My husband and I love to reminisce about our old 1920’s home in Texas. Once we bought the home, our excited minds raced with grandiose ideas and renovations. We dreamed up room after room, without any ability to make a limited budget measure up to those expectations. At the time, my husband had just accepted a new job at a recent church plant. Our sweet girls were both in diapers and sleepless nights were in full swing. Everyday was a new adventure of sorts. We were meeting new people, getting settled in an unfamiliar town, adjusting to life with 2 kids, and living in a partially remodeled home that this neat freak couldn’t possibly keep clean. Life seemed to be every opposite extreme on any given day – new but growing old, exciting but exhausting, wonderful, yet difficult.
Everything probably looked pretty normal from the outside, but inwardly I was beginning to play a pretend game that everything was okay, when I was actually falling apart. At some point, the newness of anything wears off and the reality of where you are suddenly looks very different from what it appears to be at the beginning. This girl who thought this new life was going to be fun and darn near perfect, began to crumble. The absence of the rich community of friends that had been years before began taking its toll. My husband needed me as he began to fight frustration with his job. And I was so consumed in my own inability to cope with life that helping him was the last thing on my mind. There was a sadness and desperation to escape life. Every attempt at trying to fix him and myself returned void. We argued about everything. Something ugly was becoming habitual and the home renovation paled in comparison to the one that was about to take place in our marriage. After months of dealing with awful mood swings, tears, and anger, I was becoming the “for worse” scenario you naively annunciate during your wedding vows.
At some point, the newness of anything wears off and the reality of where you are suddenly looks very different from what it appears to be at the beginning.
While I consider myself to be a pretty forgiving person, I often remember details of conversations long after the dust settles and moments of reflection remain. With tensions always high, difficult discussions between my hubby and I were frequent. But I will never forget the awfully true words I needed to hear this one particular day. He looked at me with sad, tired, helpless eyes and said, “I dread coming home to you each day.” Those words scared me and shook me at my core. For a moment, it felt like we were one of the illustrations authors use in marriage books on why some marriages fail. We were at an impasse and knew this was bigger than either one of us were capable of handling on our own. There was something that had to change. Thankfully, even from the beginning of trying to figure out what sickness was taking over our marriage, we weren’t in search of happiness. I digress because the “God wants me to be happy” garbage can be heard from counseling offices and homes all over the world on any given day. And it’s far from biblical. While we desperately wanted things to feel warm and fuzzy, (and I admit “happy”), we knew God’s design for marriage was about Him utilizing this institution to make us holy, not simply happy.
In our minds, we were making attempts to navigate this tough season – some healthy and some not. Because all we could see and hear at the time were our own perceptions and versions of our own pain and needs, we agreed we needed another person to be involved who could listen to both of us, see through our pain, and guide us towards a unified purpose. We also knew this would not be a quick fix. In fact, we committed to be a part of this process as long as it took. We went to counseling where we both had a voice, could be understood, and could be corrected in front of each other. Our counselor was biblical, for our marriage, and brought every sneaky motive into the light so God could overhaul our marriage habits – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
We were at an impasse and knew this was bigger than either one of us were capable of handling on our own.
Perhaps the hardest thing revealed in the process was the next. Medication for me was highly encouraged and it scared me and freed me all in the same breath. Regardless of where I stood on the issue at the time, I saw my amazing husband come alongside me and support me regardless of where I landed. He desired for God to use the means needed to help me. And once again, he became that familiar best friend and champion I had married. His compassion for the feeling that life had overwhelmed me became obvious and it softened me.
The next thing that came to light was the admittance that we had been taking from each other more than supporting. Both of us had grown accustomed to trying to be each other’s everything. It had to stop. We needed God, my husband needed to pursue a dream that had been put on hold, I needed to accept the role of motherhood instead of running from it, we needed community, and we needed to figure out our values and start living in pursuit of those. Those next few months brought about a great deal of change. My husband lost his job, we agreed to weekly counseling, I began taking medication, we grieved over leaving a house we had worked tirelessly on, but most importantly we surrendered our marriage and future to a much bigger God than we had previously defined.
What I learned through that rough, tough season was that marriage is always worth fighting for according to God’s design. We learned that we had both changed a bit over the course of our marriage, but that the important things – perseverance, compassion, and love remained. More than anything, I learned simply chasing happiness does not solve the deep-rooted problems. Our highest pursuit is to become more like the person God wants you to be. And that means listening to Him, His Word, and not those crazy thoughts that come in the dark moments at 2am when you can’t sleep or when you feel like running.
What I learned through that rough, tough season was that marriage is always worth fighting for according to God’s design.
Often times those hard, difficult seasons reveal the character of your marriage. Because of that time, we run quickly for help when our marriage needs recalibrating. And I cannot stress the importance of being humbly submitted and biblically measured in a world that makes you think you are entitled to a fairy tale romance of sorts. Our inclinations to “do marriage” any other way than God’s come from a selfish nature that looks out for number one. And while God’s way may be difficult and make you want to kick and scream at times, why wouldn’t you model it after the One who designed it in the first place?
I Corinthians 13:4-7 says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, ALWAYS PERSEVERES.”
So persevere my friend…it’s worth it.
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Image Credit: Leland Francisco, Creative Commons