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?
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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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
A few people have been hinting to me that I may be not as committed to marrying my fiancé in seven months as I claim to be. This usually happens right after they ask me how Grant and I are doing or what being engaged is like because I end up being honest with them. I tell each and every one of them that it’s weird and it’s hard and I’m sometimes scared.
Yes, I do fear marriage. And with this fear comes another fear — that my fear of marriage means I can’t possibly be ready to get married.
But here’s what I’m learning: my fear of marriage does not primarily stem from my lack of confidence in Grant to be my husband. My fear of marriage primarily stems from my lack of confidence in God to make a way for Grant and I.
Confession: When I first began dating Grant fifteen months ago, I was pretty sure we wouldn’t last. Grant didn’t open doors for me, he was too strange for my taste, he hardly asked how my day was, and he was a terrible kisser. I had my own issues, as well, including but not limited to my infatuation with my ex-boyfriend, my consistent insecurities, and my lack of trust in Grant’s commitment to me.
I honestly can’t explain why we kept going, why I didn’t break things off with him from the get-go. I guess I was just curious to see what might happen. I wondered if Grant could change (because of course, I was more selfishly concerned with him changing than myself).
And he has changed in a lot of ways since we began dating, but not because of my own power. Grant has changed because of his God-given strength and the hand of God in his life. Yes, I have played a role in Grant’s transformation (I taught him to kiss, after all), yet I’m not the one who’s made him into the man he is today.
After undergoing a lot of changes in my own life these past fifteen months, the same is true of Grant relating to my transformation. Grant has helped me believe in love again, but he has not been the one healing my heart. He’s not the one who has made me into the woman I am today. That work has been of God.
Now here we are, getting ready to commit our lives to each other, and I’m scared all over again. I’m wondering if Grant and I can keep changing enough to actually make this whole marriage thing work.
We are still so messed up — my insecurity and anger somehow feeding into his fear and passivity, and vice versa. Fight or flight kicks in. Sometimes I am still about ready to quit. So yes, when people hint that I may not be all that committed to marrying the one I love, they are absolutely right.
I am not committed to marrying Grant if it means that I’ll forever be this woman and he’ll forever be this man. This, to me, means a doomed marriage and a miserable life.
If there’s no chance of change, transformation, or growth, what good would “for better or for worse” be? We would never know anything better or anything worse. We would only know sameness — the same fights, the same pain, the same joy and love every single day. I don’t want that. My love for Grant at forty better trump the love I have for him now at twenty. I don’t want to make a commitment that only means reliving this season over and over again for the rest of my life.
You probably don’t want such a marriage either. We naturally crave growth and progress, no matter how much we love the person sitting across from us at the table.
With this in mind, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for me to sometimes come across as ready to jump ship; I am scaring myself silly by picturing a stale, unmoving, and unsatisfactory future! A marriage like that could be considered one of Dante’s layers of hell.
But here’s what calms my fears: my growing faith that God is a God of hope, renewal, and transformation.
And when I call to mind God’s provision in the past and remind myself of his promises in Scripture for our future, I am so ready to commit, I’d elope today.
I’m like Noah yelling at Allie: “It’s gonna be really hard, and we’re gonna have to work at this every day. But I wanna do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day.”
Noah can say this because he knows that people don’t remain the same. He knows that they’re going to have to work at being in a relationship every single day for the rest of their lives. Allie is going to have to let go of her fears, as well as her fiancé and her desire to make her family happy. And he knows that over time, they will both have to become different people because only then will they have a chance at a thriving future together.
“Will you do something for me? Please? Will you just picture your life for me? Thirty years from now? Forty years from now? What’s it look like? If it’s with that guy, go. Go! I lost you once. I think I can do it again if I thought it’s what you really wanted. But don’t you take the easy way out,” he begs Allie as hopeful, teary-eyed women everywhere root for them.
When I place my confidence in God, I once again become aware that the people Grant and I are right now are not the people we will be forever. We are being transformed into Jesus’ likeness “with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
As I become more God-aware in the context of our marriage, it doesn’t seem so frightening anymore. It’s still going to be hard, no doubt about that. But it sounds do-able, so do-able that Scripture actually boasts about it.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior… Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless… This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:22-23,25-27,32).
God boasts in his design of marriage because it is like the beautiful relationship between Christ and the Church. And such a beautiful and sacrificial relationship can be a reality for wives and husbands, no matter how much a profound mystery it may be.
Grant and I want this kind of marriage for ourselves and we believe we can have it. Though we are flawed and doomed to disappoint, God is perfect and faithful to provide.
The transformation that’s required of us as a husband and wife is up to him (and he’s already begun the work). The finances we will need for our shared life will have to be provided by him (and we’ve already seen him provide). The faithfulness marriage calls for will be nurtured and strengthened in us through him (and as you can see, I still have some faithfulness left in me yet). All the glory really must go to God.
I’m not writing this post to defend my decision to marry Grant. I’m actually writing this as a reference and reminder for myself. When I am tempted to focus solely on who Grant and I are in this moment, I know I’m going to need a fresh dose of God-awareness. I have to remember that transformation is taking place and it’s only because of the power of God that we’ll ever have a chance of glorifying him with our relationship for the rest of our lives.
And if you’re thinking of marriage or working towards marriage, then let this be a reminder for you, as well. A beautiful, Christ-centered marriage can be a reality, but not because of your own hard work and merit. You will always fall short and your partner will always fall short. It’s only because of the goodness and power of God that a beautiful, Christ-centered marriage can be a reality.
And if all of this is true, you and I don’t need more fight or flight; we need more faith.
The kind of faith that makes you look at your partner in the eye after they’ve failed you for the hundredth time and helps you say those three words, “I forgive you.”
The kind of faith that makes you bring your partner’s burdens to the feet of Jesus instead of just your own because you know there’s an enemy coming after your partner when you’re not even around and only God can protect him.
The kind of faith that knows that you are not responsible for the growth of your partner and God’s charge for you is to simply love them and build them up despite any frustration, bitterness, or pain.
The kind of faith that empowers you to love with more than a cheap, earthly, conditional love. The kind of faith that will sustain and protect you before your vows, as well as long after them.
I am praying and hoping that God grows this kind of faith in my heart, as well as Grant’s. Right now, I am also praying that he grows this kind of faith in YOUR heart because I know there will come a time when you’ll be scared, too. And when that day comes, I pray that you won’t listen to the lies and you will instead pursue truth.
The truth is that becoming the husband or wife you desire to be doesn’t happen overnight, and you won’t get the husband or wife you desire to have overnight either. Important, sacred things like marriage take time. God’s work takes time. Do what you can with what you have right now, but trust God to do the rest.
Marriage was his design; he will see it to completion (Philippians 1:6).
I don’t think I could leave Clarkston right now even if I tried.
It’s not because this place is better than home. It’s not because I enjoy my roommates’ company more than my family, boyfriend, and hometown friends. It’s not even because the food is better here (which it is).
I don’t think I could leave Clarkston because it feels like God has me here. Not in a forceful, “thou-shalt-forever-remain-stuck-under-my-command” kind of way, but in a loving, powerful “hey-you-know-that-I-have-you-here-for-a-reason” kind of way.
While reading Psalm 139 this afternoon, I was drawn to verse 5:
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Guys, God has hemmed me in. And it’s one of the most relieving feelings to know that in this moment I’m in the right place. I can’t speak for tomorrow or the day after that, but I can certainly speak for today.
His hand is upon me here. I can tell because I’ve been struggling against it. Some might take that as a sign that it is NOT God’s will for me to remain in Clarkston, but I know myself well enough to realize that the times I’ve fought the hardest against where I am are the times I’ve belonged the most in those places.
I think back to how badly I wanted to run away before starting my freshman year of college. I imagined hopping on a plane and spending the rest of my life sipping Arabian coffee with my new Henna-adorned Muslim friends in a land far away from suburbia.
And then I recall how much it hurt to be turned down from my dream internship a year later, the internship that would’ve taken me away from the most painful and eye-opening experience I have had in my almost-twenty years of living. The last thing I wanted was to spend a summer in my friend-forsaken town, but I did and it changed me.
And most overwhelming of all is the constant nostalgia-like longing for the future, to the days where I am no longer just an “I”, but a “we”– someone’s wife and mother. Never do I feel more of a calling on my life than when I think of the baby-nursing, diaper-changing, marriage-protecting days I believe are coming.
Time and time again, I have felt stuck, just longing, DYING, to leave my home and the life I’m currently living. God, please just let me fast-forward to a different time, a different place. I’d give anything.
But looking back, I can see now that God had purposefully hemmed me in. His hand had been upon me in the places I had felt forsaken. And though I wrestled against these many circumstances, I eventually found a way to surrender. Surrender doesn’t come easily to me, but freeing things in life rarely do.
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been wrestling against being in Clarkston. For reasons I’m not even sure I understand fully, I often think of leaving. I picture myself spending these summer days at home, sipping coffee and writing meaningful blog posts as I rest against my pillow-filled chaise, my dog resting against me. That’s where I belong, I think.
But God thinks otherwise.
I know this because He’s been opening my eyes to Him and to beautiful things while I’ve been here. I’ve been so busy wrestling for the past month that I’m sure I’ve missed some of what He’s been trying to show me. But I’m starting to see more clearly.
His presence asks me to remain present, so I will dutifully stay.
There is a beauty in being hemmed in. It feels like maybe the place I am in is covered in grace. Even I am covered in grace. And I don’t want to miss these beautiful, grace-filled moments anymore.
These are my thoughts for right now on why I am here. It’s still going to be difficult to make this place my home, but where God leads I have committed to go. And right here is where I’ve been led.
I’m hemmed in.
P.S. I know I’ve been so vague on what exactly is going on here in Clarkston. I promise I am working on sharing more testimonies and stories with you. I have plans on writing more informative pieces in the next couple of weeks so perhaps the pieces will fall into place for my curious readers on what is happening here. To tell you the truth, I’m still a little lost myself.
But here’s some information I can offer for now: people are falling more in love with Jesus in Clarkston– missionaries and refugees alike. There’s still a lot of work to be done among these unreached people groups, but we’re witnessing how small moments of faith can result in great opportunities.
Keep an eye out for blog posts to come.
Continuing from my last post, I am going to point something out in the middle of the book of Exodus. When Moses is brought before Pharoah to ask him to let his people go and worship God in the desert, Pharoah refuses. But there is a small detail easy to miss:
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharoah all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.'” (Exodus 4:21)
Did you catch that? Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart? GOD did.
Now you may be asking, “Why in the world would God purposely harden Pharaoh’s heart when He could just change it instead and avoid all the plagues and devestation Moses is going to perform?” Good question.
Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? So His glory and power would be known. True, there were probably easier ways to accomplish the task of freeing the Israelites, but God had bigger plans. God promised deliverance and he chose to fulfill his promise by revealing his strength and power to the max. Miraculous signs occurred and hearts were changed.
How does this apply to you today? Is there someone or something that seems to be standing in the way of freedom and contentment, whether your own or somebody else’s? Instead of becoming discouraged or frustrated with God, trust that He knows what he’s doing. Sometimes God allows things to happen in our lives for a bigger purpose, to reveal His glory and strength.
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17)
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)