He looks at me with his brow set and I just know, I have lost another 'heated' discussion. I'm licking my wounds and he is fuming on his way out the door to work. Once upon a time I use to begrudge and think 'serves him right, I HOPE he has a bad day for being such a pain!' Somehow I don't think most of you are shocked to 'hear' that because I have to believe I am not the only one who grew up believing in fairy tales only to find, after the "I do's", it is a not-so-happily-ever-after we sign on for.
I believe this because the divorce statistics scream it. I see this when friends and acquaintances wear it in their drooping shoulders trying to fight another day while pleading with me 'you just don't understand... I.just.can't.keep.doing.this.'
Oh, but I do.
My once upon a time began pre-renewal of faith, in a dark place called Fallen Away. Not only did I make the mistake of divorcing my oldest son's father after 4 years of marriage and not even trying to make it work (after all, relationships are disposable right?), but then I met and remarried my husband now. How hubby and I matched is only a God thing in the middle of a Godless existence because the only thing we had in common was a desire to be loved, taken care of, and produce more us! It is the truth. We both matched up with a desire for 4 kids. Strange that two extremely broken people could want such simple things. As for the bigger details in life... well, let's just say, it is a good thing we can love as deeply as we fight sometimes!! My desperate desire to NOT divorce ever again was the glue holding us together until God became my adhesive.
Three years into our marriage I took the step and bent my knee in repentance. I didn't just return to God, I ran to him and clung tight. Then, realizing my need for a partner in my walk, I prayed for the next 10 years to have a husband I could pray with, all the while begging for justification to leave. To become another statistic. I didn't care.... I wanted out. My high expectations of no-more-divorce were crumbling around me.
Surely I was justified: I felt ignored, rejected and, when he did pay attention to me, it was usually to argue with me or yell at me for something completely ridiculous. He had addictions; gaming, smoking and typical guy stuff. His story is his story but I can honestly say TRUST ME I do understand and it IS hard to just.keep.going. But you see, nowhere in the Bible does it say it's ok to give up and quit on marriage because you just can't keep going. On the contrary, and especially in Paul's letters, it continuously states: persevere.
Did I feel unmatched? Yes
Did I feel unloved? Oh yes
Did I feel out-of-love? Do I really need to repeat the same answer?
If we banked all of life simply on feelings, how could we get through a day with ANYTHING? Besides, who are we really focusing on if all we can think is 'but I feel....' or 'but I can't....' We live in a society which says: do what makes YOU feel good. Me, me, me, me is what blares no matter where you go. You shouldn't have to put-up with it. What about YOUR happiness. Sound familiar? Even other well-meaning Christians get trapped into cooing this philosophy when life, and especially marriage, gets tough.
But it isn't about me.
As a matter of fact, it isn't even about my husband.
Nope. It is about one person, and one person alone and His name is Jesus Christ.
Jesus walked a life which constantly lacked comfort. He stood before people who hated him and sought to kill him. But he persevered. Why? One simple word: Love. Let's have a test on this word: Who can recite John 3:16? Anyone? Everyone? All together? Ok, part 2 to this test: who really... I mean, really and truly understands what that means? Let's start here with the rest of that passage:
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
So what can we do that is true and bring us into the light? Accept Jesus, for one. Then what? How about pass it on? Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest. He replied, to love God and love others with their WHOLE heart. There is that word again, LOVE. John, the disciple Jesus loved, didn't just write the infamous John 3:16, he had a couple other books penned as well. This passage almost feels like a part 2 of the 3:16 craze:
10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.... 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 4:10-13,16, 19-21
God has given us his Spirit... you know, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead... that Spirit. It isn't this wimpy, wispy, ghostly apparition... no. It is POWER. That power is meant to be used and we can use it to love. Why? Because it is a COMMAND and because Jesus loved us: he gave us an example. What does love look like? Simple answer: sacrifice.
Yup. S.A.C.R.I.F.I.C.E. Does the "me" culture phenomenon real at this idea? You bet. Because sacrifice means you have to give up me and think of a something, or someone, greater or other than "me". It isn't easy... but it is simple.
You see, too often we look at God's love as this lofty idea of fuzzy, happy, sweet things. In marriage we consider kisses and roses and thoughtfulness through and through. Bliss. Yet, the truth of the matter, if you pay close attention to 3:16 and many other passages, is that God's love involved the sacrifice of his ONLY son... of the greatest, most perfect, most undeserving of torture and death person this world has ever known. Did Jesus hate his persecutors? No. Actually, he loved them deeply and it hurt him deeply to see them consistently turning away in light of the Truth standing before them. Did Jesus lay down the cross halfway to Calvary and say "nah, this ain't worth it, they don't even act like they love me anyway... it.is.too.hard. I'm God, life is suppose to be easy and pain-free" No, he did not. And praise be to Him for HIS perseverance.
THIS is LOVE, that God, high and holy and perfect, GAVE/sacrificed/did without/suffered for a SHORT TIME, his only Son, His greatest possession. SO THAT whoever believed/trusted/put their faith in could have eternal life, get a break from this temporal hardship and look to an eternity of hope and peace.
That is Love. Yes, sometimes it IS roses and kisses and bliss. But sometimes it is tears and fights and heartbreak. Sometimes it is loving someone when they are most unlovable and TRUSTING God to work in their hearts. Because, the fact is, we aren't always that lovable by people and we certainly didn't deserve a savior when we ran from God, denied his power, or even now, in the midst of our salvation, we rebel... he.still.loves.us. And he never stops, he never lays down that cross... he simply perseveres and Trusts. Can't we do the same?
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
- 1 Corinthians 13:7
Poor hubby. I may not always agree with him and, even now that God answered my prayers almost 6 years ago, delivering hubby from addictions and into the hands of salvation and a missional heart, hubby still has his needed growth points. Points that literally break my heart some days. BUT, if I'm honest, I still have my growth points too. And if God could love me SO much to sacrifice, to put up with my mess.... then the least I can do is the same for those around me.... especially my husband.
The rest of the story? My heart ached as he walked out the door fuming. Poor guy. I still don't agree with his stance in our tiff, but I certainly hate for him to risk a wrecked day because of it. I took to prayer and reflecting on God's word to be sure I am walking justly (I always try to make necessary adjustments when I am not) and hope for a quick resolution I place in God's hands while I seek peacefulness with my husband and perseverance until all is right again.
I pray, whether you are happily or not-so-happily married (or maybe not married at all in this stage of your life!) that you may know, understand, and walk out true love, through thick and thin. Not just with a spouse, but also with others around you who need to see God's love and grace through you today.