I think the churchy side of the camp says I’m supposed to tell you marriage is great. It’s pretty, and passionate, and playful. Your husband is your leader, woman. You must submit, woman. You must dote, woman.
I think the American side of the camp says I’m supposed to tell you marriage is a joke. It’s petty, and pitiful, and perishable. Your husband is a dimwit, woman. You must be stronger, woman. You must laugh at him, woman.
I’ve rolled out my sleeping bag on both sides in my short six years of experience. It’s like you might be able to wiggle your way into a comfortable spot, but when your shoulder goes numb and you try to turn over, you roll onto sharp rocks and twigs and godknowswhatelse and you let out a string of curse words that would make a sailor blush. Not that I would know. (I do love camping, I promise.)
Marriage has highs. It has beauty and bliss. It is a good thing. But let’s not forget it’s two humans. Joining together. Like TOGETHER together. One house, one closet, one body. All that.
I’m probably the only one, but for the love, my husband messes up. And my heart, it can get cold. Really cold, actually. (It’s sad I can’t even think about being cold without wanting to sing “Let It Go.”Help me.) I’m powerful enough to turn my love off. Suddenly this man cannot do anything right. Say anything right. Fix anything right.
It might seem unimportant at first. Or … justified?
We’ve walked some dark and dry roads in our marriage, we’ve tossed and turned on rocky ground (and not in the sexy kind of way). Let me tell you how fun it is to walk those roads with a man you hate.
How impossible it is to grab hold of redemption and restoration with a heart that has turned off its love.
So far, I’ve learned three things that … help. I wish I had 25 things for you, but hey, I’m still kinda new at this. These three things are like the Anna to my Elsa (Stop it. Another Frozen reference. Send wine and romcoms.) Heart softened. Perspective changed. Love turned on.
(A note: This does not excuse away unhealthy behaviors. It doesn’t mean there isn’t work to do, reconciliation to be had, hard conversations to face head on. Love doesn’t mean sacrifice of boundaries, its simply doing my part to extend grace through love. Grace doesn’t come from a cold and hardened heart.)
1. The “Oh yeah” list.
This idea stemmed from something we did in pre-marital counseling. We were told to write down a few things we liked about each other. I kept that small list in a word document on my computer, and every time I would think of something I would add to the list. This list has everything from “looks so cute with a baseball cap on backwards” to “spoke purpose over me when I felt defeated.” Silly things. Funny things. Deep things. Specific things. It goes on my list. On the hard days, the hard months and years, I open up that document and remember. Maybe I’m the only one, but once my love is turned off, the bad is all I see. The wrong is all I see. The offense, the inconvenience, the hurt. The poor guy doesn’t even have a fighting chance because I’ve already decided that he. is. just. dumb. Reading through my “oh yeah” list sucker punches those lies and reminds me what an incredible, patient, wise and intriguing man I am married to. I laugh. I cry. I … turn my love on. I see truth. I become grateful. Loving through hard times sure is easier when your vision is clear.
2. Touch and Pray.
I’m the kind of person who doesn’t sleep at night if there is conflict that hasn’t been resolved. One night I lay in bed fuming, only for my husband to be snoring beside me. Just as I was about to smother him with the biggest pillow I could find, the holy spirit spoke gently.
“Pray over him.”
“Uh, sorry, what? You’re funny.”
“Sweetheart, put your hands on his back and pray.”
“Oh yeah, OK. Sure. You mean like pray that he would turn from his wicked ways and quit being a sinner, right?”
“I’ll tell you how to pray”
“Or that his dreams would be filled with off key music and screaming children? Because that would kinda make me feel better … .”
I turned over, literally shaking with anger, and placed my hands against his back which was turned to me. As I began to pray, words filled my heart. I began asking the Spirit to release blessing on him. I asked for places that were hurting to be comforted. For the places that were dead to have life breathed into them. I asked for him to be healed as he slept. I began calling out things in him, things I didn’t even know were there. Prophecy. Compassion. Wisdom. Ministry. Encouragement. I pleaded for the heavens to be released in my husband’s heart. For lies to be broken. Strongholds to shatter. Suddenly, its like God and I were on the same page. It’s a good page to be on. I still do this often, but especially when I’m angry or hurt.
3. Learn about his sonship.
Read through scriptures with the perspective of seeing this man as his Father sees him. Ask the Lord to show you through His eyes. Ask for God to let you in on the Story he has for your husband. Six years ago, this man didn’t know any more about being a husband than I did about being a wife! Today, we are both just six-year-old spouses. We are both on a journey. We are both practicing some trial and error. We are both learning what it means to be like Jesus. We are both being led to sanctification. For some reason, I can see clearly that my life is constantly being pruned and shaped and sharpened, but when it’s my husband’s life (at my “expense”), it’s annoying and unacceptable. Learn about his story. Read “man books” to gain understanding. Remember, he is a son of the King. He has a God who went to Calvary for him. I can look at an orphan and my soul screams “YOU ARE WORTH SAVING.” But I look at my husband and reach for the biggest pillow I can find? Hmm. Go back to the gospel. Remind yourself of all the times the Lord has reached down and saved you. Remind yourself of His faithfulness. Why do we forget this applies to our husbands as well?
You may have noticed that these things have everything to do with my heart and nothing to do with his. Somewhere along the line I realized I can’t change or control him. I can change and control me. 2+2=4.
This will not solve our marital problems. It takes two to tango. But if we show up to the dance with mud in our eyes and broken heels on our feet, it won’t matter how good of a dancer he is. It will suck. Let’s set our heart on a foundation of the gospel. Fix our eyes on truth and grace. Turn our love on.