Marriage is hard, y’all! And it’s also fun, and wonderful. And complicated, and miserable, and frustrating…and satisfying, and life–giving. Marriage makes us better than we ever could be on our own. It is one of God’s heavenly designs for our hearts to be shaped and trained into Christ–likeness.
For marriage to work, you have to get over yourself. The marriage relationship is a tricky one, in that you can’t just bring half of yourself to the equation and hope that your half + his half will equal a whole. You can’t keep a part of yourself off-limits and simply present a “fair share” to the relationship. Marriage is an “all in” situation if you have any hope of making it last. When you can let go of your need to be in control and lay down all of your rights, you can truly bring your whole self to the equation. Sounds scary, right?
Because it is God’s design, it just doesn’t make sense to our soulish methods of reason. You might be thinking to yourself, “If I give up my rights, then I will be the loser. If I don’t take control, I will be controlled.” But God’s Kingdom is exactly opposite to this world’s way of doing things. One of my favorite paradoxical statements from Jesus is: “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). This definitely applies in marriage. If you are grasping to be the winner in the relationship and trying to get your way all the time, you will suck the life right out of your marriage. But, if you willingly choose to lay down your preferences, your rights (yes, I said it again), and your dominance, you will cross through a spiritual veil into a realm of supernatural grace and favor. When you lose your life, you will find it.
I have been married to my sweet man, Tim, for eleven and a half years. We are still learning so much about each other, even after all this time. We have been through some amazing things together, and also some very difficult times that could have split us apart. Let me just encourage you that no matter what state you find your marriage in today, it is still worth it. It is still worth investing in, working on and fighting for. Turn your cruise control setting to the OFF position and start steering this thing!
Three things that have made all the difference in my marriage:
1. Marriage classes/conferences – When we have taken time to focus on our relationship and open ourselves to input from Godly teachers and pastors, we have taken huge strides in the quality and health of our marriage. You need to intentionally create those times when you focus on your husband and open yourself to his heart.
My favorite marriage conferences are any that Jimmy Evans and Marriage Today put on (www.marriagetoday.com), and a smaller, more intimate weekend away called Encounter Marriage Weekend in Waxahachie, TX (www.encountermarriageweekend.com). My husband and I have been part of the ministry staff on this retreat for the past few years, and it has changed us so much. In addition to serving other couples, we have had the privilege of participating in the teaching and activations, and I HIGHLY recommend it to everyone, regardless of the status of your relationship–good, bad, ugly or what–have–you.
2. Laughter – We have been magically transported from the Pit of Despair (albino and all) into open fields of light through an episode of gut-busting laughter. We actually count it among our talents these days. Laughter is a healing medicine for your soul, and you need it much more than you realize. Make each other laugh! If you can’t muster up the funnies, then find something else that will! Watch funny movies, go people-watching at the mall or at Wal–Mart, or WHATEVER. Go fill the prescription for laughter and see how much better you feel!
3. Prayer – It really makes a difference. You need to pray for your marriage on your own, and you need to pray for your marriage together. Just praying together–about anything–will strengthen your relationship in one of the deepest ways possible. One thing I know we’re all guilty of is prayerlessness, but especially prayerlessness as couples. The overwhelming majority of Christian couples DO NOT EVER pray together. Is it any wonder we’re all falling apart? It’s time to get our priorities straight and press through the discomfort of praying together. It takes vulnerability and humility, and it takes a little practice, but don’t stop because it seems difficult. The rewards will far outweigh the cost.
You need to believe that you can make it. Your marriage can get better. You can change. Your husband can change. God can transform what you currently have into something far more beautiful and fulfilling that you ever dreamed. It all starts with a willingness to get over yourself and cross into your husband’s world with an open heart–and you can do that. “…[S]he who loses [her] life for My sake will find it.”
What things have you found to be the most life-giving for your marriage?