Nine years ago today my husband and I got married. I would love to tell you it has all been complete bliss just like the movies and fairy tales but I would be lying. I know some people have an easier time at marriage. We were not those people. Marriage was very hard for us for a long time. I have so much hope for hurting marriages because of what God has brought our marriage out of.
The day we got married was a spectacular day. Aside from the florist getting the flowers wrong and a few minor things, the wedding went off without a hitch, the weather was glorious and it was the best wedding I’ve ever been too J. But bigger than all of that I can say that God showed up at our wedding. We truly felt something much bigger than ourselves was happening that day.
The day I got married I thought I had all the tools I needed for success. I was 24 years old when I got married and I had a college degree, I had studied marriage and family courses at THE Focus on the Family Institute of all places. I had studied under John Eldredge and been mentored under his counseling for a semester. I understood so much about how marriage was supposed to be, about the heart of a woman and the heart of a man. We were the “it” couple destined for great things. We did things right and waited for marriage. And our wedding was a glorious picture of all of that.
We wrote our own vows and they were long and glorious and we meant every word. My great Uncle Bob commented at the reception…”Wow that was quite a lot you were vowing to!” We laughed thinking oh he just doesn’t get it, that’s the kind of marriage we want, (he must not have read Wild At Heart!). Oh but Uncle Bob had been married for a crazy long time and he knew so much more than we did :-) .
About three months after that glorious day we began to fall flat on our face and it only spiraled downward from there. It was not 100 percent awful, but there were many very dark days. One of the craziest things about our marriage troubles was that hardly anyone knew anything about them. For years we told no one. Until it became too much to bear and God brought the right listeners.
I think no one knew but if I’m honest we were probably giving it away without telling anyone. I was so hurt and angry over how things were turning out that I was a bitter and angry person and you could hear it in my voice, especially when I spoke to my husband. I shudder when I think about it now.
The word “divorce” may not have been in our vocabulary but it was in our thoughts. We felt so stuck. All we were hoping for was to just not be so miserable!
We had no idea what God had in store for us. We could not have known the transformation He would bring. We had no idea how good it could be for us, yes even us! I cannot even believe how good things are now in my marriage. If you had told me that things would be like this in my marriage back in those dark days, I never would have believed you. Never.
One year ago on our eighth wedding anniversary we renewed our vows. We decided to commit those same crazy long vows to each other all over again, but as the new people we had become. This time we knew what we were vowing to, and how hard it is and how beautiful. It was a beautiful redeeming moment. Eight is symbolic for new beginnings and that day was truly a new beginning for us. God has begun to restore all the years the locust had eaten in our marriage.
So that is why I have so much hope for marriages that feel hopeless. I plan to write more about this topic on this site to offer that hope to hurting marriages.
Yesterday I shared a key ingredient for marriage, with that foundation in mind I’d like to offer you 9 of the lessons I’ve learned over 9 years of marriage. Every one of these lessons was learned the hard way and is easier said than done. These are the lessons God used to bring our marriage out of the pits of despair and into a marriage full of life, love, hope, fun, joy and gratitude.
1. Lay down your PRIDE. It is for sure the biggest problem in your marriage. It is the source of so much strife and I would guarantee 90 percent of the issues in most marriages. Lay down YOUR pride. You are the only one who can lay down your Pride. No one can do it for you. When you lay it down, over and over and over… you will see miracles in your marriage. The longer you let your pride reign the more damage you will do to your marriage.
2. When the disappointments in marriage come always bring that disappointment to God before bringing it to your spouse. In doing so you allow God to be a filter of that disappointment, as he filters out all the lies you will be left with only truth and a pure heart to approach your spouse with.
3. Treat your spouse as if they already were the person you wish they were. That means respect them even when you don’t think they deserve it. Show honor when they are not acting honorable.
4. Surrender to the process of marriage. The sooner the better. Marriage will require change on your part. When two people become one, they become something new, not the same as before. Through all the things that we change or give up as we navigate marriage we grow and deepen into who we are destined to be. Our spouses are the tool God uses to chisel away as he creates a beautiful masterpiece. The sooner we surrender to that process of marriage the sooner we reap the fruit.
5. Ask God for the gift of repentance that comes from Godly sorrow. Danny Silk says- “The gift of repentance creates the opportunity for true restoration. In fact, it is absolutely necessary in order to heal a relationship that has been hurt by sinful behavior. True repentance can only come through a relationship with God in which we come into contact with the grace of God to change.” A repentant heart takes the walls down and keeps the walls down.
6. Pray for your spouse. The Power of a Praying Wife was the hardest book I ever read and applied in my life. I read it and prayed it when I really did not like my husband and it was so hard. But it changed me and my husband. The most important thing here is always talking to God about your marriage. Sometimes God will lead you to speak up about something, most times he will lead you to shut up. But as long as Holy Spirit is leading and you are following, your marriage will be headed in a good direction.
7. The devil hates marriage and he will lie to you about your spouse and your marriage. There is a really good chance you are believing lies about your marriage. STOP! Ask God to show you the lies, break the agreements you have made with those lies and replace them with a truth about your spouse or marriage. When you hear the lie, speak the truth over and over.
8. You have the power to bring out the person you want to see in your spouse, to bring out their greatness. You also have the ability to squelch them and destroy them and prevent yourself from enjoying who they could be and who you want them to be. It is all in your words. Use your words to call forth the greatness out of your spouse.
9. Seek help from trusted friends or counselors. Don’t keep your problems a secret. But if the person you are talking to only comforts you and makes you feel justified, and doesn’t point you to Jesus, you need to talk to a different person. (But don’t blab your problems to everyone either.)
In closing I would say stay together! What you overcome together will bind you together beyond all you could ever imagine and make you stronger and happier than you think. (And there is a really good chance that half the problems in your marriage are yours. So you will bring those same problems with you to the next relationship). Staying together is so worth it.
Our marriage is stronger than ever but it is not perfect. We are walking together toward further healing, further growth and enjoying the fruit along the way.
If your marriage is challenging or hurting, do not give up hope!!
If your marriage is alive and well and full of love and joy spread that around to other marriages around you!