Before I was married, I had the perfect marriage. (Sort of like before I had children, I was the perfect parent.)
I had read the books, studied other couples and families, and formed neat little opinions on what must work or not work.
And then 2008 happened to me – my year of wedded bliss.
(And then 2009 happened to me – the year I became a mother.)
It didn’t take me long to realize that the type of wife and mother I was in my head while still single, sometimes looked vastly different to the one now staring me down in the mirror.
I used to think that marriage (and children) were for companionship, loving and being loved, building a life together, impacting the world for The Good, making memories and creating a tribe, enjoying life more, and on and on and on.
And while I do believe that marriage and family are for all of those things (and plenty more), what I didn’t entirely realize was that marriage is first and foremost God’s greatest tool of discipleship in my own life. (All relationships are a part of His discipleship of us, but these close family relationships like marriage and parenthood tend to be some of the most potent.)
With the love of a father He looked at me – a young, energetic, ambitious, creative, adventurous, and brave twenty-something who was taking on the world – and saw that I actually needed to be discipled on a deeper level in order to continue to move into all that He had for me.
And so He gave me Ryan, Levi, and Judah (and now baby number three on the way).
Don’t get me wrong. These four are the absolute greatest treasures and joys in my life – nothing can compare by even a shred – and yet they are also the ones who help expose my greatest frailties and weaknesses and pull back the covers from my deepest-rooted pride and selfishness.
I love them so much that it hurts… but sometimes that hurt is exacerbated by the fact that through my relationships with them my own pesky character issues continue to bubble to the surface.
It’s uncomfortable to be confronted with your own failings. It’s even more uncomfortable when it’s in the face of those you so fiercely want to love well and so desperately don’t want to let down.
I suppose my character flaws were always there – long before marriage and babies – but the degree that I had dealt with them only matched the degree they had been exposed.
Since being married, Ryan has seen my greatest strengths. He has also seen my greatest weaknesses. Part of the reason I feel our marriage is strong is due to him loving me through all of it, knowing that not only is my character being shaped, but his is too. (Ryan enduring with me through my discipleship is actually part of God’s discipleship of him. And me enduring with Ryan through his discipleship is part of God discipling me.) God’s pretty clever like that – He likes to use every bit of the process for our good.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouse.”
― Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Marriage
Sometimes it feels like I was more “godly” before I was married. It was easier for me to reign in my emotions, and harder for me to be derailed by hidden sins like selfishness and greed and ungratefulness.
But now I realize that it’s not so much about being (behaving) more or less godly, it’s about being more and more transformed into His image and likeness. Just as gold goes through an intense refining process to lose the imperfections, so our lives must go through intense discipleship in order to accurately reflect Jesus well.
Marriage has been the single greatest gift in my life. My sentiments are the same as the old cliché – I love him more today than the day we married. And as hard as it’s been to see marriage bring out my worst (and—at times—Ryan’s worst), it’s also brought out our best. Together, we are better in every way than we ever were on our own, and God in His infinite wisdom knew this far before we ever said “I do.”
We’re still young in our marriage (celebrating 5 years next month!) but we’re committed to the discipleship process that comes with the rubbing up together and meshing of two lives.
We are one. But we are also still becoming one. And thank God that He’s committed to the process even more than we are.
Friends, have you experienced God’s discipleship process in your life through marriage? What is one way you are better off in your own self or walk with the Lord than you were before you said “yes” at the alter?