Thursday, June 24, 2010

A few of my thoughts 23 years in...

This Sunday Larry and I will have been married for 23 years. We are preaching a tag team message this weekend at Celebration. We preach together all the time but this Sunday we’re really excited about it being that it’s our special day.

Working hard at marriage has always been important to me because I know firsthand what happens when a family falls apart.   My parents got divorced, and I know that as the years go on it’s not like the pain completely goes just find ways to make it work for you.   The purpose of this post isn't to judge anyone who is divorced, by the way.  I don't speak from a place of judgment, only as someone who has experienced pain and lived to tell about it.

In a landmark study, researcher and author Judith Wallerstein tracked a large sample of children of divorce for 25 years. Wallerstein found that unless there is violence in the home, kids suffer more from parents getting a divorce than staying in a bad marriage. She writes all about her findings in her book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce.  By tracking approximately 100 children as they forge their lives as adults, she has found that contrary to the popular belief that kids would bounce back after the initial pain of their parents' split, children of divorce often continue to suffer well into adulthood. Their pain plays out in their relationships, their work lives and their confidence about parenting themselves.   In my experience, those who handle it well end up somehow turning their pain into their platform.

The breakup of my parents marriage was something that rendered my sister and I never the same again.   I determined as far as it depended on me I would never let this happen to my home. I realize there are a lot of people out there who say that, and it still happens to them. I’m not na├»ve. Notice I said, “as far as it depends on me.” I know there are lot of people out there who do their part, but their marriage partner doesn’t. I've been pastoring long enough to see quite a few situations where there really was one person at fault.  Some say, "there are two sides to every story."  Most of the time, yes.  All of the time?  No.  I have known quite a few people who have tried their darndest and their spouse was just an idiot!   I could give quite a few examples but to just share one, there was a man that we pastored whose wife had an affair and left him.  At their divorce hearing she admitted that he was a great husband but she became attracted to a man at work and left her husband for him.  She told the judge outright that her husband had done absolutely nothing to cause this, but this other man had such an emotional hold on her, she could not break away.  That is just one example but I share it simply to say I do know of cases where one person truly is at fault and the other was the innocent party who tried everything they knew to make it work.

I feel a lot of sympathy for those individuals. I’ve always felt though, that if a person does their part, “as far as it depends on them”, even if their partner fails and the marriage ends at least they will have no regrets knowing they tried their best.  I realize my husband like many others could choose to walk away. He could be unfaithful and leave our family. However, if he did this at least I would know I’ve done everything within my power to make it work.  In my experience of watching others walk through divorce, it seems to help the one who is wronged move on and heal when they know they gave the marriage everything they had and did all they could.

After my parents divorce I didn't stay where the devil left me.   I chose to not waste the pain.  It became my platform and was channeled into writing countless articles over the years and subsequently a book about intimacy and marriage that has blessed many people.   Larry and I have also had the privilege of leading marriage of our favorite things to do together.  For what it’s worth, a few of my thoughts, 23 years into this…

God did not give us marriage to first and foremost make us happy, but to spiritually mature us. Many people   think, "this person will meet my every need, and fulfill my every waking desire." False. Marriage means being humbled by the same person day in and day out for the rest of your life!   Marriage is an everyday exercise in getting beyond our selfishness.  

In the book of Genesis, the wife is called the helper. The Hebrew word there for helper is ezer knegdu, which means “helper” or “assistant”. Many people wonder…”are women designed to be doormats or slaves to their husbands?” No. We know this for fact because first of all, the same word used for “helper” in Genesis 2, is also used in this tense when the bible refers to God as “helper to the nations.” We know God is not a doormat or a slave. You are called to be beside your husband as a helper, not behind him. (I hate that saying, “behind every successful man is a good woman…” God never called you to be behind a man.  If you are married he called you to be beside him as an equal helper.)  
My marriage has not always been easy by far.  But by God’s grace we have the partnership that we have. Some important things I learned --

1) Acceptance – I have learned to accept my husband as he is. Often we fall in love with someone and thereafter set about trying to change everything about them. My husband is not anything like me and that’s probably a good thing. If both of us were the same one of us would be unnecessary. I’m striving to do as Proverbs 31 says, “bringing him good – not harm all the days of his life.” I want to make it easy for him to achieve his goals, not be like a huge weight on his back while he’s trying to do as God has called him to do. Proverbs 12:4 says, “A worthy wife is her husband’s joy and crown, but a shameful wife saps his strength.”
2) Preferring – Romans 8 and Philippians 2 tell us to prefer one another. It’s not easy to prefer anyone else, including your husband. The truth is, it’s not all about me. God spoke to me long ago that a key to being a great wife is to shake off “neediness” and whining! Some ladies have heard me say this and ask me, “But when do our needs come in? When does OUR promotion come in?”   Proverbs says that promotion comes not from the east or west but from the Lord.  The Bible also says that what we make happen for others, God makes happen for us. The truth is, my promotion does not come from my husband.  God promotes me.  As far as my needs being met, yes my husband does meet some of them but at the core, God is the primary One who meets my deepest needs. Too many women expect their husband to meet the needs that only God can. Things got a lot better in our marriage when I stopped expecting Larry to be Jesus.  They also got better when I stopped trying to be the General Manager of the Universe.

3) Forgiving – My husband is not perfect and has made his share of mistakes. (Not that I haven’t.) But, I must forgive his mistakes, and then show him tender love and mercy as the Bible tells me to. (And besides, forgiving and making up is really fun!)  There is so much forgiving that goes on in a marriage that is working, and the truth is, if you know how many times you've forgiven then you really haven't forgiven even once.

As I said, I've had so many thoughts on this that they have been channeled into countless articles and such, but these are just a few of my thoughts today 23 years in... with a lot left to learn, and I'm all in.

1 comment:

Ruth, PA said...

Great post today!! Happy Anniversary to you! Tomorrow we celebrate our 22nd. There have been some thorns along our way but through every struggle there has been growth. We are not the same people as the day we married...hopefully we are better! Out best man gave us the best advice. "Never allow the word 'divorce' to be part of your vocabulary." Marriage is work. Stupid me thought that marriage would "just happen." But it is work...everyday! Just like any other relationship. And it is so worth it! :) Enjoy your weekend with your sweetheart!