Thursday, August 15, 2013

Praying for Marriages

I knew what I would be praying for this morning before I even fell asleep last night. I pray for marriage almost daily, as I know so many people close to me whose marriages are under attack.  I know too many people personally that are struggling in their marriages. Yes, it IS work being married (as Ben Affleck would say "it's the best kind of work.") but there should also be joy. More joy than work, making it all worth it.

I was browsing Hulu's movie selection and half of it was porn. Okay, not "real" porn, but it may as well have been. Right there on my computer screen. Sex is everywhere - and not "honor your spouse" kinda sex.  One-night-stand kinda sex. Cheat-on-your-spouse-everyone-else-is kinda sex. The temptation is likely very hard for many to withstand - look how beautiful they all are.  The men and women plastered on billboards and magazine covers and in the movies (makes me think of Ben Affleck again, LOL).

It isn't even always physical affairs that plague our marriages - we can fall prey to emotional ones as well.  It is so easy to connect to someone of the opposite gender on a very deep emotional level when things are not perfect on the home front. These relationships are so dangerous because we don't even know what is happening until the damage is done and the feelings and emotions have been established and taken root.

There are so many things that can endanger our marriages and there is certainly no shortage of topics to disagree on.  Money, work, housework, how we spend our time, child rearing, the company we keep, etc.  It is so easy to hurt our spouses with our words and actions since humans are, by nature, selfish and flawed and, well, human.  Marriage requires effort and a conscience awareness of another's feelings. All relationships do.

I have many friends hurting in their marriages right now. So I prayed for them. And I prayed for mine, because I need to be praying for my marriage and my husband and my role as a wife daily, even if things are "going well," before things begin to crumble.

I'm very fortunate in that my husband is easy to be married to.  He is an amazing man: Godly, hard-working, funny, devoted to his children. Often I pray less about my marriage in general and more about my role in the marriage specifically. Because I cannot imagine I am easy to be married to. Being the wife God calls me to be is certainly not easy either.  Submission is not easy - I love to be in control - of everything.

God gives us everything we need to know to have a successful marriage. The Bible is far from silent on this subject! I'm so thankful there is a guidebook, a how-to on marriage. When you feel love is lost, get on your knees and cry out to God to restore it.  If your marriage is lacking intimacy, bring it before the Lord. And I say this as someone with a history of trauma.  If you have been hurt and don't feel love or respect for your spouse, God can restore that.  If ever I don't WANT to be submissive, respectful, or kind to my husband, I display these qualities anyway. Simply because God told me to. That is all the reason I need.

For my friends who are hurting, know that I am praying for your marriages.  God cares. He cares for you and He cares greatly about your marriage. He has given you all the tools you need to succeed. He can restore any marriage.  He can mend a broken marriage because with God all things are possible.  Nothing is too great a challenge for Him. (That said, I am not saying divorce is failure or that God isn't in all things.)

If rebuilding your marriage is taking longer than you'd hoped, don't lose heart! Don't stop praying! He DOES hear your prayers! Please know it is ALL to His glory for our good! He will use you and your trials to encourage others one day. Know that He has not forgotten you!

My role is huge - my responsibility is great.  It would be difficult for my husband to be a good husband if I was not a good wife (well, at least I try to be).  These are my favorite scriptures on marriage, especially on what is my role in marriage (if you are needing a refresher):

Proverbs 12:4 - "A wife of noble character is her husband's crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones." Wow, what a picture that paints for me! I can cause rot in my relationship by bringing my husband down instead of uplifting him.  Nagging, trash-talking, and being disrespectful all cause decay in the foundation of my marriage.

Proverbs 31 - I am often overwhelmed when I try to be the virtuous woman written about in these scriptures.  I think what helps is to break it down and emulate as many qualities as I can in each area of my life, without striving for perfection or comparing myself.  Seriously, ladies, you need to study this passage again and again - there are some great books that break these verses down and get to the guts of the message.

1 Corinthians 7:3-5 (okay, all of this chapter is relevant) - "The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise her to the husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband...." and so on.  Okay, I REALLY struggled with this one, but I think it has really blessed our marriage. The concept that I am not to deprive my husband totally frustrated me for a time. But I'm fat, I'm tired, I'm sick, I'm busy with way more important things - this is not worth my time. Endometriosis causes pain.  Also, I was raped as a teenager, so there are emotions that come with sex and with nudity and all that.

The realization that I was created as a companion for my husband and that sex is a gift God gives us was huge for me.  In the confines of my marriage, it is NOT dirty, shameful, or sinful.  Rather, God wants me to fulfill my husband's need for intimacy.  I can help combat all that temptation by simply being there for my spouse intimately. That's a powerful tool for your marriage.  It is like paying the electric bill sometimes.  I don't always WANT to do it at first, but if I don't the electricity goes out. (That made sex sound boring, that's not what I mean, but mommies are busy and tired and we forget to be wives sometimes.)

Colossians 3:18-19 - "Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them."  Oh, I love this one.  It can be difficult to submit, either because the woman is stubborn and strong willed or because the man is not really deserving of submission. Or both.  At first I struggled with this. I am much more "dominant" personality than Dan. I take charge - if I want it done right I will do it myself. Oh, and I am always right of course.

Once I was able to grasp that it wasn't about our personalities but rather about God's design for marriage, this was easier.  Dan does not control me.  I am not his robot minion.  I do not want the burden of being the head of the household.  Submission does not mean Dan makes all the decisions and I follow along silently.  What it does mean is that I willingly and lovingly support him in his role as leader and head.  In a rare moment of conflict, yes, the final choice will lie with my husband, because in order for our family to function, someone must have the final say.

Notice that there are two verses here? God doesn't stop at my role as wife - He also gives instructions to the husband.  "Love your wives. Do not be harsh with them." God knows women need to be treated with love and gentleness. He instructs men to do so, rather than allowing them to abuse their roles as head. I know those men and let me tell you, that is not Biblical and do not get sucked in.

Simply put: If I don't want to, I do it anyway, cause God says so.  Or something like that.

So, I am not really qualified to teach anyone how to be married.  But I don't need any special qualifications to pray. So I did. I asked God to comfort the hurting, restore the broken, and give me the supernatural ability to be a Godly wife (because it doesn't come naturally).

I was married just 2 weeks after I turned 17.  A month after that I had a premature newborn to care for. We didn't have money - we still don't.  I did not know how to be a wife.  We really knew nothing about marriage, except that it is forever.  12 years later we have 4 perfect children on earth and 9 in Heaven, a mortgage, 2 minivans, and a ton of pets.  We are madly in love.  We rarely get a date night. We don't follow a secret formula. The years have not been without their challenges - some very big ones in fact. We've been together through a lot!

So I certainly am not an expert on marriage.  I am certain, however, that the reason 2 teen parents can still be married 12 years later is all by God's grace.  It is because we pray together and use scripture as our guidebook.