Friday, July 25, 2014

Marriage Isn't Always Pretty, But It's A Beautiful Thing

Today, Alex and I have been married for 1 year and 2 months. I wanted to write this on our one year anniversary, but I was still trying to sort through my thoughts and figure out how much/little I wanted to share. This post is 100% about my perspective and my lessons learned, so if you want the flip side, you'll have to ask Alex himself about what his thoughts are.

Our first year of marriage was...difficult. Very rewarding, but very difficult (most married folks are probably not surprised by this). Two young twenty-somethings trying to figure out what it is like to share everything (not parts), but EVERYTHING with another person. The good, the bad, the positive traits, the faults, the hurts, the disappointments, etc.

Two very stubborn people who were going to figure this marriage thing out, on our own, with little consideration of the other person. It sounds really silly, but it's true. It is very easy to create expectations for the other person without actually considering the other person. The same is true of expectations for yourself.

So here's a list of things I have learned about myself and marriage through our countless discussions, disagreements, and prayer. (And of course, from the wisdom of countless friends and family members)

1) Maturity and wisdom come with time, not with a marriage license. Every day, we are learning and growing together. It's really a beautiful thing. Every day, I can choose to grow with Alex, or I can choose to grow apart from him. A lot of prayer and reflection continually reminds me to grow WITH him.

2) I have more control of the peace or discord in our home than I ever realized. I have tendencies  to be critical and to complain--about anything. It really has a poisonous effect in our home. Not only can it make Alex feel inadequate, but it doesn't contribute to love and peace in our home. Discussion that is productive solves problems, complaining and nagging adds to them. For me, changing my heart to a heart of thankfulness and praise is something I need to pray for DAILY. I fail all of the time, but this has been a conviction of mine that I strive to work on every day.

3) Comparing is a very dangerous game. What Alex and I share is unique. The Lord has given us gifts and personality traits all our own. It is not fair to every compare our marriage to anyone else's. Likewise, it is not fair for me to compare him to any other husband. We both have godly people in our lives with whom we admire and strive to be similar to in our disciplines and desires, but we cannot copy or have a marriage like anyone else's. I have been guilty of comparing Alex to other husbands, and for that, I have had to apologize and really focus on why I love and married him. One thing that has really helped me is praying for him. When I pray for him, his job, and his character, I notice thankfulness for him coming more naturally. When I focus on wanting the best for him and on being the person who goes through life with him, I am encouraged and find loving and encouraging him to be a lot easier. I also like to reflect on the qualities he possesses that I love about him. This is also a daily thing. It seems like every day, I think about something different I love about him, and I think this is also true in every season of life.

4) My identity is in Christ, not in Alex or being his wife. I have noticed a direct correlation between my relationship with Christ and my relationship with Alex. When I am spending time in His word and prayer and when I am trusting in God's plans over my own, I notice a lot more peace in our relationship. I am able to love and serve Alex, but as an out pour of the love I receive from the Lord. When I skip out on quiet times, or when I "don't have time" for prayer, I notice my patience runs thin, I constantly seek approval from Alex, and I rely on him to fulfill all of my needs (which he cannot do, nor should he have to!).

5) I have women in my life who encourage and challenge me. These women listen to my hurts, but never let me complain or insult Alex. I am constantly challenged to reflect on my part in any situation and how I can make it better. I am also encouraged to look to Christ in any and all situations.

6) Prayer changes more than I am capable of. Like I said, I am a natural complainer. I have noticed that when I pray about things before complaining (or shortly after repenting about it), there is always a heart change following. My heart has changed a lot regarding things I was very stubborn about, and Alex has had several heart changes as well. This did not come from complaining or whining, but giving those situations to the Lord and praying for His will in everything.

7) On May 25, 2013, I chose Alex for life. I have to  continue to choose him every day, and honestly, given any other option, I would choose him over anyone else. Even in the hard times.

In my walk with Christ, I strive for 3 things: a heart that loves, a heart that is vulnerable, and a heart that is authentic. This short list of things I have learned serves as a reminder to me. I have not perfected any of the above, but it is what I have to work on every single day. I also realize that the challenges don't stop after the first year, and I know that there will be many more lessons and insights. I really am happy to talk about my struggles (I know, weird) and how the Lord works in my life, so seriously...if you want to talk, reach out to me!

"Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one", answered Jesus," is this: Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12: 28b-31