Two Things I Thought I Knew Before I Got Married

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I got married two days after my thirtieth birthday. We celebrated our thirty-second anniversary last May. My daughter asked me what advice I’d give young wives and I had to think & pray about it because it has been a long time since I was a young wife. I now have been married longer than I was single — something I could not imagine being true in my mid-twenties.

I came into marriage with a lot of sound and unsound Biblical teaching along with emotional baggage and unresolved issues. I had theory, but not practice (except in the experience of those who gave advice). I had expectations based on all the books, movies, and music I’d been exposed to. And I was like every other new spouse in that regard. We all come into marriage unprepared for the reality at some level because it is a new thing.

Nothing Will Be Like You Thought It Would Be

At least, not after the first “dream come true” moments when you think your fantasy has actually become real. That organized house, perfect pair of jeans, and every relationship you might have will be different after you live with them a while. I was reminded of this recently by a 9-year-old who confided, “I thought when my dad told me he would have full custody that everything would change, but really it didn’t much.” Her life has had a lot of changes and this one will be good, but it will not be problem-free.

Getting married does not mean “happily ever after” any more than getting to live with your most stable parent means everything will change. But living with the most stable parent is pretty good when you are nine. A stable home is a good thing at any age even when it isn’t like what you thought it would be. Any kind of home can become something good when God is finished with the people who live there. This is something I thought I understood, but the in-your-face dynamics of marriage and parenthood took that understanding deeper.

Things in God’s Hand are Not Wasted

I think the most important thing to remember about marriage is the same thing that is priority in singleness: God is with us. He is with us in the mundane daily tasks that nobody sees. He is with us in the spotlight of high-stress situations. He promises that all the things..ALL of them…are not wasted (Romans 8) but we have no promise that things will be what we planned.

Some heartbreaking things can happen. Discouragement and despair can cloud our vision until we can’t see any hope at all. Is God still working? Yes. Is He still with us? Yes. The entire Bible is the story of His redemptive love for broken, sinful, rebellious individuals. The fact that you are here, reading these words, means that He is giving you another chance to respond to Him.

Most of life is not made up of big things. Life is little things, one after another, day after day. The choices we make in the little things don’t always seem very important. Much of the time, God is the only one who knows what kind of sacrifice it is to keep your mouth shut or pick up that sock on the floor. It’s a sacrifice to stop what I am doing and pay attention to someone who wants to talk. But those are the times I am picking up my cross and following Jesus.

As we do that, the hidden choices pile up. The mundane things are not wasted. It won’t be like you thought it would be, but it will be better than you could imagine eventually.

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Celibacy and Chastity Are Not Dirty Words

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It’s been interesting to see the debates on the recent marriage decision by the US Supreme Court. I’m not going to get into the fray by saying my thoughts on that decision because it will sidetrack from one issue that is often revealed: for some reason, the idea of controlling one’s sexual appetite is seen as a bad idea.

Most of the time I am told that it is wrong to deny your feelings, that people have the right to do whatever their inclination is sexually. If it feels good to someone, they should do it (whatever “it” is) and not repress themselves.

The problem is that we see the benefit of controlling one’s appetite in other areas. People who control their appetite for unhealthy food reap the benefit of improved nutrition. Those who control their appetite for laziness don’t have soft puffy bodies. Those who control their appetite for mind-numbing media tend to be more intelligent.

The professional dancer says “no” to a lot of things in order to become proficient at dance. Those Olympic athletes have denied themselves many enjoyable moments in order to compete at the highest level. If you are going to be in top physical shape, you have to control various appetites, saying “no” to one thing so that you can say “yes” to something better.

Celibates have said “no” to sexual activity in order to say “yes” to something they deem better. People practicing chastity say “no” to sexual behavior outside marriage in order to deepen and strengthen the bond of that marriage. 

There are many people who are chaste or celibate for reasons that are not religious. Some are interested in avoiding sexually transmitted disease: a topic that should be more visible in our sexualized culture. Others have been so scarred by the past they try to avoid more trauma. Occasionally there isn’t much sexual appetite to begin with because what is happening in your body affects desire.

Controlling what you feed your sexual appetite begins with the thought process. Chastity and celibacy involve more than a physical appetite. Sexuality begins in the emotions and thoughts of a person, which is why porn can be so devastating since it creates habits rewarded by pleasure. But if the porn really satisfied, the same level of porn would be enough to satisfy again. We don’t see this in the porn industry — instead there is increasing demand for different types of porn and deeper degradation.

Every person involved in the porn industry is a person whom Jesus came to seek and to save, which is easy to forget sometimes. Every person who is focused on feeding their appetite for whatever triggers pleasure is a person who needs to see that the pleasure is fleeting.

Pleasure isn’t a problem unless it is sought at the expense of the permanent.

Saying “no” to the future in order to say “yes” to something that will only last a short time is like eating the seeds instead of planting them for a harvest of many more. Jesus used the example of a seed needing to die in order to produce many more seeds, and that principle applies to our lives in many ways.

Biblical Christianity says “yes” to Jesus, who chose to say “no” to all that He had as deity so that we could be alive in Him. He chose to leave all the privilege of being God and become a fertilized egg in the womb, be born and grow into limited manhood, and die a shameful death on the cross for the simple reason that He loves us. His disciples saw Him die, were terrified of dying themselves, and then something changed.

Those who knew Jesus was dead and were hiding from the authorities suddenly came out in public insisting that Jesus was alive. Many followers of Jesus were beaten, arrested, and killed. They died unafraid, knowing that the God who overcame death would do all He promised and that this life was not the end of life.

We see people die for what they believe to be true all the time. But these Jesus followers would be dying for what they knew was a hoax — if it was a scam put on by the disciples they would be the first group in history willing to die unanimously to perpetrate a story they made up. Why would they say “no” to life and “yes” to that?

They said “no” to the temporary and “yes” to the eternal.

Jesus told us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. This includes all our appetites, in every area of life, married or single. It doesn’t necessarily mean those appetites are bad, but it does mean those appetites are recognized as temporary.

When you think about it, people who are chaste or celibate are saying “no” to a temporary sexual urge so they can say “yes” to something that lasts longer and has more value.

A Husband-Shaped Hole

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The first time that my new husband hurt my feelings, I sat on our front steps and cried my eyes out.  It was a warm night at the end of the summer, and as I sat there I asked God how it was possible that just weeks after the wedding I could be this crushed by my loyal and loving (and oblivious) husband.

It was one of those times that God answered me very specifically.

It isn’t his job.

What?

Filling all of your needs.  It isn’t his job.

The tears dried on my cheeks as I thought about that.  I had this erroneous idea that was probably born in my childhood or early teens that marriage was the ultimate goal and would make me happy.  Even knowing intellectually that it wasn’t true, it was a hard reality to actually encounter.

Christian dating/courtship books encourage this idea, though they probably don’t mean to.  Even most of the conversations that I have had about marriage make it seem like singleness is a long hard journey and the reward is marriage.. much like we look forward to heaven at the end of the journey of life.  But marriage isn’t a goal; marriage is a continuation of the journey.  Marriage is acquiring a running partner.  Marriage is the decision to make the hard journey of life with a loving and sinful spouse who is also a novice at the whole thing.

There’s an evangelistic concept that we all have a God-shaped hole in our hearts that only he can fill.. only I feel like as single women we were all subtly told that it is actually a husband-shaped hole.  We long for marriage, and so we imagine that a husband will make us secure or cure our loneliness or fix our brokenness.

It isn’t a husband-shaped hole.  It is definitely a God-shaped hole.  Don’t make the mistake of trying to saddle your spouse with responsibilities that actually belong to Jesus.

Even after 2 years of marriage, sometimes I have to stop and evaluate where I am placing my trust.  Am I expecting things of Jason that are not within his responsibilities (or capabilities) to fulfill?  Am I trusting Jesus to be my Savior and trusting Jason to be my partner?

That night, I got up and climbed the steps back into my house.  I gave my hurt feelings to God and responded to my (still clueless) husband with love.  And I let the hole in my heart be filled by the only one big enough to fill it.

Is He the RIGHT Guy for Me?

So, I’m reblogging…instead of leaving a comment because I think this has some very good thoughts:

Is He the RIGHT Guy for Me?.

Most thought-provoking statement…”These are the kinds of things that a wife needs to be able to ACCEPT about her man and know that she cannot change about him.”

Really, these are things that only God changes…and it could be said about children, friends, and relatives as well.  But this is a great list to bring before God & ask Him to open your eyes to see where He wants to work on YOU.  (not an accusatory ‘you’ but a ‘I’m looking in the mirror’ you)

Seasons of Life

I became a Christian at 20, was sexually active & sporadically engaged at the time, and struggled with the whole celibacy idea for years. Not a struggle of intellect or conviction; a struggle of awakened desires that would not go back to sleep once I chose to be chaste!

I kept putting my desires to be married on the altar, & there are lots of tears in that statement. I asked God not to allow me to be married until I could be a real “helpmeet” and He kept closing the door to marriage in my pleading face for 10 years.

Now, I have been married for 25 years and can share a couple of points–

Both states, married or single, are referred to as “gifts” by Jesus. All gifts are given for the benefit of the Body of Christ and are not necessarily for the rest of your stay on earth. People die all the time, and that will include you or a spouse and could happen today. (Excellent motivation, by the way, to appreciate what God gives you every moment.)

Both states, married or single, require being dead to self and alive to Christ. If you aren’t struggling with something being put on the altar, you aren’t sharing His suffering or growing in His grace. Your sin nature is not compatible with anyone else’s and marriage does not mean constant fulfillment.

Both states, married or single, are actually temporary because there is only one marriage in Heaven, that of Christ & His Bride… which includes you if you choose.

Both states, married or single, are dim reflections of eternity and are going to be baffling with times of blindness. This means you walk by faith and not by sight.

Learning to be content in whatever state you are in requires knowing God & His Word, which is true theology. Only truth sets us free, and He is Truth.

Theology isn’t an intellectual exercise, it is knowing God & interacting with Him–“God-Logic”, that which makes sense (ology=the study of) because of God (theos=God). The hidden choices you make in response to Him every day are where you serve, married or single.

giftedness

Being single is a gift…being married is also a gift. When the pharisees challenged Jesus about marriage in heaven, he used the same word referring to the gift of singleness as Paul used in referring to gifts of the Spirit. When I was single…and I married at age 30…I struggled with appreciating the gift He had given me.

Why does God give gifts? Partly for our pleasure, partly for the ministry He has for us. You could even think of His gifts as tools to be used and the goal of the gift is the work done with the tool–we get the satisfaction of work well done. The permanent part is the work done–not the tool used. Marriage is temporary: there is no marriage in heaven other than being the Bride of Christ.

What do we have then, on earth?
“…different distributions of spiritual gifts, these gifts being diverse from one another, but there is the same Spirit. And there are different distributions of various kinds of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different distributions of divine energy motivating these gifts in their operation, but the same God who by His divine energy operates them all in their sphere. But to each one there is constantly being given clearly seen operations of the Spirit with a view to the profit of all.” (1 Cor 12)

There’s a big-picture thing going on here, and when I am frustrated by my little part of it I am missing the fact that it isn’t my show. You could change the image, and call it a ginormous quilt……..

…..I deeply appreciate quilts. My mother would love to have me be a quilter and I think they are amazingly beautiful works of craftsmanship and maybe someday I will be but right now, I just have all manner of quilting books & supplies from Mom and a few quilts I’ve picked up over the years that somebody else used their gifts on. One of these is an Irish Chain postage stamp quilt that has squares maybe 1 inch big…on a double bed size. The pattern and color of patchwork comes from every piece being different, yet all sewn skillfully together to make a beautiful whole. This is like the Body of Christ, and this is like marriage, and this is like life in general.

So many times I am reminded of quilts, and the many colors and fabrics that go in to creating them. Some of my days are bright and cheerful, some are loud and crazy, some somber and quiet. A few are the deepest dark. If I could somehow take the darkest patches off of my postage stamp quilt, it wouldn’t look right. You need the contrast to make it look best. I suspect that my life needed those dark times. If I ripped off the patches I don’t like on the quilt on my bed I’ll get a cold breeze blowing into my slumbers! It’s the union of all those patches into a whole that makes the bed warm, and Jesus is the master quilter who puts it all together to keep my life warm.

I’ll elaborate later–Dave just got up. We are, once again, doing the night shift at the Gettysburg Reenactment and that means we spend from 7pm to 7am together awake doing security this year, outside on a hill looking over tents and battlefield under the stars. Imagine the possibilities….