I am a distance runner. Ask me to sprint around our house and my kids will beat me every time, but ask me to run 10 miles on a treadmill and I have got it. I have tried to give it up. I have tested myself to see if it is too important to me, if I am too obsessive about it, but over and over and over again, God uses that time to impress things on me. I don’t “hear” his voice, but I become insanely aware of His presence in my life and certain things I am supposed to do. And this morning was no different.

In general day to day business, I listen to Christian music almost exclusively. But when I run, I main listen to songs from my past. I guess I am getting old but I don’t like a lot of the trendy music now and so I tend to listen to the same songs that I listened to 10 years ago.

I also question that. They are not uplifting songs. Some of them have cuss words in them, most of them talk about some relationship gone bad. But today….today as the tears rolled down my face, I was completely overwhelmed with gratitude to God.

I was reminded of where our life once was, how life was easier, even better, when we were apart.

And I was reminded of how God has taken what we messed up, redeemed it. He did not simply save or marriage. He did not simply keep us from getting divorced. He redeemed our whole entire life! I hate that we lived that way before. I am not proud of it but the contrast between the two, the joy it produces, is such a blessing. When your life has been redeemed like that, you cannot help but say so.

I was reminded that we, as human beings, DO NOT KNOW HOW TO LOVE WELL. We don’t. We know how to love ourselves well….but loving others? We tend to only be good at that when they are giving us what we want or what we think is fair.
The problem is that we think we are good at loving. We think we know how to love well. We believe in our own competence and our own sense of justice. Many of us work hard, pay our bills, and live the American dream with 2 kids and a dog.   We do basically “good” things. Our homes are pretty and our outfits are polished, but our souls are dark and empty though we have tried to fill them with so many things in so many different ways.

We are successful on the outside but often our marriages reveal how we are really doing.

Ours was so ugly and lonely and discouraging.   It was the bottom. All we wanted was to be loved and yet we could not make it happen. It was the endless cycle of arguments that could not be resolved, the outbursts of anger that we could not understand, the constant push and pull of wanting to fix it and not knowing how. It was the screams for fairness when what we both needed was mercy.

Today, though, I was overwhelmed with how much I love my husband. He is gone right now and I miss him, but it is not a bitter missing him. It is not an angry “you get to do everything” miss him. It is an overwhelming gratitude for the husband God has given me.

I am so grateful for the competence God has given Mark as a provider. It allows me to homeschool my kids. It allows me to be giving in the community. It allows me the margin I need to be able to take care of other people’s kids when they need a break.

I am so grateful for his passion for whatever he is doing. I admire his drive for excellence and it has taught me how to push past my own hesitation and my own doubts to do things I never thought possible.

And I am grateful for his “faults”. They have taught me to be more patient with others. They have taught me that I don’t have to always have things my way. They have taught me to love people as they are.

I see all the ways we are super different that have caused endless fights over the years and how God has used each one of those to teach us and mold us into the couple we are today. We can laugh at the annoying things we do to each other. They do not hinder us, but balance us. I am not a perfect wife and he is not a perfect husband. When my friends talk about how their husband doesn’t communicate well or never plans date nights, I kind of chuckle.

Just the other day, I had to tell Mark that he needed to respond to texts when he got them (especially from his wife) otherwise people don’t know he read them. But we were able to laugh because God has taught me to love him for who he is. Maybe he will get better at communicating, maybe he won’t. I just love him NOT because I am good at loving but because God first loved me and I get my sense of identity and my wholeness from God, not Mark.

It is hard to understand love in today’s culture and it is even harder to hang in there and not quit when God is teaching you about love. For generally selfish people, the teaching can be super painful and you are not alone if you think it would be easier if your spouse died or just went away or whatever. Those are ugly thoughts, but that is our human nature unfortunately.

Mark and I look at each other FREQUENTLY and say “Think of all we would have missed.” Think of all we would have missed if we would have given up. We are like the story in the Bible where the woman is washing Jesus’ feet with her hair. If you don’t know the story, she is prostitute and everyone around Jesus is asking Jesus why he would let her do that. Jesus basically says that those who are forgiven much, love much.

We love each other much, but even greater than that, we love God much because we know we did not do this. Our life turned around when we started reading our Bibles, praying and asking God to help us live out his commands.

I know that not everyone reading this believes in Jesus. But my prayer with this is twofold.

  1. I simply want to impress on those who are struggling in their marriage that there can be a beautiful, beautiful, better than you ever imagined other side. Your gut, your human nature, even your friends may tell you otherwise, but I can tell you that I am so glad we did not give up. It has made us so much better.

  2. My second prayer is that you will see the perfect example of love through Jesus. Our world is searching and searching for how to experience true love and God has already showed us how. We just don’t want to humble ourselves, admit that we sin (yes, you and me), and that there might be a power greater than ourselves. We scream for fairness in our marriages, indeed in the world altogether, but we really want and need mercy. When we do something wrong, fair would be for the person to wrong us back. Is that really what we need? No. You know what we all need? We need someone to say, “I see your brokenness, I see and sometimes feel your mistakes, but I forgive you and love you anyways.” This is what we need and that is what God did when he send Jesus to die for our sins. It is a story too perfect to be made up. God sees that we are struggling and he says turn to me and because of Jesus I will forgive you and love you anyways…..and then go and do likewise.

Let the redeemed of the Lord Say So……