I tried to introduce myself the other day on facebook and explain why I would start a blog. The end of it went like this, “I have to tell you this (even though you probably won’t believe me) that things can get better. And ‘better’ doesn’t even begin to describe what happened to our marriage.” Not two minutes later, Phil and I were arguing…in the front yard.
Raised voices carrying through the still, evening air, the sun gleaming down on the fore finger I waved in his face, and sideways glances as I checked over my shoulder for possible neighbors catching an earful was not exactly what I meant by a vague suggestion to “happily ever after.” In fact, I didn’t mean “happily ever after” at all. The purpose of my marriage isn’t to make me happy. Of course, that is the reason I married him, because I was happy and wanted to lock-in that feeling forever. Sign here, please. I loved him, yes. Absolutely. But I had purely selfish motives. When I said, “for better or for worse,” what I thought was, You will love me for better or for worse.
I stood in the yard telling Phil how wrong he was when you popped in my mind. Yes, you. I was embarrassed. How can I write to you with any authority about marriage if mine isn’t perfect?
Humility wasn’t sitting well with me so I brushed off the last shred and strutted inside. I pulled dinner out of the oven and waited for him to come in and apologize. When he did come inside, I could tell by his long stride undulating across the hardwood floor that an apology wouldn’t happen soon. He has a brisk, animated walk when he’s content. So each of us pretended to ignore the other, which is code for flipping open the lid on one another’s control box and selectively jamming buttons until one of us cracks.
I dodged his path as he crossed through the kitchen, which he just had to do right then. And I might have been a little heavy-handed as I placed clean silverware back in the drawer. He must have grown uncomfortable in my presence (since I was so right and he was so wrong) because at some point he disappeared into the bedroom. I stayed in the kitchen, still preparing dinner.
We exchanged brief yet humble apologies before we sat down to eat (he totally said he was sorry first- ha) and the week ticked on. A few days later, we were standing before a handful of couples, welcoming them to the ReEngage journey at our church and explaining the transparency within ReEngage that sets it apart when Phil launched into a story, “I was standing in the shower thinking, ‘She is wrong. I have no doubt she’s wrong. I know she’s wrong. I’m gonna go out there and tell her how wrong she is. I even brought God into it and prayed to Him- ‘God, show her she’s wrong.’ Now, He didn’t get to the part where He confirmed she was wrong because a feeling came over me that said, ‘It doesn’t matter. Go out there and apologize.’”
I was half-listening to the rest of his story and half trying to put it into context, trying to figure out which argument he was talking about. I must be really tired tonight because this story isn’t ringing a bell. Then it hit me. He was talking about our disagreement from the other day. I hadn’t even asked him what happened after he disappeared into the bedroom and what made him reappear wielding a sweet apology. I just figured common sense kicked in.
“I haven’t told her all of this,” he said (as I bit my tongue from screeching You thought I was wrong?), “but we just want y’all to know that we’re not standing up here because we’ve got it all figured out. No one does. But since we put Christ at the center of our marriage, our fights don’t last days or weeks. They only last a few minutes.” Then I chimed in, “-which is proof that God still performs miracles.” And two minutes later, we slipped each other a smile.
Y’all, I need God to intervene every day. I needed Him to convict me in that disagreement, but notice I wasn’t the one to ask Him for help. Sometimes Phil and I are doing so well that I think it’s because of us- because we’re doing such a great job. We don’t even have to talk about how good we’re doing because we’re just so good at this. And that’s always when I’m reminded how horrible I am at this whole marriage thing. I needed God to convict Phil and then Phil to apologize to me before I would let my guard down and apologize myself. What would have happened if he hadn’t prayed to God for help?
After everything I’ve learned, I’m still weak. But God’s love is unparalleled in that it isn’t based on my good deeds. I could expend every ounce of energy I possess in my effort to be a good person all day, every day until the day that I die, but it doesn’t matter to God if I’m still in control. And if I hadn’t hit rock bottom, I might never have figured out what happens when I give up and hand Him the reigns. And I certainly wouldn’t have witnessed Him melt our hardened hearts.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 11:31
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9