Focus Scriptures: Ephesians 2: 4-5, Matthew 1:21
My relationship with Christ did not save my marriage. His relationship with me saved my marriage. And while that may seem like semantics to you, it is a very important distinction to me, because I want to make it absolutely clear that my new life with my husband had absolutely NOTHING to do with me. The only thing I had to do was begin to allow God to make changes within me, but the changes? The dramatic, only-a-miracle-will-save-this-marriage changes? That was all Jesus. All of it.
While I was battling my own ‘demons’, Jesus was overcoming Satan for me even though I thought the battle all along was with my husband. I always assumed Jesus was having to go to battle for my husband’s shortcomings, not mine.
He was battling Satan on the outside, for me, but when I decided to give Jesus even the tiniest little opening, He came inside and overcame Satan within me.
Because we had a great love story. It started with a look, chemistry and passion like something out of a Nicholas Sparks novel. And friendship. We really were best buds. That lasted about 3 years (I’m being generous). Our lackluster behavior toward each other turned into tolerance of each other’s presence. We went from kissing each other just because we left the same room to realizing the house was empty in the morning and thinking, “Oh, I guess he left for work”.
See, I almost lost my marriage. And to absolutely nothing. No gambling issues, no fearsome quarrels over bathroom tile, no screaming matches on raising the kids, no abuse.
Sure, there were reasons, vices, if you will, that kill marriages. But it didn’t start with those vices. Those vices sprang from the tiny opening of “I don’t have time” and “I’m too tired” and “I’m going out”. And that tiny opening grew bigger and bigger because we didn’t want to nag, exaggerate or seem weak. And the more we didn’t make time, grew too tired and went out too much without the other, the more we gave attention to the thoughts that we deserved better until the vices became justification for putting up with years of apathy. Until our vices justified each other’s vices. See, the vices didn’t come first – but during those worst years, it was easy for us to blame each other for something big than for the little stuff.
See, Satan finds a tiny little opening in a marriage:
“I know he is laying there pretending to be asleep and hears that baby crying and he expects me to get up with him after I worked too AND made dinner AND he watched his show on the couch and, and and…”
“She wants to ignore me 24/7 and give all her attention to the baby and then treats me like I exist only when she wants me to do something for her?”
And he molds it, and feeds it and nurtures it. And if you do not have Jesus in your marriage, the tiny opening rips and rips and rips into something so big and out of control that you wake up after 8 years and wonder how in the world you ever got to where you are.
And oh, how Satan loved us. I picture him sitting casually by in those honeymoon years tossing softball lies that we don’t give momentum to, but somehow didn’t forget. Lies that built and spiraled over time until they become this big, ugly story we replayed over and over in our minds. Lies that came in the form of advertising, friends, co-workers, self-help books, song lyrics, family and celebrities.
“You deserve to be happy.”
“You have made so many sacrifices – it’s your turn to be happy. God wants you to be happy”.
“It would be better for both of you if you split. He is miserable too."
“She takes over and gives you no room to breathe”.
“Your kids want you to be happy. Don’t worry, they’ll be better off in the end because you will be happy and less stressed out”.
“She’s changed you, man. You are not even recognizable anymore”.
“You do all the work around here – he will never appreciate you and it will only get worse as time goes by”.
These and other “helpful” conversations fed my anger and resentment over how my marriage had turned out. This was not the person I married. This was not how I envisioned year 8.
And of course, it was all his fault. How can we still be stuck in this mess after I have tried so hard and put up with so much? I never recognized any of these as lies, never dreamed that any of my actions might have anything to do with a failing marriage. These were just truths justifying my feelings of righteousness. And they were leading me straight to the courthouse. I was so angry and bitter and just tired of the drudgery.
And Satan camped out there for years. Friends, those years were some of the most exhausting years of my life (and his). We couldn’t wait to get to bed at night to escape the exhaustion that living in an apathetic marriage delivers. Satan was wearing us down. We did not want to touch each other, be in the same room with each other, eat together, or look at each other. It was over.
And then one night, I went looking for my bible. I believed in Christ and in who he really was but didn’t know how to go about asking him for help. I found my bible and I don’t remember the verse, but I do remember reading and reading, long into the night. I remember asking him to please, please just do something. And I was gently nudged to find a church.
That next Sunday, I grabbed the kids, made a half-hearted offer to my husband to join us (he didn’t) and then took off for a new church. That first service I cried and cried. The next service I cried and cried. I cried at each service for a year until one day I finally asked, “I am so sick of crying - when will I ever start to feel good walking out of here”? The answer I received was paramount and changed my thinking forever. He said:
“When you repent of whatever it is God is convicting your heart about, and you decide to make worship about Him and not about you, you will stop crying”.
My first reaction was anger. He did not know me. How dare he judge me. He doesn’t know what I’ve been through and how hard I’ve worked in my marriage. He doesn’t know what my husband has put me through. I wouldn’t even be in this miserable mess and looking for Godly answers if it wasn’t for him. I haven’t done anything wrong. God convicting my heart? Dude, get out of town.
But over the course of the next several weeks, I couldn’t get the statement out of my mind. Did I really think I had done nothing wrong? Wasn’t there something about taking the plank out of my eye before nagging about the splinter in his or something? *sigh*
I decided to dedicate serious thought to prayer to figure out what I needed to do about me. I prayed and prayed to God to please show me where I had gone wrong in my marriage, even though it was all his fault, so that I could work on changing me.
Even though it was all his fault. Seriously.
And let me be clear: I am not a poetic prayer warrior. My first prayer went something like this:
“Dear God. OK, fine. I am supposed to work on me so let’s work on me. What have I done wrong? Show me. Let me have it, I guess. Help me quit blaming him for everything even though it is all his fault. How about this? Help me to stop blaming him for just three days. For three days, help me to not nag him, point out any infractions no matter how big or small and to not use any tone of voice that can be construed crabby. Help me to not think or say, “It’s all his fault”. Instead, show me what I need to change. For the next three days, every time I think it is all his fault, show me what I might have done to trigger it or how I could respond differently. And please be obvious because I don’t think I can deal with subtleties right now. Thank you for Jesus. Amen.”
This may not have been how you or I were taught to pray, but for me, at that moment in my life, it was real. And it was pure and it was from my heart. And it was an opening. And when both Jesus and Satan see the opening, you can be 100% sure that Jesus will be going to battle, and will overcome. And if you invite Jesus to the battle, Satan flees every time.
And it was all the opening Jesus needed. That teeniest little invitation was the opening that allowed the previous years to be swallowed up by grace and left zero room for Satan to enter with his lies anymore. I still tear up when I think of the years I wasted and that all it took was one little prayer.
I tear up when I think of all the years I thought to myself, “if only….”, when all I needed was one time little prayer. One tiny prayer and a heart full of faith and trust and hope.
There were several verses that helped me get through those weeks, but especially those first three days. I took each verse and I unpacked it and cross-referenced it and broke it down word for word and read commentaries on it and asked God to reveal its truth for my life and I bound them to my heart. I pray that God touches you impresses these words onto your heart, calling you into action. I hope these encourage you as they have encouraged me:
· 1 Peter 5:8
· Psalm 100
· Romans 5:1-5
· Romans 6:1-12
· Ephesians 1:13-21
· 1 Peter 3:1-4
· James 3:13-18
If you feel stuck in a passionless, loveless marriage, never give up. Be encouraged that you can go from never wanting to be touched again to Cougar. You can go from not wanting to be in the same room to invading his space on the couch for some awesome snuggle time. You can go from feeling empty nothingness to overwhelming joy just because he walked in the door. You can go from bawling in the shower every night to not remembering the last time you cried. You can go from an icy, stone-cold heart to warm, romantic feelings. I have been there. It gets better if you let God work on you whether you think you need it or not.
Your marriage is going to have openings. Some are tiny cracks and some will be grand canyans. But you will have a choice who you invite to that opening.
I hope and pray that what I have shared today can give you hope. My story, my experience is not the answer to every marriage problem but Jesus is. Whatever the problem, Jesus is the answer…just ask Him. Give HIM your opening.