I read John 12:42-43, this morning, and immediately marked it in my bible. Excellent wife that I am, I saw it’s usefulness in guiding my husband through what I consider to be one of his weaknesses. He’s a striver by nature, poor soul (kidding!), and I saw that he might be able to relate to the verses.
“But they wouldn’t admit it…For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.”
Ah, I thought to myself, this should keep my man in line. This ought to help him remain focused, steadfast, and sure when it comes to decision making– and how comfortable or not those decisions make me.
Because me and God? We’re tight. Please God, please me. One in the same.
Oh my soul.
But then I felt it; that Holy Spirit conviction that says “take a closer look, dear one, and this time with the plank removed from your eyes.”
As I let the words settle into my heart, I realized the prompt to mark this passage was entirely meant for me. Seldom does God move a wife to correct her husband through lecture and teaching. It doesn’t happen often, and it wasn’t happening now.
It’s a sneaky little five letter word that governs much of what we do and say. It’s so very easy to spot in others, so very humbling to find in one’s own heart. Yet God was right (surprising, isn’t it?) and I was not.
Where have I been for the better part of the last two weeks? Why haven’t I posted anything new, fresh, insightful? How is my lack of writing directly related to these verses?
I’ve been struggling. Again. Still. I’ve been building walls, keeping prying eyes from seeing what’s going on in my heart, refraining from sharing any messages because the mess seemed too embarrassing. I’ve been faced with the difficult task of forgiveness, and in my ever present human pridefulness, I resisted both the grace that I’m intended to extend as well as the testimony I should be more than happy to share.
My pride has kept me quiet. I wanted admiration and applause more than I wanted to testify to God’s goodness and healing power.
Oh. My. Soul.
Five months ago, I wrote a post about the season of uncertainty that Travis and I faced in our marriage. As we celebrated our Happy 8 Years, we reflected over how tough it was to make it to the seventh anniversary. When I wrote that post, I was proud, and rightfully so. I was proud of how far we’d come in our emotional bondage. I was proud of how we’d fought so hard, side by side, clinging to the last shreds of anything that might save us. I was proud that we had made it, that we’d side stepped the statistics that tell us our chances of survival were slim at best. I was proud that we’d weathered the storm and come out a united, war torn but otherwise unharmed, duo.
I was proud and completely unprepared to face another storm. Ever again. Even as I type that out, I laugh, because obviously. Obviously, in a life long relationship, there will be many storms. Obviously, marriage takes continuous work, not just one year of work. Obviously, we didn’t have it all figured out just because we made it out alive in that one instance. Obviously, allowing yourself to be unprepared is the worst kind of prepared you can be; preparing yourself to fail miserably.
If my hubby is a striver by nature, then I am a dramatic. And in our house, when ish hits the fan, it doesn’t just make a mess. It pretty much causes the ground to shake, the walls to collapse, and has the potential to rip apart every pretty string of perfection in the tapestry of our lives that I’m trying to weave. It isn’t just a challenge, it becomes an all out war. Believe me, if not the pride thing I’m discussing today, God is definitely working on me with the overreacting thing.
But pain is pain, my friend, and I’ve been so tired of pain. I don’t mean to blame everything on a year of consistent disappointment, but where some people become stronger through their tribulations, I have felt more susceptible to hurt. When you feel as though you’ve been through the wringer, you’ll avoid strife like the plague.
However, strife will not avoid you.
The details are not the point. Pride is the point. Ego is the point. The fact that I haven’t shared an ounce of what we’ve worked through because I didn’t want anyone to know we were, yet again, working through something is the point.
But what a dangerous point to make, as a follower of Christ!
Yesterday, as we drove to the beach for an impromptu family day…the kind of spontaneous that makes me cringe but that I’m somehow becoming more acclimated with…I heard a song on the radio. Seldom is it that we don’t have the same two cd’s in rotation, and with them, the same two songs that Raegan deems her personal life anthems, so I was really listening and paying attention to the words. Maybe you’ve heard it: Keith Urban’s “The Fighter”.
By all accounts, it’s a lovely song and the message is honorable if not entirely misguided. In that moment, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Having just come off of a few weeks of intense marital discord and in depth soul-searching, the lyrics seemed at once cute and crazy.
Kind of like me 😉
What if I fall?
I won’t let you fall
What if I cry?
I’ll never make you cry
And if I get scared?
I’ll hold you tighter
When they’re tryna get to you, baby, I’ll be the fighter
Adorable, right? Yet this message is a problem! This is exactly why my husband and I have been fighting through so many broken places. During the height of our confliction, I reached out to one of my people, who spoke a brand new truth into my marriage. She said, as if it were second nature because loving God is who she is, “But isn’t that what love and marriage is? KNOWING you’ll fail each other, knowing we’re human, but choosing each other anyway and committing to love one another anyway, with God’s help?”
No, if I’m being honest, I didn’t know we’d fail each other! Isn’t that something? God intends for two broken people to come together in a broken sort of way and rely on him to be the glue that holds all of it together. But the world intends for two broken people to come together and fix one another…at least that’s what I intended for my husband to do.
I didn’t agree to marriage because I wanted to be selfless, lay down my pride, constantly forgive, make choices over following feelings, and sometimes sacrifice happiness for peace. Heck no! Even the gorgeous diamond I was presented with couldn’t have made me say yes if I’d known what on earth I was saying yes to. No, I had the same fantasy most of America, if not the world, has: broken, often irritating boyfriend gives me a shiny new ring and magically turns into the perfect husband who will immediately make all other boyfriends’ (and my own) mistakes go away forever.
Ya know, like the love songs we sing.
Oh… my soul.
Travis and I have been all in for Jesus for two years now, and I thought that meant we were good. We wouldn’t have to try so hard. We wouldn’t ever think about separation again. We wouldn’t be tempted to search for greener grass. I naively believed, because our souls were saved, that our marriage were safeguarded.
I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t work like that.
The message I’m trying to relay today is one of warning: as your faith intensifies, so does the enemy attacks. Loving God doesn’t keep evil at bay, it provokes it. Marriage is a beautiful declaration of love, commitment, and loyalty…but it is a major pain in the you know what. It might just be the easiest spot for satan to worm his way into your life. Because marriage is hard flipping work and we are used to hearing messages that tell us “give it up if it doesn’t make you happy”, “follow your heart”, “life’s too short to not do what you want.”
Well I didn’t want to. Truly. When I was busy stomping my feet, and pouting over the injustice of my situation, I was asked, “do you love Travis?” and I responded, “Yes, I love him. I just don’t want to right now.” I wanted to be right. To be validated in my anger. To be justified in my resolve to not let him off the hook. To be prideful instead of graceful.
It isn’t about want.
I didn’t want to share this message, either. I didn’t want you to know that despite my dedication to growing in my faith, I mishandled a situation with my husband. I didn’t want to admit that we sometimes still have to work at being one another’s spouse. I didn’t want to tell the world that I sometimes treat Travis like my enemy, rather than my closest ally. I didn’t want to lay down my pride in the hopes that my transparency, and subsequent embarrassment, might help someone else who might be facing some challenges in their own marriage.
My pride wanted me to pretend we were perfect again.
It isn’t about want.
And, oh, my soul knows that now.
In what ways could you lay down your pride in favor of abiding in God’s plan for your life, today? How can I pray for you?