Dear Girls, I’ve told you my story…
And I’ve written endless letters to my son about what kind of woman to marry… though on that day I married Phil I wouldn’t have qualified!
But here I am nearly 35 years later…
Still married. Very much in love with my husband. Happy and thriving.
And honestly, I wonder why. So many of my friends and family have seen their marriages ripped apart. Or drift apart. Or generally disintegrate. Good people, godly men and women. People who started out in love and who ended up hating each other.
Is it because they married a jerk? Or that they themselves were hidden jerks and marriage unveiled their jerkisms? But that doesn’t make any sense because who does not have those moments of appalling jerkiness? I have often been that impossible-to-please-person in our marriage. And Phil has had his less-than-stellar moments too.
No, its not our goodness as people that has made our marriage work. Nor is it simply our commitment to keep working on it. Sometimes that very commitment brings out the ugliness in each of us. (We’ll talk about conflict later.)
I think Phil and I found a secret along the way that kept us from failure. Not so much a nobody-knows-but-us kind of secret, but more of a mystery-that-can-be-explained-but-is-not-logical kind of secret.
It’s simply this:
I have discovered that I am incapable of satisfying Phil
and Phil has discovered that he is incapable of fulfilling me.
I have discovered a deep satisfaction in Christ that has taken pressure off of Phil to spend his life attempting to satisfy me and
Phil has found a deep satisfaction in Christ that has taken the pressure off of me to be enough to satisfy him.
That deep down satisfaction has made us free to love each other well and skillfully because we are so well loved by God Himself.
Isn’t that the mysterious secret of Ephesians 5? That marriage is meant to be a picture of the way Christ loves His Bride and the way His Bride responds to that love?
Not a paradigm of Phil loving me so well that I respond in perfect love… but a picture of Phil being so well loved by Jesus that he cannot help but love me well… and me being so well nurtured and nourished by Jesus that I cannot help but apply those skills to lavishing the same kind of care on Phil.
So marriage becomes the place where the Gospel is lived out in our lives. Two imperfect people being loved so perfectly by God that they in turn love each other in a faltering attempt to demonstrate how well loved they are.
Or, as Tim Keller so brilliantly puts it:
The gospel is this:
We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe,
yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope…
the hard times of marriage drive us to experience more of this transforming love of God.
But a good marriage will also be a place where we experience more of this kind of transforming love at a human level.
(The Meaning of Marriage, pg 48)
And that’s the main purpose of this series: To remind you that the man you married is Not Your Prince Charming. And to point you to the One who is.
Because only then will you be free to love lavishly. Only when you are all caught up in a passionate love for Jesus will you be capable of passionately and persistently loving your husband over years and decades of real life living.
And so before I start in on the bits and pieces of gathered wisdom I’ve discovered in His Word over the 35 years we’ve been married, I want to urge you, my girls, to fully embrace this truth:
That the gospel is all about God’s all-consuming love lavishing all that He is on all that I am.
It is about me dying with Jesus on that Cross. Dying to my dreams and my must-have’s and my rights and my way. Dying even to my happiness.
And then it’s about staying hidden so tight in Him that He resurrects all those broken places and fills me with Himself.
And then I change. Slowly, imperceptively at first. Simply by being so near Him that His breath warms the skin of my soul and colors my world in a way I’d never thought possible.
Joy comes. Rest. Delight. And so much love that I cannot help but spill it somewhere, on someone…
And I become who I am meant to be. He makes me holy… which is really all about being wholly who I am.
The way I respond to my husband changes. The way I handle worry changes. The way I handle all those irritating, soul-stretching everyday-bumping-up-against-each-other interactions that happen in close proximity with another person… changes.
He changes me...
when I choose to die with Him...
May we fully grasp the reality of this Gospel— this news that is so good it changes everything, even and especially the way we love.
From my heart,
Three passages to sink your soul into this week:
- Romans 6- notice that word choose used over and over in the NLT
- John 6vs28-35- that word, believe, actually means to fully entrust yourself to God. That’s my “work”.
- John 15- to abide has to do with tucking myself into God.