Naomi is one of my most gracious friends here in Lima, Peru. I love her beautiful generous heart and her stark honesty with her humanness and need for God. It is refreshing. This article is no exception. She shows us a reality all married people find, and dares to look at the reasons and the remedy in this very raw piece.
Me, myself and I
Ok, so I have just sat down to write this article on marriage. The purpose?
To encourage you and myself this month as we consider and celebrate marriage and perhaps to share the odd pearl of wisdom gained in nearly 8 years of marriage. However, I have to tell you I have just had an argument with my husband!
At first, I thought how on earth can I write something useful about marriage when we have so obviously failed yet again in our own? Then, as is the Lord's custom, in the middle of the bad, He brings out something good and more practical than you would think for when conflict comes...married or not.
A beautiful thing
Marriage is a beautiful thing. I love it. I love the way it shows me Jesus, I love the way it can be (and should be) a huge blessing for everyone in it and close to it.
It is the perfect arena for all that love, romance and passion that burns inside of us. Before you marry, you are pretty confident that these grand feelings will conquer all challenges, that YOUR marriage will be different. YOUR love is so strong.
I'm sure some of you will empathise with this. A few years down the line in marriage, attraction can wane, the flaws show, and there are times when you struggle simply to be civil to your partner, let alone desire them. There are times when your lives seem so independent from each other –“one flesh” seems like impossibility and representing Christ and the church is far from evident. There are times when to submit to, respect or love your partner feels so hard.
So how does it get to this? How come our ‘love’ is not seeing us through? Why do I get so angry so quickly?
Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband. I am very, very thankful to God for Him.
It really feels like we are doing quite well right now. It catches me by surprise when an argument flares up as it did today, not the fact that we argued but the fact that there was so much anger. A promise was broken and my flesh was offended - hear me roar!!!
It is very difficult to fix something we may not fully understand. Perhaps we will only ever fix something in part and learn to live with it.
We can work on superficial remedies to drive marriage a little better like improve communication, sex life, working on those love languages perhaps. We certainly do not lack books, seminars and psychologists, perhaps some of these are meeting some of our needs some of the time.
But if you like me, are surprised at the level of anger that rises up in you and you haven’t found help that is accessible and powerful, then there is something we have not understood properly. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves about ourselves.
My idol - me, myself and I
It's time I uncovered the golden calf.
I would imagine that most of you would confess to being selfish at times. However, I am only recently realizing that SO MANY of my responses, particularly to my husband, are not God glorifying because they come from a default position, which is “How will this affect me? My plans? My dreams? My expectations?”
Love of self gets in the way of love for God and one another and when it does -
my relationships suffer, particularly my marriage.
This passage from Paul Tripp's book 'What did you expect?' has made me think a lot:
'Sin turns us in on ourselves. Sin makes us shrink our lives to the narrow confines of our little self-defined world. Sin causes us to shrink our focus, motivation, and concern to the size of our own wants, needs, and feelings. Sin causes all of us to be way too self-aware and self important. Sin causes us to be offended most by offenses against us and to be concerned most for what concerns us. Sin causes us to dream selfish dreams and to plan self-orientated plans. Because of sin, we really do Love Us, and we have a wonderful plan for our own lives....
What we actually want is for our spouse to love us as much as we love ourselves, and if our spouse is willing to do that, we will have a wonderful relationship.'
Could it be that all that love, attraction, romance and passion in those early days were created because I thought my needs, expectations and dreams were going to be met? And then, a few years down the line, when I realise that some of them are not being met. Uh-oh. Bye, bye attraction - hello frustration!
The sweet remedy
So I have learnt just this week that I am my own idol. Frustration and anger rise up like a snake every time my precious little “suffocating kingdom of one” is threatened.
It sure doesn't take long to get bitter.
How many little promises has he broken in our marriage? As long as my precious kingdom of one is my hope for fulfillment - every slight, every failure, every imagined insult produces fireworks. But Idols don’t work. I need to repent of it and I need to ask for more faith. I need to take this idol down off the pedestal and put Jesus in His rightful place. Not just once, but in every conflict.
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32
He will graciously give us all things!
He will supply all my needs and He will meet all my expectations and more! In the moment of frustration, when our idol needs feeding (or when we don’t think God is looking out for us), let's trust in Jesus and what He did for us on the cross. It won’t FEEL like it's enough but it is. The Lord keeps promises, little and big. Give your spouse some grace, The Lord will take care of you. It will be a daily battle, our flesh will always come up with justifications which give the green light to bad behaviour. Fight them, they are not for you, they are for your idol.
One thing is for sure, I’m too weak to be the holy wife that would do what Jesus did. I’m a sinner and I need help.
So, the Lord has brought me straight back to the so very
. To help me glorify Him in conflict and to help me glorify Him when I mess it all up. This is accessible. This is powerful. This gives me hope. This is what I need and in Jesus this is what I already have, if I would simply believe it. Let’s Make Philippians 2:1-11 our mission and our hope in our marriages.
“It is a big deal if I forget to live in light of the gospel. When ´what would Jesus do?’ becomes more important that ‘what did Jesus do?' [Then] the very motivation and power for change that I need will elude me. I won’t have the hope that I need to fight another day against the sin that haunts and seek to condemn me.” Elyse M Fitzpatrick.
Naomi and her husband, David are British missionaries living in Lima, Peru with their three children, Jessica (5), Jack (3) and Kate (10 months). They work with a church in a developing district of Lima and they are passionate about knowing Jesus and making Him known.