Sunday, October 11, 2020

Confessions: But Jesus (A Tale of a Bad Marriage)


 Written in 2015

I assumed through my teenage years I would be fairly miserable after I married. I held out hope for some small moments of happiness, but, although I longed for a Cinderella Happily-Ever-After story, I knew I was neither quality marriage material nor would have sense enough to find a truly wonderful mate.

So I had no plan for dating and tossed my borrowed copy of Passion and Purity aside because ... well, why bother? I did absolutely positively NOTHING right as I searched for a husband, a search fueled by a force beyond reason compelling me to seek out marriage.

When I met Chris, I had one goal: Marry him. I neither focused on drawing closer to the Lord nor drawing him closer to the Lord. I didn't seek advice on how to have a healthy, godly relationship. I cannot tell you the mess our "dating" relationship was. We blew it.
We had time in the States to get our game together, to be disciplined and self-controlled and to grow and mature ... but we didn't. We drowned in the stress of our job and in the work of moving to Cambodia. We had our first child then "accidentally" got pregnant with our second. Time just kept slipping away.

These past six and a half years through depressions and children and move after move, Chris and I have stuffed feelings, built up hurt, and wallowed in resentment toward each other.  We've let hurtful and unhealthy patterns become our norm. From time to time, we would fight side by side. But fatigue, emotional, spiritual, and physical strain would win out and the battles would end in more unsteady truces and compromises.

Can you relate at all?

Then there was those couples. One amazing young couple at our university awed me by all the ways they honored the Lord through their courtship. It was so beautiful - which, in my comparing mind made our relationship so ugly. Then there was another amazing couple who served side-by-side reaching the lost in our community who up and moved overseas as missionaries while we worked and went to school all day then plopped in front of Everybody Loves Raymond in the evenings.

In two weeks we are traveling with all six of our amazing children for 102 hours to go to the States. We've been a horrible, emotional mess since we decided to make the trip just a month or so before. We're making this insane trip because our marriage is struggling and our children are struggling and our health is struggling and our ministry is struggling. We're in trouble, real trouble, and we need real help. 

Last night, after several days of hurt-filled silence between us, Chris held me in his arms and said, "I don't love you."

"I don't love you either. I never have. It's so hard to admit, but I have only "loved" you for me, for what you could give me. I've taken selfishly. I'm sorry." I replied.

"I feel the same way, have done the same things. I've been so selfish. You're still my best friend. I want to love you, really love you."

"Me, too."

I have, and always have, considered my marriage a wonderful one. It is a wonderful one. I have often spoken glowingly of it, and it was all truthful. The presence of conflict or problems in marriage simply means there is the presence of conflict or problems in marriage. Chris and I have done hardly anything right i.n our marriage. We are not the "do-as-we-do" couple. We're the ones telling you what NOT to do. So, how can I say that we have a wonderful marriage?

Remember that line from the Jesus Storybook Bible:

"And they were lovely because He loved them."

Our marriage is only lovely because of Jesus. It is neither great because we did everything right nor  horrible because we did everything wrong. Consider this equation:

Two sinners + Jesus = a beautiful marriage.

Please don't despise your marriage. Sure, you've failed, maybe many, many times. But Jesus. Sure you have taken without giving and been selfish. But Jesus. Your story may be one big embarrassing mess. But Jesus. Maybe it feels hopeless. But Jesus.

  • He isn't ticking off some list of what you have or haven't done. 
  • He isn't throwing up His hand in exasperation for all of your selfish sins.
  • Your story is His story, and He is writing it for your good. He will make "all things beautiful" in His time.
  • He is all the hope we'll ever need. 
As my man and I (along with all our blondies) head to a missionary renewal program, I don't wonder how we found ourselves deep in this struggle. I know. I can see the failures and the circumstances beyond our control. I can see the illnesses and the family of origin issues.  I can see the sin, ... but I also see Grace Himself. As I looked at the man I am married to admitting failure to love me, I realized how very in the midst of happily-ever-after I am.

Jesus IS the "fairy tale," the endless love, the deep commitment.  He the Knight who has come for me, for my husband, for our marriage. This is not the end of the story. It never is.