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.
I battled demons on my own and only invited Jesus to the fight when I was too weary to even move, like we were some sort of tag team, in this together.
After years of hindsight, however, I've learned that Jesus was battling Satan all along for me, regardless of my lack of invitation to the fight. I thought my battles were with my husband, but Jesus showed me He was going to battle for my shortcomings, not my husband's.
He was always battling Satan on the outside, but when I decided to give Him even the tiniest little opening, He came inside and overcame Satan within me.
Ours is 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 major money issues, no fearsome quarrels over bathroom tile, no disagreements on raising the kids, no abuse.
But there were hundreds of "I don't have time" and "I'm too tired" and "I'm going out". Those tiny openings grew bigger because all the best advice said the early years were hard and the best was yet to come. After all, we didn't want to nag, exaggerate or seem weak.
But you can't blame misery on the small absurdities of marriage so larger, more sinful vices grow from the tiny seeds of doubt.
And the more we didn’t make time, grew too tired and went out separately too much, the more we gave attention to the thoughts that we deserved better, until the vices became justification for putting up with years of apathy.
See, Satan finds a tiny little opening in a marriage to plant doubt and arouse the temptation toward more sinful vices:
“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?”
Those are perfect little openings for Satan. And he molds it, and feeds it and nurtures it. And if you do not have Jesus in your marriage, those tiny openings rip and rip 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 didn’t give momentum to at the time, but somehow didn’t forget. Lies that built and spiraled until they became this big, ugly story we replayed over and over in our minds and to others. Lies that came in the form of advertising, friends, co-workers, self-help books, song lyrics, family and celebrities:
“You deserve better.”
“You've 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 our anger and resentment over how our marriage had turned out. This was not the person I married. This was not how I envisioned year 3, or 8 or 12.
And of course, it was all his fault. How can we still be stuck in this mess after I've tried so hard and put up with so much?
I never recognized all this self-righteousness as as lies, never dreamed that any of my actions might have anything to do with a failing marriage. There were just truths justifying my feelings of righteousness. I found myself saying too often when friends tried to defend him, "No, you don't understand, my situation is different..." And those lies and that self-righteousness was leading me straight to the courthouse. I was so angry and bitter and just tired of the drudgery.
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 but didn’t know how to go about asking him for help. I found my bible and read long into the night. I prayed. I didn't know what to ask for but begged God to something. Anything. 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 from an elder at the church 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 serious.
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? Have I ever examined what I've put my husband through?
I decided to dedicate serious thought to prayer to figuring out what I needed to do about me. I prayed and prayed that God would 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 a crabby tone of voice. 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 be how you or I were taught to pray, 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, and you have invited Jesus to the fight through earnest and fervent prayer, you can be 100% sure that Jesus will overcome.
That little heartfelt prayer was all the opening Jesus needed. The invitation left zero room for Satan to enter with his lies anymore. I still tear up when I think of the years I wasted when all it took was one little prayer. One tiny prayer and a heart full of faith and trust and hope.
I pray, even now in 2018. that this reaches just one person who is struggling, to get down on their knees and say, "Jesus- YOU have the opening! Come to battle for me. Battle for my marriage! It's all I know to ask."
In that time, there were several verses that helped me get through those weeks. 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:
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 canyons. But you will have a choice who you invite to that opening. God's grace is everything. I pray that it washes over your hearts, your souls and your marriages.
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.
Can I pray for your marriage this month? Comment below, even if just to say hello, and I will lift you up in prayer. Or contact me (see information in the footer of the page - Reader View if Mobile) and I would be honored to pray for you.
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This post originally appeared on this blog October 16, 2016 and has been lovingly updated each year for my anniversary.