This isn’t a typical blog post, but it has been weighing on my heart as we meet so many people. I pray that anything that is from God stays in your heart and anything of my flesh falls aside and is forgotten.
My heart has been heavy for a long time and I have been preparing to write this for almost 6 months. But its not the easiest thing to write because I know it effects a lot of people and each situation is very different. But the more I understand the heart of God and his desire for us and our marriages, I have realized how much the enemy tries to get us to focus on ourselves and tries to destroy our marriages by building up walls between the very person that should be our team mate, biggest fan and support. Marriages are struggling on so many different levels so I felt a need to share what I have been learning and how it has strengthened my marriage in hopes that each of you will allow God to begin making changes in you, so you too will see the fruits in your marriages.
You see, God tells us that we are to love God with ALL our hearts and Love our neighbors as ourselves. These are our two commandments on which everything else stems from. I had noticed that I could go out and love people, minister to people, and share the gospel, but when I got home, I would lose patience and get snippy and condescending to the very people who were the closest to me. So why is it that loving our neighbor as ourselves seems to not apply when we are talking about our spouse and somehow we justify it?
A few months ago, I began to get very frustrated with Joe. For some reason, my mind began to dwell on all the things I was doing around the house and for our family which led to thoughts of what Joe wasn’t doing (in my mind). I began to let those thoughts fester within me. I began to have feelings of entitlement from him, like he owed me. That things weren’t “fair”. So everything he did all I could see was what he was NOT doing. My focus and perception became very distorted because I was dwelling on the negative. I was choosing to assume the worst instead of the best and every time we do this, we start building a wedge and begin to separate ourselves from our spouse. He would do a project and instead of encouraging him, I would find a flaw and point it out or ask him why he didn’t do it this way or that way. You see, our spouses value how we view them and we can tear them apart or lift them up to greatness with simple words. As women, we want our men to lead us and take care of us, yet when they do, we find ourselves correcting them or sharing our opinions (even with the kindest words or best intentions) which only quench their ability to lead or do anything because what they hear is “you aren’t doing it right”. When we choose to see the negative within our relationships, we begin to feed this into our hearts until eventually, this is all we see and we begin to gripe and complain about them which just drives us further and further apart.
You see, with Joe, I started feeling like I “deserved” better, that he wasn’t meeting my expectations, and I have a “right” to (you fill in the gap). I was justifying myself while putting my husband down. But the truth is, when we love, we surrender our “rights”. We begin to lay ourselves down, in love, to serve our spouses. And when this happens mutually, we begin to uplift and help one another, doing all we can to support each other instead of our own need, wants, and desires.
You see, God has given us marriage as a reflection of Christ and the church. As we surrender ourselves to Christ and the Gospel, it becomes no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me. It no longer becomes about me, but about Christ. This is oneness. And this is what we are called to in our marriages. We become one, by laying ourselves down and not making it about myself and what I deserve or what I can get, but about what I can do for my spouse. How I can uplift and encourage and serve them, no matter what, and expecting NOTHING in return. This is love!
Love is kind…this means we don’t speak negatively about our spouse. We lift them up and encourage. Love is patient…it walks things out with our spouse. It helps them and goes through difficult times together. Love is never jealous or envious. We are not in competition with our spouse so when they succeed we succeed. You compliment each other with your talents and faults because you have become one. Love is not proud or boastful. Its not about you! Its not about what you have done or who you are and what you deserve. Its about becoming humble and laying yourself down for your spouse. Love doesn’t insist on its own rights or its own way because it is not self-seeking. It takes NO record of wrongs. This is huge because this is forgiveness. This is something that truly divides a couple. Holding on to and dwelling on the faults of the other. The times they may have failed or messed up. Because when we hold onto these things, we begin to expect the worst in our spouse instead of the best. This causes us to look down upon instead of encouraging them. Love bears up under ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of our spouse and hope NEVER fades under ALL circumstances. Love NEVER Fails! This means that regardless of the wrongs done to us, we continue to forgive and not be offended and cling to the best rather than the worst, speaking life into our spouses and our marriages instead of discouragement. This is 1 Corinthians 13.
Now if you read that and thought about all the areas your spouse needs to change, then you missed the point. We can never change our spouses, but we can let God change us. If your marriage is struggling, remember it takes two to struggle. When one decides to lay themselves down and love the way Christ does, refusing the desire to “be right”, it will change hearts. Not because of what you say, but because of your actions. Its the kindness of God that draws a man to repentance, not us pointing out all the things they need to change. And this can only happen by submitting yourselves before God first. Taking your value and worthiness from Christ and not your spouse. Allowing God to love you and loving your spouse as Christ does.
I want to be clear about one thing too. A husband and a wife are a team. Its not meant to be one spouse dominating another and hanging a misinterpretation of Ephesians 5 about the woman being submissive to the husband over your spouses head. When you read this chapter, remember that in that time, Men were the dominating ones. They were the ones with the power. But this chapter is talking about men coming down from this position to raise up his bride to become glorious! This is what Christ did for us, he came down from his position in heaven to come along side his bride so that at the wedding feast he will present to himself a glorious bride. Its beautiful as we, women, submit and come along side our husbands!
I have read and heard others speak of books they have read about “love languages” and psychology books about women and men and their differences and how to relate to the opposite sex. They are full of information about personality traits and accepting who we are. This is fine, except for Christ calls us to die to our flesh and lay ourselves down for one another. So these types of books tend to give us an idea of who we are and become our identity and justifies us to stay a certain way, because “that’s who I am.” It also boxes in our spouse to being a certain way, that it can often times be hard to see them in a different way and we limit them to the confines of this box. This doesn’t leave room for God to change either of you into the love he wants you to be. To become more consumed by what your spouse wants than “how you are”. Be willing to change. Be willing to let God change you!
You see, marriage is supposed to be wonderful just like our relationship with Christ. Its freeing and awesome. That’s why God gave us each other. Just like the church should be working together to love others and encourage each other, we should be doing with within our homes. Spending time with each other, not just talking about bills, activities, and schedules, but flirting, dating, holding hands enjoying each other. And absolutely yes, do this in front of your kids. It benefits them so much to see their parents in love. Take time to use your words to tell your spouse how you feel. Don’t just assume they know. And even if they reject you, keep going. Let Gods love change your marriage. Laugh together and remember what made you fall in love in the first place. And have Sex. Yes, you heard me. We were made for each other. God made this a glorious time to be with each other in a way that is special. So do it and do it often (even if one of you doesn’t feel like it and the other does..this is part of being there for each other) and don’t be ashamed of it. Your marriage will thank you.
Focus on God and don’t give up on your marriage! God never gave up on his bride (you) no matter how much we deserved it, ran away, or messed up. He was always there. We should be too.
Live with Abandon
We were driving to Kentucky from Pennsylvania and playing worship music in the car. We were all singing and having a great drive through the mountains of West Virginia. We had such an amazing time in Pennsylvania and the Joy of God had our hearts. We were entering Lexington and I was listening to Live With Abandon by the Newsboys. You have probably seen the link numerous times on my Facebook. As I was listening to this song and singing, I became so overwhelmed that I began to weep and weep in the front seat of the car going down Man O War blvd in Lexington. I had an image in my head that just overtook me. It was of me and Jesus in a field and we were laying in the grass looking at the sky. He stood up and reached his hands out to help me up as he smiled. I jumped to my feet and we began to walk. He was holding my hand but he was much taller than me and I looked like a child compared to him. We began skipping down a large grassy hill and I smiled and let go of his hand and said, “Come over here.” I ran off to the side and finally came back to him. He smiled at me and grabbed my hand again. We then came up to a field of thorns, but there was no fear, just joy. He looked down at me with a smile and I looked back up at him. He gave me a look, like, lets go.
The feelings I had during this image were so powerful. He was showing me what Abandonment really meant. It wasn’t just about giving up a house, job, and material things to “go do ministry and save the world…lol”….it was about giving him our everything. You see, holding his hand represented Abiding in Him. When I ran off in this image, it was me thinking I was doing good, but letting go of his hand and doing my own thing. Gods desire is for us to abandon ourselves! To truly lay down our lives for others. To let go of our past and wrongs done to us, because we no longer live for ourselves and have no right to give someone what “they deserve” because Christ didn’t do that to us. To abandon our way of doing things, to abandon the way we think we “should” live life according to the world, and abide in him and not move, talk, or do anything unless He tells us too. Its about learning to hear him so clearly, that everything we do is with Him. I was as if a child compared to him and I thought about my kids and how they look up to me and my husband. How they do as we ask and they trust us. They look to us when they come to difficulties and ask for guidance. And we help them through it. This is what God wants with us. As I came to the thorns, it was so peaceful and a place of rest, because I knew He was right there holding my hand and would instruct me on what to do. All I had to do was listen and obey. It is awesome. He has been leading and helping me understand this more and more. Letting go no matter what the situation. No more trying to “figure it out” but resting knowing He will give us instruction. Eyes focused on the truth of His love and not wavering. He wants this for each of you. It may seem scary, but the more time you to devote to God and learning to hear him, the easier it becomes and the more you don’t want to live any other way.
This journey isn’t always easy. We have no regular income and we rarely know where we are going next. We aren’t going church to church and we don’t have an agenda. We take each day in stride and learn to listen and love those people put before us, one at a time. But one thing has become so real and that is that God is always there and he won’t forsake us. We have what we need each day, food, clothes, a roof over our head, and the joy of the Lord. I wouldn’t change it for anything! Its true freedom to live as He leads and he desires it for everyone! So take the plunge, give your time to God and begin to watch him change your hearts.