When I got married, I cognitively knew I would never be a perfect wife - that only Jesus is perfect - but I certainly was not prepared for the overwhelming onslaught of sin that was immediately and unforgivingly dug up only weeks into my marriage. Previously neatly hidden in my heart of hearts, marrying Nick turned over every embedded stone to their ugly undersides revealing a host of propensities: envy, selfishness, a controlling nature, and have I mentioned selfishness? As I said in this recent post for my good friend Andy's blog (which I HIGHLY recommend checking out by the way), marriage exposes you to yourself, and in my case, uncovers selfishness more than anything else.
I think I'm not alone in this. The church puts such an emphasis on pre-marital counseling; what about post-marital? Trust me you guys, I thought I had it nailed. I had spent years learning how to let go of past bitterness and pain, and while I knew my heart was not 100% healed, I figured I had learned how to rely on Christ for the most part. I mean, I'm an artist going blind and I wrote a very personal and exposing book about it. Jesus is always the answer right? I'm involved in a progressive Jesus-centric church, have all the right books on my bookshelf, am in prayer and Scripture daily, and Nick and I surround ourselves with a positive-influencing community. But none of that really even came close to preparing me for what I was in store for.
Because it's not about that. It's not about how many Christian things you can check off or the "right" way to go about preparing your heart for a commitment like marriage. It's about learning how to trust and love Jesus no matter what the circumstance. I'm not sure anything can truly prepare you for what marriage really entails except relying on Jesus every single day in every single moment. When this happens, something remarkable transpires: the Holy Spirit begins to work in you. To change your heart. You will begin to do things for other people without seeking praise or attention or credit or anything in return. That's what love does.
We were born into a selfish nature, and unraveling it doesn't come easy or naturally. Particularly for someone like me who has had to rely on herself for so much and have a deeply hardened heart against trusting a man. While Nick and I are so very similar in almost every way (we share a deep love for Jesus, the outdoors, and a good bourbon) we come from very different pasts. He had the perfect family, perfect friends, perfect career, perfect life... truly. I don't think I've ever met someone that has so little baggage. It's a really beautiful thing. I, on the other hand, entered marriage a hot mess.
I can't help but think of all the times in years past I agreed to be someone's girlfriend. I felt happy to be desired. Maybe this time he will be the one! Dating is certainly not wrong or evil in and of itself, but when it comes from a place of pain and becomes habitual, it can be devastating. At least it was for me.
I want to scream at my past self. To learn contentment. To find joy in singleness. To work on making yourself The One for somebody instead of seeking so hard to find The One. That every person who has ever told you that marriage will complete you is speaking a lie spewed straight from Satan specifically crafted for vulnerable girls. Jesus is the only person or thing that will ever truly complete you, and until you make Him your entire world you will continually be let down by the other things you give your heart.
I know this isn't a new message, that you've heard this before. I know that in my single days I probably read countless blog posts and books just like this one. It didn't do much good. My selfish nature won out, Jesus saves, my redemption story is a beautiful one and I am grateful for grace every single day. But still, I feel compelled to share. If you are single, congratulations. View your singleness as a gift, because it really and truly is. Don't think of this world as your entire reality; remember, this life is but the blink of an eye compared to spending eternity with King Jesus. If marriage is on the table for you, that's awesome; I love being married and believe marriage is a beautiful thing and reflects Christ's love for us, I'm just saying it won't make you whole. Check your heart and check your motivations.
By the grace of God, I'm learning. Learning how to love Nick more than my self-inflicted insecurities brought on by years of pain and bad decisions. In a way, marriage feels like counseling: everything gets brought into the open. Nick has the great joy of loving me through all of this, and I have the great joy of allowing him to lead my heart through murky waters back into the arms of my Savior.
If you want to read further on this topic, check out this Relevant article I recently stumbled upon written from the perspective of a woman who's been married much longer than I.
Let's keep this conversation going. Please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any thoughts, questions or just want to share your story. I would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're in this together.