Tagged: relationships

Stepping into the Light After Having Sex Before Marriage

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Someone once asked how Grant and I resisted sexual temptation before we got married. She was struggling with temptation herself and was hoping for some encouragement and guidance. I gave her the truth.

“We didn’t.”

Like many other couples in today’s sex-obsessed culture, Grant and I didn’t save sex for marriage. An intense relationship and long engagement paired with too much freedom led to a lifestyle of sin that we took much care to conceal. We loved our church community and being in student ministry together and feared that coming clean would mean having to choose between serving in ministry and serving our fleshly desires. To avoid that decision, we feigned purity in the public light and continued living out the opposite behind closed doors. Eventually we started to believe we weren’t doing anything wrong.

I know that our experience is not unique. Statistics show that a majority of young Christians are not waiting until marriage. Some are simply swept away by a passionate moment and then don’t get the help they need to make it back to shore. The current often carries them much farther than they intended to go and makes it much harder to swim back.

It’s unsettling yet not shocking that many of our friends, like us, are carrying around secrets of sexual sin to one degree or another. Some have been carrying around secrets since before they began a relationship with Jesus, while some started carrying them after. Some are in ministry. A few of these couples are married now; others are single. And there is one thing we’ve all shared in common: the fear of bringing our sin to light.

There’s something about knowing that you’re not living out the godly, pure Christian walk that is expected of you that makes it more difficult to ask for accountability or be honest about the difficulty of staying pure until marriage. Sometimes it just seems easier to cling to the excuses and justifications that make you feel as though what you’re doing is not that bad. Our culture’s way of normalizing sex and making purity a joke doesn’t help matters either.

Now that Grant and I are on the other side of it all, we realize that this is something we don’t want to see other couples get caught up in. We understand now that choosing purity is not a matter of checking something off the “good Christian” to-do list, but rather a path designed by God for our protection. It is not only the best way to enjoy relationships and marriage, but also what helps preserve peace and joy in both faith and ministry. It’s a fruit he and I will never get to taste. This is why I’m sharing our story today.

Instead of adding onto the fear and guilt that encourages men and women to conceal and stay in their sexual sin, we want to offer a message of freedom that can help get them out. And it starts with pointing to what Jesus has done. How he walked with Grant and I on our dirty, broken path. How he brought us into a covenant of marriage and breathed new life into our faith. How he showered us with immeasurable grace we could never earn or deserve. But most of all, how he transformed our “worldly sorrow,”  the kind that “brings death,” into “godly sorrow,” the kind that “brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Godly sorrow. This is what the Lord has been teaching me and what I hope begins to move in the hearts of those who know the pain of sexual sin all too well.

It’s true that now being married to Grant “softens the blow” in some regards; it makes our sin a little less scandalous or a little more easily forgiven, at least in our minds. But I still have sorrow. I have sorrow for the wedding night and first year of marriage that wasn’t quite what I had dreamt of. I have sorrow for the day when we will have to share this part of our story with our children, when we will be to them a warning to heed rather than an example to follow. I have sorrow for my relationship with the Lord that suffered as I carried around the weight of my guilt.

I also have sorrow because I know that as I confess this now, I am probably disappointing people I care about — family members and friends who believed Grant and I were doing things right, friends and mentors who encouraged me and gave me sweet advice for what they thought would be our first time on our wedding night, faithful readers who’ve applauded my authenticity and honesty, pastors and leaders within the church who expected and trusted me to pursue purity, and students under my leadership who looked up to me.

But when I say that we now have a godly sorrow rather than a worldly sorrow, I mean that while there is still a longing for things to have gone a different way, there is also an acceptance that this is our story, a desire to move on and heal, and faith that God will use it for good.

This is different from the sorrow I once had when I was grieving more because of my guilt than because of my loss, when I felt too burdened by what I had done to want to bring my sin to light or make amends with the Lord. The weight I was carrying became so heavy that the only way I could think of to keep moving forward was to pretend it wasn’t there. This is worldly sorrow. And it only leads to death — death of hopes and dreams for the future, death of authenticity and transparency, and death of a once vibrant relationship with God.

Godly sorrow, on the other hand, leads to repentance, salvation, and a life not hindered by regret. It leads to freedom. And the only way to get from A to B, from this worldly sorrow to godly sorrow, is to take your eyes off that sin and instead put it on the Son on the Cross. Believing that the only reason you could ever be victorious over that sin is because of the victory Jesus won for you. Trusting that “his divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). Allowing yourself to accept that it’s never too late to turn back, to run into the Heavenly Father’s open arms and take hold of the mercy and grace he’s so freely offering you.

Grant and I don’t live with much regret anymore. We live with freedom instead. And if we had only believed that we could live with that freedom back then, things would probably have gone a lot differently. I don’t think we would’ve hesitated to get help and ask for accountability when we needed it. I don’t think we would’ve made excuses or tried to hide from God or from the church. I don’t think we would’ve wanted to remain in our sin. Not if we had truly tasted freedom, if we had remained captivated with the Cross.

The reason I’m sharing these things is because I believe in the power of godly sorrow, of repenting and allowing yourself to receive God’s grace to start anew.

If you are feeling the weight of worldly sorrow and the regrets of a sin you just can’t outrun, I wish I could be sitting across from you right now. I’d put down my coffee, grab your hands as I meet your eyes, and say these words with the sincerest love and longing for you. “I understand you. I don’t judge or condemn you. And I want more for you. The Lord wants more for you. Even now, no matter how far you’ve gone, he longs for you to know his love and choose a better way.” I hope that in that moment, you would realize you still have a small voice inside of you saying, “Actually, I want more for myself, too.”

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

In the light there is relationship and community. Renewal and cleansing. It’s a place where perfect love trumps fear. There’s no room for shame; it’s just a wide open space of freedom.

And you, my dear friend, are invited to step in.

Our Marriage After Baby

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I knew my marriage would change after having a baby. I had heard rumors of sleep-deprived parents just passing each other like ships in the night and sexless couples who hadn’t been on a date in ages. Two people so consumed with parenthood that there is little energy or time to devote to one another. A wife and husband resembling roommates more than spouses.

I am happy to report that those things aren’t all that true for us, but Grant and I have still had our own fair share of challenges and did change in many ways after becoming parents to our sweet baby girl just six months ago. We’ve come a long way since coming home from the hospital, but we’re still finding our way back to each other. Regaining what was lost as we gained this precious new family member. Uncovering a slightly different version of ourselves and discovering how they fit together.

The first few months were an adjustment period filled with tears and screaming and laughing and bonding. My hormones did a lot of good when it came to my relationship with my baby. But my relationship with my husband? Not so much. Postpartum rage was very real for me, as is the prolactin coursing through my body from breastfeeding that has basically brought my desire for intimacy to an all-time low.

For a while I just didn’t care. My whole world had shifted from being about me and our marriage to being about her. It felt as though I had blissfully, freely given my whole being — my heart, body, mind, and soul — to my baby. My husband just got the leftovers.

I used to always want to serve him, to be his “helper.” I would make breakfast every morning and dinner every night, keeping the house clean and making sure everything was in proper order. I listened to all of his work stories and encouraged him daily, telling him how handsome and hardworking I thought he was. I would sit and think of ways I could ease his burdens and make him smile. I used to surprise him in the bedroom.

As soon as I had a baby, I no longer cared about serving my husband. All I wanted was to be served by him. I let him do all the cooking and all the cleaning. If I was sitting on the couch and there was something I needed, he’d get it for me. If there was something I wanted done, he’d do it for me. It wasn’t a big deal at first. I literally had just squeezed an eight pound baby out of my body and was now a twenty-four hour milk machine. It was time for me to put my feet up and let Grant run the house for a change. And he loved taking on those burdens in the early days. He’s always had a servant’s heart. If his body could produce milk, I know he’d take on the task of breastfeeding in a heartbeat just so he could share in that burden, as well.

But if there was an appropriate length of time that I was allowed to be a little selfish as a new mom, I had long past it. And if there was an appropriate amount of responsibilities I was allowed to shirk or amount of meanness I was allowed to dish out, I definitely crossed the line. Things got ugly when he would start talking to me about work and I’d simply tell him that I didn’t care. It became exceedingly difficult for him when he’d tell me I’m beautiful or try to make a move and I would just turn away. For months on end, it seemed as though I only cared about my needs and Tessa’s needs. And if Grant had his own needs, I certainly didn’t want to hear them.

Until I began to realize that I hadn’t touched a stove in five months and that almost all of my sentences began with “can you…” Until I scrolled through our text messages and saw that he never stopped sending me sweet words of encouragement whereas I never returned any back. Until he brought to my attention that it hurts him when I turn him away, that there were beginning to be emotional ramifications to the lack of touch and closeness between us. Physical touch is Grant’s top love language. Unfortunately, it is my lowest one. See the problem?

I told myself for a while that because so much of my behavior could be explained by my change in hormones, there was nothing wrong with me or with us. Things were just different and there was nothing I could do about it. But I know better and I’m choosing every day to do something about it now. What does this look like? A lot of asking for forgiveness. Self-reflection. Tons and tons of prayer. But most of all, it has looked like intentionality — intentional decisions to love and serve. Even when my heart’s just not in it. Especially when my heart’s not in it. And most of the time, it’s not. Almost nothing between Grant and I feels natural anymore. What once came naturally requires intentionality. There’s just no way around it.

I still ask Grant for a lot of help around the house, probably way more than I ought to ask a man who works full time on the night shift. But I’m trying to change this. Even though every part of me would rather be spaced out in front of the television by the end of the day, I’m force myself to put some effort into cooking again. To be the first to tend to the crying baby instead of the last. Instead of piling things onto Grant’s plate just because I’d like to see them done, I’m now intentionally mulling over each item on my to-do list, determining whether I can do it myself or if it even needs to be done at all. Usually it doesn’t.

We’re both relieved that I’m starting to crave intimacy a little more these days, but four out of five times that he pursues me, he still gets turned away. If I’m not careful, I can let weeks go by without so much as a passionate kiss. The problem is that I’m waiting to magically want to be close and physical the same way I did before, and it’s just not happening. So now I’m starting to have to make those small, intentional choices. To greet him with a hug and kiss instead of the usual distracted hello. To hold his hand or sit next to him even when I’d rather have my space. To respond to his pursuit despite my lack of desire. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received on this subject is to say yes first and let the desire come later. More often than not, the desire does come.

In order to spend quality time together, we often have to remove ourselves from the house. We go on day trips together, listen to podcasts in the car, and take walks around the park. We tow the baby along in the stroller, letting her be engaged with the sights and sounds as we attempt to reengage with one another again. We’re realizing it’s not the fancy date nights or the spending of money that nurtures our friendship. It’s the small, simple things — a sermon we both enjoyed, cooking or pulling weeds side by side, going through the one year Bible reading plan together, and eating breakfast at the kitchen table as a family every morning.

When life gets busy and distracting, it’s easy to let these small, simple things be the first to go. So we have to be intentional to hold onto them. Sometimes that means saying no to invitations from friends or limiting time with family. The things that once were a priority get put on the back burner for now. We don’t mean to be shut-ins or let people down, but this is how we fight for our marriage. Reclaiming the space, time, and effort we once tried to freely give to everyone and everything.

I think one of the best parts about our marriage after having a baby is getting to see each other shine in our new roles of mommy and daddy. Watching Grant laugh and play with Tessa makes my heart burst with gratitude that the same man who makes such an amazing husband is just as amazing of a father. I love my husband and the life we now have together. I don’t want to end this post without making that clear.

It’s not easy being parents and it’s not all that easy on our marriage. But the Lord knew when he brought us together that he would also bring us a baby girl and that she would change us, challenge us, and make us even better than we were before. I did enjoy the days when it was just Grant and I. But nothing can compare to the joy we have now. And these challenges we’re having to navigate are necessary and good, provided that we allow them to make us into the wife/mom and husband/dad we’re meant to be. This is our sanctification.

I’m sharing all of these things because I want to remind every struggling wife out there that she does have a say in the direction of her marriage. We get to choose to be the loving mom and the loving wife. And we do not, or rather we cannot, do this alone. God in his great mercy hears our prayers and our soul’s longing to be united with our husbands again, to have our marriage be all that it can be and even more. He picks us up in our weakness and carries us closer to the finish line. He takes our desperate “Lord, I need you” and runs with it, renewing the things we thought were long dead. Fixing the pieces of our hearts and marriages that we believed were broken. I know it to be true because I’ve seen it happen for me, my sisters.

I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power (1 Corinthians 2:3-5).

If nothing else, my prayer is that in sharing these things, God might use my weakness and brokenness to show off his great love and power. Looking back on these past six months, I feel all kinds of weak and broken. But if there is glory or praise to be given to him from what Grant and I have been experiencing, let it be. I will be the first to lift my hands and shout, “Hallelujah!”

 

The Loneliness of Motherhood

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Motherhood is a lonely thing.

It doesn’t matter how many times your family and friends promise to be there whenever you need a break or are reaching your wit’s end. When you are a new mom, you still end up feeling like you have no one to lean on, no one who truly understands.

When the baby isn’t going down for their nap and is crying from gas or when you’re nursing in the middle of the night for what feels like the twentieth time, there isn’t a loved one whispering “you’ve got this, mama” in your ear or an unread text from a girlfriend reminding you that this season will pass. There is no kind nanny just waiting to be tagged in or a therapist in your living room who is always available for a good vent. If you’re lucky, you have a friend or two who are also navigating the early months of motherhood. But even being surrounded by other new moms is no guarantee that you’ll find the immediate solace you need. Somehow you end up feeling utterly alone despite everyone’s supposed promises that you are aren’t.

If you’re in the early days of motherhood and are handling it anything like me, you try to keep busy. You involve yourself in church and Bible studies. You invite anyone and everyone to get coffee with you. You visit family. You spend a lot of time on social media and Netflix. You walk around the mall and try not to spend all of your money. You become a regular at the park, pushing that stroller around the track until you can’t feel your wrists anymore.

But maybe, like me, you have found that this “keeping busy” thing just isn’t enough. It can get you through a few days or even a few weeks, but the loneliness and purposelessness always return. Being a stay-at-home mom of a baby who can’t walk, can’t talk, basically can’t do diddly-squat besides shake a few toys and play peek-a-boo is rough, no matter how hard you try to sugarcoat it with a full schedule or how many friends you have.

The truth is that the loneliness of motherhood is not merely a matter of not being surrounded by enough people. No, it is lonely by design.

Only you are this baby’s mother. You offer them the special comfort that they can’t find anywhere else. You pay attention to the details of your baby’s development like nobody else. You alone know how to discern their different cries and the exact way they like to be rocked or held. You’re the only one who cares if they miss a nap or get hungry sooner than expected. You clock in the most hours with your little one and hardly ever get to clock out.

With this kind of around-the-clock care you are giving, it is no wonder that you start to feel a little neglected and taken for granted. That sleeping angel you just spent an hour nursing and coaxing to bed can’t express their gratitude. Your husband can only listen to your troubles and tend to your needs for so long before they have to get to work or get some sleep. Your friends don’t know that it hurts to wait for that text or invite that never comes. And those people giving you unwanted advice don’t understand that they are doing the opposite of helping.

Side note: this week I fell apart and cried in front of my five-month-old and she laughed. SHE LAUGHED. If that doesn’t make you feel taken for granted, then I don’t know what would.

If you’re a new mom and are tired of how lonely you’ve been feeling, maybe even embarrassed for not quite thriving as that mom you were so excited to become, I just want you to know that I do understand. I’ve been there and am still there. I don’t have any real solutions and I don’t think there are any. I think that when we became mothers, we unknowingly signed up for one of the loneliest of jobs. That’s just the nature of motherhood.

The one thing I want to say to encourage you, the thing that I wish someone would say to me, is that being lonely is okay. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It doesn’t mean you have to try harder (although you most certainly can try).

If you’re lonely, you’re doing something right. You’re allowing yourself to give fully and freely to that precious baby, even while knowing there is a cost. You’re learning how to bear hard times for the sake of your family, one of many sacrifices you’ll make for the rest of your life. You’re walking through the valley that can refine you and point you to the Most High Comforter.

One day your little one will be able to thank you for all you do. You’ll get more time to do things for yourself. Your day will consist of more conversations than coos and cries. But in the meantime, my lonely friends, I am right here with you. You are loved and not forgotten.

You’ve got this, mama.

 

 

 

How Therapy Saved My Relationship

Photo by Yoel Ben-Avraham via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/gvoEfH)

Photo by Yoel Ben-Avraham via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/gvoEfH)

I first want to preface this post by explaining that I am a firm believer that God is the one who truly transforms hearts. No amount of therapy could compare to the life-changing work that my Savior has done in my life. Even still, I know that God has blessed me through my willingness to undergo weekly therapy for the past ten months.

Prior to seeing Tanya, my amazing counselor who I refer to throughout this post, I did not believe that counseling could be effective in my case. I believed that what I was battling — sadness, hopelessness, apathy, anger at others — were solely versions of spiritual attack. I believed that resorting to seeing a therapist was synonymous with not believing in God’s ability to heal me and fight for me. To some, this belief is understandable. To others, it sounds silly. Regardless of which party you fall into, I want you to know that I did not want to begin therapy when I did. I was doubtful of its ability to help me and I only went because my mom asked me to (and I now thank God that she did). I hope this piece of knowledge helps shed even more light on what I’m about to share about the effect therapy has had on my life and my relationship with Grant over the past year.

I also want to note that I interchange the word therapy for counseling quite frequently because they are one and the same. One word sounds more clinical while the other sounds more comfortable. I use both because I want to express how therapy is both clinical and comfortable at the same time. It’s not cold and frightening, but it’s also not solely filled with warm, fuzzy feelings. It’s a place where a professional can help you see the effects of the things going on inside your mind (such as emotions, fears, and memories) while also providing guidance and counsel on how to work through and even thrive with them.

How Therapy Saved My Relationship

Rewind to November 2014. My first counseling session. I was intimidated and afraid of judgment while also slightly excited. I didn’t want to be labeled as sick or depressed, yet I still had hope that this woman might have the answers that God seemed to be withholding from me. If prayer wasn’t working, maybe pills would, I told myself.

Of course, I was very mistaken in my perception of therapy. Just because you go to a professional doesn’t mean you should expect to be diagnosed with an illness and thus prescribed some medication. I ended up finding healing without medication. God used therapy to heal my soul so that my body and mind could be made well, too. This does not mean that I am better than those who do take medication. It simply means that God can now use me to bring hope to those afraid of counseling just as he uses others to bring hope to those afraid of medication. We all have different journeys of healing, thus we all have different roles to play.

After my first few sessions with Tanya, I was diagnosed with DSM-IV 309.28, which is a fancy way of saying I had “Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood.” I was later re-diagnosed as having DSM-IV 300.02, which is “Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” Long story short, the focus of many of my sessions with Tanya have centered around the role that anxiety has played in my life. After becoming engaged to Grant in December 2014, we began to zero in on the role that anxiety has played and would continue to play in my relationship with Grant.

At the time of getting engaged, Grant and I were fighting all the time. That’s not something most people expect or want to hear. As I have assumed about others, people most likely assumed that Grant and I got engaged because we were so head over heels in love and terribly happy. The being in love part was true, but the being terribly happy part was not. We had been together for a year and we had reached a point where all our cards were laid out on the table. Our cards were not the hand we would have liked to be dealt. While my cards consisted of control issues, bitterness, and fear, his consisted of passivity and carelessness.

I want to say this once and for all for everyone who has even just one of these cards in their own hand: YOU are NOT your card. You have what many like to call “baggage” or “issues.” But they are not the true you, the person you were designed to be. You may think otherwise because these things are coming out of you, but these are things that have most likely been thrust upon you and nurtured in you from some past experience, maybe as far back as your early childhood.

You have baggage, my dear friend. But you are not defined by it. You are just lugging it around and need some help unloading it all.

What Tanya did for me was help me unload my baggage. It was a long and hard process. And I will tell you that for the first few months, I did not see much change in my life. She would remind me of the progress that I was making at every session, but I felt too defeated too many times to even believe her. This, of course, led to frustration and even more hopelessness as Grant and I continued to move closer to our wedding date with little resolution in sight. If this sounds terrifying to you, let me tell you that it most definitely was. And with every decision about the wedding that was made came more anxiety as I began to feel increasingly trapped. No one wants to be the runaway bride, but neither does anyone want to be the unhappy wife.

What’s a girl to do when she’s accepted a proposal with hope and excitement only to be hit with the reality of just how hard having a successful marriage really is? Some would say to give up and run away. In fact, I will not deny that there were friends who warned me somewhere along this journey that I did not seem to be ready for this commitment I was making. They asked me to consider delaying the wedding so that I could be absolutely certain that Grant and I should be moving forward. I will also add to this disclosure that I fortunately have had an extremely supportive family who have been able to speak truth into my life, as well. If it weren’t for them, I might actually have listened to those few friends and would not be getting ready to marry the love of my life less than two months from now.

Just a word of advice: if your twenty-year-old unmarried friends are saying something different than your forty-year-old married parents and sixty-year old married grandparents, you might want to consider what wise counsel in this situation really means. Just think about it.

Some of the things that Tanya and I discovered about myself in our sessions together shed a huge light on what was causing so many of the fights and unhappiness between Grant and I. However, when those things were first uncovered, I was not mature enough to actually implement any resolution. This, I realize now, is normal. With any major wounds, healing takes time and also continual treatment. You don’t just identify it, slap on a bandage, and expect it to go away. You have to change out the bandages and continue applying the right ointments. Otherwise, it might never properly heal. Likewise, you can’t expect your baggage to go away just because you can now identify it and want to slap a bandage on it. You have to continue to work towards healing and resolution. This is why I believe that if you go to a therapist for a couple of months and don’t think that you’re any better, I suggest that you consider sticking with it unless there is a compatibility issue between you and the therapist.

I now am at the point where I am implementing resolutions and seeing real results in both my personal life and my relationship with Grant. If I had given up on therapy this past spring because it had been six months since my first session and I was still at Grant’s throat, I would have been an absolute idiot.

I would have missed out on one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me: actual healing and transformation, true happiness and peace with my soon-to-be-husband.

. . . . .

For eight months, I saw Tanya every week. Now I see her every other week. This is because Grant and I are also seeing a professional marriage counselor together. I was skeptical when we first began seeing Jason, our marriage counselor, because I was so used to being with Tanya. In fact, I cried the entire car ride home after our first session with Jason because it was just so difficult to imagine him actually helping us. What could this man possibly do for Grant and I? I’m already knee-deep in therapy with Tanya. Now I need this stranger pointing out all the things I’m still failing at?

I now enjoy seeing Jason with Grant because he has proven himself to be a helpful source of guidance in our relationship. Tanya was right when she first suggested that we see him; there are some things that need to be worked out as a team. Despite the progress I was making with her, Grant was missing out on the experience. He would sometimes come to my sessions, but we were only able to scratch the surface there. Seeing Jason gives him more opportunities to unload his own baggage. If you ask Grant, he would say that he has learned a lot about himself since our first session together. And this newfound knowledge he has enables him to better love me as he works through his own issues and I continue working through mine.

Today Grant and I are thriving more than ever before. We are happier than we were when we first began dating. He loves me more deeply than I thought he could ever love me, and I can also say the same about myself. We have been humbled in a major way. For the first time in my life, I am able to both forgive and apologize freely; the desire for control and perfection no longer dominates me. For the first time in his life, Grant is able to be sacrificial in the way he loves and run full force in his pursuit of me; passivity no longer holds him back. This summer has been the best summer I have ever had because all of the hard work we put into this relationship and our continual pursuit of healing have finally paid off. We are not perfect and we never will be, but we are infinitely more ready for this marriage than we ever thought we could be.

I don’t want you to miss this or take this lightly: Grant and I owe so much to therapy.

Tears stream down my face when I think about where we were when we first signed up for this marriage thing and where we are now. I know without a shadow of a doubt that Tanya and Jason have played a vital role in our relationship. It needed to happen. And the best part is that it doesn’t stop there. Yes, therapy has done so much for us, but we now see when we look back that it’s been Jesus doing the work all along. Tanya and Jason were equipped by him to supply us with the wisdom and hope that we needed to keep going. And Grant and I have been equipped by him to put in the hard work and love each other despite our difficulties. Jesus has healed and softened both of our hearts, and he used counseling in a big way to do it. An instant fix wouldn’t have been as praise-worthy in this situation. I know this to be true because God has given me instant fixes before and I continually forget them and neglect to thank him for them.

This journey of healing between Grant and I that has required so much time, so much effort, so much heartache and praying and desperation is worth more than anything I’ve ever been given apart from salvation. 

. . . . .

So to answer the question that many people have in the back of their minds but are either too skeptical or afraid to ask: Yes, therapy is worth every penny and minute of your day. Especially when you have a personal relationship with Jesus and he is guiding you the whole way.

If you are a Christian and have areas in your life that require healing, I implore you to begin praying that God gives you clarity on whether therapy is the next step for you to take. And if you aren’t seeming to get an answer, I then ask you to have faith, be brave, and try it anyway. When I first began counseling, I did not want to go. I did not believe it could fix me. And I was right. It didn’t fix me. God just used it as a tool to heal me. And he can do the same for you.

Both Tanya and Jason are believers. This has proven to be tremendously helpful because a lot of healing that needed to occur in my life was very much, if not entirely, related to my spiritual life. I suggest that you find somebody whose faith aligns with yours. I don’t know if it is absolutely essential, but I know it is most likely important. God can use anybody, but the journey to healing is probably easier when you’re being counseled by somebody who has similar values and beliefs as you.

The last thing and maybe the most important thing I want to mention about therapy is the financial cost. When I talk to my friends about seeing a therapist, the biggest reason they give me for not going is money-related. They say that they just can’t afford it. And they might be right. In that case, they might benefit from finding a therapist who works with their insurance or, if they’re a college student, seeing a professional who provides free services at their school. There are also most likely programs or ministries at their church that offer similar services, although they might not be offered by trained, licensed professionals. There is nothing wrong with receiving help from these sources versus receiving help from trained, licensed professionals if they are able to give the necessary amount of support.

To give you a picture of what my therapy has cost my family, I will tell you that every session of therapy I go to is $100. If it was compatible with my insurance, it would be less, but it’s not. Because I see Tanya by myself twice a month and also go with Grant to see Jason twice a month, my mom and dad pay $400 for therapy each month. At one point, my parents were also going to therapy, as well. You can imagine how expensive our cumulative therapy bill was.

You probably think that that is an absurd amount to be spending, and I respect that opinion because I know that different people place different worth on different things. I, however, would have been willing to pay even more than $400 if I knew that God was going to do this work in my life. If my mom were to tell me that she couldn’t help me pay for therapy any longer, I would’ve gotten a second job. I would’ve given up my nicest clothes, date nights with Grant, Starbucks coffee, textbooks, manicures, unlimited data plans, and vacations. I would have found a way to keep going. Thankfully, I am at the point where I feel comfortable with not seeing Tanya or Jason every week and I could see them less if money needed to be conserved. This could not have been the case just a few months ago. At the beginning of summer, Grant and I were on the brink of revelation, of uncovering this amazing place of peace we are now living in. If we had quit too early in order to conserve time, energy, or money, it would’ve been a true shame. It’s true that God could have continued healing us anyway, but what we’ve gained through therapy is just too valuable to imagine giving back.

If you are on the fence about whether or not to begin seeing a counselor because you are afraid of it being expensive, my words of advice are to find a way. If you are serious about your healing, you should take the time to assess how money can be allocated towards it rather than being allocated towards non-essentials. Going out with friends every week is a non-essential. Buying nice, new clothes is a non-essential. Using your gas to go to Atlanta every weekend for fun is non-essential. Manicures and tans are non-essential. The latest pieces of technology are non-essentials. And in many cases, proving your independence by refusing to ask your family for support in affording something that is good and perhaps vital for your health is non-essential.

I cannot stress this enough: your wellbeing is far too important for you to delay doing something about it.

It might not be so important to you right now, but I know it is very important to God. He has entrusted you with this beautiful life. And if you are not living as you are called to live because baggage or wounds or illness is holding you back, you are doing both yourself and God a disservice. Some might argue I am being too harsh; I argue that people are not harsh enough.

My prayer for everybody reading this post is that you take the time to pray and think through the decision of going to therapy. Some people reading this truly just don’t need it or are already receiving it, and I think that is great. Other people reading this probably do need it and are holding themselves back, and I think that is sad. I don’t want anybody to hold themselves back from what God has in store for them. And if you are not allowing yourself to receive help in your process of healing, or if you are not even striving towards healing, that’s exactly what you are doing. Counseling is not for everybody; sometimes prayer and continual pursuit of God is enough. But sometimes in your pursuit of God, you are led to other sources of help. Don’t do yourself a disservice by resisting them.

Believe that God has trained up an army of counselors and helpers who are designed to love you, counsel you, and encourage you in your darkest times of need. Therapy is far from worthless or a waste of money. You can ask Grant and I after years of marriage and even ask our future children down the road if we are glad that we made the decision to receive help. I am positive that we will give you a resounding yes.

Are you that positive that you won’t look back on your life and wish you did the same sooner?

When Life Is Dry and God Is Silent

Image by Guilherme Yagui via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/dHX2x4)

Image by Guilherme Yagui via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/dHX2x4)

I had the privilege of sharing a message to the middle schoolers I work with at my church this past Sunday. I was having a hard time preparing for it because I so badly wanted to say the right thing — what GOD wanted me to say — but I felt like I was repeatedly coming back from prayer empty-handed. I had been trying all week to hear from God and he just seemed to be so silent.

The night before I was supposed to give my message, I climbed into my fiancè’s bed and just started to cry.

“What am I doing wrong?” I asked. “I feel like I’m in a dry season, but I don’t want to be in this season. I thought everything was going fine, but even reading the Bible or spending time in worship isn’t doing what it used to do anymore.”

That’s when I got hit over the head (by Grant, but also probably by God) with some stuff I needed to hear. Thus, my sermon was born at eight o’clock that night.

I want to share with you what I was able to vulnerably and authentically share with those middle schoolers yesterday morning. I’m praying that it speaks to you just as it spoke to me and to those few middle schoolers who needed a good dose of encouragement while in the desert. We all sometimes find ourselves in the desert, don’t we?

. . . . .

Something I’ve always wondered is when I really began having a relationship with Jesus. I didn’t go to church very much growing up, but I knew who he was and there was a brief period of time between fifth grade and seventh grade where I thought I was completely in love with the idea of following God and being a Christian. But when eighth grade rolled around, I just kinda dumped him. I told my grandparents, who were taking me to church at the time, to stop picking me up on Sunday mornings, and I put my Bible in a box and I stopped trying to pray. I didn’t pray for two years. And during that time, I really lost my way. I made friends who weren’t the best influences and I treated my family poorly. I just didn’t care about God or the Bible or his plan for my life. I was selfish and self centered.

But I guess I reached a point where I felt too empty to want that sort of life anymore. So on a random night in tenth grade, I just told myself to be a Christian again. And I was. The next day I pulled out my Bible for the first time in two years and began reading. I started talking to God like we had never stopped. I even started going to church again. And I haven’t looked back since.

Seriously following Jesus these past six years has been the best decision of my entire life. Because I find joy in this relationship. I find freedom and healing and wonder and peace. But you know what? I also sometimes find sadness. And doubt. And questions. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

I knew since last week that I wanted to talk to you guys this morning about having a personal relationship with Jesus because I feel like it’s really easy for adults, especially pastors at church, to give us the do’s and dont’s of being a Christian. They define sin for us and godly living for us all the time. And I don’t know if it’s just me, but sometimes I feel like I need a relationship with Jesus to be defined too. Like what does that even mean?

What is a relationship with Jesus supposed to look like? Is it a relationship that has ups and downs, that goes through dry seasons and mood swings? Or is it supposed to be sturdy and steady and always the same? 

Lately as I’ve been thinking about this and trying to answer that question, I’ve been thinking about my relationship with my mom. My mom is my best friend. My mom has meant so much to me that she’s going to be walking down the aisle with me as my Matron of Honor when I get married this October. I can’t think of anyone else who’s done so much for me and has been so understanding of me and supportive of me. I feel like I can tell her just about anything. I love where my relationship with my mom is.

But her and I weren’t always close. In fact, when I was in middle school, I hardly wanted anything to do with her. I was such a moody preteen. Anything she said just made me so mad. Just a “hey, how was school” when I walked through the door was enough for me to roll my eyes. And she didn’t know what to do with my mood swings, so she’d just call me Miss Attitude and I’d go up to my room and not come down until dinner. Her and I just did not get along. And I know most of it, if not all of it, was my fault. Anytime she wanted to get close to me, I’d come up with reasons to keep her at an arms length. I pushed her away and our relationship suffered. In fact it wasn’t recovered until years later when I finally understood that my mom wasn’t out to destroy my life. She was actually trying to help me build my life. I mean, fathom that. My twelve year old self didn’t see that coming. Some of you in this room still don’t understand that about your parents. And for right now, that’s okay. I hope you do someday.

My relationship with Jesus reminds me of my relationship with my mom because it’s had ups and downs.

Some of you guys might know what I mean by that. We have these long periods of wanting to pray all day everyday. We want to read the Bible all the time. We want to go to every Bible study known to mankind so we can soak in all the wisdom and Jesus that we can. And then there are periods of time where we are like, “Hello? Are you there?” Reading the Bible feels like a chore. We don’t notice anything different about us when we do read. We can’t find the right words to pray. We don’t see him in our lives like we used to. We may even start to question if he’s moving in our lives at all.

While I was preparing to give this sermon, I was reminded of a really strange thing that happened to me two years ago while I was staying with my friend Lacey in her hometown. Lacey lives in this really southern town called Thomasville, which is like four hours South of here. And while in Thomasville, her and I would walk around the downtown district there and just hang out and look in the shops. One day, we found this patio kind of hidden behind a gate that someone left open, and there were some cute tables and chairs set up there. It was closed off and shaded by plenty of trees. It was really beautiful. And since she had her Bible and I had mine, we decided that was where we would have our time with God. For about a half hour, we read and journaled and prayed in silence.

That day I was reading the story in the book of John about Lazarus, the man who died and was risen to life by Jesus. In this passage, Jesus is summoned to go see his dear friend Lazarus who is ill, but instead of going to see him right away, Jesus waits. Now this is the man who is known for healing and saving lives. This is the man who’s been walking around town spreading the news about Gods love and goodness. And yet he waits to go to Lazarus. And when he finally makes it to where Lazarus and his sisters are staying, he finds that Lazarus is already dead.

Now this is the most difficult part of the story for me: When Jesus finally makes it to Lazarus’ house DAYS later, Lazarus’ sister named Mary falls down at Jesus’ feet and says to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ And as she’s weeping on the ground, Jesus begins to weep as well.

I knew that the story ends with Lazarus being raised back to life, but I was stuck on that one part for a long time, the image of Mary just being completely filled with sorrow before Jesus, the man she thought was going to be there and heal her brother.

As I read this story and sat with Lacey, I began to pray and I told God that I don’t understand him. I knew that Jesus was glorified through Lazarus’ death, but I couldn’t bear the thought of Mary’s suffering. I just didn’t understand it.

But what happened next was something I needed to see.

After I finished praying, I looked over to see what Lacey was doing. She was watching the birds playing in the trees above us and her Bible was opened to Luke 12, to a passage that talked about sparrows. The one that says something about how not one sparrow is forgotten by God and we don’t have to worry because we are worth more than many sparrows.

Well, as I was looking at this passage in her Bible, I started thinking about birds too. So here were Lacey and I, both sitting and thinking about birds in this beautiful isolated patio while trees are swaying and birds are playing above us.

And then those same birds, the ones she was watching, suddenly flew into a glass window just a few feet from us and dropped to the ground. Three of them. We were speechless, stunned. And those birds just laid there, motionless.

Now Lacey is the bold one and she jumped up to examine the birds while I was still sitting there and tears were flowing down my cheeks. I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. Lacey confirmed after a second that at least one bird was dead. And I remember asking God in that moment, What does this mean?

The two other birds, she then realized, were unmoving but breathing, like they were paralyzed. At first she told me she was going to have to kill them, which I could not emotionally handle at all. But then Lacey did what I didn’t have the courage to do. She picked up the birds and stroked them and started praying over them. So I started praying, too. And I remember my prayer was something like:

God, it says in your Word that if you care for the birds, then you must care for us too, right? …But what does this say about your love and care for us if you DON’T care for these birds? 

I was afraid to know the answer. But shortly after silently asking this, both of those birds were healed and flew back up into the trees as if nothing had ever happened. We were stunned. We didn’t know what to say.

And you might be thinking that wasn’t an answer to our prayers because maybe the birds were just in shock and were never paralyzed to begin with. Regardless, I do believe that God was there that day because I know that he was trying to tell me something through those injured birds. God wanted me to know that day that he does not need to prove anything to me. He doesn’t. And whether or not those birds continued to suffer and slowly die, his love and his goodness for you and I would still be true. It’s always been true and it always will be true. 

What I think God wanted me to learn from that day and what I think he’s wanting me to communicate with you today is that Jesus is in a relationship with you and he wants that relationship. He fights fiercely for that relationship. And if it feels like he’s silent and not doing anything and not present in your life sometimes, that’s okay.

His faithfulness to you far outweighs your questions and doubt. 

And those questions and doubts are a normal part of any relationship. When you are feeling distant from God, it’s okay to ask those questions. Where are you, God? Are you really there? Do you really care? Because when you ask those questions, he gets the chance to answer. And it’s not a quick “Yep, I do. You betcha” kind of answer.

It’s an answer that you will see played out over the course of your life — if you choose to see it.

Just like how as a preteen, your mom or dad’s love for you might not make sense, but as an adult they could very well be your best friends and everything is suddenly crystal clear.

Let Jesus be your friend. Let yourself be in this relationship with him. Because even though you might not see the full fruit of it right now, just like Mary didn’t understand the miracle she was about to witness in her dead brother’s life, you will see it over time. If you’re like me and sometimes wonder where your relationship with Jesus is at, just know that it’s not so much WHERE the relationship is at, but rather WHAT you are learning where you are at. Are you grasping the things he’s trying to show you? Are you learning to lean on him even when you can’t see him? Are you starting to figure out what his grace and mercy for you really means?

We are told in Scripture that we will find God when we seek him with all our hearts. And if you’re struggling to feel God’s presence in your life and you’re in a silent, dry season, that verse is still true. Because what that verse doesn’t say is that we will INSTANTLY find God when we seek him RIGHT NOW with all our hearts. God doesn’t operate in our timing. We won’t find him the very instant we want him. And that’s a good thing. Because he lets himself be seen and felt when he knows we need it most. Only he knows the growth that we need. Only he can tell the perfect time for us.

Think about this: Only Jesus knew that Mary’s brother wouldn’t remain dead forever. And the fact that he wept with her in her suffering instead of give her the quick reassurance right then and there might seem kind of mean, but it’s not. Because after that point, when Mary thought of her relationship with Jesus, he wasn’t just the man who healed her brother and did what she wanted him to do when she wanted him to do it. No, Jesus was now her friend, the one who wept with her and was there with her in her sorrow. That’s one of the moments she would have remembered most later on in her life. She would’ve carried that with her for a very long time. I bet the fact he was there with her in that moment, sharing in her sorrow, meant more to her later on in her life than a pat on the back and a quick reassurance would have meant.

Jesus went from being a miracle man to her best friend because he gave her what she really needed, not what she wanted. 

Jesus gives us what we need, too. He gives us what we need and not just what we want. Just like our parents. They know what’s best and we don’t understand that. But with time, we might begin to see and then our relationship can grow for the better.

What might happen to our faith if we stopped putting God in a box? What if we started seeing Jesus as someone so much bigger than a book or a sermon or a church or a worship song? What if we stopped accusing him of being absent and just started trusting that whether or not he proves it when we want him to prove it, he is actually all around us and loving us more than we could ever imagine being loved?

If we want to be in this relationship with Jesus, we need to understand that this relationship will not be as uniform and predictable as we want it to be. That’s why our testimonies are all so different. That’s why some of you guys went to camp and were forever changed and some of you guys went to camp and came back pretty much the same. And if you were one of those people who expected this big life change and then came back not really understanding why you went in the first place, I want you to know that Jesus did not leave your side at all. Not once.

But just because he was by your side doesn’t mean he was going to whisper all the answers you wanted in your ear. 

We want answers, don’t we? We want to know everything. I want to know why those birds hit that window. I want to know why it was Mary’s brother who had to be the one to taste death. I want to know why I went through that two-year period of not praying or caring.

But will knowing why really change all that much? Will having all of the answers we desire satisfy us? Will it make our relationship with Jesus richer and deeper and fuller? I don’t think so. There’s nothing in the Bible that says that when we seek the answers, we will find the answers if we seek them with all our hearts. There’s some things we don’t need to know.

But we need to remain committed to this relationship, whatever it looks like for us right now. Some of you guys are in dry, confusing seasons where you’re not sure of what following Jesus means yet and you don’t even know if you want to. Some of you have been a Christian for years but you’re not sure of how it’s changed your life all that drastically. Some of you have been experiencing the most amazing times of your life, growing in your faith like never before. Whichever one of those groups of people you fall into, I want you to know that your relationship with God will go through ups and downs, just like any relationship. But it’s the best relationship worth committing to.

Four Reasons I Talk About My Fiancé Behind His Back

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I talk about my fiancé, Grant, behind his back. Sometimes I say good things about Grant; other times I say less-than-good things about Grant. And despite popular belief that this is a big no-no in relationships and marriages, I’d like to give you four reasons for why I feel the need to talk about my fiancé behind his back and why I believe our relationship has been better for it. Maybe by the end, you’ll start wanting to talk about your significant other behind their backs, too.

Four Reasons I Talk About My Fiancé Behind His Back

Reason #1.

Talking about Grant with my therapist has enabled me to become a better partner to Grant.

When I first began weekly therapy sessions with my professional therapist back in October, I was nervous. I was afraid that if I told Tonya everything that was going on in my life, including the nitty-gritty details of my relationship with Grant, I would be judged or labeled as “the troubled one.” I already knew I had control issues prior to seeking counseling; I didn’t need someone blatantly pointing out all of my perfectionist tendencies and anger management problems.

But once I began talking about Grant with Tonya, I quickly realized that this was something I should have done many months earlier. This is because no matter how hard I try, I cannot solve my issues on my own. Healing isn’t something I can force in my own bedroom. I need someone to help me pick through some of the rubble in order to salvage the good and make something beautiful. And despite how helpful Grant tries to be, there are simply some things that I need to hear from another woman. And from someone who, frankly, just knows what they’re talking about.

Because I have shared my insecurities about my relationship with my therapist, I have been able to better understand where those insecurities originated from. When I describe the way Grant and I communicate and handle conflict, she coaches me on how to be someone who fights fair. I have even brought Grant with me to see Tonya more than once so he and I could work through our anxieties, arguments, and miscommunications together. And the fact that she shares our faith and values makes her counsel even more relatable and impactful.

Having a professional give their opinion on your relationship might sound intrusive, but I truly believe it’s one of the best things I could be doing for Grant and I, especially considering the season we are in. There’s no way Grant and I would be this mature and better prepared for marriage (notice how I didn’t just say prepared because, let’s face it, we’re still not ready) if I didn’t start seeking guidance and counsel from someone as wise, understanding, and experienced as my therapist. By the way, I’m also an advocate of seeking mentorship from other couples within your church, Bible studies, family, or your community.

The point is that it’s not bad to talk to a professional about your significant other and your relationship with them. It’s actually the opposite of bad; it’s tremendously helpful and healthy. And the best part, in my opinion, is that you don’t have to feel guilty about talking about your SO behind their back (because how could they possibly get mad at you for seeking help on both of your behalves)?

I talk about Grant behind his back so I can be a better partner to him. And honestly, I should be getting brownie points for working this hard. Therapy is some exhausting, hardcore stuff — like kickboxing, only you have to use your words.

Reason #2.

Talking about Grant with family and friends helps me appreciate the role he plays in my life.

I love when people ask me how Grant and I first started dating because it gives me a chance to brag on this man’s faithfulness to me. I friend-zoned him, completely rejected him from the get-go, but he persisted. And a year later, when my eyes were finally opened to see the nerdy stud that he was, the fact that he was still smitten with me and willing to pursue me gave me a glimpse of just how special this man really was. And it doesn’t stop there.

Every time my friends and family talk to me about Grant, I’m given another opportunity to brag on how good he is to me. But no matter how much I have to brag about, I also feel the need to be honest and share our weaknesses and struggles, too. Like the fact he gets on my nerves. A lot. That’s something I probably shouldn’t hide; otherwise, people would ask why my eyes sometimes seem to be permanently glued to the top of my head and my mouth looks more like a scowl than a smile. I also like to tell people that Grant is a passive arguer, but that just does me more harm than good because they then realize I’m the true culprit of probably ninety percent of our arguments and conflict.

The more I give people little insights into our relationship, the more appreciative of Grant I become. Because at the end of the day, I am able to say that he is still one of the hardest working, most faithful men I know. No matter how berating and stubborn I can be, he is still always willing to hold my hand and wipe my tears. No matter how hopeless things sometimes seem when I feel the weight of my sin nature within the context of our relationship, he is still encouraging us to keep praying and pressing on. Being able to share these things with people not only helps them see the role he plays in my life, but it helps me see it, too.

I talk about Grant behind his back because when our relationship sometimes feels routine and things get hard, it’s nice to be reminded that he is my faithful partner who’s stuck with me through thick and thin. And the best part is that he actually wants to keep at it for the rest of his life. That’s impressive. No other man besides my daddy can boast of having such a love for me. And it’s that kind of love I am willing to talk about with anyone who will listen.

Reason #3.

Talking about Grant through my writing encourages others in their relationships.

The first time I wrote a post about Grant, I expected to be tagged as mouthy and over-sharing. My mom tells me that the more I talk about Grant on my blog, the more ammo I give other women who may want to try to get between us. And she has a point. Grant just gets more handsome by the day (I’m in love and dead serious so don’t laugh). But I don’t want to live in fear of what my writing could do to our relationship because I enjoy seeing what it’s doing for other people in their relationships.

I love that I was able to have a Skype call today with a woman I met over Instagram who, like me, is engaged. After reading my blog post on my fears concerning marriage, she related to it so much so that she actually wanted to talk to my boring, weird self and offer me some much-needed encouragement. I had no idea that this stranger would somehow become my friend and speak into my life after being spoken to through my blog. Once again, I was reminded that our writing can transcend our expectations if we let it.

I love that people seem to be more willing to talk about the hard things now, too. I feel like I see so many married couples who stray away from confessing struggles or issues that they have because they fear the negative affect it could have on their marriage. What I believe is that honesty can be harmful if you’re not careful, but it’s important nonetheless. Take risks, but risk wisely. If you know that someone could grow and benefit from hearing your experiences, I think it does more harm than good to remain in silence and hide away. In case you haven’t realized, I’ve quit hiding (for the most part). I want people to see the real me so they can love me and support me and maybe even relate to me. And they have. For the same reasons, I want people to see Grant and I for the real “us.”  I don’t want to endanger my relationship with Grant in any way, and it’s for that reason precisely that I sometimes open my big, fat mouth and blab away. I trust that God is giving me discernment and also protecting us along the way. And don’t worry — I do have limits.

I also love that when I wrote about the things no one tells you about being engaged, I saw many people jumping out of their seats, saying, “ME TOO.” Like holy cow. If more people had just told me that they were also experiencing these things and that my feelings are completely normal, I PROBABLY WOULD HAVE BEEN SO MUCH MORE PREPARED FOR THIS. Thanks a lot, guys. This is why we need more people talking about their fiancés behind their back.

I talk about Grant behind his back so others can be encouraged and built up. This world needs more authenticity when it comes to the realities of relationships and marriages. I praise God for the books on marriage sitting on my bookshelf because they were written by authentic authors. Their willingness to share their experiences and hardships have enabled me to better prepare for marriage and grow into the partner I sometimes fear I can’t be. My hope is that through my writing, I am having even just a fraction of that impact on somebody out there who feels afraid and alone at times, just like me.

Reason #4.

Talking about Grant with God does more good for our relationship than all of my feeble efforts combined.

Some of my most honest, heartfelt prayers have been prayers concerning Grant and I. And I’m not talking about the “Lord, please protect my fiancé because I love him so much” prayers. I’m talking about the “Lord, I’m at my wit’s end. I freaking hate everything that is happening. I honestly don’t understand why you created men. If you could just help me understand, then maybe Grant and I could have a chance. But I’m losing it! Can’t you tell I’m losing it? Lord, how many times do I have to scream and cry for you to do something? I can’t do this. I’m going to quit. I have no idea of what I’m doing. I don’t know how to love. I don’t know how to be loved. This sucks and I just don’t know if I can keep doing it” prayers.

What happens when I pray these prayers is that I learn to see God for who he is just a little bit more than I did before. And the reason this happens is because I am also seeing myself for who I am just a little bit more. And here is who I am when I am on my knees, crying out to God: a woman desperate for something more beautiful than what she could make with her own hands and free will, a woman so lost and confused that she knows she’s going to have to lean wholeheartedly on God, a woman so fed up that she’s finally willing to die to self and surrender all.

When I resurface from these prayers, I usually run straight to Grant, wanting to make things right (because odds are that I was responsible for something gone wrong). I also am somehow willing to forgive again despite being hurt by the same thing for the hundredth time and there not being a single solution in sight.

The thing about prayer is that it isn’t designed to change God; it’s designed to change us. And it has changed me. It’s made me into a fighter, a warrior. It’s opened my eyes to the work of God.

I talk about Grant behind his back because we need someone bigger than us fighting for us. The enemy has tried so many times to divide Grant and I. And there have been days where he probably thought he was successful. But the fact we are still standing and still moving forward proves that there is a higher power working on our behalf. The lies of the enemy are no match against the truth of God. And every time I cry out to God in prayer, I’m allowing myself to believe in that truth once again. When I pray, I am reminded that I can do nothing without God. He is my everything. He is our everything. He is the Rock on which Grant and I stand. 

And if that’s not enough reason to start talking about your man behind his back, then I don’t know what is.

When All of My Flaws Are Laid Out One by One

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Photo by Liliya via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/d9Wb99)

When all of your flaws and all of my flaws

are laid out one by one

The wonderful part of the mess that we made

We pick ourselves undone

“Flaws” — Bastille

There’s something about vulnerability (okay, A LOT of things) that I still don’t understand. Like why it’s so dang hard.

Today I was asked why I want to get married, and instead of giving the shorthand answer, “we feel like it’s the next step” or the hyper-spiritual answer, “because God says it’s not good for man to be alone, etc,” I gave the real one.

I want to get married because I know I can’t do as much on my own as I can with Grant. He brings the best out of me (and sometimes the worst) and I bring the best out of him (and sometimes his worst). We are compatible — not because we are the same and we perfectly relate, but because he and I are amazed at how many ways we are able to complement each other.

But for some reason, despite the truth of this statement, there’s still so much holding me back in my relationship. I can see the fruit that comes from being vulnerable. I have experienced the warmth of his support and encouragement in times of honest communication. Yet there are some topics I deem “off-limits,” some things I veer away from.

I was discussing how difficult it can be for me to be vulnerable with Grant with my counselor today, and she pointed out that I don’t usually feel this way with my girlfriends. I love sharing all things with my friends; I can be messy and explicit and wear my heart on my sleeve with those people.

With Grant it’s a different story. And it’s a different story because romantic relationships and marriages seem so much more risky to me. They’re risky and frightening because they’re supposed to be permanent, but sometimes they aren’t. Like the time I was dumped by my ex-boyfriend when I thought we would soon be getting engaged. They’re scary because you want them to last, but there are some things out of your control. Like the times I thought Grant and I could instantly resolve arguments and we could both wake up as new people who would stop hurting each other.

I’ve always had the philosophy, “friends come and go, but relationships are forever.” And I know that that’s counterintuitive to those who preach “bros before hoes” and “chicks before… well you know.” But that’s just the way this hopeless romantic has always felt. I’ve always put romantic relationships above friendships. I somehow understood the sacred nature of marriage long before I really knew God’s intent for it.

And here I am — about to get married, about to really put those philosophies into action, about to commit myself to what I deem permanent.

And I’m kinda, sorta terrified.

Because yes… this is for forever.

And what if that thing Grant says he loves about me he no longer loves tomorrow?

What if the stuff I tell him today he uses against me next week?

What if the issues I have now that he says he will support me through will one day end up destroying what we have?

What if the things I ask him to fix for us he never ends up fixing?

But here’s what I’m needing to be reminded of: I will never be able to see my vision for marriage — that beautiful union where each partner learns to bring the best out of the other — if I do not let Grant see ALL OF ME.

How can we grow together in our walk with Christ if I remove him from all things pertaining to my walk with Christ?

How can he encourage me to become my best self when I’m only showing him the parts I think he’ll like or the parts that mistakenly slip out?

If I’m really going to benefit from this union, if I’m really going to have the best marriage I could possibly imagine, I’m going to have to make a choice day after day.

I’m going to have to choose to be seen.

My friends, I know that there are so many secrets we are still holding onto, so many fears we’re still afraid of sharing. We’re embarrassed to admit our weaknesses and we cling tightly to our flaws instead of bare them in front of the ones we say we love.

But how can people love us if they don’t know who we are?

How can people support us if they don’t know where we are weak?

How can people lift us up when they don’t know that we have fallen?

Vulnerability does not come easy for most of us, but it IS possible.

I have to believe that it’s possible; otherwise, why am I getting married? It would all be for nothing. Because no glory can come to God through two people promising partnership when there is no actual partnership. No Christ-like love can be shown through a marriage that is still comprised of two people hiding behind defense mechanisms.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22).

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… (Ephesians 5:25).

I am making the commitment to submit myself to Grant. This does not mean I am a servant to be stepped on. This does not mean I will no longer be seen. It’s the exact opposite, actually. I submit myself to Grant by allowing myself to be seen, by making myself vulnerable and trusting that he will not harm me.

And if Grant will hold up his end of the bargain (which I believe he will), he will love me with the same unconditional, all-knowing, grace-saturated love that Christ loves me with.

This is what I want our marriage to be founded on — this idea that we can love and serve each other boldly and with vulnerability.

But I have to start making the choice to do so now.

Will you please pray with me as I venture into the unknown, as I lay down my pride and fears and allow my partner to see me as I am?

And today, will you please allow yourself to be seen? Will you let yourself believe that you have things to offer this world, and the world has things to offer to you?

Because life without love, or rather life without vulnerability, is no life at all.

And I want you to live. I want you to live with all you have, with all the gusto you can muster. Love boldly. Love unashamedly. Love wisely. And let yourself be loved in return.