A Long Obedience in the Same Direction Leads to the Intimacy & Deep Joy we Crave

 

Well folks, it's going to get real here for a minute. There's no food pictures, recipes or exercise routines in this post. It's a little different from the usual WBL posts but absolutely still health and wellness related - enjoy!  

My husband and I just got married in June (whoo hoo!) and this past wedding season thousands of couples have also said their "I do's" and started this life long journey with their partner. Leading up to my wedding day I've learned how totally sacred, sweet and beautiful marriage is. It is two people CHOOSING each other for the rest of their lives. It's heartbreaking that our culture views marriage as easily disposable and that divorce is not only acceptable but a likely reality for many couples. The day I said  "I do" I freely chose to commit to Nathan (AKA The Baron of Ballard - he requested that I say that...) through any circumstance.

In our life together we will experience the deepest joy, intimacy, and love possible and we will also experience hurt, sadness, loneliness, misunderstanding, anger, frustration and emptiness in our marriage at times. I think and am learning, reading and discovering after previous relationships that marriage calls us to suffer well. We are not supposed to crumble in adversity despite the world telling us adversity and unhappiness means our marriages are failing. We are broken humans living in an imperfect world and in desperate need of salvation outside of ourselves. My heart and all of our hearts are prone to wander. As New York columnist David Brooks points out in his book The Road to Character, "people tend to shoot for happiness but feel the most formed through suffering." I can relate. 

The good news is that marriage is not supposed to make us happy - so I can let go of that expectation! I realize that of course happiness is a byproduct of marrying someone you love but marriage is supposed to make us holy. Marriage sharpens us. Brings oneness. The purpose of marriage is not to experience the "happily ever after" - regardless of what we see on social media, on TV and in movies. Every couple has a side that's not shown publicly and comparison will truly rob us of joy in our marriages. 

Investing in your partner by having the courage to confess your heart felt struggles (that one has taken me a few relationships and lots of practice to learn), asking for forgiveness, choosing to forgive, seeing the best in your partner (rather than assuming the worst), sacrificing yourself and your needs for your partner, being kind and lovingly pursuing their heart will point them to truth and ultimately result in an intimacy that will strengthen your bond and grow you deeper into relationship with God and one another. I learned later on in my 20's that my partner will never, ever fulfill me... The most unloving thing I could do is walk into my marriage with Nathan and put that expectation on him. When I've changed something in myself I've seen my relationship start to change. 

One of the best pieces of marriage advice I got from a couple was about sin in marriage. When your partner wrongs you look past the hurt it caused YOU and pursue their heart. What led them to this place? How can I point them back to truth? My prayer for married couples is that God would give us the strength, maturity and love towards our spouses to earnestly walk alongside them by bringing light to a potentially dark situation - even when it's the hardest thing to do. 

One thing that's been really fruitful in our marriage is Sunday night weekly recaps where we have a series of questions we ask about each others past week. We've adapted this from #beating50percent: 

1.) what's something that brought you joy this week? 
2.) what's something that was hard? 
3.) how can I be praying for you this upcoming week?
4.) what's one specific thing I can do for you this week? 
5.) is there anything that's gone unsaid, convictions, confessions or unresolved hurt that we need to address? 
6.) what's a dream, thought or vision that's been on the forefront of your mind this week?