My eldest son is about to turn 6 years old. He was born premature by 7 weeks, and came out weighing a mere 4.14 pounds. I remember holding that precious tiny bundle there in the delivery room, thinking “how can something this small, ever grow up to be an adult sized person?” I’ve watched this little boy go from not being able to get around at all, to being able to run and jump at will. I’ve listened to him learn how to form words, how to show emotions, how to understand how things work, how to be honest, how to say “I’m sorry”, how to share - in short, I’ve watched him grow up.
It’s funny how this applies to marriage. I know me for one, got married with not much idea of how to do anything, or what I needed to be for my wife. In the “infant” stage of marriage, I expected to be able to have sex whenever I wanted, I expected her totally fulfill me in every area. I didn’t think we would fight like “every other couple”, because after all, we’re in love, and other couples “must just not be doing it right.” I had lots of expectations of what our marriage would look like, mostly based off of what I saw my parents act out growing up. As you can imagine, a lot of my “expected normal” hit the fan within the first few days.
I wonder if God looked down much like I do with my kids and smiled as I learned the hard way to be less about me, and more about my wife and family. The times that I failed (and still fail), the times that I mess up what an “older” husband would have no problem navigating. The “growing up” process. Learning to be married. Learning to give when I don’t feel like it. Learning to go from crawling, to teetering on those first steps, to maybe a good solid walk, and someday being able to run without falling (or at least as much).
I’ve come to realize there is a process of maturing in a marriage. Not just reading the “top ten things you need to know about your marriage” book, and going “ok! I’m all finished!”, but truly maturing in both your relationship with each other, and also with God.
I feel there are times where just as my son didn’t like the idea of using the “potty” at first, and wanted to stay in diapers, we too can become stubborn. Refusing to grow because it’s “more work” to grow. It takes an “effort”. We might even fail over and over before we get it, and complain that “it’s too hard”, or exclaim that “it was better/easier the way it was”, complaining and muttering the whole way, not realizing how much further we really have to go, and how much better marriage (and not having to be an adult in diapers) can be.
Fast forward to today – almost 8 years from the day I said “I do” to my lovely wife. I feel like I’m about as old as my marriage is, when it comes to understanding it. Like an 8-year-old, I feel like while there are times I have those “ah ha!” moments and go “so THAT’S what she’s thinking when I say that!” I still struggle with things like communication, and putting my wife before myself. But I AM getting there. And I’m learning to DESIRE to always be working on my marriage. There is no “pause” in marriage, there is only forward or backwards.
So, what have I been learning lately, that a lot of you probably already know, but maybe some of you who are just starting out, haven’t figured out yet? Here’s the two biggest things I’ve been trying to get down in my daily walk. If they don’t apply to you, go back to reading the sports page. If they do, hopefully you’ll you find encouragement to keep doing, or start doing it/them better.
#1 – Flipping my idea of a “perfect marriage” upside down – Ok, what if instead of thinking the goal of marriage is supposed to make us happy, we thought of marriage in the light of “marriage is a tool the Lord uses to cause us to grow and become more like Him”?
Think about that for a minute. We get so caught up in the “I NEED TO BE HAPPY” culture, we forget the BENEFIT of STRUGGLE. How many times have I muttered under my breath “why can’t she just be more like me! See things MY way a little more?!” And the Lord has to remind me “Gerad, what are you LEARNING from this?”, and you know what? After we’ve come through it, and even though it’s sometimes painful, we come out of it stronger, and more equipped to handle whatever conflict/strife/issue that arises the next time. The bond is strengthened. Character is built. Our relationship with Him is strengthened.
Now don’t lose me here, I’m not saying that marriage is always an un-happy, hard to deal with, issue filled, mess - what I’m trying to get across, is that when it DOES arise, use it as inspiration to buckle down and strengthen the commitment you have to the marriage, instead of saying “nope, this is too hard, I’m done” and walking away. We are FAR TOO WILLING to hit the “panic! I’m not happy!” button, instead of taking a deep breath, backing up, and saying “Lord, what are you trying to get me to learn here? Give me the understanding and strength to grow through this in the way You want me to.”
#2 – I’m learning to serve my wife – I’m learning (and failing, and getting up and failing again), to serve my wife without thinking in the back of my head “she owes me one now, after I do all this”. There is an unexplainable joy that comes from truly serving my wife – because I WANT to, not because I’m hoping it will improve my odds tonight, or I’m trying to get it so she “owes me one”. Finding little ways to say “I love you”, learning how she thinks, and then making sure to support her in the way she needs, taking my time and putting HER needs first in the bedroom, understanding her need to feel she knows my heart, and I’m emotionally open to her – all ways (way too many others to list) I can serve my wife. Because she always deserves it? No. Because that’s the example Christ set for me to follow when I didn’t deserve it? Bingo.
Please hear my heart as I write this stuff guys – I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m some kind of “perfect guy” who writes a marriage blog, and has it all together. A guy who never struggles with anything, and has the picture perfect marriage and kids. I do struggle. I don’t know it all. I have a LOT to learn. I fail. A lot. But by God’s grace, I keep going. I keep putting one foot after another. I keep on driving for a better relationship with my wife. Through the times when my mind says “you don’t even like her right now”, I push through the pride and love her anyway. But it’s hard. And I don’t always succeed. But until I take my last breath, I will ALWAYS try. Why? Because it’s what God has called me to do as a husband. It’s what God has called YOU to do as a husband. It’s making us more like Him. It’s making us grow up. And that’s worth it.