Monday, November 13, 2006

It's a Journey. I'm Getting Somewhere.

i've had a few conversations lately with friends about marriage, submission, other people's marriages, etc. it's been on my mind and keeps coming up. over the past week or so, i have been thinking quite a bit about my own marriage with my (incredible) husband and the way that my (incredible) God has changed me over the past five years. mostly, it's been encouraging, and good to remember how far i've come-- and, of course, i'm reminded of how far i have to go!

so here are some things i've learned through my own marriage that have not only changed me as a wife, but carry out into my relationships with everyone (thank you, Jim, for putting up with me while i learned these things the hard way, and for the way you'll keep putting up with me as i forget them):

1. it's not about me. God wants me to be focused on others, anticipating their needs, and wants me to be open and willing to follow through when He shows me that i'm the one that can help those needs get met. this is probably one of the biggest stretches for me- i'm what i'd like to call "unusually selfish"- more than the average person. it's not natural for me to be focused on others before myself. i didn't notice how unnatural it was until i married one of the most selfless people i've ever met. i've also learned that when i am having a horrible day, when nothing goes right, when i'm right and the other person is wrong, when i'm just frustrated, whatever- the BEST thing for me to do is leave all that with God, get up, and DO something for someone else. for me, it's the best way to get focused on what is important and not waste energy on lesser things. the idea sounds simple, probably, to you, but it was revolutionary to me.

2. it's about me. no matter what the other person did, no matter how right i am, no matter how unfair it all is and how much "right" i have to be upset and even if it's ALL the other person's fault, God reminds me that it's about me, not them. He's got all things under His authority and He assures us He'll do what He wants with/about each individual/situation, but that's how He works- with each heart. in any situation, He wants to deal with me and my own heart, my own motivations, my stuff. instead of pointing my finger at the person in the "wrong", He wants me to allow Him to show me all the ways my heart isn't right, and deal with that first. when i've gotten really upset at someone, or my husband in particular, the times i choose not to speak out of anger and instead spend some time talking to God about how i might need to change-- OH how i'm thankful i waited to speak.

3. life isn't fair. God doesn't fight for fairness, He loves justice instead. it is in my best interest to follow and obey His Word, even when it doesn't make sense. serve, even when the other person is thankless and never serves you back?? put yourself last, and no one ever notices your sacrifice? in relation to marriage, what if a wife honors, respects, submits to and serves her husband and he never does anything for her. is that right (for her)? yes. fair? no. but, in all things, God would say do what is best and right, because it's best, not because it gets results (however, often if you persevere, you will see God move).

by the way- as for all things that are not fair-- i've had a few this is NOT fair moments, and then i'm reminded to shout (usually in my mind...not out loud :) ) "PRAISE GOD THAT HE'S NOT FAIR!!!" if God was fair, i'd be condemned to hell, no hope of an eternity with Him. what Jesus did on the cross was not fair, it was grace. and, i believe, that's how the Lord would have us live our whole lives- the last will be first, deny yourself, give what is not deserved out of a motivation of love for God and others, even if you are hated in return, love and serve anyway. Jesus died for us all, knowing we wouldn't all accept His gift of salvation, and even those of us that would would continue to hurt Him daily. that's the ultimate model of grace and service, and as unnatural as it is for me, i know i need to follow it.

4. i am not the Holy Spirit. no matter how much i talk, reason, debate, or support my argument, i cannot change the heart of my husband (or anyone else), only the Lord can. believe me, i can debate CIRCLES around Jim, and so if i rely on that, instead of talking it out with God first, talking it out with Jim when necessary, and leaving it to God to do the work in him (and me, see #2), i'm really no more than a nagging wife. if Jim did ever change his mind, he and i would never be sure if it was God directing us where to go or if he just wanted me to stop bothering him. the best and most incredible moving of God we've ever seen in our marriage has been when we've been in total disagreement, left it alone and not talked about it for a time (praying instead) and waited for God to bring our hearts together. we've always found it to mean we both change some, or a lot, and know the final unity could have only come from God.

5. submission is NOT optional. neither is having a strong spiritual leader at the head of a marriage, family and home. if we want our marriage to be on a road to becoming all God intended for it, we need to embrace His design for how it should work. i am very passionate about this topic. the fact that a woman with a will like mine can be so strongly supportive of something like this is proof, i think, that it could ONLY come from God! as for what i've learned about submission:
  • a wife can be submissive for the right or wrong reasons. one is weak (she just likes to avoid conflict and likes to please others, and so she lets her husband rule her life). this is how i think our culture misinterprets it. the other is the strongest example of a woman i can imagine. that would be the Biblical model of submission- one where you are constantly making choices to honor the Lord in all you do, submitting to Him and His authority. that means that you will take joy in knowing the Lord has placed your husband in a place of leadership over you. that takes STRENGTH, ladies, and when you embrace all God has for you and your husband in your roles, incredible things happen, because you're in the center of God's will.
  • submission makes your marriage thrive, because it keeps you both focused on what really matters. you talk things out, decisions are made with all things considered, and you leave it there. your husband has the final authority. no more nagging, you stay together and unite over it, even if you still don't totally agree, you honor one another and as you make choices to respect and honor your husband (and hopefully he does that for you) you're making them out of a desire to honor God, which unites you in purpose and keeps you from dwelling on who will come out of it the "winner" of the argument, the "right" one. you know you need to submit to his decision, he knows the whole of the responsibility for the well-being of your family ultimately rests on him- so he hopefully makes decisions accordingly. i have a VERY strong will, and many times we've decided things that i'm not fully satisfied with. but, i honestly know i have NEVER regretted acting in submission, and almost ALWAYS find that my heart changes toward the issue and the clarity of time passed and the fading of strong emotions reveal that i was partly (or mostly) wrong anyway. also, the times i have found Jim to be the most attractive to me tend to be in his firm resolve to stand in what he believes is best, even when he's known how very much i don't want it. praise the Lord for a husband that does what he believes is BEST for me, not what will make me happy!! praise the Lord that HE does what is best for us, instead of giving us what we think we want!
  • how could i expect my children to honor their father and i, if i am not a model of love, honor and respect to him as a person, and as the leader of our home?

what a journey marriage is. sometimes i look back and can hardly recognize the woman i was when we began this walk together. sometimes, i can't believe how little has changed. mostly, though, i see an incredible work of the Lord to sharpen us as we follow Him together, picking up a few more Kochs on the way. i often question whether or not i would be so passionate about seeking to be a godly wife if i weren't married to such an amazing man. i know it would be best (see #3), but i can't imagine how difficult that would be! i do know that i'm so thankful for the incredible example of Christ that Jim is in my life and that i get to have so much fun living life with my best friend. we've found that we love one another more and more as time passes, which shows itself in a greater selflessness toward one another, and also just in a greater and greater enjoyment of just being with one another. i know our marriage is thriving (which by no means should be translated as without challenge) because we are choosing to live counter-culturally and want the Lord to be at the center of it. it takes so much intentionality to make a marriage great, but man, i just absolutely love walking together with Jim.

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