Monday, October 5, 2015

From Ordinary to Extraordinary

Howell and I have been married for a little over seven years. I don’t want to gush, but in all sincerity, he is my greatest gift from God. We understand each other, even though our personalities are very different. I can’t remember the last time we had a fight, but it’s been weeks, maybe even months. I believe we have an extraordinary marriage, and when I really do think about it, I feel lucky.

But the Lord reminded me recently that our journey to get here was paved with grace and forgiveness and hard work—not luck. During our two years of dating, we probably fought every day if not every other day—about something. Anything. And our first two or three years of marriage seemed only slightly better.

I was constantly offended; my feelings were always hurt. Generally, our arguments were based on this: I hoped/thought/expected that he would do/be/say X. And when he wasn’t doing/saying/being X, my feelings were deeply hurt. Clearly he didn’t love me because he if loved me, he would say/do/be X. And since he didn’t say/do/be X, I shouldn’t trust him, respect him, or love him either.
It was exhausting—for the both of us.

But today, our marriage is a source of joy and a safe place because we have chosen to persist in two major areas: expectations and forgiveness.

One of my issues—the creation of false expectations—was closely related to our culture’s view of love—our very false, very misplaced presentation and consumption of love: that love is romantic and fairytale, that love says your man will be transformed and will eventually—and at all times—meet your greatest desires with the right lines and big gestures.

So I had a lot of expectations about marriage and about Howell. Most of them were uncommunicated, too, so they became guesswork for him.

When we would argue, I would shut down, waiting for him to say the right line—the magical words. Read the script, Howell!

Of course, he didn’t know what his lines were supposed to be.

I remember one fight—a pretty serious one—where I left the house. I went to a park. I was hurting, and my instinct in our arguments was always to run. But in Hollywood, the boy always follows. He knows instinctively where she is. So I sat, and waited, and eventually (more angry than before), I went back home where my husband was also hurting and stressed out and unsure of what to do. I hadn’t given him the script then, either.

So maybe Hollywood and our culture are to blame, but the real ownership on my part comes from recognizing that my expectations were for Howell—not Jesus—to be my everything: to fill me, complete me, know me fully inside and out, comprehend my every thought and desire.

There is only one perfect man, and His name is Jesus. He made the greatest gesture any man could ever make for us; He became the ultimate example of self-sacrifice. Nothing trumps that. Nothing.

God’s story for us is one of pursuit and redemption, of lavish gifts and sacrificial love. This is not an epic love story—it’s The Epic Love Story.

God is love.

I love my husband. And over the last almost nine years, our relationship has grown from initial attraction and interest to deep love and affection; it has, at times, been both passionate and romantic, and other times, both ordinary and comfortable.

But Howell cannot be the lover of my soul. He cannot fill all my desires. He can’t complete me or satisfy me or fill me.

Only Jesus can do all of that.

And the moment I put that expectation on Howell: I fail, he fails, and our relationship stops working. Who can live up to that pressure? Who can trump Jesus?

It may sound paradoxical—let Jesus have all my desires, and my desire for Howell will be greater. Let Jesus fill me, and my love for Howell will be fuller. But that’s precisely how it works.

Today, we do have an extraordinary marriage not because of luck but because we’ve chosen to fight for our marriage—to choose forgiveness and to release expectations. Walking out forgiveness is even more countercultural than our expectations for love.

Deep down, here’s the battle. I love my husband, and I know he loves me. I know that he’s not spiteful or mean-spirited. He never intentionally hurts my feelings or disappoints me. But in the moment, I also feel hurt or disappointed. So the battle is determining what to choose—to choose what I know or to choose what I feel. And on paper, this sounds easy.

Obviously, I should choose what I know. But in the moment of your hurt feelings or disappointment, it’s a much more difficult decision. You think, if I choose to resolve this now, he won’t know how big of a deal it was. Or, if I choose to forgive, it’s just the same as saying it’s okay—and it’s not okay. Actually, the greatest lesson we could have learned (and I really believe this) was to stop saying “it’s okay” altogether. To, literally, stop using those words, and instead to say “I forgive you.”

Forgiveness brings freedom to your marriage. When you take the steps to surrender that issue—whether big or small—God comes in and does the supernatural work of healing. God comes in and restores love and grace in your heart toward your spouse. If the issue is small, the process of forgiveness is often easier, quicker. You remember why you love your spouse, you remember to expect the best in them, and you remember that you don’t want to keep record of wrongs. And so, you surrender and you release.

If the issue is great, sometimes that process takes more time. But don’t lose faith in His supernatural power; God is a God who heals—physically and emotionally. He can make you whole and free. He alone can fill your every desire. And He can bring extraordinary love to even the most ordinary marriages.


Note 1: this post originally appeared on the blog "Among Women." See the original version here
Note 2: all images on this post were found through with a license listed as 'free to share and use.'   

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