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Say it with me, “I cannot change him.” No, really. Say it out-loud. And again.
Now say, “And it’s not my job.” Yes, out-loud. Now put both statements together and say it again. Like you mean it. You can even shout it…unless you’re reading this in the Wal-Mart checkout line.
“I CANNOT CHANGE HIM. AND IT’S NOT MY JOB!”
Believe me. I tried to change my husband for years. And more years. Always with the premise that “it’s what God would want for him” or “what God commands of him”. But in reality — deep down — I believed that if he changed then I could actually experience true peace or joy or hope. But that doesn’t mesh with the truths of my God. In fact God has a word for things or people that we depend upon to give us the abundant life found only in Christ. He calls it idolatry. Oh that reality pains me.
I loved Jesus when my husband and I got married. Loved Jesus. I was the prodigal preacher’s daughter returned. I had been a rebel in every area of my life until God got a hold of me. And I became that passionate Jesus-girl who wrote letters to everyone I had ever known to tell them about this One who had changed me.
Fast-forward a few years. God was actively deepening my faith, one step at a time. He was shedding needful things from me. He had healed and continued to heal many of my prodigal wounds. And then I met my husband. Little did I know that our marriage would be one of the things God used — ordained — to tangibly teach me deep aspects of His love and grace.
Our marriage started off difficult with poor communication and unmet expectations. Yet we pressed on. Until six years and three kids into our messy marriage when God shined His light. He revealed the pit of betrayal into which my husband had secretly fallen. And the reality completely shattered me.
The reality completely shattered the idol of a man’s love.
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If there was anything God taught me through the long, painful, slow healing that came from that breaking, it was that my husband was not mine to control. My husband wasn’t the one who could bring me everlasting joy. Because he was (and is) human. Like me. And we as humans do one thing very well. We fail.
God revealed afresh that abundant life — a life marked with peace and joy and hope and love — was a gift of grace, rightfully mine as a disciple of Christ. And that He intended for me to experience His abundance regardless of my circumstance.
I don’t type those words flippantly. I don’t throw that out there as good Sunday School advice. I say that as a touchstone that has proven vital to experiencing His fulness even in — especially in — the darkest valleys of our marriage.
I’m very aware that many of you reading this post (or series) desperately crave the abundance of Christ. I’m here to testify to the fact that abundance ultimately comes from the Lord Jesus. No man or marriage will ever fully satisfy because that longing in us was crafted for Him alone.
That’s not to say that desiring a “better” marriage — complete with good communication and fidelity and love/respect — isn’t honorable. It is…as long as our soul stands first and foremost on the foundation of our God, clinging to Him for life.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.
Here’s the beauty. Releasing control to a faithful, pursing, relentlessly-loving God sets us free. Believing Him to be true to His Word, even when we may not see tangible results with our physical eyes, stirs the peace found only in Him. Resting in the fact that He’s sovereign over the good and the devastating, faithful to work it all together according to His will, empowers us to love.
Our job isn’t to control or manipulate or change the heart of our spouse. There remains only One who can transform humans from the inside-out. Our calling is to love. Love freely and graciously out of the overflow of His love made alive within us. And that alone changes the world. That alone changes our marriages, beginning in you and me.
Practically speaking, how do you experience the abundance in Christ even when life (or marriage) is far from beautiful?