Monday, September 18, 2006

Can marriage get better, be better with time?

16 years ago, I attended our church's women's retreat where Nancy Missler was to be our guest speaker. Her husband is Chuck Missler the "Who's Who in Prophecy." She had written a book called: Why Should I be the First to Change? - which tells the complete story of the "turn around" of Chuck and Nancy's 20 year Christian marriage. http://www.khouse.org/pages/mcat/khouse/about_the_misslers/

I remember reading that their marriage began to take a turn after 18 years. At the retreat, feeling very defeated in my own union with my husband (married 4 years) I approached her, tears flowing from my face and asked, "Is it going to take me 18 years, too?"

Well . . . my husband and I have been married for over 21 years and yes . . . overall, it has been more than 18 years.

My husband is a great guy. I have truly been blessed. In any marriage, two people bring "baggage" with them, and I had LOTS to bring. I expected my husband to always be my "knight," which of course is totally unfair. I had an unrealistic view of marriage.

Gary Thomas asks the question "what if marriage was not meant to make you happy, but to make you holy?"

I am mostly a slow reader by nature. A week before Gary was scheduled to speak at a intimate seminar for our church, I had decided to finally read his latest book, "Sacred Influence." By day 5, I was in chapter 10. This book has transformed my life and my view of my marriage.

A couple of days before I had thought to open up the book, in my quiet time I'd read "For 'who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?' But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Corinthians 2:16. Reading this many times before, I had never thought to ponder this statement, but this particular morning I asked the Lord, "If I have the "mind of Christ," then what does that look like?"

A few moments later, I recalled 1 Corinthians 13:7 "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." I thought of what my marriage had been. What I wanted it to be. And then I realized, perhaps this is the "cross" the Lord has asked me to "bear." I CAN bear, I CAN believe, I CAN hope, I CAN endure, BECAUSE LOVE NEVER FAILS!! (1 Corinthians 13:8) The cross doesn't have to be carried with a heart that is cast down, but a heart that is rejoicing!! I can bear this cross with JOY!

So a couple of days later, I begin to read "Sacred Influence" not knowing that the Lord was answering my question, "If "I" have the "mind of Christ," then what does that look like?"

This book is aimed at wives and how to be the wife your husband needs. The Lord had been preparing me to read this book for the last 3 years . . . okay 22 years!!! All my suffering, physical, mental, emotional, imagined was allowed so that I would be ready for the lessons I would learn as I read through these pages.

I was soaking up the pages as I read what I could be to my husband, who he needs me to be as his wife. I no longer felt resentful about my having to change in order to see change in him. I desired to change and become a woman he honors, loves and respects.

I am amazed . . . in about 5 days, I felt my countenance change and become uplifted and encouraged.

Before Gary Thomas got up to teach us in the ways of being better spouses, I asked if I could speak with him about his book and the changes taking place in my heart and mind.

He smiled as I spoke, not a polite "I'll listen for a few moments and tune out to think about what I'll first say as I walk up to greet the folks out there," but a smile like he knew what I was talking about. I welled with tears as I told him that even if the man I married didn't become the husband I wanted or needed, I understood that this was my cross to endure. And I was willing to become the wife my husband needs and become the woman God desires to see in me. He said, "well . . . you've just said what I prepared to say to everyone today. You got it, you "get it." "

I further explained how I wished many of my friends out there at the tables could read this book, because they don't realize, just as I didn't, that they are punishing their husbands. He was surprised by what I said and commented, "what an interesting statement, I need to remember that, "they are punishing their husbands." "

And yes, my husband has seen the changes in me and has responded in kind. God is good. I can love my husband not because he loved me first or meets my needs first, but because Christ loved me first and gave His life up for me and I want to please my Lord and be a sweet sacrifice to Him. If I say I love God, but hate my brother then I lie. (1Jo 4:20 ) I believe I finally understand that verse.

Can marriage get better, be better with time? Depends on where your focus is and what you define as "better." Better doesn't always mean "happy." You can experience "seasons" of happiness. But it will be through the fires of testing that you will see what your marriage is made of and who you are as you go through those times.

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