Marriage Takes Grit and Grace

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

 

The words of our pre-marital counselors have rung in my ears for nearly 2 decades now….
But for the grace of God, your marriage doesn’t stand a chance“.
John and Leeba, our mentors, were straight shooters and Im so grateful they were!

Let me offer a qualifying statement here.  They were not saying that we shouldn’t get married or advising us to break up.
They were communicating the immense level of commitment we would need and analyzing that each of us were entering marriage with some baggage, which would require a lot of grit and grace for our marriage to thrive!!
And they were absolutely, positively right!
We’ve laughed before contemplating the fact that we’d never have met on a dating website because, we’d never have passed an algorithm that would deem us “compatible”!!
Truly, opposites attract and while we are still madly in love, we drive each other mad too!

But for the grace of God, 17 years later, we would not have thrived.
We would not have survived.
And I dont say that lightly.
All cliche’s aside….there have been moments of wanting to quit and seasons of intense hurt.  This has not been an easy path, but one we choose…daily….taking each other by the hand, committing to not look back at past mistakes but to continue pressing on together knowing the view from the top will be worth the climb!
We still make some of the same, juvenile mistakes.  We communicate poorly.   We react.  We inflict hurt with unmeasured words.
But we can glance back and see growth too.
My silent treatment game isn’t as strong as it once was, and God has chiseled out some sharp edges of Chad’s personality.

Some seasons are smooth sailing.
This has not been that season.
We’ve been in another cycle of hard work recently in this thing called marriage.  Before my mother or mother-in-law reads this, yes, we are fine!!
(…and when I say FINE, I don’t mean Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional!) 🙂
We are in a good place, but this season of transition, a major move from overseas, reverse culture shock, role re-definement, job adjustment, lifestyle change, financial strain and children’s needs through the uprooting have been taxing factors on our time and relationship.
Someday, we’re gonna be a cute, doting, old, wrinkly couple who have “made it” and it will be easier then to talk about the hard days that are in the past.  But for anyone else in the trenches, we hear ya and we’re there too!!   Falling on grace every day as we thank God for this mirror of marriage that exposes our need of Him!

Chad and I are both quality time people.
We require a lot of communication, conversation, and uninterrupted engagement to be in a healthy place.  Add seven children to the mix and you have a lot of competition for that time.
We were somehow under the false assumption that time time together would be easier when our kids got a little bit bigger.  We’re there now with teens and realizing the opposite is true.
Our quality time used to be a matter of putting all the babies to bed at 7:30 and having a couple hours every evening that was “our” time.
Now the teenagers are putting us to bed and we have to be creative to connect over the chaos.  We steal away to the back porch for a drink after dinner.  Or run together early in the morning when our sleepy summer-schedule crew are still snoozing.  It takes flexibility, but finding time for ‘just us’ is paramount!

I got to accompany Chad on a trip to CA last month for some meetings.  This was the first time we’ve been away from the kids for more than a night in years!  And it was so good for us!!
A reminder that someday, it will just be us.
Much of the conflict that we wrestle through is not directed at each other.  It’s the circumstances of life.  Someday the needs of children and voices and expectations of friends, family and in-laws won’t be as prominent and there will just be us.
And as we biked the golden gate bridge with no tagalongs, we remembered that we really do love us!

There are a few practical exercises we’ve found benefit us and remind us to extend grace when we’re consistent in implementing them.

Pray together.
There is something about bringing your brokenness to the Lord together that begins a healing process that cant be expedited through any other effort of restoration.  Its a posture of humility.  Before God, we are both sinners.  We’re both at fault.  Pretense and self-righteousness just dont hold up in front of a Holy and Just God.
Our walls of indifference, resentment and grudges are deconstructed by God as we lay down our right to be right and invite Him to heal.  There are times I’m so angry that we cant talk, but Chad will take my hand and start praying.  There is a short wrestling with God (with whom I am no match)…. and then tears.
Prayer together moves us from fighting with each other to fighting for our marriage.  Confessing our sin and taking ownership.  Opening the door again to communication with one another through a Mediator who forgives us and filters our failings and gives us grace for one another.
Im saddened by the number of friends who tell me they cant pray with their husbands either because their husband won’t, or because they’re not comfortable being that vulnerable around their husband.  If you’re in that place, start by praying alone, that God would give you two the ability to come together in prayer and that He will build spiritual intimacy.

The kids come second.
We women tend to respond to whatever cries the loudest, (and typically, that’s not our husbands.)  There are a dozen things vying for our attention, affection and time on a daily basis and we juggle the duties of chauffeur, nurse, tutor, cook, cleaner, counselor, mom, friend.  And sometimes, the role of “wife” gets pushed to the back burner.  Or even if we are aware of it, we forget that “friend” and “playmate” are part of the job.
Chad has n0 tolerance for interruption when he and I are having time together.  That means when the little ones come wanting a snack or interjecting in our conversation, we dont engage them.  They are reminded that this is mommy and daddy time and that they can wait until we are done.
Confession: Im not good at this.
But Ive cut too many conversations short by defaulting to the other needs that aren’t necessarily “needs” and allowing interruptions to derail our conversation.   Children who grow up with the stability of knowing their parents commitment and love for one another will be able to rebound from any damage done by a delayed snack!
And your bright young rambunctious toddlers will not be permanently stunted by you letting the TV babysit them for 20 minutes to give you and your honey a few minutes to debrief their day!

Date your spouse.
We all hear it, but the excuses range from financial to logistical!  This doesn’t have to be a hire-a-babysitter and make reservations on a Friday night expensive date.  We’ve had to get creative over the years.  When the littles were young (and we never had a babysitter). it was a regular thing for us to get wine and cheese and have a candlelit “dinner” after the kids went to bed.  During the school year. sometimes it made sense for me to meet Chad for lunch or coffee.  And thank God for a back porch and adorondak chairs in this season of life right now!  We retreat there regularly.
The gesture of time carved out that is just yours gives something to look forward to and reminds us that all pressure, routines and stresses of life aside, this is us and grace has gifted us each other!

I think if we were all honest, we could identify with the same truth our marriage counselors not-so-subtly told us.
“But for the grace of God, your marriage doesn’t stand a chance.”
But for grace.
But for God!

  • Belinda Cress says:

    Precious. This side of what you are living….the ‘other’ side, I can say, “well said”. Develop the habits of honor and elevation of your spouse. “You are rapidly becoming the person you will become” was a quote from a former pastor of mine. And one more thing,….you think after 50 something life will slow down. It doesn’t! 🙂
    Love your life chronicles.
    Belinda

    • Mandy says:

      Thank you Belinda for these words of wisdom!!! Yes I guess thats true. Better get used to life in the fast lane and figure out how to do it well making priority of each other!!

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