Friday, February 09, 2007

On Being Happily Married

I'll just warn you that this is a long post as I work out what God is refining in my thoughts of marriage. So you may want to go get a cup of tea. You may be here a while, lol.

German and I have been happily married for 11 years. We have our ups and our downs, but we are absolutely certain that God brought us together to be each other's complement and that apart we are not whole. We are happy, but we are not content to stay exactly where we are in our marriage. We believe that, as with every other aspect of our walk with Christ, He wants to give us more. That is where my meditation to be a more respectful wife came from at the beginning of the year. I knew in my heart and in my head that I respected German, but I knew that it could be more. And if the more came the marriage was going to be greater as well. When we are faithful to seek God with our hearts, He is faithful to refine us. And He has been blessing in incredible ways.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingAt the same time, I believe that if a theme becomes recurring in my study and my time with others, God is usually speaking. As I've stated before, I'm reading Dr. Eggerichs Love and Respect, which has been revolutionary for me in how I listen to German and how I expect for him to respond. This week I have been absolutely challenged by his statement that "ultimately my relationship with my spouse is not about my spouse at all but about my relationship with Jesus Christ." Wow. Ugh. Yeah. And I am reaping the benefits of that. God has honored my efforts over the last 6 weeks to prayerfully read this book and try to engage some of it into my marriage. The theme of marriage recurred in my time with two friends a couple of weeks ago. One of them asked if it was true that the wife was not allowed to say no to a husband's advances (alluding to 1 Corinthians 7:4-6). This led to a healthy, if not lively, discussion of the differences between a husband's needs and a wife's needs and how to find a balance in everything. These ladies were not newlyweds (one married 7 years and the other nearly 20) but still found it difficult to cope with differences in needs. Again, I was reminded of how different we really are and marveled at why God made us so different.

Then, this week I came upon this post at She Lives. This is one of my favorite sites because it is well-written and honest and incredibly funny. And I found myself "amening" through much of the post. Yes, it is over the top in places. But sometimes hyperbole catches attention to teach the lesson. (Read some of the parables looking for Jesus' use of hyperbole, great fun.) Yes it is more stark than I would have said it, but that is difference in personality. But in general my reactions were that the heart of the message was so right. We, as wives do need to make our husbands feel special, dress nicely for them, meet their physical needs, and respect them. Actually I believe that we are respecting them when we do those other things. I loved the post. I printed it to share with others (maybe even with my daughters 40 years from now when we finally allow them to look at boys). And I was mulling over it when I went to Restoring the Years site yesterday and found this post. And I nodded in agreement throughout it as well. But more in terms of "yes that is how it should be" and "gee I'd love to be that in synch with my husband" but not really in a "that describes my marriage" sort of way. And since I am so often in synch with GB at Restoring the Years I began praying about what was I missing.Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I took both of the posts to my Bible Study today. The ladies present represented being married from 7 to 23 years. There was me (an American transplant), a born and raised Brit, a British Indian and a transplanted Scot in the group. We represented the Baptist, Anglican and Catholic faiths. Lots of diversity. First I read "She Lives" and everyone agreed that it was witty, had some good advice and was over-the-top. There was issue taken with "treating our husband as if he were Jesus." So a large part of our discussion was how do we serve our husbands? Why do we take them for granted or treat them with familiarity? What happens in the relationship when we truly serve? And when we got past the notion that "serving like Jesus" was treating them as a god (i.e. idolotry) and was really serving as Jesus commanded us, there were some good ideas come out of the discussion. Then I read "Restoring the Years." Without exception the comments were: I would like to have that but I don't. And we discussed why a marriage where we don't have to ask for our needs to be met they just are met is so difficult to grasp at.

It was a healthy discussion. And in it, I think God whispered to me that I was not missing anything. He whispered that He makes each marriage as distinctive as each person. What works for one of my blogging inspirations will not feel right for another (as GB put it "one size does not fit all") He drew me to ask, what does "oneness" look like in my marriage--not in others' marriages. Therein lies my answer. I believe that I am one with German--knit that way in God's perfect will. The crux of it comes in one of "She Lives" opening remarks. She says, "He's [her husband] one of the ones who didn't just marry a woman he can live with, he married a woman he can't live without." That is how I feel about German. I absolutely cannot picture my life without him. It would be as if I lost a part of my physical self if he were gone. But Oneness does not come at the expense of our own personalities. As I said at the beginning, we complement one another. Unabridged (v 1.1) -
com·ple·ment –noun 1. something that completes or makes perfect: A good wine is a complement to a good meal.
2. the quantity or amount that completes anything: We now have a full complement of packers.
3. either of two parts or things needed to complete the whole; counterpart.

We take two disctinctly different personalities (an ESTJ and an INFP if you know Myers-Briggs terminology) and form a whole. We need each other. And the more I allow God to knit us into one, the more thankful I am that German and I are separate personalities, and that our needs, our perspectives and our dreams are different. If we did not have our differences we would not serve the kingdom of God together as effectively. I need his analytical insight. He needs my emotional empathy. Together we serve. And that makes us a better team. Although the thought of German knowing when I needed togetherness and when I needed space (and vice versa) sounds nice, I am content with the fact that our differences may mean that sometimes we have to voice our needs. I am thankful that German shares so many interests with me (more thoughts on this here), but I am also totally happy for him to go play with the boys and he is happy for me to play with the girls. We understand that we can be each other's "best friend" and still have a need for other friends. We have learned to let each other be who we are, because we know that the two of us together is so much more than each of us separate.

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And, ultimately, it does come down to my relationship with God. If I am serving German out of a love relationship with German I will get tired, and frustrated, and disillusioned at times. He will as well if he is serving me only out of love for me. But when we serve each other out of a love relationship with God and out of obedience to God, He takes care of the frustrations and gives us a clearer love for one another. And that is what it is all about--a God-given unity and love for one another.

always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. Ephesians 5:20-22

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:33

Thank you Carol and GB for sharing challenging posts that help me see better where my marriage fits into God's plan for my husband and me.

photos from author=taliesin


Grafted Branch said...

Your welcome, I think. ;)

It's funny that the women in your group mentioned Carol's call to treat your husband like Jesus...that's the first thing mine said as he read the post, "Oh. No. I don't want anyone treating me as if I were Jesus."

(We eye-witnessed a rather disgusting display during a Michael Pearl speaking engagement, and Husband is now highly sensitive to anything that sounds like something Mr. Pearl would say..which that statement does.)

I'm glad that the Lord spoke so personally to you through your examination of both posts.

I want to make perfectly clear though, that my excellent, easy marriage has not been made by my excellent effort. That would be to give myself too much credit. The changes that I've ungone over 19 years were mostly painless as God worked in me to "give me the desires of my heart," or better stated: to implant in me, a desire for the very things He would require of me. Our compatibility is simply a gift of a very compassionate God who knows I needed this kind of genuine care.

Great post, MiPa!

MiPa said...

I don't think for a minute that excellent marriages come anywhere except from God. I don't think you implied anything differently. You certainly gave God the credit for your marriage. I am so glad that we can be "blog friends" who have different experiences but grow with each other since we serve the same God. Blessings to You!

Melanie said...

Over here from GB's.
Well said, lovingly and honestly. And you are right- how we express these ideas goes back to personality. Carol certainly got our attention.
Thank you for sharing from your heart what God has been whispering to you. :>)

Anonymous said...

Great post. I read Carol's post then yours and thought about it. I agree in that the Lord is the foundation for the marriage, and that all marriages ARE different.

For example, I've a friend whose husband wants to do everything with her --- read books together, cook together, etc. For her, it's awesome to always have a partner. Me? I'd feel claustrophobic. I need a wee bit of space to develop my own hobbies or just be silent. I've got some friends in very loving marriages, but the way that their marriages function are so different from mine. But that's all right! = )

I think the thing with advice is to always weight it, check it out, mull it over and then act (or not act). But it's good to have stuff to mull over.

Speaking of which, thanks so much for your comment on my blog regarding friendship. It really helped me a lot. You said a few things I needed to hear. Yup, I need to just be happy if I can find some gals with kids who I can meet at the park now and then.

Thanks for the prayers!
Maria, the pixilated mum