Happily Ever After in a Cardboard Box

I knew at some point I was going to get around to talking about marriage. After all, I wouldn’t have all these kids if it weren’t for the man I married. He likes me and I like him, so now we have four kids.

Early on, I felt the verse in Ruth “Where you go I will go, and where you stay, I will stay,” was really a verse I could apply to my marriage. Never mind that Ruth was speaking to her mother-in-law. I would take it out of context and apply it to how I felt about marrying this man.

Do you remember those feelings? The ones where you actually thought that it didn’t matter if you didn’t have money, or circumstances weren’t perfect. You’d live in a cardboard box if it meant you could spend everyday with him. It’s really amusing now that I think about it.

Well, it turns out, that those feelings fade. People told me they would, and I thought those people were to be pitied. Obviously, they did not love each other as much as we did (sometimes young love is a bit smug).

Turns out that I like having a roof over my head, so a cardboard box wasn’t going to cut it. I have not always been ready to go where my husband was taking us, or willing to stay where we ended up. I found that I could question his character, and wonder whether he was really following God’s direction, or just selfishly doing whatever he wanted. I have, at times, doubted whether or not my husband was sincere in his love for me. Is this too honest? I hope so.

For the last several years, my husband and I have been in a difficult season. The hardest we have seen in our 13 years of marriage. When I think about who we were five years ago, I am truly grateful that we’ve struggled. Yes. You read that right. I’m grateful that we’ve had difficulties. It was during this turbulent season that our love for each other, and our belief in Who God is, was really revealed to us. The things that I thought I knew about God and my husband were sadly immature.

I arrogantly thought that things in our life were going so well because I had made good life choices. I married a Godly man, who is faithful, loving and servant-hearted. Boy, did I do good. So, it took me by surprise when I discovered that my heart could grow mistrustful of his leadership. It was disappointing to realize that while he was a wonderful husband, he was a really crappy savior.

Yes, my mistrust of this Superman-like husband did cause tremendous stress on our relationship. I had no reason to not trust him. He had not sinned against me through adultery or anything. I just simply began to believe that my happiness was not his utmost priority. And as it turns out, I was right. It was, and still is, not his first concern. His first priority is to be obedient to God, even if it makes me unhappy with him. What a relief this knowledge is to me!

I am astonished still at the courage my husband had, to look me in the eye, almost 5 years ago, and say, “I would never do anything to cause you pain intentionally. But I must obey God first and always, even if that means making you unhappy.” I have to say, that statement was a turning point in my understanding of what it means to submit, yes, to my husband, but ultimately to God (Eph. 5). I knew my husband was right. He was being obedient. I was not. I was digging in my heels and pitching a fit, because I did not want to go where God was leading us. I also did not want to stay once we were there. I was like an irrational toddler who cannot be consoled. You know how when a toddler is so tired they are delirious and beside themselves ridiculous? They ask for their sippy cup and when you give it to them they just throw it down and wail. That was me. Unreasonable is the nutshell in which my attitude would fit. Bless my forbearing husband! He was so patient…most of the time (winky face).

While he continued to move forward with obedience, he wisely and consistently prayed for God to work in my heart. He resisted the urge to try to fix me, which was very hard for him. He is a fixer. He sees problems and he fixes them. He had to continually surrender his desire to force things to be right and trust that God was working in me and dealing with me, in spite of the tantrums that he was seeing. I saw him mature as a man and a leader during this season.

He also pursued honest conversation with me about how I was progressing. These conversations often brought me to tears as I despaired of my heart ever being content with where God had us. Submission was turning out to be harder than I thought it would be.

Faithfully, patiently, and lovingly, God was working. He was doing so much more than I even realized.  I foolishly believed that God didn’t care how I felt. He did and does care. But like a parent with a spoiled child, He was working to do what was best for my soul, regardless of my behavior. He was giving me the “nap” that I was trying to avoid, but desperately needed. A loving parent gives their child what they need, even if the child resists or flat out says they hate them. A Godly parent cares more about the soul of their child and is willing to risk their wrath to achieve what’s best for them.

That is why I can be grateful. I am thankful that my husband refused to be bullied by me and chose to be obedient to God. My husband admitted to me not long ago of how heavy my words and attitudes weigh on him. There were times he almost broke under the way I spoke to him. (My face is flushed with shame as I type this). Harsh criticisms, whining and manipulating are all terrible ways to treat this person with whom God has joined me. Yet, those were the weapons in my arsenal that I used most often.

Proverbs 21:9 rightly states, “It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.”  When I try to control situations by nagging and quarreling, it tempts my husband to ignore what the Holy Spirit is speaking to him in order to please me. I never want to tempt my husband to put me in God’s place. Now that I understand how easy it is, I know I must consider my words and actions much more carefully. I want to be helpful to my husband, not a hindrance. I want to see him fully become the man God has created him to be. Therefore, I must daily submit myself to the renewing power of the gospel so that I can be made new in order to have help and grace to offer those around me.

Milton Vincent states, “The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ.”

God is very gracious to give me space to learn and grow. He is willing to allow me to suffer, so that I can become more like Him. I’m not there yet. I still give way to tantrums occasionally. But the grace of God has progressed me to a more mature faith in His character and purposes. I know He has good things for me, even if the path to those things is laden with pain I’d rather avoid. My hope is that, no matter what hardship lies on this path, I will go where God goes, and stay where He stays. I want more than anything to be close to Him. He is the only hope I have.

By God’s grace, my trust in my husband’s leadership has grown as well. I’m not saying I’m willing to live in a cardboard box just yet, but my husband’s faithful obedience to the will of God during a difficult season has given me confidence to trust him in the future. We are currently planting a church, and I can honestly say that I have not had a moment of doubt or fear about my husband’s decision to leave a secure job and move our family of six to a new place in order to plant this church. I am keenly aware that this confidence is not of my own doing, but it is the unrelenting work of God in my heart that has given me this fearless mindset. I know, that no matter what happens, God is with me, and is working to do what is best.

Is there any of this that rings true for you? Are you in a season now that seems unnecessarily hard? Do you find that you are tempted to manipulate those within your household with harsh words and temper tantrums? Have you created a lovely home, but the people in it would rather live in the corner of the attic than share a space with your bad attitude? Yikes. I almost deleted that last question. But I think I’ll risk stepping on your toes a bit in hopes that you will allow God to deal with your heart.

My prayer for you today, is that if you are frustrated with the season in which God has placed you, that you will make space in your heart for Him to work for your good. I pray you can trust God’s goodness and love for you and know that He is for you, not against you. I am praying that you will hold your tongue with wisdom when fear, mistrust and pain would invite you to lash out at the people you claim to love. May you find yourself loved better than you deserve, and rejoice in the Father who always forgives and is drawing you to Himself.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5 ESV

 For further studying and encouragement:

Philippians 3:7-8, Ephesians 1:9-10; 5, 1 Corinthians 15:28, Romans 7:19-24; 8:28-29, 1 Peter 3:1-7; 4:12-19