Each semester for the past two years, Matt and I have participated in a marital panel that speaks to a group of college students in a Marital Counseling course. We look forward to it every semester, for no two sessions are ever the same. I was a bit nervous to speak this time around because of our recent marital trials. For those who don’t know, this past year Matt and I have been through a refining process (a.k.a. thrown in the fire and burned like hell to mold, shape, and purify the messes that we are). However, my prayer was that the Lord would use our words to encourage the next generation. (Can’t believe I’m old enough to be referring to college students as the next generation!) Here are some highlights from our conversation.
1. A wise woman taught me that “marriage is intended to make you holy, not happy.” Wow. I joke that I will be one holy woman by the time all is said and done, because in my marriage the verse about iron sharpening iron has always rang true. Sparks will sometimes fly when iron is being sharpened. I’m okay with that. I would much rather be a useful, sharp instrument than a dull, useless blade. The trials I have faced in my marriage have tested my faith, my love, my commitment, and my covenant, but I have come out stronger in all of these areas as a result of all of this refining and sharpening. In fact, if things continue at this rate I will be so refined…and sharp…and holy that I’ll just float around and glow :). But what is so amazing—the most important thing I’ve learned from this process–is that when you strive for holiness you somehow find happiness. Funny how that works, huh? God’s kingdom really is upside down.
2. You can only be loved as much as you are known. The temptation for so many is to buy into the lie that if I am truly known—all of my secrets, ugliness, sin, darkness—I will not be loved. This is where Satan gets a foothold and works to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). The old adage that comes from AA that “you’re only as sick as your secrets” applies here. As a woman who is getting “older”, I’m facing new insecurities about my physical appearance that I haven’t faced before. One day recently, I noticed an attractive man noticing me. I had a choice to move quickly into my car and break his view, or linger awhile longer in his admiration. I sinfully chose to linger. I also chose to confess this to Matt. I have no desire for secrets to come between us. I have no desire to be sick, or allow the enemy a foothold. I desire to be known, forgiven, and loved.
3. The temptation in marriage is to focus on all the things that are wrong in your spouse and wanting them to change because if only they would change, I would be happy. Again, this is a big, fat lie. I have preached it forever, but now am really having to practice it like never before: The only person you can control and change is YOURSELF. It is good and healthy for each of us to set boundaries for what we will/will not tolerate in our relationships; however, we cannot control the actions of another. When I start focusing on all of Matt’s flaws and stop looking at the ugliness reflected in the mirror, I allow roots of bitterness and discontent to take hold. When I am humble and look for ways to authentically love, serve, and respect Matt, amazing things happen. I allow room for God to work and receive the fruits of the spirit. Remember those? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What gifts! Soooooo much better than rage, bitterness, jealousy, condemnation, meanness, coldness, anger, and fear, wouldn’t you say?
4. Marriage is a sanctifying gift. I love my husband and he loves me. I know my husband better than anyone on this planet and he knows me better than anyone else. There is great comfort in this. I cannot think of anything greater than going through life with your best friend! Yes, there have been disappoints, unspeakable heart breaks, and failures on both our parts. We are horribly flawed and beautifully messy and will continue to fail until the day of redemption. But we have committed, no…covenanted to be in this crazy thing called life together…for better or worse. Matt is my lover. He is my best friend. What more can you ask for than that?