn’t satisfy because it misses the bigger picture.

Pat answers make two kinds of errors:

Either they make a big problem seem small (by minimizing the severity of the problem and suggesting a solution that won’t solve it at all), or they make a small problem much bigger by giving advice that sends a woman in a completely wrong direction.

An example of the making a big problem small: “just have sex more and then he won’t watch porn!

An example of making a small problem big: “God is close to the broken-hearted, so if you’re sad, just pray more!”

The first won’t work because it misunderstands the problem.

The second won’t work because it misunderstands God and what God wants from us.

And we aren’t going to grow in our marriages until we start thinking differently–getting rid of these pat answers, many of which we’ve heard our whole lives in church and in Christian culture–and getting back to what God wants for us.

And that’s quite simple: He wants us all chasing after Jesus and looking more like Him everyday.

Jesus didn’t live by simple formula. He lived His life always seeking out to do God’s will, and as He did that, He found great joy and brought joy to those around Him. His aim was always the same–to bring people closer to God–but His actions varied with circumstances. And that’s how we should live, too.

Submission NEVER means putting up with abuse: on Debi Pearl, submission, and wife abuse.I wrote an example of how Jesus varied His actions while keeping His aim in this post on how Submission Doesn’t Mean Putting Up with Abuse.

Some of you are walking through difficult marriages, and I’m so excited to be able to share with you how thinking about those problems differently and thinking about what God wants from you can change the whole dynamic of your relationship.

Some of you are walking through great marriages, but you still find yourself dissatisfied at times, and wondering why your husband doesn’t “get you” all the time. I’m excited to show you how sometimes the way that we think about marriage actually jeopardizes our happiness. And I’m excited to show you how some simple, practical things can turn the whole thing around!

Quite simply, our modern Christian culture has some awfully sloppy thinking.

And that sloppy thinking is impacting our ability to have great marriages. So it’s time to stop listening to pat answers and start listening to the WHOLE of God’s word.

In the next two weeks leading up the launch, I’m going to share with you my big picture for the book, and then look at 9 pat answers that can derail our thinking about marriage, and 9 thoughts that can send us in a better direction.

I’ll do that with some video–I’m getting Katie to help me make some videos the way that she does!

I’ll do it with a few contests and a few personal stories.

And it’s all going to culminate with the big launch on August 18 when you can win some prizes, and get lots of freebies if you’ve ordered the book early (or on that day!).

This book grew out of a viral blog post I wrote a few  years back–7 Thoughts That Will Change Your Marriage. But it also has grown out of my thinking about marriage that I’ve wrestled with on this blog for the last few years. Many of you, my faithful readers, have had front row seats to some of the debates here, and if you’ve enjoyed the posts, I know that you’ll enjoy the book!

If you order it now, it will be shipped on August 18. And if you order for your Kindle or other device, it will download as soon as it’s available.

And if you order now, it’s 51% off! Only $7.42 for the paperback on Amazon, while it’s $14.99 regularly. So lock in your pre-order price now!

Button Order the Book

And don’t miss any of the posts leading up to the launch–or your chance to win! Sign up to get my blog by email, or to get a weekly round-up of all the posts!

Now it’s your turn: What are some “pat answers” you’ve heard about marriage that can make a problem worse? Let me know in the comments–and I may use your answer for tomorrow’s Top 10 post!

 

Dads Roll Differently (And That’s Okay)

I am so happy to share these great words of parenting wisdom from Arlene Pellicane about how dads parent differently than we do–and that is okay! This is taken from Arlene’s newest book, 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom.

Dads Parent Differently

My oldest child Ethan is in 6th grade this year.  I remember when he was just a baby and I had my first mom’s night out.  I pulled into my driveway at 10 pm, certain my little bundle would be fast asleep in his cozy crib.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the garage door to find my husband James’ car missing!

A few minutes later, James came strolling in with baby Ethan who needed to be fed because he was hungry.  AT TEN O-CLOCK AT NIGHT!  I was ticked.  James had taken Ethan to the mall, with no regards to Ethan’s normal bedtime.

My mind whirled and my face grew hot.  I was mad.  The dishes were piled high in the sink; Ethan was in his high chair eating baby oatmeal.

Can’t you just get him to bed at a decent hour and do the dishes? I thought as I glared at the supposedly responsible party.

James was calm as a cucumber.  He said, “Lighten up.  One night won’t kill him.”

31 Days to Becoming a Happy MomWell, I guess James was right because Ethan’s still around.  It took me a few years to realize that instead of being indignant about the way James’ chose to parent that night, I could have been grateful.  I could have chosen to say, “Thank you for watching Ethan for the last 5 hours so I could go to a women’s event and get re-charged.”

I could have said, “Not many men would gladly watch their one-year-old and even dare to take them to the mall, but I guess you guys had a great time!”

Our husbands may not enforce curfew and rules like we do, but our children are still living and breathing aren’t they?

Perhaps we would be happier moms if we stopped putting the emphasis on being right all the time – on being the “superior know-it-all parent.”

We can make our husbands feel incompetent as dads with our cutting remarks.  We may have expectations that they must parent exactly how we parent.  But if you can embrace the differences (two heads are better than one), and stop expecting perfection from your spouse, you will be a much happier mom.  Give your husband the same grace you’d like for yourself.

Just because he does things differently, doesn’t mean he does it wrong.

Just this weekend, I was out of town at a speaking engagement.  On Friday night, James took our three kids (ages 5, 8 and 10) to the park at 8:30 pm to play laser tag with their new toy guns.  They were out until 10:00 pm!  A five-year-old!

Now, that’s not a schedule I’d ever sanction as a mom, but you know what?  It’s a good thing I wasn’t home because they had a blast.  Moms and dads roll differently, and I’m so grateful for that.

When your husband parents differently than you, how do you respond?  Is there a way you could improve that response?

We are giving away a copy of Arlene’s new book, 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom. Watch the trailer below and share in the comments your parenting stories to enter and win!

31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom

Arlene Pellicane 600x600jpg
Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom and 31 Days to a Happy Husband.  She is also the co-author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World (with Gary Chapman).  She has been a featured guest on the Today Show, Fox & Friends, Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, The 700 Club, and Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah. 

Arlene lives in the San Diego area with her husband James and their three children.

To learn more and for free family resources such as a monthly Happy Home podcast, visit www.ArlenePellicane.com

Wifey Wednesday: The Lovemaking Full Meal Deal

Please welcome guest posters, Dr. Dan and Linda Wilson, the authors of Lovemaking: 10 Secrets to Extravant Intimacy in Marriage–a book I was happy to read before it was published and endorse. Today they are sharing a new way of looking at making intimacy special with your spouse!

Lovemaking - The Full Meal Deal

Did you know that your sense of taste changes over the years? Sexual desires and appetites have seasons as well. How hungry are you?

Appetizers

“At our door is every delicacy, both new and old, that I have stored up for you, my lover.” ~ Song of Solomon 7:13

Early in marriage many couples are ravenous for sex. It’s like a three course meal that begins with a large plate of savory, mouth-watering appetizers. You are famished and ready to devour everything you can get your hands on. In the initial phase of active sexuality, large volumes of energetic lovemaking just might be more appealing than a tiny taste of extreme ecstasy.

We like to refer to this honeymoon phase of sex as the appeteasers. When really hungry, eating an occasional small morsel can be almost maddening. We are hungry! Bring out a huge platter of appeteasers, and let’s snack on them all day and into the night.

The first honeymoon months of sexual encounter are passionate, producing memories that the newlyweds will remember for a lifetime. But let’s be honest. High-level, almost starving desire combined with immaturity and inexperience often produces some awkward, even hilarious intimate experiences. Being desperately hungry can sometimes result in disappointing outcomes.

For instance, it might not take long to discover that one (often, but not always the man) will have a heftier appetite, a higher sex drive than the other. Inequality of libido is nearly universal—so common that it is considered to be normal. What initially seems to be a frustrating challenge is actually a wonderful opportunity. Learning to adjust to each other’s needs for higher or lower frequency is one way of expressing agape, selfless love. Paul’s instruction to “Submit one to another” (Ephesians 5:21) is wise council for lovers of any age. Remember, submission is a two-way street.

Dramatic shifts in libido can occur during this appetizer phase of marriage. For instance, the two of you might be getting really good at sex when the color bar on the pregnancy test strip changes. Oh my! Does a positive pregnancy test require a nine-month fast from sex? No! It might be time to expand your palate, but the appetizers are still quite yummy.

Entrees

“Let my lover come into his garden and taste its choice fruits.” ~ Song of Solomon 4:16

After delighting in many scrumptious appetizers during the early years, our middle years of marriage are a great time to focus on enjoying the entrees. We get to experiment with some new spices. Who wants meatloaf every Monday when the gourmet menu is available?

The children are older. Our work schedules become more predictable. In these sexually savory middle years we find more time and energy for romance. Are you taste-testing some delectable dishes that arouse your senses in wonderful ways? In fact, do not be surprised when asked if you are on your honeymoon after being married for twenty-two years.

By adapting to changing appetites through the years, you demonstrate love, faithfulness, and sensitivity to one another. Trust and security invite both of you to eat, enjoy, and be satisfyingly filled. This season of life can offer many evenings of fine dining. But why limit this pleasure to evenings? Afternoon snacks are delightful. Breakfast in bed is a refreshing way to start the day. Variety really does add spice to life.

The middle years are a great time to experiment with new cuisines as you share a delicious date night dinner. Take time to enhance your dining experience by lighting a romance candle and dressing the table with beautiful flowers. Try a new perfume. Wear a pretty negligee while listening to love songs on the play list.
There is now time to savor each bite as you encounter new exotic cuisines.

Sex might take a little longer than in the newlywed years, but it is oh so delicious. And, your palate has become more refined. You have figured out which herb goes best with which food, and have discovered that more is not necessarily better. It is still great fun to experiment with different flavors. But we know what we like and thoroughly enjoy every exquisite bite.

Desserts

“His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely. This is my lover, this is my friend.” ~ Song of Solomon 5:16

And who does not want dessert? As you honeymoon into the later decades of marriage, you get to enjoy the sweetest of treats. This mature phase of life is an opportunity for you and your mate to share the intense richness of love that is ripened on the vine of life together.

As you advance in age, health issues may appear that block sweet methods of lovemaking from the past. Joints are stiffer, backs seem weaker, and energy is often lower than before. Yet the need to be emotionally and physically touched in intimate ways remains. The desire to be loved and to love is a constant that never fades.

At the wedding feast in Cana, the party had been going on for days when Jesus changed water into wine. The master of the wedding banquet said that the choicest wine had been reserved until the final course of the feast (John 2). Isn’t that like God to save the best until last?

The Spirit refines skills in lovemaking throughout the years. Happily married people in their later decades are often the most satisfied lovers. Laughingly we say that there will need to be a lock on our door if we move into a nursing home for the elderly. Delectable dessert will still be on the menu.

One bite of divine dark chocolate is more satisfying than a bag of inferior candies. As you adapt to physical changes and health challenges, your sexual sense of taste might change once again, becoming even more refined.

Full Meal Deal

Appetizers, entrees, and desserts are yummy treats that fill your life with delight.  Throughout your married life you will want it all—the full meal deal. Each course demonstrates your love sexually to your mate. Both giving and receiving pleasure is delectable. Every anniversary is to be celebrated—possibly over a nice, long dinner as you fondly remember favorite meals from the past, and dream of delicious dishes you want to try. Wouldn’t this be a great day to devour some French silk pie?

 

Dan Linda WilsonLovemaking bookDr. Dan and Linda Wilson are marriage missionaries. They delight in traveling around the world blessing marriages and sharing about Jesus. Dan and Linda are cofounders of Supernatural Marriage & Missions, and have written several books including Lovemaking: 10 Secrets to Extravagant Intimacy in Marriage. You can follow them at www.supernaturalmarriage.org and www.facebook.com/supernaturalmarriage.

 

 

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow, what advice do you have for us today? Leave the URL of your marriage post (please, only marriage, no cooking) in the linky below. And then be sure to link back here so other people can read these great posts!



The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.

On Planned Parenthood, Ashley Madison, and Marriage

The news has been filled recently with stories that are quite unbelievable and distressing when it comes to marriage–the Planned Parenthood “let’s sell these baby body parts and get me a Lamborghini” videos, and the Ashley Madison cheating website “I can’t believe I got hacked.”

On Ashley Madison, Planned Parenthood, and our Response

I normally don’t talk a lot about current events–I want to focus on marriage and what we can actually change in the here and now. We can’t do much about news stories, so I don’t like obsessing on them (though I do weigh in on the Duggars or gay marriage or culture at times).

But I’ve been thinking about these two stories–Ashley Madison and Planned Parenthood–and what they have in common.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentNext week I’ll be done my summer vacation and I’ll be in full blogging mode again–Wifey Wednesdays will be normal, Top 10 Tuesdays will be back, Reader Question Mondays will be here, and best of all I’ll be gearing up for the launch of 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, coming August 18!

But for now, while I’m still just relaxing and thinking, I thought I’d share some random thoughts I’ve had.

1. Our Consciences Are Seared

A few years ago I wrote a column called “Have We Forgotten How to Blush?” It was all about how guilt and shame can actually serve a purpose, and a culture which calls guilt the greatest evil accelerates its own decline.

We live in a society where self-actualization and happiness are the greatest goals, not doing what is right. It’s not about honour; it’s about enjoyment of life. And that is so dangerous.

Ironically, it’s also rather counterproductive, because studies have shown that the greatest sources of happiness are also those that you can’t achieve without being selfless. Marriage, children, friendships–all of these lead to the most happiness. Yet if you are only interested in what you want, those relationships will be frayed. And thus you’re unlikely to find happiness at all.

Today our consciences are seared because there is so much evil all around us. To bring this story even closer to home, apparently Ottawa–which is home to many members of my family and is the largest city near where I live–has the largest proportion of Ashley Madison users. And Ottawa looks like such a peaceful and upright city, compared with many others. Yet apparently we’re a den of adulterers. It’s just so sad.

2. There is No Privacy Anymore

And that can be a good thing! If our consciences are seared, then it’s great that we can get caught.

I found it so interesting reading the news reports about Ashley Madison–some newspapers were saying that the identities of more than 40 million innocent people may be compromised. Really? They’re innocent? How innocent can you be if you sign up for an adultery website?

And what about those images of the Planned Parenthood executives talking about baby parts so cavalierly, while eating and drinking or considering how to get rich. I’m glad that privacy is eroding in some ways, because perhaps then people will be reminded that what they may think is normal behaviour really isn’t normal at all.

3. Doing the Right Thing is Its Own Reward

But here’s the main point I want to make today: doing the right thing is honourable and rewarding in its own right. So don’t give up!

I remember a sermon I heard many years ago about the purposes of God’s commandments. When you read the Old Testament, you may think the relationship goes like this: You obey the commandment, and because of that God blesses you. So the blessing comes from the obedience.

Actually, it’s deeper than that.

The blessing is in the commandment. It isn’t the result of the commandment; it’s the commandment itself.

To see a baby and to love it wholeheartedly. To rejoice when someone you know is pregnant. To love life, even when that life is frail or disabled. To not be tortured by “is this life worth anything”, because you instinctively know it is. To be able to avoid many of those thorny questions because they’re so OBVIOUS and just to move on to the loving–all of that is a blessing.

To be able to rejoice at all baby showers, rather than feeling that if I get too excited about someone’s pregnancy that I’m betraying a cause. To smile at passing strollers and make faces at babies unabashedly because they’re just so cute–and not have to worry if they were wanted or not. To be able to not harden your heart towards children because you know they’re a blessing. To be able to love family because family is a gift–all of these things are blessings.

And we have them because we believe that life matters. It is not just that those who know God have healthier families. It is that IN the believe that life matters we are blessed already.

Or take the Ashley Madison debate.

To know that I don’t have to wonder whether life would be better if I had married another. To know that I don’t have to worry about my husband straying. To know that I am set for life. To know that I am safe. To know that I am loved, even when marriage is difficult (I know some of you don’t know all of these things, and for that I am profoundly sorry. I pray that you and your husband will be able to find true intimacy.)

To know that I don’t have to worry about impressing another man ever again. To know that I can transfer my energy to praying for my kids and for God’s kingdom rather than praying that I will find a partner. To know that I can invest in his life without it being thrown back in my face; all of that is a blessing.

The blessing is the commandment; it is not just a result of the commandment. The blessing is in the knowing right from wrong.

And so as you hear these news stories, do not worry if other people don’t get it. Yes, be righteously angry, especially about the Planned Parenthood story, but remember that you have a blessing that they do not. You understand something that they never will. You are blessed!

So do not worry if other people seemed seared. It’s okay. We still have that blessing, and let’s live in it, and revel in it, and eat it all up. Because it’s beautiful to love babies, and to love family, and to not have to cut off your heart for a cause. That’s a blessing. And I thoroughly intend to enjoy it.

What about you? What have you been thinking about these stories? Leave a comment and let me know!

UPDATE: Just checked the news and ANOTHER Planned Parenthood video has been released. Really gruesome.

I’m an Empty Nester

As of today, I am no longer the mother of children. My youngest turns 18.

What a strange thing! The main identity that I have had for twenty years now is over. I’m still a mom, but in a different way.

I’ve been leading up to this all summer, especially with my older daughter’s wedding, but it’s still bittersweet. My husband and I will be reinventing ourselves as a couple this year–I talked about it in this post (and don’t forget to comment there for your chance to win a $100 Visa gift card!)–and I’m excited about that. But it seems almost for the last two weeks like I’ve been walking through a shadow of ghosts. I turn my head and I can hear a little three-year-old voice laughing with her five-year-old sister. Somehow I hope those voices never entirely disappear.

Katie and I are spending today together in New York City. I took her here for her birthday.

Enjoying exploring Manhattan with my daughter!

A photo posted by Sheila Gregoire (@sheilagregoire) on

Needless to say, I’ve had the Taylor Swift song running through my head all day. 🎶 #WelcomeToNewYork A photo posted by Katie Gregoire🎶 (@katielizg) on

But the big reason we’re here is that she’s a musical theatre buff, so we decided to go see Les Miserables!

Les Mis

It was incredible. The 7-year-old who played Gavroche stole the show, as usual, but it truly was spectacular.

If you’ve never seen or read Les Miserables, it was written by Victor Hugo in 1862, about the poverty and desperation in France. But rather than being a primarily historical novel, it really is an exploration of the difference between grace and the law, represented by two of the main characters: Jean Valjean (grace) and Javert (the law). Jean Valjean is a poor man who was sentenced to 20 years of hard labour for an insignificant crime he committed to save a starving child.

Javert is his jailer. When Valjean is released, he skips out on parole and makes a new life for himself after being shown grace from a priest. Javert spends the next twenty years chasing him and trying to find him, while Valjean helps others and tries to make life around him better.

There is tragedy galore in this play; an abandoned woman must work in a sweat factory to support her daughter, but is thrown out on the street and dies. Peasants struggle for bread, and in the end die in a vain attempt at revolution. It is sad.

And the story of unrequited love–of a girl who gives all for a boy who loves another–is tragic in its own right.

And yet the message is that God weaves His own tale into the destruction and that in the midst of suffering people can find grace and salvation. You see it in the final song; the movie version below seems a little more political at the end than the feel of the Broadway presentation, but that great line–“to love another person is to see the face of God”–rings true (it’s at about 1:28 in this clip).

Wait for the Lord: Psalm 27:13-14It’s a profoundly Christian play, but it made me think again about a post that I shared on Facebook yesterday about waiting on God. I think as mothers we feel that our job will be done when our children’s lives are all set on autopilot: when they are married; when they have good jobs; when they have children of their own. Above all, when they are happy.

And we work towards that. We pray for it. And that’s all well and good.

But God could have a different plan, and maybe it is in the struggling of this life that that plan will emerge.

I think this is the hardest part of a child growing up–of realizing that you cannot control their life, you cannot fix things, anymore. They are on their own to make their own choices, and this is how it’s supposed to be.

And as I was watching the play yesterday, I realized I was excited to see what God will do with Katie in the next four years at university. I’m excited to see what choices she will make, and what friends she will make, and where God will take her.

I will find it hard to step back; the two of us are very close, and we talk about everything. But growing up is good, and no matter what happens, God is at work and grace is real.

It’s been a lovely trip in New York. We’re out to explore Central Park today and then we’re heading down to the World Trade Center memorial.

Here’s a post her older sister wrote to Katie for her 18th: 18 things I wish I knew when I was 18.

And if you want to give her a birthday present, I’m sure she’d appreciate it if you shared one of her videos on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest! Here are three of my favourites: Courting vs. Dating; Why I’m Not Dating in High School; and Christian Modesty, the Double Standard. Thank you!

Now tell me: what is hardest for you about your kids growing up (or thinking about them growing up)?

What Success Really Means

Friday Roundup on To Love, Honor and Vacuum
It’s Friday, the day when I share what’s been big on the blog this week, as well as some personal thoughts and a look inside my life.

Today I want to give us a pep talk on what success really means–so read on!

But the main thing I’m thinking about is my daughter’s wedding–I still can’t quite get my head around the fact that it happened! It really was a lovely day. A ton of fun, and I’ll give you all some more insight into the best parts of it later, once I have more photos.

But here’s what’s been big this week, and then I’ll share some thoughts:

What’s #1 on the Blog This Week

25WaysShowHusbandLoveReal Divorce Rate#1 on the Blog: 50 Most Important Bible Verses to Memorize
#1 on Pinterest: 25 Quick Ways to Show Your Husband Love–and Transform Your Marriage!
#1 on Twitter: The success of your #marriage depends far more on what you believe about God than on how you feel about each other.
#1 on Facebook: What’s the real divorce rate? Hint: It’s nowhere near 50%! 

Why We Shouldn’t Worry About Success

This week I had the privilege of blogging as part of the Lean Cuisine campaign–What do you want to weigh me on? I’ve been chosen to be one of their bloggers, and I’ll be heading to the Lean Cuisine kitchens soon! Kinda cool for a blogger to be chosen for that.

But when I was writing my post about what I want to be weighed on (since so often we judge ourselves by appearances), it really struck me that success isn’t  up to us. It isn’t. It’s up to God, and it’s up to the choices that other people make.

So the only thing that we can be judged on is our effort, not our success.

And that’s what I wrote.

Then a long-time reader sent me a note. She and her husband have been battling his porn addiction for a few years, and their marriage has been rocky, but it’s starting to be rebuilt. And he’s slowly starting to reach out again.

And she said this,

My husband looks rested, peaceful, and his eyes sparkle. He is happy and smiles a lot. I am learning to trust. I keep reading your blog posts, and this particular one was very powerful.

Here is what happened:

I was reading your post quietly, but then thought I would share some of it with my husband. So I start reading out loud the paragraph that begins, ” But acting right and doing your part to create a great marriage is something we can all do…” I keep reading. My husband and I are really hearing together what you are saying.

And then I get to the paragraph toward the end that says, It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to be a mess. But if, in the midst of that mess, you treat yourself well, you treat your husband with integrity and faithfulness, and you treat your kids with love, you have accomplished a lot.

And I am reading and my eyes swell with tears, my throat closes up, and I can’t finish. My husband rubs my hand gently, and I just weep. This was exactly me. You told me I had accomplished a lot, and I don’t know why, but it took a weight off my shoulders. It was so affirming and beautiful and got right to the heart. It was a healing moment for me, for us, and I thank you, Sheila, from the bottom of my heart.

That really resonated with me, too. I’m so glad I was able to express what I was feeling when I wrote that post. I can think of so many women whose marriages and families aren’t perfect, but they have stayed faithful to God. And that is such a big accomplishment.

We had a friend of my younger daughter’s staying with us for a few days. He’s a major overachiever (in a good way), and he’s heading off to college in the fall. And of course with that comes worries about whether or not you’ll be able to keep up the grades and the success you’ve had so far. And I meant to say something to him while he was here–kind of the pep talk that I give all high achievers that I know. But I forgot, and now he’s left, so maybe I’ll just send him this link. But here’s what I wanted to say:

We have to believe that God has a plan for us.

That God has created us with our unique giftings and talents and skills for a reason–that He wants to use us to further His kingdom (Ephesians 2:10). And that needs to be the main goal of our lives–to be right in the middle of God’s will, knowing that He will use us in incredible ways.

And so what is our role in that? It isn’t to succeed. It isn’t to come first or to win a particular prize or to achieve a certain standing. It’s simply to do our best. That’s it. It’s to do our best. That is the offering that we give to God, and then we need to trust that God will use that offering and multiply it and work things through so that we will be able to accomplish the things that He has planned for us.

Don’t carry that burden of feeling that you need to accomplish some particular thing.

If you don’t get into the right school, or you don’t get the right prize, or the apparent right job, know that God still sees and that God is still weaving the framework for our lives.

It’s great to have goals and dreams; God often gives those specifically to us. But ultimately it is God’s plans that we need to be focused on. And if we give God our best, then He will surely take that and use it. After all, if God has a person who is saying, “I want you to use me!”, why would God not do something amazing with that?

So don’t worry about success; that’s not up to you. And no matter what happens, God will use you in HIS way, even if it’s not how you envisioned. Just give God your best, and then no matter what happens, you have so much to be proud of. And God will do amazing things with your best.

That’s what I wanted to say. I think it applies to young people starting off, but I think it also applies to marriage. You give God your best; it is up to God (and up to others’ free will choices) what happens afterwards. But don’t ever feel like you are a failure because you didn’t achieve something. If you tried, and gave your best, you are never, ever a failure. God sees that, and God uses it, and you should be proud.

By the way, check out my original post! You can enter to win a $100 Visa gift card, too, so don’t miss it!

My Baby is Married

Yay! It was a lovely day. Here’s just a sneak peak:

Wedding Photo

Rebecca and Connor wedding

Katie Creeper Photo

As some of my regular readers will know, my younger daughter has been taking “creeper” stalking photos of her with the two of them all year. So of course no wedding would be complete with a Katie creeper photo:

Wedding Creeper Photo

Thanks to Emma Sangalli photography for all the awesome photos! If you’re in Ottawa, look her up!

I’m Off to New York for Katie’s 18th!

So Katie missed signing the registry as maid of honour at her sister’s wedding by nine days. But she’s now about to turn 18, so she and I are heading off to New York City this weekend to see Les Miserables and to do a bit of sightseeing!

It’s hard to believe my baby is now 18. I’m really an empty nester. More on that Monday. I’m already starting to tear up.

So those are my main thoughts! Have a great weekend, everybody!

What Marriage Advice Do You Listen To?

So I’m back from my daughter’s wedding! We don’t have all the pictures yet, so I’ll do some longer posts on it next week, but right now we’re relaxing at home and recovering. And you can see some sneak peeks at a few pics up on my Facebook page here and here (complete with a stalker photo by her little sister).

And remember that tomorrow is the last day to enter the contest for a $100 Visa card, courtesy of Monistat and BlogHer! Check out the instructions on this post about insecurity in the bedroom.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentToday I thought I’d run an interesting guest post  from anonymous reader Your Feathered Friend. She struggles with a chronic illness, and is trying to come to terms with needing help in everyday life when her husband just doesn’t “see” what she needs.

This is a theme in both my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum and in my upcoming 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage (which releases in less than a month!): sometimes the pat Christian answers to just “love your husband and he will show love back” don’t work, especially when you genuinely need help. So what do you do? She shares her struggles here, and I’d love to hear your take on it in the comments!

What Marriage Advice Do You Listen To.

When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis five years ago, I learned that everyone has a suggestion to “fix” me. Bee stings, acupuncture, yoga, pilates, weight lifting, gluten free, dairy free, no carbs, all carbs Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, the list goes on. I’ve tried many of these and guess what…I still have MS.

Some of the most frustrating times since my diagnosis were when I was trying to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, and reduce my stress, and I was still having relapses and symptoms. Was the advice I received bad?

Not necessarily. (Although, I can’t fathom getting stung repeatedly by bees is good for anyone!) What works for some doesn’t work for others. Sometimes, the “cure” just causes more stress and therefore more harm. That doesn’t discredit the solution for others though, and we should avoid being condescending.

This doesn’t just apply in medicine. As a newlywed, our friends and family are clamoring to offer their advice for a happy, healthy marriage. Don’t get me wrong, we need all the help we can get!

But in this instance, I realized that what was good for many relationships, was actually unhealthy for mine.

The Unhealthy Advice. I had been told over and over to “kill him with kindness”. When my husband is disrespectful, I should show him respect anyway. When he lacks empathy, I should try to see it from his perspective. When he doesn’t want to help around the house, I should do as much as I can to give him a break. When he isn’t there for me emotionally, I should support him even more so he realizes how important it is. I will know I’ve done everything I can for our relationship, and eventually, my generosity will change him. Right?

Wrong. To my husband, what I had been doing was encouraging his poor habits. I was saying to my husband, “My fatigue is really weighing me down; I’m struggling to get out of bed”, but then when I realized we had no clean towels, I was dragging myself to the laundry room. He couldn’t see the agony I was in, just that we had clean towels. I was complaining that I didn’t have enough time to go to work, grocery shop, and have dinner on the table when he got home. But when pressured, I overextended myself to get all done. Again, he didn’t see that I had to conduct a conference call at the grocery store, he just knows he came home to a stocked refrigerator.

The straw that broke this camel’s back was when I had outpatient surgery last month. The situation was off to a bad start when my husband refused to go to the hospital with me. In the days that followed, despite the fact that I was in a lot of pain, he didn’t help out around the house. As I saw the dishes piling up and dinner going unmade, I did the only thing I knew to do: hobble into the kitchen to take care of it. He never stepped up because he never saw the need.

I realize now that I was sending mixed signals.

For some men, it might be enough to simply tell them you need more help, but for my husband, it’s not. Since I can’t change him, I need to change my behavior. I spoke with my husband calmly and lovingly and informed him that I can’t continue this way; I need his help. In order to allow him to help, I need to be patient, let go, and let him do it in his time. If it doesn’t get done, that’s OK (at least, that’s what I keep telling myself).

To clarify, I am not advising that women who feel mistreated throw down their aprons and walk out. Keep in mind that I approached my husband with love and told him where I was coming from. I didn’t just start giving him the cold shoulder and pouting. I wasn’t doing anyone a favor by letting him continue in his ways, but instead I’m doing what is best for our relationship by helping to work through some unhealthy habits. I’m sure he is frustrated that I’m electing not to do some of the things I’ve been doing, but I hope he will gain perspective with time.

The next time you are given advice, good or bad, here are some things to consider before you act on it:

1. Be respectful to the people giving advice.

Whether someone is telling you how to cure your child’s autism or how to spend less money, resist the urge to tell them to put their advice where the sun don’t shine. More than likely, they care and want to help.

2. Be respectful to yourself.

You don’t have to act on every bit of advice someone gives you. Consider how this advice really applies in your situation. Be willing to step out in faith and try new things, but also be OK saying “no”.

3. Be respectful to others in the situation with you.

When your friend is tells you to cut off sex from your husband until he does the dishes, consider if that is really being kind to him.

4. Don’t make an emotional response.

Easier said than done. For women, our emotions are tangled into our decision making process, but that doesn’t mean they should drive our decisions. Fear and anger have helped me make some of my worst mistakes, while removing myself from the situation to get a level head has never hurt in the long run.

5. Consider your motivations.

Am I doing what my mom suggested just to make her happy? Am I taking my friend’s advice because I think it will be hurtful to my husband?

6. Pray about it.

I don’t always hear God when I pray about my decisions, not because he doesn’t care, but because he will work through whatever I do. When I do hear from him, it’s best to listen.

What’s the best well meaning – but bad – advice you’ve received?

Profile_edited-1World traveler, avid reader, cat lover, and Jesus follower.  These are just a few words to describe Your Feathered Friend.  She’s juggling a new marriage, working full time, and living with Multiple Sclerosis.   In many ways, she’s just your average woman.  She’s trying to figure out how to keep her family happy and healthy, and writing about it along the way.

 

What I Want People to Weigh Me On


What Do I Want to Be Weighed On? Thoughts on True Accomplishments

This is a new thing for me in my blogging world–I’ve actually been selected as one of Lean Cuisine’s Phenomenal Ambassadors. I’ve never been an ambassador for a brand before, but I’ve always loved Lean Cuisine–it was my go-to when I needed to buy frozen, quick dinners and didn’t want my family eating pizza. So I thought I could get behind it–especially since later this summer I’ll get to take an immersion tour of their kitchens in Ohio. How cool is that?

But what I really liked was the way Lean Cuisine is overhauling their brand. The brand is reintroducing itself as a brand focused on modern eating; with bold, ethnic flavors, new attributes, contemporary packaging – which I’ll be writing about later – as well as a new brand campaign that I’m thrilled to share with you today.

Lean Cuisine’s new brand campaign Feed Your PhenomenalTM reflects its new brand purpose: to feed the greatness in every woman.

To kick things off, Lean Cuisine is releasing a video featuring real women “weighing” themselves to help start a social conversation that reinforces the message that the most important thing we should weigh is our accomplishments.

And so Lean Cuisine asked me to share one of my accomplishments that I’m most proud of.

So often we women judge ourselves by our appearance. It’s all about what we look like on the OUTSIDE. But it’s really our inside that matters.

Now this is primarily a marriage blog–we talk about how to bolster our marriages, and I’ve said often that it’s hard to have a great marriage if we don’t feel confident and secure in ourselves first.

But I want to take it one step further today. I think that often we judge people not just on the appearance of their bodies, but on the appearance of their families. We judge on the outside in everything: is her home perfect; is her hair perfect; is her waist perfect; are her kids perfect. And, of course, is her marriage perfect?

And that makes most of us scared to be honest. We’re scared to tell others when we’re struggling in case we’re judged.

So when I’m asked about my accomplishments, I want to be honest today.

I could point to books I’ve written or this blog or how well my girls turned out. But actually what I’m really proud of is that I have hung in there and did the right thing.

When Keith and I speak at marriage conferences we always say,

“We’re Keith and Sheila, we’ve been married for 23 years and happily married for 19.”

Once the kids came, it was about making sure they didn’t take over my life and that I still had time with my husband.

When our son Christopher died, it was about realizing that so many couples broke up after a huge loss like that, and that I wasn’t prepared for that to happen to us.

It was about choosing not to get upset when he was on call so much and I was alone with the kids. It was about choosing to make the time we did have together fun, instead of blaming him for not being home more.

And this year, as we are going through so many changes and our girls Katie and Rebecca are moving on with their lives, it’s about making a conscious decision that we are going to reinvent ourselves, not as parents, but as lovers. And even though Keith loves bird watching way more than I do, it’s about deciding to go out to the conservation area with him. It’s about not spending all my time on the computer, even when I want to, and do something he wants to do instead.

It’s about daily asking myself, “what is the wise thing to do right now?”, not always “what is the fun thing to do right now?” It’s keeping the bigger perspective.

Choose to Grow Your Marriage

And to tell you the truth, it’s hard. Keith’s job and my job have taken us away from each other so much in the last three years. And I find that I like being alone. I’m a little scared of what it will be like when he cuts down his work hours and we go on the road together more. But I’m also excited. And I’m determined that we will reconnect and redefine ourselves.

Now, please note: I’m not saying that I’m proud that my marriage is a success. I’m not even saying that I’m proud that I didn’t give up at my marriage. I’m saying that I’m proud that I didn’t give up doing the right thing.

And I believe you can say that WHETHER OR NOT your marriage is a success today.

I’ve been blown away by Natalie, the blogger at Visionary Womanhood. Natalie has been blogging for years on parenting and Christian living and homeschooling. But lately her blog has taken a turn.

She has been so authentic and so honest and so downright WISE in what she has written over the last year and a half as she has shared about the disintegration of her marriage. She worked for years to keep the marriage together until she finally realized that God didn’t want a sham of a marriage; He wanted two people who love Him and who respect each other. God doesn’t want us to allow ourselves, or our kids, to be berated, belittled, and abused, all in the name of marriage.

And so she had to let her dream of marriage go.

She separated from her husband and threw herself into supporting her kids, learning more about what God wants from us, and learning more about her husband. She is still hoping and praying for reconciliation and for her husband to understand God. But even if he doesn’t, she is doing the right thing. She is listening to what God is teaching her and she isn’t giving up.

A great marriage isn’t an accomplishment, it’s a gift–because no one can make a great marriage by themselves. If you have a great marriage, that isn’t yours to brag about. That’s God’s grace.

But acting right and doing your part to create a great marriage–that’s something we can all do. That is an accomplishment. Even if you don’t always succeed in getting your heart’s desire.

The greatest accomplishment isn’t having a marriage that looks great on the outside. It’s not living a comfortable life. It’s deciding to do what is right and good, regardless. Even if you’re tired. Even if you’re sad. Even if you’re alone. It’s putting one foot in front of the other every day.

And isn’t that what commitment means in marriage? It’s not committing to stay married–anyone can do that. It’s committing to doing your best to make this marriage the best it can be, on a daily basis, knowing that the success of the marriage is ultimately out of your hands. You do your part, so that you can always look back, regardless of what happened, and say, “I loved my husband and I loved God.”

If we were all so much more authentic, and believed that we were worth something inherently because of who we were made, I think we would see so much more health in every sense of the word–health in our bodies, health in our relationships, health in our spirits. But we spend so much time trying to get others to think we’re perfect that we focus our energy in the wrong direction.

It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to be a mess. But if, in the midst of that mess, you treat yourself well, you treat your husband with integrity and faithfulness, and you treat your kids with love, you have accomplished a lot.

Please check out Lean Cuisine’s #WeighThis video! And then answer this question in the comments to enter the SheKnows sweepstakes for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card:

What do you wish people would weigh you on?

I’m excited to see your responses!  

Entry Instructions:

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You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from July 20, 2015 – September 30, 2015.

Be sure to visit the Lean Cuisine brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

Finding Joy in Your Boundary Lines This Summer

Please welcome Katharine Grubb, of www.10minutenovelist.com, who shares how our limitations can be good things, how boundary lines this summer may bring joy in unexpected ways.  Read on…

Finding Joy in Your Boundary Lines This Summer
When you’ve spent your adult life in Massachusetts, you get a definitive picture of what the perfect summer is. This picture is full of clambakes, Cape Cod antics and Kennedy-esque leisure. If not the Kennedys, then you may envision 104 days of Phineas & Ferb type adventure in which no one has to do chores, pay those outrageous technology bills, or go to bed.

These images are far removed from my reality. We’ll never have the money for a idyllic Martha’s Vineyard beach house. The only boat we have is one we made of paper that is seaworthy for thirty seconds in the bath water. In most cities, you can’t legally own a platypus as a pet.

Every summer, I have to battle various restrictions on our family. Every summer this is a huge challenge.

Psalm 16:5-6 says, “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

This verse challenges me to look at my summer boundary lines, or my limitations, as good things. School is out for my kids! I don’t have to homeschool for weeks! We are free! But even in that freedom, there are good things that keep us restricted or limited. Some of these boundaries I love, like the fence around Grammy’s pool. Some I’m not too fond of, like the fact I don’t always have a car available to me. Instead of complaining about my lack of freedom this summer, I need to look with fresh eyes the boundary lines God has given me.

Boundaries put us in a place where we must learn to submit to God’s call on our life. They may be there to correct a behavior in us, much like the toddler put in a time-out chair. We need that boundary too at times. I’ve had more trying summers than this one. In hindsight, I was grateful for the lessons learned and the gentle way God led me into obedience. If your summer is beginning in discomfort, pray that God shows you how you can change your behavior or your attitude.

Boundaries put us in a place of safety. In much the same way that we instruct our children to not swim in the deep end or to stay in the yard, God gently put his boundaries around us to prevent us from harming ourselves or being susceptible to temptation. Why do we have pool rules? To keep our children, whom we love more than anything, from being injured. How much more our Father protects us with his boundaries. Thank God for literal and figurative lifeguards, playground fences and warning signs on the deluxe package of fireworks.

Boundaries encourage contentment. When my plans change, or when I’m a season of transition, the last place I go to is contentment. Yet, I know my children will never learn contentment if they don’t see it modeled by me. Our summer will be much more pleasant if we don’t pout when faced with a rain delay, a summer cold or we can’t make the picnic. And really, who wants to be a Kennedy anyway?

Boundaries promote creativity. Pope John Paul II said, in Love & Responsibility “Limitation of one’s freedom might seem to be something negative and unpleasant, but love makes it a positive, joyful and creative thing. Freedom exists for the sake of love.” Out of love, God often restricts us so that we can find creative solutions to our problems. His solutions will be richer than we could ever imagine. I don’t have access to a car everyday, but I am within walking distance of the library and a playground. I’ve organized the mothers at church to meet me twice a week at places that are easy for me to get to. Our church moms now have two free events every week — one at the playground and one at a local swimming hole — that meets my need and theirs too. My limitation of not having a car regularly allowed me to create this. What are the creative solutions God wants to help you with in your boundaries?

True Supernatural Joy

Boundaries can calm anxiety. Thirty-one flavors of ice cream sounds like a great options but life is easier when you only have chocolate and vanilla. I’ve found, for me and for my children that the fastest path of peace is one with the fewest choices. Rest in that and be grateful for those boundaries that restrict your options.

Boundaries remind us that joy is not found in experiences nor in abundance.

We want to teach our children that while summer is fun, it’s not what makes us happy. True joy is found in rest, in thankfulness, in loving people and the simple beauty of a firefly at night.

True supernatural joy is found when we finally rest inside our boundaries, not when we struggle against them.

God is the God of the summer. He created summer so that the earth could grow. Perhaps for us, summer is a chance to stretch our faith and become more vibrant and healthy. Phineas, Ferb, and the entire Kennedy clan should be so blessed.

KatharineGrubbWrite a novel in 10 minutes a dayKatharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day.

She blogs at www.10minutenovelist.com. She lives in Massachusetts with her family. Her new weekly newsletter, The Rallying Cry, is an honest, kleenex-worthy, you-can-do-this, faith-filled message of hope for those who need it. Sign up here.

Wifey Wednesday: How God Wrote Our Love Story

Sometimes the love story we dream of isn’t the one we end up living. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not also a love-ly story.

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And I give you a chance to link up your marriage posts in the linky below, too.

How God Wrote Our Love Story
Today Samantha Lee-Wiraatmaja from Godly Womanhood
joins us to tell us about her love story. Here’s Samantha:

My husband and I love how God wrote our love story.

We’ve shared that story to many, and have been asked to share our wedding vows to youths learning about God-centered relationships. But before I tell the story of how God brought us together, I always start with a different story. One that is darker and a little sad, but more beautiful. A slightly less magical story but filled nonetheless with the rays of His glory. Without this story, telling of how God wrote our love story is just an empty promise of fluffy fairytale spirituality.

Because real love stories don’t end on the wedding day. We don’t belong to such short-lived tales that end with vague hazy promises of happily ever after. We belong in the halls of great men & women who found something worth fighting for and gave their lives for it. Stories filled with a little less fairy dust and a little more blood and tears. Stories that echo through the ages. Because God doesn’t just write great falling-in-love stories; He writes kick-ass, staying-in-love, submission-with-an-attitude, powerhouse-marriage stories too.

I want to tell you the story of what happened after we said “I do.”

It broke my heart. Marriage broke me into so many pieces there was no way I could be put together again.

I can only remember one promise that I’ve held onto growing up – one day, I’d meet a man who would see me for who I was and love me wholeheartedly for it.

I hid that promise in my heart for years, waiting and saving myself for that one man who’d see and cherish who I was – spirit, soul, and body. I resolved to give my heart & deepest parts of my soul only to this man, if he be found, or none at all.

I cherished this promise in my heart as the single most priceless treasure.

When God brought Alex & I together, it involved so much of the divine – dreams, visions, prophecies, that led us to each other – that I knew without a doubt this was the man I’d been waiting for all my life.

I also believed that he was God’s fulfillment of the promise I’d held onto for so long.

Then he began breaking my heart… and wouldn’t stop. Each wound tore a little deeper into that precious promise I’d kept wrapped so carefully in the innermost chambers of my heart.

He’d flirt with other women, sometimes while I was right beside him. He yelled at me for being hurt by it. He watched pornography with the intention to hurt & punish me.

He occasionally told me that he wished I was someone else. He wished I had this woman’s body, or that woman’s personality. He told me that he wished I was another woman as she’d do a better job of impressing his family than I was doing.

Each time left my self-esteem and dignity in pieces. I lived in the wreckage, unable to come to terms with the fact that “the one” promised by God was also the one tearing that long-cherished promise to shreds.

This man had been given access to parts of my soul that no one else knew, and with every betrayal he told me that who I was was simply not good enough.

And I turned on him with a vengeance.

I threw things (like his laptop. right out the window). I punched him, (everywhere I could except his face. because, ouch). We threw hurtful words intended to devastate the other.

And I allowed bitterness to harden my heart, turning me into someone (cruel, violent) I could no longer recognize. I relished the darkness and the pain, perversely believing that it was what I deserved.

We lived apart for awhile, and then we lived for months like strangers sharing a bed. I cried myself to sleep night after night, the coldness & distance between us made even more unbearable within the confines of the bedroom.

I wanted him to say something, do something – I so desperately wanted him to fight for me.

But he wouldn’t, couldn’t. He was as hurt, scared, and helpless as I was. He wasn’t trying to hurt me. Most times he was sweet, tender, loving. He loved me and he loved God. It distressed him to see me so broken by his actions. But he couldn’t help it, and the way I behaved in return only made matters worse. You see, we bring the baggage of our family heritage into our marriages – addictions, patterns of communication, models of the marriage covenant, and plenty of childhood issues. And unless we intentionally decide to cultivate a new heritage in Christ, we’re just repeating the harmful patterns we’ve grown up with.

We were both drowning, clawing at each other in a desperate attempt to stay afloat, not realizing that we were only pulling each other further down into the cold darkness.

But paradoxically, it was when we reached the end of our rope that we found salvation.

I hit that lowest point when I realized that Alex might never change. He might keep doing things to hurt me and not care. He might never respond in the way I wanted him to, comforting me and taking responsibility for this actions.

All those things might never change, but what could change was me. I didn’t have to keep living in darkness and pain.

The Lord began to speak to me a message of deep comfort that began to heal my heart. He showed me that I didn’t have to wait for Alex to comfort me for the hurt he’d caused, or even to acknowledge the things he’d done.

Because ever since Eve, every woman longs for her husband to rise up. To fight – for her, their marriage, and most of all, her heart.

And unless we run to God every single day with our vulnerable hearts, we end up taking matters into our own hands. Just like Eve did.

We need to come every day to our Father’s throne. Fall down at His feet, throwing down every pain and shattered dream. There, healing waters flow to cleanse & heal our hearts. There, we feel His love wrap around the places in our souls that have gone without love for so long.

Because this is the truth that set me free: We can count all our grievances, name them one by one. And chances are, every single one of them are valid. But there is no freedom there. We will go round in circles, waiting for him to make amends. Or we can be free right here and now, regardless of where he is or what he does.

Not that we don’t try to make things right. We do what we need to (keeping our hearts pure, responding in a godly manner to our husbands) and then we need to let God be God, and let the man be the man. The man must have space to rise up, and for God to work with him, without the woman rushing in to do everything for him (we’re not doing him any favors when we do).

While the Lord was restoring me, He was doing the same with Alex. We stopped trying to get the other to fill the empty places in our hearts and found that it was God, not man, that completes us. And in doing so, we began to find all the things we’d thought would be lost to us forever – love, laughter, and a tenderness between two comrades who’ve witnessed the horrors of war together and survived.

Through the period of healing & strengthening, the Lord began to speak to me about promises.

He opened His Word to me in a new way and asked me this: Was I willing to let God’s promise in my life die?

That precious, precious promise I’d been holding onto since I was a little girl – would I let it fall to the ground and die? Because fruit only comes when a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies (John 12:24), and out of it will grow much fruit that will bless others.

Through the story of Abraham’s testing (Genesis 22), the Lord showed me this: When the promise that I’ve held on to for so long has to be sacrificed is when it is revealed that the greatest reward is the Lord.

The day I said “Yes” to Him and let that promise go is the day my heart was set free. A gust of fresh air blew into my soul and all the pain and darkness began to be washed away.

I found so much freedom in saying, “Yes Lord, I give up my right for a man who loves me perfectly. I lay it as a sacrifice, and I trust that you will provide.”

I didn’t realize till then how tiring it had been to hold on so tightly to that promise, always afraid that it might get lost or broken. And in leaving it all behind, I found incredible freedom that I could abandon my interests because someone else was looking after me.

And what of our marriage? Well, I am happy to say that all the smashing of computers (me), punching (me), and screaming (me again) has stopped…. as has the flirting and pornography.

He has turned our mourning to dancing, our sorrow into joy, our despair to hope. He took zealous idealism and tested it in the fire so that conviction-filled reality emerged that was worth much more than gold.

Are we still on the road to recovery? Oh yes, definitely. I think we’ll be on that journey for the rest of our lives.

But do we find joy in the journey? You bet. God doesn’t stop writing our love stories after we say “I do” – in fact He’s only just getting started.

Marriage broke my heart.

It broke my heart of stone. So God could build a new heart in me. A heart of flesh. (read: Ezekiel 36:26)

Because a God-written love story is not all perfect fluff and fairy dust. It looks more like the cross – messy, painful, blood everywhere. But God covers it. And we slowly work our way back to the perfect harmony of Eden, just as God intended marriage to be.

 

samanthaSamantha Lee-Wiraatmaja is the writer at Godly Womanhood and owns + designs the Godly Womanhood Shop. Romance is the greatest inspiration, motivation, and dream of her life. She dreams to see Romance of the gospel – the fullness of Eden – restored between God and man. She is passionate about seeing women reach the fullness of their potential.

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage posts

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Leave the URL of your marriage post (please, only marriage, no cooking) in the linky below. And then be sure to link back here so other people can read these great posts!

 

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