Friday, October 30, 2009

Words of Wisdom

I have several blogs that I follow regularly. Some are local friends, some live far away.

Once in awhile a post will hit me, and I think to myself, "I could have written those words!". Generally, these other bloggers are much more eloquent than I, so today I am copying and pasting a post from MckMama's blog.

I don't recall how I first came to find her blog, but I like it. She's real. She tells it like it is. She takes great photos. She loves her kids. She's not afraid to post about the everyday, hard things in life.

This is long, but it's good. Don't read too much into this, and assume that Shannon and I are heading off to marriage counseling. Shannon is a super-duper wonderful guy, and I love him tremendously. But there are times he really gets on my nerves. We fight, and we've gotten really good at it. We've been married long enough to know what jabs really hurt, and which ones merely glance off the other person. I'm not proud of that, it's just the way it is sometimes.

So. Here are MckMama's words of wisdom.

marriage, submitting, forgiving and ducking

I have unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at it) given my husband ample opportunities to learn to forgive over the course of our six year marriage. That might sound really benevolent, for me to offer him so many chances to practice forgiveness. But really, if you were a fly on the wall of our marriage, you'd feel differently. Trust me.

You see, at my best, I can be picture perfect, witty and cute, organized and together, a great mother and a charming hostess. I may be a photo editing fool and weave long (interesting?) tales about outings with our children on my blog. When I am on, I am a good wife, kind and loving to my husband, seeking to submit to him the way God wants me to and striving to honor him with my words and actions.

But when I am off, believe me, I am off. In the darkness of private disagreements I'd much rather forget than blog about*, I have sworn like a sailor at my beloved. At my worst, I can be pompous and self righteous, a know-it-all who would rather shove what I think to be right down my husband's throat than listen with an open ear to his side. I can be rude and condescending, unwilling to be the first to repent and to forgive my spouse. There have been times when, should my husband have decided to do so, he would have had every justification to call the cops on me for harassing him. There are times when things haven't been pretty between us. And I am going to share today some of the things I have learned through living in the trenches like my husband and I have.

What I said above (*) begs the question, then. If, indeed, I would much rather forget arguments that I've had with my husband than blog about them, then why on earth am I blogging about them instead of just forgetting them!? Great question. You see, I would rather just brush the truth about my disagreements under the rug and call it good, moving along to a fun post about what a happy family we are. But if I have learned one thing since becoming a wife and a mother it is that it does no one any good to lie to others about the reality of our lives.

I'll say that again. It does no one any good to lie, either overtly or by omission, to others about the reality of our lives.

I am certainly not saying that I think it is good or profitable to share all the intimate details of one's marriage. Some private struggles should be just that: private. And I believe very strongly in building up our spouses and speaking well of them. But as hard as it can sometimes be to expose ourselves, if both spouses are on board with sharing, then I think we do ourselves and our fellow man good when we share the truth about life's hard times, even if it hurts.

For example, there is mother truth like, yes, having a newborn is wonderfully fantastic and beautiful, but also your nipples hurt like heck, your body is sloughing off hormones and making you a raging mess, your husband just doesn't understand and is a big fat sissy when it's time to get up in the night, your baby's crying that others think is cute makes you insane and bonding with a newborn may not happen instantly, especially when your perineum hurts like a mother.

Sometimes, it can be beneficial for you and for those you share with to be honest, to share the real deal about life, without sugar coating it as my pride sometimes causes me to do.

And so, even if it might be embarrassing, my husband and I have decided to share truth about marriage with others when we are given the chance. Sure being married is great, finding your soul mate or whatever you want to call it is fantastic, having a partner for life makes you feel complete and experiencing true, deep love is the most amazing feeling ever. But what about the hard truths about marriage, too? We think those are important to share as well. I think they are important to share so that we don't lie to ourselves, fooling us into thinking we are somehow better than others, and so that we don't discourage others who may be walking similar, unspoken paths.

In my experience, for as great as marriage definitely is, it also can really suck. Being paired with the same person for life can be overwhelming when you consider all of your spouse's many flaws that you are just going to have to put up with, forever. Talk about de-romanticizing marriage! Life is not all sugar and dewdrops after you say I do. The distant feelings, slamming doors, cold shoulders and talk of divorce that creep into in many marriages are not welcome additions to the happily ever after any of us envisioned when we first got engaged.

But additions they are, at least for my marriage. And I truly see no real point in glossing over the painful parts of marriage to those I speak to or blog with. Why would I? So I can avoid embarrassment? And then leave you all feeling like you must be the only one who sometimes feel disillusioned with marriage?

Sorry, not gonna do it. I am pretty sure God didn't allow me to have a widely read blog so I could blow sunshine about how cute and perfect my children and marriage are. I mean, of course I love to focus on the positive. I am by nature an optimist and that is how I choose to parent and (for the most part) act as a wife. I feel strongly about being neither gloom and doom nor a Negative Nelly. But sometimes, this time being one of them, I think it is good to share the hard truths about marriage.

But you don't have to take it from me. I'm not a marriage expert. I'm just a married person who has been in the trenches. Sometimes that's where I still am. I am definitely not here to preach, advise or counsel. So you definitely don't have to take it from me. In fact, please don't take it from me. Take it from God, listen to Him, hear what He just may be trying to tell you about your marriage through our story.

And what a story it is.

You see, my husband has also given me plenty of chances to hone my own forgiveness skills as well. And hone them I have been, slowly but surely. I won't say that it's been an easy road for us, because it hasn't, this learning to forgive. The reasons we have had so many chances to forgive each other is because we have wounded each other deeply. There is absolutely no excuse or reason for being so unkind to one's spouse, but I will admit that the issues we've faced have seemed insurmountable at times. In the past year and a half alone, we've faced a very poor prenatal diagnosis for our baby, sudden financial hardships and relationship struggles of majestic proportions. My husband and I have had altercations I would never wish on another that ended with police involvement. I have been awful to him; he has been awful to me. We have endured a separation and even, in our anger, seriously considered divorce a little over a year ago.

It was the most pain and hurt and disillusionment I have ever felt in my entire life.

But we chose to stay together. We decided not to get divorced. And then we started going to marriage counseling. Slowly, God began to rock our shattered world. And every Wednesday, as we have for well over a year now, we still go see Dr. R, who himself has rocked our world by helping us uncover many truths about marriage, too. I have learned to submit, to forgive and to duck.

What's that? After all we've been through, do I still believe in submission as I wrote it in this post?

Hell yes.

I apologize if my use of profanity offends, but that is simply how strongly I feel about this. Whether my beliefs on submission that I have blogged about and that I chose to (try to) abide by are understood by others or not, they are right, they are Biblical, and they work.

The fact that my marriage is alive (and very well!) after what my husband and I have been through is proof of that.

Submission is not being a doormat. Submission is not just rolling over and accepting bad behavior. Submission is not turning the other cheek on an abusive spouse who refuses to get help. Submission is not a life sentence for women to feel inferior.

Quite the contrary. For me, submission is beautiful. Submission has meant freedom for me. Living with the knowledge and emotional freedom that I do not control my spouse has been liberating for me. Gone (or, going) are the days when I struggle to try to change my husband. I have given up trying to show him the error of his ways. You see, I think that as wives, it is not our job to fix or punish our husbands with our judgements, cold shoulders or loud decrees. Instead, as I once heard it put, it is our job to simply duck so that God can punch our husbands when they need it.

And so I have been practicing ducking.

By getting out of the way of what God wants to teach my husband, I remove distractions that may be in my husband's way for him to hear God directly. Distractions like my really annoying behavior when I would try to get my point across to my husband about what a louse he was being.

And a reciprocating effect is in place. I am not really sure who started it. My husband and I both have learned immeasurable amounts in counseling. We have both gotten out of trying to be each other's consciences. We are each trying to hard to focus on ourselves and on what we can each do, individually, to help our marriage. Because five years of blame, finger pointing and always wanting to make it the other person's fault got us nowhere.

Well, it didn't get us nowhere. It got us somewhere, that's for sure. But separated, filled with hate and on the verge of divorce was nowhere we wanted to be. So we got the heck outta Dodge. With all the glory for that due entirely to God. Well, almost entirely. Many thousands of thanks also go to to Dr. R, our superb marriage counselor.

So is our marriage 100% healthy? Are we entirely out of the woods now? Nope. I'm not sure, but I wonder if any marriage really ever is. Staying married, being determined to love, submit, respect, honor and forgive our spouses is a daily fight for us, as I imagine it might be for you, too. Choosing to act and think out of love toward our spouse instead of wanting to crack the whip of control or shout cries of fairness and equality is a moment by moment decision, an ever present struggle.

But don't get me wrong. It has gotten easier during this past year and a half, though, to act right towards each other. The more I respect my husband, the more he shows love to me. The more my husband forgives me, the easier it becomes for me to show him forgiveness in return. It is a beautiful circle when it works the way I believe God wants it to.

But hear me now: I have learned that it is of paramount importance for us to love, respect and forgive our spouses even when they are not doing the same for us.

Indeed, especially when they are not doing the same for us. I know, I know. That can sound like such decades old drivel. So against what seems fair, right and just. So doormat inducing and just plain wrong.

But all I know is that what I have learned in that statement has worked for us. Our marriage has been revolutionized, brought back from the dead, and I fully believe that my decision to trust what God says about marriage will always work, because like it or not, He does know what He's talking about.

Do I want you to stay in a marriage if you are being beaten, just laying there like a doormat? Heavens no! Please don't misinterpret what I am trying to say here. There are certainly situations that require dramatic rescue. A domestic abuse hotline, a Biblically based Christian counselor, a separation, getting immediately out of danger....these things may need to take place before true healing can come. And there are, unfortunately, times when healing is not at all possible for the marriage, if one party refuses to change. There are times when one spouse just needs to get out because the situation is simply not safe. But in those cases, there can still be individual healing for that person, even if the marriage was lost and the relationship ends.

But there is hope and healing for hurting marriages that are still intact, too. Even dreadfully wounded marriages that are bleeding all over the place while the spouses try to pretend like things are not really that bad. There is hope for those marriages, too. I know, because my husband and I have been there.

And now, we are here. And we are beyond thankful and amazed at the miracle that we believe God performed in our hearts and in our marriage.

So, I've talked about ducking and letting God shape our spouse, about what I believe it means to Biblically submit to our husbands, and now I would like to leave you with a few of the most important things about forgiveness that I have learned to be true for my life and have most impacted my marriage.

And then I'll be done. I promise.

Forgiveness is a choice.

Whether or not I feel forgiveness in my heart is not an indicator of whether or not I should forgive my husband. I used to hold back my forgiveness until he came to me with forgiveness first, or until enough time passed that I was not mad anymore, or until I just plain felt like forgiving him.

But I have been slowly learning that to forgive my husband is a choice I must make. A wise woman once told me that the feelings of forgiveness often follow that choice. But even if they don't, forgiveness has still been the best choice for me to make, simply because God tells us to forgive (and because He has forgiven us much!).

Forgiveness is for me.

Before we went to marriage counseling, I used to think that forgiveness was a gift I could bestow upon my husband. Something I could give to him when I was ready, dissolving the guilt of his wrongdoings for him. And, conversely, I could also withhold forgiveness, continuing to be cold, heaping guilt for his actions upon his shoulders in a failed attempt to show him the error of his ways so he would be repentant.

Um, that like so totally did not work.

A huge 1000 watt lightbulb went off in my head when our counselor told me that forgiveness is for me. As it relates to human forgiveness, forgiveness is for the forgiver, not for the forgiven. Whether my husband ever changed or not, I was going to want and need to forgive him so that I didn't live a long life of unhappy bitterness. And the same went for my husband. He has had to work very hard at forgiving me for inflaming situations in the ways I have and for countless other grievances.

But learning that forgiveness is for me has been revolutionary to my way of thinking.

Forgiveness is not a one time act.

Like it or not, when I forgive my husband for whatever it is he has done to hurt me, that may not the end of it for me. Feelings of hurt and anger can still creep back in, hours, days, even months later. Just as it is a process to daily die to ourselves and our own selfish desires, so is it with forgiveness. I sometimes must daily return to my decision to forgive my husband for not being perfect even when I am starting to not feel like it again.

So, dear readers, take all this with a grain of salt for your own marriage, if you want. After all, my husband and I are far from perfect. But after having lived a while ourselves in the trenches, we have decided we feel no reason to either hide the painful truth about how difficult marriage can be or to keep the sweet gems of knowledge we are starting to learn about healing a hurting marriage and learning to find contentment with one's spouse to ourselves.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to do some more ducking so I can allow God to work on my husband, while I focus on daily forgiveness and Biblical submission. After all, the only thing I can control is what I can do to help my marriage. Spending time on trying to fix him would be pointless anyway. You see, I am learning to stop longing for a changed husband, and I long now for a heart soft enough to hear and receive what God wants to teach me about becoming the wife He wants me to be.

Walking hand in hand with my husband as he, too, is growing to become more of the husband God wants him to be has just been the icing on the cake.


She's got some good stuff, huh? Please forgive me if I've broken some 'blog plagerism' rule, but I have attempted to give all credit to MckMama for the above words. I think that's three time's I've linked back to her, just for the record.

While we're on the subject of MckMama (4), please take some time to pray for her son, Stellan. He's is a sick little boy right now. You can learn more by stopping by her blog (5).

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

1 comment:

Beckysblog said...

Thanks for posting that Jody. Something we all need o hear, think about and pray over.
And she is a REALLY great writer!