At least I think I am. I seem to get the blogging bug every few months, write a couple of posts and then my interest wanes. So much for that book I've always wanted to write.
Anyhow, on to what's on my mind...
I have a sweet friend who is really going through it today. She is recently married and things are not going well. My heart is breaking for her because I've been there. Marriage is hard. Even more so in the beginning. So much more so. I wish we could sit over a pot of coffee but we can't do that today. Instead I'll write what I would say.
I had visions of romantic bliss leading up to my wedding. I had been a single mom for 10 years and somehow, in my mind, getting married was when I felt I had arrived. I saw it as the goal, not the journey it was to become.
We had our first big fight on our honeymoon. I quickly realized that my expectations were not going to be fulfilled and I was disappointed and angry. I blamed James mostly. I felt like he should be doing more to please me even though I know now he was doing all he could.
The early years were hard. Very hard. I felt like a failure and wondered what was wrong with me. I was erratic and emotional. I questioned my decision to get married. Many days I wanted out. James and I both agree that the fact that I got pregnant soon after we were married probably saved our marriage. As much as I hated being married, I hated the thought of being a single mom again more. Noble, I know.
There were nights that we fought until the sun came up. I was prone to locking myself in the closet and crying for hours on end. James was at a loss. We know now that I was dealing with some other heavy issues but these issues rose to the surface when I got married. I had been able to function as a single person, but, with the constant struggle and disappointment of living in a close relationship with another person, I was simply unable to hold it together. Thankfully those issues have been resolved and for the last couple of years we have been able to really work at having a relationship that actually does work.
I have learned a lot from my marriage to James. I have learned that love and respect are not emotions. They are actions. They are the words I say. They are the things I choose to do to show love and respect. And to be honest, I still have a lot of work to do in that area.
I have learned about forgiveness in a way that is unmatched by any other relationship. James and I have hurt each other lots. We have honed our ability to speak devastating words to one another. I can hurt him like no other and likewise for him. Thinking back over the things I've allowed myself to say to him shames me. I can also think back over things he's said to me and begin to creep towards anger once again. But, forgiveness changes that. In marriage, forgiveness is the key to being able to start over each day. I have had to learn to forgive James when I most wanted to see him punished. I have had to forgive him when he didn't even think he needed to be forgiven. I have had to forgive him more than any other person I have had to forgive. I long to be more forgiving of him as he will surely make more mistakes.
The really beautiful part of forgiveness in our marriage though is how much I have received it. It's easy to dwell on how much I've been hurt but what springs me to gratitude is the reality of how much I, myself, have hurt him. So so much. Yet he forgives me. My husband has endured the very worst of me. He has been the target of much anger and even hatred, most of which he isn't even responsible for. Yet, he forgives. And not just me. I have watched him practice forgiveness with our children when they hurt and disappoint us. He has grown into a man of grace, by God's grace. It wasn't always like that. He wasn't always so gracious and neither was I. It was so hard then, feeling like you could never make up for the wrong you'd done. I praise Jesus for the work he's done in us to give us a forgiving relationship. It is nothing short of a miracle.
Marriage has revealed my sin more than anything else in my life. I am more convinced now that I need Jesus than when I first got married. I have been shown just how ugly I can be to another human being. I have been reminded of how deeply I have sinned against God and of how deeply He has loved by even to the point of death. I don't know that I really thought I needed Jesus to die for me before I was married. I was still blaming others in my life for my past mistakes and looked at Jesus as someone who rescued me from those people, not myself. But, in my marriage I've been confronted with who I really am and how incapable of love I am without the love of Christ in me. I needed Jesus to help me truly love and to help me learn to be loved.
If I could say anything to my dear friend I would say that it won't always be like this. I know she wouldn't believe me. People around me told me the same thing but I believed the lie that my marriage was worse, that I was worse than anyone. I want so much to replay old tapes from our early years for her. I want her to see that she isn't alone in this time of suffering but that it will pass. It's so hard, I know, but it will pass.
For now, just stay. Don't give up. Sometimes that's all you can commit to. And as long as we are letting Jesus do His work, that's enough. He will change you. He does that. He loves us too much not to. And when he changes us, he changes our relationships. Even if the other person isn't changing as far as you can tell. It's enough that you are.
Pray for my friend. Pray for the marriages of those around you, especially those new marriage. Those marriages so filled with hopes and dreams that are being crushed. Pray that Jesus would do a work in those couples, to save them, to change them and build their families. And, pray for me and my marriage. I long to become a woman who blesses her husband. I have so far to go but I rest knowing that Jesus longs to make me into that woman. Until then I will keep on learning to love and respect and forgive in the hope not only that my marriage would be good but that people would see Jesus in it.