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Reflections on 13 Years of Marriage

My pastor joked in a sermon last year that he had been married for 14 years, which his wife referred to as the best 10 years of her life. I can identify and wrote about it last year. We’ve now had 13 years of marriage, maybe 9 of which have been the best years of my life and 4 of which were the toughest (not necessarily consecutively). I have certainly learned that marriage is not the end all of the Christian woman’s life. It’s not the place to rest, to find fulfillment, and so forth. My husband isn’t the gospel. He’s not my savior. God is the gospel. Christ is my Savior. But it’s very easy to confuse the two in practical ways, and it messes up much in my head when I do.

As I’ve done the last two years, I’m thinking through the things I’ve learned (usually the hard way) about myself and my God through the institution of marriage. But first a disclaimer. I want to free anyone reading this from feeling constrained by what I share. I am not married to your husband, and if your husband is abusive and unloving, I don’t want my sharing to add an undue burden on your heart.

As for me, I thank God regularly that my husband loves and respects me. I know many beautiful women who love God who do not have that. My husband and I laugh together well (sharing a warped sense of humor). Yet even with much love and happy times, marriage is not for the faint of heart. I’ve learned that LOVE and GRACE are not simply feel good words to repeat occasionally during a wedding ceremony. They are instead words with great, deep practical meaning that are absolutely foundational to surviving any given day in a Christian marriage.

LOVE.

I can never meditate too long or too hard on the Biblical characteristics of love in I Corinthians 13. The term love in our culture is such a wimpy, needy word. But Biblical love is strong. Love suffers long, love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, love isn’t resentful, love is ever ready to believe the best and give the benefit of the doubt. That last characteristic has become one of the most important ones to me. I have often assumed the worst of my husband and watched the light leave his eyes under my accusation. It’s never a good idea to assume anything in marriage. Ask straightforward questions if you need an answer. Don’t read into his answers (or lack thereof). Ask him what he means. In the early moments of a potentially serious conflict, I have come to respect the tremendous practical value of being ever ready to believe the best of this one to whom I am called to love as God, not my culture, defines the term. Many a conflict in our marriage has been diffused by this one simple principle.

GRACE.

Grace is powerful. I thought I was a gracious person when I got married. But I wasn’t really. I was nice. I was polite. I was generally kind and tried not to talk badly about others. While all good traits, that’s not Biblical grace. Biblical grace is letting go of your right to retribution and then returning good for evil. When I felt that I had been done wrong in marriage, I was not gracious about it at all. I’m not one to yell and scream, but I can definitely pout. I can put out the vibe that you have done me wrong as long as it takes until you make it right. God has taught me much through marriage of His grace to me and His demand that I show it to others. Nothing has transformed my marriage more than laying down my rights and bearing long in love, learning exactly what God means when He uses the term grace.

Grace beats the heck out of manipulation or guilt in terms of facilitating real reconciliation and change. Men are different from women, and it’s taken me years to fully understand how profound those differences are. Conflicts, some real and some just misunderstandings, are inevitable. Maturity in marriage is not that you stop having conflicts. Maturity is realizing how to handle conflicts Biblically. People think of grace as a wimpy laying down of your rights that makes you a doormat. But the truth is that while grace is definitely laying down your rights and not repaying in kind, if you do it from a position of strength in Christ, you are anything but a doormat. Unless Christ fits your definition of doormat. Grace is POWERFUL – it is miraculously life changing.

God has changed me much these last 13 years. He’s exposed a lot of sin and wrong thinking on my part, and He has taught me that the gospel is much deeper and meaningful to my marriage than I could have ever understood without walking this walk. God has been very kind to me in the gift of my husband. My husband sacrificially loves me as Christ does His church. I thank God for him daily. But marriage still disappoints me regularly, and there are an infinite number of things over which we can disagree and wound each other. I am very thankful for the gifts of Biblical grace and love, precious tools for enduring when marriage isn’t fun or fulfilling, and the miraculous way they transform situations that seem utterly irredeemable. Viewing my marriage through the lens of the gospel has been life changing. The gospel does indeed change everything, even marriage.

11 Responses to Reflections on 13 Years of Marriage

  1. James June 6, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Wendy,
    thanks for the very REALISTIC thoughts on marriage; having been married for 15 yrs, I concur with most of your thoughts. One of the best books on marriage is Paul Tripp's, “What Did You Expect” in which he puts a great emphasis on grace. Btw, your blog title should be Practical Theology.

  2. Mary Mel June 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Love reading your posts. Have been married for three years and find your blog VERY encouraging. Thank you! Also, my husband and I have been listening to sermons about love and respect that have been very good. Based on the book Love and Respect. Have you read or listened to it?

  3. Wendy June 6, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

    Thanks, James. Mary, I have heard of that book and the seminars that go with it. I need to check it out for myself.

  4. 1mooremail June 6, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

    I am thankful that you bring this right to grace and the gospel. Without grace and without the gospel, I would be divorced! Praise God for His grace and redeeming love. ~ Wendi

  5. Karen June 7, 2011 at 1:38 am #

    Thanks Wendy. I recently subscribed to your blog and have found your thoughts very helpful and challenging. I appreciate you sharing them with us..”let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds”.. Heb 10:24

  6. Marg June 7, 2011 at 1:39 am #

    Wendy, I just want to say that I really enjoyed this post. I appreciate your wisdom.

    I agree with James. The title of your blog should just be “Practical Theology”.

  7. April June 7, 2011 at 3:19 am #

    LOVE this post-I appreciate your real views on marriage!

  8. Anonymous June 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    God is just so magnificent to have planned, just for us,these gifts and pictures. May He give each of us the strength to show our reverence to Him in our marriage relationships and also guide the still single to mates only according to His will.
    “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” Eph 5:31-32
    that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:21

  9. Sarah Guild June 9, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    Thank you for posting about marriage. I have recently been very discouraged at the volume of “Christian” women's blogs seem to be passionate about all sorts of things: homemaking, homeschooling, growing herbs, natural healthcare, etc. No one seems to be passionate about working on marriage, but I am in a place of walking with several dear friends who have marriages in crisis. It is encouraging to read about the gospel applied to this area. Really applied.

  10. Laura Jones May 11, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

    I realize this is an older post, but I just read it, and I just want to thank you. Thank you for being brave and putting yourself out there. Thank you for sharing what God is teaching you. EVERYTHING you shared resonates with me, and particularly in the way I related with my husband. this blog has been used in my life (really recently)to convict me, to bring me to life, and out of my self righteous wounded indignation, for not getting what I want from my husband. OUCH. But when the Lord does it, it hurts so good! To have my sin exposed hurts, but it brings me life.
    so again, THANK YOU!

  11. Wendy May 11, 2013 at 11:50 pm #

    Thank you, Laura! That means a lot.