Monday, May 24, 2010

The Practice of Marriage

The other day a friend of mine asked if I could share a bit of a testimony regarding my wife and I's marriage.  At some point, that task can be daunting, because there is no way to recall everything that has got us to this point.  Needless to say, here are some things that have come to mind.

Through the early years of our marriage, I can recall some pretty tough days/weeks between Mary and I.  For the longest time, I thought that it was my Godly duty to change Mary.  To make her more like the woman that should be mine, that would "complete me."  I had come to a place in my heart that the only way to change Mary, was to change myself first.  Years ago, while still living in Michigan, I would be in our basement lifting weights while Mary was upstairs, making bottles, cleaning the house, changing diapers, doing laundry, making sure the bills were all paid, etc... and I was just thinking of myself.  She would get so mad at me, she would blow up in a huge way (as if it was WW III). Sometimes she would even threaten to leave me.

It wasn't good.  Obviously, it wasn't good.  Something had to change.

I have learned now, that it was my deal. That I am called to be the leader of my home, the 'servant leader' or 'lead server.'  The problem wasn't that I was lifting weights, it was the fact that I wasn't serving nor was I listening.  I was only taking care of me.  At the core of who I was, was a selfish being.  Devoted to my pride, my ideals, my look - I wanted it picture perfect so that I could look good.  In truth, I loved all this other stuff more than I loved her.

There are times even know that I will slip into that line of thinking, and Mary will feel like she has become second best.  Then I "wake up" and remember my roll.  My responsibility.  So I now take time to listen to her heart.  I need to take time to listen to all the tasks that are on her shoulders and what her thoughts are behind her eyes.  I used to try to give her answers and solutions; but now I know she needs a friend; a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on.  Mary wants me to take care of her. 

So what does that look like now?  I wake up each day choosing to serve and listen and guide.  I know what makes the house run well so I get to work to make that happen... first, by doing my devotions and listening to Mary if she needs to talk or giving her space if she wants to be alone before the kids wake up.  Sometimes I empty the dishwasher, I'll take the time to straighten up the living room, get myself ready, make our bed, do devos with the kids. If I sense she is frustrated I ask if there's anything in particular I can do and sometimes she'll even get snippy with me, but I just smile and let it go and do what she says if she needs something done.  Sometimes, she just asks me to get out of her face, and that's ok.  I know that she doesn't just "wake up" like I do.  She needs space. 

One thing that God really convicted me of is to not responding in a negative way when she would talk down to me or yell an order at me.  I started either choosing not to start an argument when she was trying to and I would choose to not respond if she made a negative comment.  It changed the tone in our home and slowly she softened.  She says that by my actions she changed and slowly respected me more and more and now appreciates my leadership and will ask my advice and will honor what I say.  We both have grown so much, by God's grace.

In the evenings I come home from work and and I have to lead again.  So I gather everyone to the table for dinner, doing devos again, cleaning up dinner, asking Mary if there's anything she needs me to do.  I am learning to constantly look for things to do and taking time with the kids to ask them about their day and sometimes play games with them.  Then I make sure I honor Mary by getting the kids to bed on time and do it myself so she doesn't have to. Why?  Because Mary is so worth it!

She is the biggest and best prize I could ever win.  I don't make the bed or vacuum the stairs and then tell her that I did those things.  Absolutely not, the biggest joy of my life is to know that Mary doesn't 'have' to do those things.  I am learning to love her and treasure her in a way that I haven't in years.  She is not just my wife, but she is also my best friend.  I would do anything for her.  The more I serve her the more I love her and the more I server her, the more she loves, trusts and honors me back.  It's amazing.  It's like I found the 'secret' in marriage!

All that to say, that I changed.  I was the one who took the initiative to make the first move.  God convicted me to serve my family as Christ served the church and gave Himself up for it.  Then you know what happened?  After I started changing, she did as well.  Little by little, our Father started chipping away at our stubborn hearts and He is molding them into something different.  I know this because of both where we have come from and because of what He is currently doing in us.  This is His promise.  I also try to make efforts to tell Mary she's beautiful and to give her cards and to smile at her as often as I can. 

Eph 5:25
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

God is continuing to change me and Mary both.  Our marriage is far from perfect, but He continues to mold us and shape us into something that reflects His grace - because we need a lot of it!