God’s love for God led him to create the world from nothing. Therefore, our love for God, if it is to be an accurate reflection of God’s love, must also lead us to a deep and profound and fitting love for creation.
Here’s the good news: the way we can know that we are doing what we are supposed to be doing is actually very simple. Are you obeying God? Are you honoring Him? Are you being content and rejoicing in your lot? Congratulations! You have tremendous purpose and clarity and calling.
Since we will most likely have a 2-3 week old baby on the day of our 5th wedding anniversary, we decided to celebrate a little early. We traveled to Asheville, NC, and stayed in the same bed and breakfast we did on our honeymoon. It was a wonderful trip, complete with moments of stomach-hurting laughter, delicious food, March Madness over chocolate chip cookies, and the beginnings of Spring.
(Technically we still have a few months until our anniversary, but so much is bursting in my mind I want to share it now.)
Five things I know for sure after five years of marriage, in no particular order of importance:
One – It takes intention and help from the Holy Spirit to learn and love your uniquely wired spouse in the way that is most fruitful. Comparison is not a new temptation for the human race, but with such easy access to how other spouses are living and loving in the form of social media and television, it’s easy to get lost in being all the things and your spouse not actually feel loved. (Hello, run on sentence.) In my experience, it is best to receive my directives from God, His Word, and John on how to be a treasuring, supportive, respecting, loving wife to John, instead of being informed by looking at the way other marriages operate. Everyone is different, and we all receive love and care differently. One thing I know for sure is that I don’t want to be just a good wife, I want to be a good wife for John. Because he is the one I’m (joyfully) joined with.
Two – It is necessary for life as a Christian to have a safe, trusted person (or handful of people) who has complete permission to confront, clarify, and speak truth in the face of your sin, struggles, habits, dreams and desires. That foremost person for me is my spouse. If you aren’t married, maybe it’s a best friend or family member. I say it’s necessary because the heart can be deceitful, sin and self can be blinding, and because it can be more than a little life-giving to hear a meaningful “You are forgiven, by me and by God” audibly. I’m an external processor, and often it comes out in a hot mess, but John is my first choice to help even out my thoughts, shape my goals, and call out lies I’m believing. Even when it’s uncomfortable, or painful, it is essential to my being a quick repenter and freedom walker.
Three – John can’t be my #1. Jesus must be my #1. Growing up with many godly mentors, I often heard this counsel, and knew its basic skeleton, but it was well into marriage before I saw it fleshed out in our home. It is much easier to be an agent of God’s sharpening of John when God is my #1. I have more confidence speaking Truth in love when God is my #1. If I prioritize John above God, it would feel impossible to bring to our table any observation of sin or heart-harmful habit, because I’d be too afraid of his response. When I’m submitting ultimately to God first, I can be an extension of God’s sanctifying work, not fretting over potential messiness or hurt pride or slowness of change. I’m free to love him as God loves him, rejoice when he rejoices, hurt when he hurts, and care more about his heart than my potential hurt feelings (in the moment).
Four – Treasuring every moment, the mundane and the marvelous, is a skill I hope to keep developing. We know from the Bible this life is but a vapor. We know the sometimes sobering but truly humbling reality of not knowing what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know the number of my days, and I don’t know the number of John’s days. Whether we have 10 years of marriage or 50 years, I never want to look back and wish I had been more present. While easier to do than I would like, I don’t want to live stuck on the minors (how can he not tell I’m hurt, I’ve been quiet for the past hour, if only life was more like that, I wish we could do more of this) and lose sight of the majors (this man chooses me every day, I get to be part of what God is doing in the world with someone who inspires me, we get to raise a human being together!!!!). Whether it’s a Tuesday night on the couch or a weekend at our favorite B&B or a stressful season with a newborn, I want to view all the time as a gift. Because it is.
Five – Marriage has been pivotal in my understanding of the gospel. As a recovering earnaholic, God has done (and is still doing) quite a lot of deconstruction and rebuilding when it comes to my understanding of Him. When we work for love from God, when we forget we are hidden with Christ in God, we are distinguishing between us and Him too much. At weddings, you often hear “what God has joined together, let no man separate.” Not only is that applicable to the husband and wife, but to us and God. By asserting my effort to earn, I am separating myself again and again from God’s grace. I’m separating what He has joined together – Jesus the groom and we the bride (Revelation 19:6–9). John is an imperfect human, but his daily choosing of me, his love and light and forgiveness, his being my home has formed such a sure and beautiful understanding of God doing all those things, and more, perfectly and infinitely.
In some senses, five years is a short amount of time. In others, it’s more than enough time to transform you, to leave a distinct mark on your view of life, yourself, and God. (At least for me.) I’m thankful for these first five years. I’m thankful for God’s use of John to call me out from a pit or two, to rescue me from a few debilitatingly false beliefs, and to constantly lay before me what is True.
Other random things about these first five years: I still sometimes think John can and should be able to read my mind (Ridiculous)….. It makes me way more happy than it probably should when he suggests takeout instead of scrounging through our fridge…… I used to wonder what married people talk about to fill all the time they are together, now I know – nothing and everything (and it rocks)….. He’s happy to fall asleep on the couch and stay until 3am and I could not think that any crazier….. I underestimated the freedom that comes from being completely and totally myself with someone and them finding it attractive…. I will never see all God sees, but I love it when I see glimpses of exactly why John was the husband for me.
If you’ve stuck with this post until the end, thanks and a high five for that. If we already aren’t, let’s be friends.
As a person who desires to know and love God, no matter how clumsy or athletic the walking is, as changes happen in life and in us, we are bound to see new facets of God. Would you agree?
Pregnancy is no different. And while I know from friends’ testimonies that each pregnancy and child is different, your first pregnancy throws you into a tornado of new, unfamiliar, wonderful, weird things. (Side note: I learned recently that anything that seems super odd actually isn’t in pregnancy, a.k.a tailbone pain that will have you limping if you’ve been sitting for too long. Who knew?)
I’m in my 21st week of being pregnant with our first child, a girl, and what I’m learning is that knowledge of God and belief in that knowledge is a lifeline like no other. There is great magnitude in understanding God as One who is the perfect mixture of sovereignty and compassion.
He is sovereign. Glorious. In control. Creator. Sustainer.
He is compassionate. Merciful. Attentive. Good. Generous.
One side is might and power. The other side is tenderness and love.
At about 7 weeks, I remember anxiety swirling. I’m not in control of anything happening in there. Anything can happen. What if I miscarry? What if something happens before we get to the first trimester appointment? What if we find out something serious at the 20 week appointment? or any appointment after that? And then, the kicker, if something I deem scary and bad happens, will I believe the same about God as I do in this moment, when everything is sweet?
My journal reads: Father, I trust you in my fear. With all the possibilities. With everything that is outside my control with this baby. What do you think about this? How do you see me? our baby? Clear my mind of everything but your voice. Help me believe you. And borrowing from Isaiah 33, I know you are the stability of these days, these minutes, no matter what comes. Only you.
I’ve never audibly heard the voice of God, but I am trying to practice stillness and listening in prayer, writing anything that comes to mind. After those lines are these statements:
My presence is all around you and my presence is love.
Don’t trust your body or circumstances to be right. Trust me.
I am your God and I am your baby’s God. Don’t be afraid.
In a matter of words, I’ve been confronted these first 20 weeks with what I believe about God. He’s high and lifted up. He’s mighty and glorious. He is to be feared and worshipped. He is holy and in control. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. He’s the creator and sustainer of the world. He’s going to surprise us. He will take His time teaching us as we hurt, as we struggle. But He will bring us the most joy.
But in His might and glory and sovereignty, He is tender and kind and compassionate and nearer even than my next breath. His love is unconditional. He is faithful when I am faithless. His grace is sufficient. As we wait on Him, He is working for our good.
What does this mean for today? for tomorrow?
It means the reality of life’s uncertainties will be more challenging than we ever thought, but because of God, better than we could ever imagine. Weird, right. Regardless of my feelings, or what I’m seeing with my eyes, He can be trusted. As things happen as I hope they will, or as they don’t, He can be embraced as the One who cares for me (and this baby) perfectly.
These last few weeks have also confronted me with how I prioritize my life with God. Satan and the world attempt to overwhelm me with all the ways I’m not enough, or in control, and if I allow it, I could sink into the quicksand of fear and doubt. Knowing God in a deep, intimate, experiential way is the only way I’ll survive the suffering, challenges, and sanctifying seasons to come. This is my fight of faith: to believe God even if my humanity and the world and the Enemy scream otherwise.
At 21 weeks pregnant, what I find myself most needing, almost desperately, is an enduring confidence in the unchanging nature and character of God. I must live from a foundation of knowing He works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11), joys or challenges, and His heart is for me.
I’ll never arrive, and I have a LONG way to go, but like I’m learning to do, I pray our daughter comes to desire God as her everything.
You need to hear what God says, and to experience that he does what he says. You need to feel the weight and significance of what he is about. He never lies. He never disappoints (though he wisely sets about to disappoint our false hopes). Though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you need fear no evil, for he is with you. Goodness and mercy will follow you. This is what he is doing. God’s voice speaks deeper than what hurts, brighter than what is dark, more enduring than what is lost, truer than what happened. David Powlison