For every single one of us married, we know it isn’t easy.
In fact, marriage is really, really hard.
Add in kids and it just ratcheted up to the hardest job in the world. Bar none.
Because you see, marriage is not only the union between flesh. It is a marriage of souls, dreams, a known past and an unexpected future.
In marriage, we bind our greatest vulnerability with our deepest longing. To know and be known, love and be loved, to dare to embrace joy knowing it rides shotgun with sorrow, and to risk the deepest, most fragile parts of our selves knowing we might be rejected, hurt, betrayed, abandoned, or worse.
Many of us have faced the overwhelming pain of abuse, neglect, adultery, addiction and even death.
We know that we might love with everything we have and yet still have to say goodbye.
We might live with our whole heart and yet never be enough.
Because marriage doesn’t make all the little things that bothered you when you were dating magically go away. It doesn’t make the deep hurts, fears, grief and loss that you experienced in your childhood disappear. No. It doesn’t.
Marriage magnifies them.
Because up close and personal we begin to really see the depth of our brokenness. The breadth of our great need. Reflected by the mirror of marriage we can no longer ignore our selfishness.
And we try to fill those needs through and by and with each other – or we turn to others – and it can never fill. We were made with a gnawing ache in our soul that can only be filled by a redeemer God.
As I’ve walked through life and faced fears, insecurities and heartaches I’ve learned I cannot bear them on my own. And I cannot expect someone else to carry them for me either. Not my husband, not my parents, not even my friends.
Some wounds, some pain needs the unconditional love and healing of a Father.
A very long time ago I married my high school sweetheart and it didn’t work out. I wasn’t the person then that I am today, and I’m sure he isn’t either. I didn’t know the depth of my broken heart and I thought he could fix it. I thought I could fix his.
And when we lean on someone else to fill the ache in our soul we cripple ourselves from walking on our own feet. We prevent ourselves from knowing the deep abiding love of God who comes in and carries us in the most difficult times.
Every day we face our marriage. Tattered or threadbare, broken or mended we stand in the mess of our lives.
We live in the today of our marriage in the midst of the history of our life. Combining the two parts of ourselves, independent and yet inextricably intertwined. We are the product of our past and the author of our future.
The dichotomy of our life merges in the union of two pasts to create one future.
And blinded by love, infatuation or need we run headlong into marriage and eventually find ourselves. The same self that came in before, just further down the road. And we long for something more, something greater and yet we don’t know what it is.
In grappling to find more we fill our lives with more friends, parties, events, experiences, and things of this world. We run and pretend and keep busy thinking we are filling our cup. Until we realize we’re still empty. And now we’re tired. Tired of living on the surface of our life, spread so thin that all we have is the illusion of a perfect life.
An illusion we know we cannot maintain. One that leaves us feeling emptier and lonelier than we were to begin with. And we realize what we really need is less. Because less allows us to go bigger and wider and deeper and higher. With our husband, ourselves, our family and our God.
Less is the only way we can ever get to more, in any of the ways that matter. In any of the ways that forgo the illusion and create a reality.
Marriage is hard and whether we stay or we go is not my business or my point. Our marriage, whatever it’s challenge has the power to shape us. Change us. Mold us to Him.
We have the power to design our lives. To take the product of our past and design the future we desire. We cannot change what happened to us, what we believed when we were too young to understand or too hurt to see clearly.
It doesn’t mean we leave it behind, the past will always be with us, threatening to hold us back. But when we face it, when we surrender it to a God who faithful, we get to design how far it will propel us forward to the life we were meant to live. To the marriage we were meant to have. To the relationship we were created to desire with Him.
Here are 5 ways you can allow your marriage to make you better:
1. Allow your marriage to be a mirror that reflects your behavior.
It’s easy to see the faults in our spouse and overlook the ones in us. But after the honeymoon wears off it’s hard not to see the reflection of ourselves in our marriage. Whether we are loving and kind or rude and demanding, eventually our marriage becomes a mirror for our behavior. There are natural consequences to our words and actions and if we’re willing to look honestly at our reflection we might not like what we see.
2. Allow your marriage to be a mirror that reflects your heart.
In my marriage I have felt the overwhelming sadness that comes with rejection, insecurity or unworthiness. If we’re honest, we all have. It’s just not possible to put two people who grew up with different experiences and backgrounds and expect nothing less. But if we allow these moments to teach us where we have sustained injury in the past, they can be the mirror that reflects the deepest longing of our heart. The need to be seen, known, loved and wanted just as we are. If you can withstand the pain long enough to trace it to the source you can heal.
3. Recognize your demon.
I firmly believe that each one of us battles a demon in this life. You can take that literally or figuratively, it doesn’t matter to me. I believe in spiritual warfare but if you’re uncomfortable with that I think it’s clear when we look at our own marriage and the ones we’re connected with in friendship, we all battle something. Whether it’s anger, addiction, selfishness, narcissism or control – we all face a very familiar, continual battle. Recognizing it is our first step and hope for change.
4. Honor your spouse, even if you don’t feel like it.
Each of us enter marriage with our own broken story. Whether we seem carefree and comedic or downright melancholy, we each carry the story of a broken life. A broken childhood, dream or relationship. Not one of us escapes this life without pain. And when we don’t deal with the wounds of our heart they come out in indirect ways. On people we don’t mean to hurt but we just can’t help it. Consider that your spouse is battling a wound they just can’t see and honor them, even when you don’t feel like it.
5. Stop looking around you and start looking in you.
Every person you know and every marriage you see has had problems. We live in a time where the highlight reel of everyone’s lives are so open on display it’s easy to think the grass is greener somewhere else. Stop seeking more of this world. Stop running and chasing the illusion of a perfect life and live in the messy reality of the one you already have. Tattered and broken and threadbare and full we stand in the midst of our lives and we choose to grow. We choose to heal and find strength in the love of God, not man.
Your marriage may not be what you desired for your heart. It might not work out, I’ll never know. But in the loss of my first one and the strength of my forever one, I learned a lot about myself. And I’m a better person because of them both.