Label = Married
31 Days in My [Insert Label Here] Skin:
[ Married ]
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So much of marriage has been unexpected. Both marriage in general and my own personal marriage. Almost all of it is so different from what I thought it was going to be when I was a single young woman.
One of the first things about my marriage that surprised me (and this isn’t a big deal, it’s just a fact) was that I ended up marrying a white man. I know, I know— who cares? And that’s totally true: it doesn’t matter. But it just wasn’t what I always assumed would happen. In my youth, I was always attracted to pretty much every ethnicity other than white guys.
My first crush in fourth grade was Latino. The first guy I ever invited to a Sadie Hawkins dance in high school was an African-American young man. My first “real” kiss was with a Japanese guy. And my “first love” as an adult, who I thought I would marry when I was 21, was Puerto Rican. So, I always imagined I would grow up and marry a man of color.
My one vow in my youth was that I would never date a cop because I never wanted to be married to a cop. I assumed I would be too scared all the time if I had a husband who did that for a living. And, as a matter of fact, because I wanted to be foreign missionary when I grew up, I always thought “my future husband” and I would serve in some kind of faith-based ministry together, and that we would have a houseful of guests over all the time, serving them food, playing board games, and just “loving on them.”
And then, a few months before I was going to graduate college, I re-met a friend I’d known for 3-4 years named Josh. We had lost touch for a couple years, but as soon as we reconnected we started talking on the phone, exchanging emails, and hanging out a ton. He was so encouraging to me, believed in my dreams, inspired me in my love for writing, and was a total gentleman. On our first “real date”, as we were driving home from Santa Cruz, Josh told me all about how desperately he wanted “more of God” in his life— and he literally began to cry at the thought of how much he longed for an even more intimate relationship with God.
I was smitten: this dude loved God in a way I had never seen in a peer before. And he was so kind and thoughtful to me. And he was already involved in faith-based ministry as a musician and worship leader for local church events. He was a pure-hearted, courageous, bold man of character, with strong leadership qualities and an amazing ability to inspire others to draw closer to God.
It wasn’t long before we got engaged and, within ten months of re-meeting, we got married. Suuuuuper fast, right? That, too— the timing— was unexpected!
So in the end: instead of marrying a “tall, dark and handsome” guy I always assumed I would marry, I ended up choosing a not-so-tall, not-dark-at-all, but still handsome guy who loved God with all his being. I was confident that our lives would be spent in God-led service to others, with total commitment to each other along the way.
For the first couple years of our marriage, Josh was the Worship Leader and Youth Pastor at a small church. So part of my vision for what marriage would look like was, in fact, happening. We were doing what I had always wanted to do: loving the world, side by side, in Jesus’ name. It was hard, but good work. And that was the truest, deepest desire of my heart.
AND THEN, after a little over two years of marriage, Josh decided he wanted to leave church ministry and pursue his lifelong desire (which I had never known about) to become a Police Officer. (You know, the ONE THING I vowed I’d never want to be closely connected to because of the stress and fear of it all?!? Yeah, that.)
So then I ended up in another unexpected situation: I now had to deal with all the danger and the stress and the fear and the PTSD (and now, in our current political climate, the public persecution) associated with having a husband in law enforcement. ((I could go on and on about how this job has affected our lives and all the various calls he’s been on, abused people he has rescued or helped, guns he has taken off of gangsters, times he has almost lost his life, etc… but for the sake of staying focused on the “unexpectedness” of marriage, I will refrain today.))
SO I’ve had to wrestle with God a lot about “what I thought my life would be” versus “what it actually IS.”
Not only has my husband’s career completely changed the trajectory of our lives (geographically, financially, emotionally, safety-wise, and stress-wise, for example), but also not to get specific, but the basic truth about my experience is this: Marriage is a lot harder than I ever realized it would be.
It has a lot more of a “sharpening” effect than I expected. I had no idea how much I would be forced to grow, to grow up, and to become less selfish and more sacrificial because of this relationship. I had no idea how dependent on Jesus marriage would make me. I had no idea that my relationship with my husband would be one of the main vehicles God would use to bring me closer to God Himself.
Last week, Josh and I started reading a book called Sacred Marriage and in it the author Gary Thomas writes this:
“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?… This isn’t to suggest that happiness and holiness are contradictory. On the contrary, I believe we’ll live the happiest, most joy-filled lives when we walk in obedience… We’re not anti-happiness… [but] the problem I’m trying to address is that a “happy marriage” (defined romantically and in terms of pleasant feelings) is too often the endgame of most marriage books (even Christian marriage books). This is a false promise. You won’t find happiness at the end of a road named selfishness. This is a book that looks and points beyond marriage. Spiritual growth is the main theme; marriage is simply the context.”
Yes, that’s it. I think I thought marriage was going to be about becoming fulfilled and having someone to “be on my side” and root for me and support me and help me… And although of course I considered that I would be serving and helping and cheering for him, too, I don’t think it ever occurred to me that marriage is actually a lifelong endeavor and teeth-gritting commitment to tirelessly rely on God, dive into Him for strength and wisdom and guidance, and serve someone else — over and over and over— as each person in the marriage continues to change and grow (and sometimes regress and be challenging)…
Call me ignorant or selfish or ridiculous or whatever you want, but this idea that marriage was going to be God’s primary vehicle to sharpen ME was not on my radar.
Also in Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas writes this:
“I love marriage, and I love my marriage. I love the fun parts, the easy parts, and the pleasurable parts, but also the difficult parts— the parts that frustrate me but help me understand myself and my spouse on a deeper level; the parts that are painful but that crucify the aspects of me that I hate; the parts that force me to my knees and teach me that I need to learn to love with God’s love instead of just trying harder. Marriage has led me to deeper levels of understanding, more pronounced worship, and a sense of fellowship that I never knew existed.” (italics mine)
If I had known how hard this would all be, if I had realized how fully unpredictable marriage, my husband, and even myself! would be, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to ever give it a shot. It’s a roller coaster and an adventure, I know that much.
But, wow. I am so very glad I did choose this particular adventure! I am so eternally grateful for all God has done in me and all He has taught me and all the ways He has grown me over the past 16 years.
No, it’s not what I would have wanted in some ways, and it is definitely not what I expected it would be like… but it is good. Hard, but good. Different, but good.
Thank You, Lord, for sending this man into my life all those years ago. Thank You for helping us to make the commitment to love and serve each other even when we had no idea what we were really signing up for. I’m so thankful for all You’ve done in us and all the ways You’ve strengthened us and grown both of us as a result of the friction, the challenges, and even the victories in our marriage. Thanks for helping us get this far. And thank You that You’re not done yet! There’s more growth to come, more lessons to learn, more challenges to face and overcome together. Please help us as only You can, Lord. Amen.
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What about you?
Can you share about a time life threw you a curveball and you had to figure out how to navigate a new, unexpected “normal”? How can you encourage someone else in their “unexpected” journey this week?
Please share your journey in the comment section below.