Updated: Apr 26, 2019
I never really believed in happily ever after.
Maybe it’s just that I’m a realist (or a recovering pessimist). But I never really wanted the prince & princess to ride off in the sunset, I really just wanted them to stay and hang around for the possibility of one more adventure.
Maybe it’s my personality, always ready for the next step, the next turn in the road to navigate, the next challenge to tackle, or goal to reach. Well, lucky for me, in our 14 years together, there have been a few!
Today, we celebrate 14 years of hard-earned, slogged through, haven’t-reached-the-top-yet, journeying in love, #marriage.
It’s a miracle, it’s God’s grace, it’s an adventure that doesn’t stop giving.
With 14 years to look back on, here are 6 (of the many) things I have learned (and am learning):
1. When opposites attract, they really mean opposite. It’s a natural tendency to think that everyone is like you... until you realize that they’re not. It causes all kinds of chaos, and comparison -who is right, who is wrong, how to coexist with different perspectives and then understanding how to relate and love when your spouse is different than you. It’s a journey in becoming more self aware, and in learning to love well. I’m grateful for our differences, because they have helped me learn to see the point of view of others, which enables me to love better all around. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Differences can be hard to navigate, but they can grow our character if we let them.
2. We are a team. During our time church planting in Africa, we worked as part of a team. That close-knit community, shaped our view our marriage, it caused us to see that our marriage is also a team. We worked together, supported each other, focused on common goals and vision. It formed how we would “do” family life together. The impact our marriage had on our African community was clearly visible, as there were elderly African ladies who would chuckle as we walked by and say “there goes Brent & Amber, step by step, shoulder to shoulder.” Their way of noticing our togetherness, which stood out among a very polygamous society.
3. Hardships pointed us to Jesus not each other. We have faced a few scary moments in our years together. One of them being when our daughter was critically ill in the pediatric ICU, and we were faced with losing her. I don’t think you can ever predict how you will react, cope, or respond in those uncertain moments. It would have been easy to look to him to fix everything- my feelings, the situations - but we learned to support each other, stand strong for each other, and lean heavily on Jesus.
4. Daily practice denying “self.” Oh how many times my selfish motivations and desires caused my attitude to reflect more of hell than heaven. This is a lesson I continue to learn daily. Tim Keller writes*, “To be part of a whole, to become part of a greater unity, you have to surrender your independence.” This was particularly challenging for me, raised to be a strong, independent person. We will all battle with our instinctive self-centeredness, yet within our marriage partnerships, we learn to pay attention to the needs of the other; gaining a new perspective.
5. It is so easy to blame! We have this exact picture from the beginning of humanity when we look at Genesis 3. It only took one mistake for the blaming game to start. When things in life have been hard, I saw how quickly my thoughts put the blame on him, and it didn’t take long to witness the worsening effects that it had on our relationship. Christian psychologist, Micheal Misja** shares how our marriage is a spiritual battle, and that “if [the enemy] can give you a spiritual cancer by producing despair, bitterness, pride, or apathy, he has won your heart.” Our needs will not always be met, we will have expectations that fall short, we won’t see every situation in the same way; how we choose to respond - either by putting up walls against, or reaching out - will determine which side of the battle we are on, which will express the condition of our heart. We need to be aware of our expectations and our needs, learning to express them in healthy ways, rather than responding out of our pain.
6. The gift of friendship. Friendship is always a work in progress. Sometimes, as we have kids, it can be easy to get distracted and manage immediate needs, causing a laziness in building friendship. In his book on marriage, Joel Beeke says that “Friendship cannot be warmed up by thirty seconds in the microwave. So much today is instant, but friendship is not. It costs something. It costs you yourself, your commitment, and your vulnerability.”*** It takes our effort to continue growing our friendship, to check-in with each other, to share our hearts, and have actual face-to-face time. I don’t want to become an empty-nester who doesn’t know the face of the one I’m married to, and so the investment begins now.
Marriage has been, for me, a journey with God, who has been transforming my character to become more like Him through my relationship with my husband. I am so grateful for all that He has done, and is doing in me. And, let’s be honest, it is so painful and hard at times. The book of James talks about gold being refined by fire, and so we too are refined through navigating relationships and especially with our spouse.
But, we don’t #celebrate what’s been hard, we celebrate all the good that He has done inside of what’s been hard. We celebrate that He is faithful. We celebrate when we are given the grace to see change. We celebrate that He has been with us and that He promises to keep on doing the work of transforming our hearts.We celebrate the promise made before God, the covenant of marriage that He has gifted us with.
By the grace of God, the adventure continues!
How has God been transforming you through your spouse?