In honor of my husband's birthday this month I want to reflect a bit on our marriage,our sweet love story, and what I've learned through relationship.
I write this in almost every wedding card we give: Marriage is my favorite part of life right now. It's so amazing to live with your best friend, wake up to him every morning, cook with him or for him, hold hands, and live life knowing you have someone who fully supports and loves you. Some say, "you're still in the honeymoon phase, just wait ten years". We've heard that one before. Or, "oh, it won't last". Let me preface this post with some disclaimers and insights into my life.
First, I am not a marriage expert and would never claim to be. I am just blessed to be in a great marriage that honors the Lord and has a strong foundation. Secondly, while we've only been married less than three years, Jacob and I have been together almost six years and friends for nine years. I do believe the time spent together and growing together has given me tremendous knowledge about relationship. Lastly, our relationship is not without conflict. We spent the first two years of dating fighting almost on a weekly basis. Tears, angry phone calls, lack of trust, you name it. Long distance isn't the easiest. Conflict is included in my definition of a healthy relationship. In fact, the other day we gave each other the silent treatment for over an hour... it happens. It's only how you grow through the conflict that matters. I realize now I am writing this post as much for myself as for others. I need these remindersto look back on when life gets tough; when my anxiety levels rise and I need direction.
Needless to say, I do not believe the naysayers who claim love doesn't last, the honeymoon phase can't possibly last. I know too many people who are in strong committed relationships after ten, twenty, thirty years. In fact, I'm completely excited to grow old together. I want to be with him when our kids graduate high school, when we retire from work. I want to take care of him if he ever gets sick; live up to my vows through sickness and in health. It is my hope that through our relationship we can grow as individuals and be an example of the Lord's love on earth.
Since the moment I met Jacob when I was 15 (he was a cool college kid by then), I felt something special. We had an instant connection. He was attracted to my, let's say, beauty. And I just thought he was a goofy kid I loved to be around. It didn't take long for us to develop feelings for each other but life got in the way: other relationships, school, my fear of boys, and even family. I always knew somehow we'd end up together- soul mates? Who knows.
My friends would see us interact at college and constantly told me he was in love with me. I brushed it off. My grandmother sensed his affection for me and knew it was strong, I wasn't ready to hear it. I avoided Jacob when he started writing me letters and wanting to spend more time together. It was too real, too fast. Then he had a dream.
I really do believe God can speak through our dreams and this is a great example. He had a dream about me, and he took that as a sign it might be time to pursue more than a friendship. And for the first time in years I didn't completely resist him.
I credit Jacob for the traditional-ness of our relationship. I can't think of any other way to say it but he always tries to do the right thing. He asked my dad if he could date me, he waited patiently until I was ready, he didn't kiss me for almost three months after we started dating,and asked me if he could kiss me one night under the stars. He stressed respect, physical boundaries, communication, and honesty. I'm not sure how he got so wise but I have learned more from him about relationships than any book, sermon, tv show, or friend. To my wonderful mother and father in law, if you're reading this, you did something right!
Six things I've learned from marriage:
- It is a reflection of the Lord's love and grace for us. It is through my marriage I've come to a deeper understanding of grace and forgiveness. Through marriage we can show the world God's design for family and relationship. It is through marriage we practice the love of the Lord on earth and show others that by His strength we can endure hardships. I've needed a lot of grace from Jacob over the years. I have struggles and he has struggles. By requiring so much grace and love from him I believe I've learned better how to give it and also receive it from the Lord.
- My husband is loved by God. He is a child of God. I once heard a preacher say when you get married, God also becomes your father-in-law. Your spouse first belonged to the Lord and they are still cherished by their heavenly father. That really puts it into perspective for me. I love and value my spouse but God loves and values them more than I could ever understand. This principle is true for everyone in our lives, not just our spouses.
- Love is a decision. I'm sure you've heard that before... but do you know its depth? Love is a commitment and a commitment I have to learn to choose even on the hard days. I have to choose to respond in love when all I want to do is scream and yell at Jacob and tell him how many ways he messed up. I have to choose to respond in love when he confesses something to me that hurts my feelings. I have to stick on love's side when he tells me how I've hurt him or ways I could grow as a person. Sometimes I don't respond in love right away. Sometimes I have to come back an hour or a day later and apologize for what I said or didn't say. That's the beauty of grace and forgiveness. We are both imperfect in our imperfect-ness. Commitmentis the only way love works.
- Marriage is stinkin' hard but it's so unbelievably worth it. Life is not meant to be lived alone. We were created for our partner and our partner was created for us. If you're not married or don't plan on getting married, then switch the word 'marriage' with 'relationship'. Relationships can be so difficult but we were created for community!
The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration. -Pearl S. Buck
- We are both our own person. We were Jacob and Ashley, two distinctly unique human beings before we were married, and we are those same people today. Jacob has his own desires, wants, talents, and so do I. I do not own him. I cannot change him. He cannot make me fit any mold. We are who we are individually and together; and together we create something really special when we allow each other to be our own.
- No other human being will ever fill the hole in my heart. C.S. Lewis referred to it as a 'God shaped hole'. It's so unfair for me to expect my husband to meet all my needs and fill every gaping wound in my soul. In fact, when I'm feeling down and angry at Jacob for not meeting one of my needs I have to stop and ask myself if there is a lack in my relationship with the Lord first. Am I expecting this person to make me feel whole when no human relationship was intended to do that? My grandmother always told me those close to you are your easiest targets for taking out any negative feelings. Boy was she right.
Here's to you Jacob; I'm thankful for your 28 years of life and for choosing me to share the journey with you. Thank you for being committed to our marriage and for giving me security and love like I've never known.