Five years ago today we said “I do” and then ate a bunch of cupcakes. I’m sure to some of you reading this right now that five years doesn’t seem like a very long time. However, we are going to celebrate because it is only by God’s grace that we have reached this day, and it is by His grace that we are going to continue to grow together during our numbered days here on this earth. The opportunity to look back over the past five years and see His goodness is worth celebrating.
Disclaimer: the past five years have not been easy, enjoyable, fun, or exciting every day. I might even venture to say that the past five years have not been easy, enjoyable, fun, or exciting most days. There have been days that I have questioned our decision to get married at twenty and twenty-two years old. Nevertheless, as we celebrate our five short years of marriage today, I have not a single regret.
What right do you have to talk about marriage?
You’re twenty-five years old, and you’ve only been married for five years.
You’re basically still a kid.
If these are some things you have thought since beginning to read this blog post, well, you’re not alone. I have never felt less worthy to put pen to paper. So why continue to share? Because unfortunately there seems to be a mindset that is too common within my generation that negates the sacredness of marriage. So yes, while I may seem unqualified to write about such topics, I am not going to let that stop me from sharing a few things that I have learned along this bumpy and adventurous road.
So here it goes. Let me share with you five things I’ve learned while sharing my life with another imperfect human being for the past five years.
- Your spouse takes priority, but he is not number one
What? Yes. Trey is not my number one. The moment he becomes the number one in my life, everything is off. Nine times out of ten, if I am feeling dissatisfied in our marriage, I need to check myself to see if I am holding Trey up to be the number one in my life. As my husband, he isn’t called to fill the position of number one.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. – Matthew 6:33
First is my Jesus. He takes the place of “number one.” When this is true, everything else falls into alignment (or “all these things shall be added to you”). If the number one position in my life is filled with someone or something other than the Father, then everything else in my life lacks. It seems like such a simple concept to grasp, yet it has been a struggle not to “seek first” happiness in marriage, success in finances, more material things, and the like.
There’s a quote by Lisa Chan in the book she co-wrote with her husband, Francis Chan, entitled You and Me Forever that says, “Marriage is not the source of joy, though many of us assume that it is. Joy is something we bring into our marriages because we are being filled with joy in our walk with God, and because we are confident of His promises.”
What am I bringing into my marriage? Joy? Fear? Peace? Anxiety? Humility? Pride?
When things suck in my marriage, it’s so easy to look at my husband and cast blame. To do that is to say that Trey is the one who is responsible for my joy, my peace, and ultimately he is number one in my life. Believe it or not, that is not what he is called to be in his role as my husband. When I hold him up on that pedestal, I am literally setting him up for failure.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. – James 1:17
All the joy, peace, and love found in my marriage comes from the Father. Without seeking Him first in our personal lives, we won’t be able to enjoy the fullness that Jesus has for us within our marriage.
2. You choose to magnify the good or the bad
When Trey and I were engaged, I remember thinking about marriage with the idea that all the good aspects of our relationship would be even better when we were married. While I never denied the fact that with this logic, that meant that all of the bad parts of our relationship would be even worse, I did choose to make that more of an afterthought. No one wants to focus on the bad characteristics of the relationship you share with the human you’re committing the rest of your life to, including me. It’s funny how our perspective can change over time (or sometimes overnight). Our perspective may change to the extent that not only does it now seem that the focus of your relationship is the bad, but it’s so bad that you have stopped trying to even look for the good that you once saw. I hate to admit it, but I have been to that point.
This is where unmatchable, undeserving grace from the Father comes in.
If I want to focus on my husband’s flaws rather than his strengths, then that is what I’m going to see the most of when I look at him. Flaws. I like to visualize it as if I’m looking out the window at a beautiful landscape (probably somewhere in Colorado). Everything that I can see through that window is breathtakingly beautiful. This is how I chose to see Trey on our wedding day. Then our marriage progressed and every time a flaw surfaced, every time we fought, every time I allowed my focus to shift to a pain or discomfort that presented itself within our relationship, it’s as if a giant eagle was flying overhead and dropped a big ol’ runny poop on my window blocking my view of the beautiful landscape I once saw. Now, all I can see is smeared, crusty bird poop. However, I’m the one holding the rag. I have to choose to step outside of the normal that I have allowed to creep into our marriage and wipe off that window so that I can reset my focus. The more I chose to magnify his flaws, even if only in my mind, the less opportunity I’ll have to see his strengths.
3. Insecurity in your marriage isn’t your spouse’s responsibility
I will admit it; I have felt insecure (on more than one occasion) in my marriage and in my role as a wife. When I find myself in those low places of insecurity, it is very easy for me to say, “well, if my husband would/wouldn’t do this,” “if only he was more this,” “if only he’d say things like this instead of this,” etc. THEN I would feel more secure in our marriage, THEN I would feel more secure as his wife.
Why would you feel insecure in marriage?
It’s just you and your dear hubby loving each other unconditionally, living happily ever after, right?
NEWS FLASH: My husband is imperfect. He is married to me, and I know it may come with great surprise, but I am also imperfect. We are incapable of loving each other perfectly because we are imperfect beings.
With this imperfection comes insecurity. Let me explain. I know that I am not perfect and with this revelation comes insecurity about all of the ways that I am lacking as a wife. I also understand that my husband is not perfect and therefore will never be able to love me unconditionally, which adds to my insecurities.
Ultimately, if you are looking for security in your spouse, you are looking in the wrong place. I can tell you from experience that it is a humbling realization to come to that you are seeking security in your husband that you can only find in Jesus. Nevertheless, I can also tell you from experience that while it is humbling, it is also liberating. Not only does it free me up to accept the imperfect human that I am, made complete by my Savior, it also frees my husband up to love me the way that he is called, despite his imperfections.
4. Storms only last so long
Recently I asked Trey to share his perspective of the past five years of our marriage. I asked him if, from his point of view, he thought we had experienced more good days or bad days within our five years of marriage. His perspective was of interest to me, because when I thought about it, it definitely seemed like the bad days outnumbered the good days, and I was curious as to whether this was a mutual perspective or if our years together appeared differently to him. While I was looking for a simple answer of “more good days” or “more bad days,” what I received was a very in-depth, detailed novel of an answer simply because that is Trey – a man of many words.
Within his lengthy response, he said that he had once heard someone (he can’t remember who) say in reference to marriage, “You’ll have bad days, bad weeks, bad months, and even years. But those bad seasons pass, and if you both are committed to each other and the institution of marriage, you will get through it together.”
Sometimes the bad seems so bad that it’s difficult to see anything else good, or even just mundane. This is especially true if the bad, hurt, or offense is between you and the one human that you vowed to love, forgive again and again, and trust despite the number of times you have felt betrayed for all your days, through the good times and the bad times.
BUT, find peace in the truth that storms only last so long. Yes, the storm may last days, weeks, months, or even years, but when you choose to hold on to the promises of our Father, you can truly find peace in knowing that He is literally the storm calmer. (Matthew 8:23-27)
5. You can’t change your spouse, but you can do this
Remember how I said that Trey and I are both imperfect? (You’re still in shock from that revelation, I know.) Well, as imperfect humans, sometimes we simply get things wrong. There have been plenty of times during the past five years that I have been in the wrong – in something I’ve said, something I’ve done, an attitude I have had, or something I have thought. Even if Trey does everything in order to correct me lovingly and tell me that I am wrong, I may still choose to ignore his words and not change my thoughts, words, or actions. So what does Trey do?
Well, what I have learned when the roles are reversed, is that there is literally only one thing that I can do.
When your spouse’s heart is hard, there is only One who is capable of softening it. His name is Jesus.
That doesn’t mean I pray, “God, please help my husband to stop being a jerk.” (However, I am sure that I have said that before out of frustration.) I literally ask God to soften his heart and speak clearly to him in a way that he will receive, because believe it or not, Jesus knows Trey better than I will ever know him. He knows his heart, his thoughts, his desires, and He knows how to speak to him better than I ever will.
So, pray. Pray for your spouse. Not just when you are facing conflict or hardships, but all the time. Pray for his relationship with the Father. Pray for protection from evil men and women. Pray for wisdom and insight from the Holy Spirit. Pray for peace when the storms come.
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