Despite going to school in Helen's hometown of Godalming, Surrey, we didn't actually meet until I moved to University in Sheffield. Helen and Ben were just married by then, and our paths crossed here and there. Then we both had boys within two months of each other and got to hang out at First Time Mum's group together every week, until Mark and I moved to Peru! I have a lot of respect for Helen and Ben and their desire to train up the next generation. They are people of outstanding faithfulness and I am so pleased to have both Helen and Ben contribute this week, (you can read Ben's post tomorrow!):
Ben and I have been married for over 11 years. Just like
every couple, we’ve had ups and downs, good times and difficult times.
There have been difficult situations where we have had to learn how to pull together and come to Jesus to get through them, but often the challenges have just been
when we annoy or frustrate one another, when we just can’t understand why the other is getting on our nerves so much!
This was very true for me in the early days of marriage, when we were learning how to share our whole lives together and I would find myself getting really cross at Ben, often just for little things.
When I was growing up, I never really learnt how to deal with conflict in a healthy way. My sister and I had lots of arguments: screaming and shouting, slamming doors and occasional physical fights. My parents solution was to separate us until we calmed down and could say sorry, which worked to a degree.
Except that I was really good at holding grudges, so often it would take me until the next day to move on. I was never really taught how to handle conflict except by running away and hiding from it.
The problem in an adult relationship like marriage is that it’s not considered very grown-up to run away and hide in your bedroom, hoping when you emerge that everything will be ok again! So, when Ben and I argued or disagreed about something once we were living together, it was very difficult to escape from him – we had to share a bed for a start! Those early years of marriage taught me a heck of a lot about how to better deal with conflict.
The thing that I usually find is, when I get annoyed with Ben for something he has (or hasn’t!) done, I am actually being confronted with my own weaknesses, inadequacies or sin. When I get annoyed when he is untidy or disorganized, actually what is coming to the fore is my desire to control things, which I’m sure is not the Jesus way! Sometimes when I think about it, it is the things which most annoy me about myself that also annoy me about Ben. Marriage can be like a mirror - as can having children – the people we are closest to often get to see the worst things about us, and if you’re a control freak like me, you don’t like it. It’s much more preferable to run away from those things in us rather than have to honestly face up to them, isn’t it?
What I gradually saw, through heaps of time, love, forgiveness and patience (on Ben’s part), was a picture of how God feels about me. When Ben sat me down and waited and waited for me to be able to explain how I was feeling what I also learnt was that the Father loves me unconditionally, despite the weaknesses and sin, and that he loves me enough to gently and patiently see me change. I have learnt so much about God’s character through being married, both by being shown it by Ben in his good responses to me, but also in learning how to show it to him.
You see marriage, (and other significant relationships – you don’t have to be married to experience this), is a fantastic opportunity to learn from each other more about the heart of God towards us, and an opportunity to practice expressing that love which transforms and heals, forgives and restores. It can be painful, but I reckon it is absolutely worth it.
Helen is married to Ben, and lives in Deal, Kent, UK. They have two ace children, Callum and Bethan. As a family, they love Jesus, people, music, sewing, writing, blueberries, shoes, slides, rabbits, trains and Octonauts. Some of them love more of those than others!