Seven years ago, today, I said Yes. Seven years ago, today, he said I do.
There’ve been storms. Major storms. Sunshine. Much Sunshine. Tears. Hugs. Laughter. Discovery. Rejection. Togetherness. Solitude. It’s been a crazy seven years. And every day I am so grateful that we survived. That we’ve thrived. That we’re here.
As the time to this day drew closer I was thinking of what I’d like to share about us. This man who I love. This incredible human being who loves me. And the life we’ve created together. And one thing kept coming to mind to share- the secret to what’s made us so happy. Well it’s no secret- hehehehehheheheh… (as I rub my hands together 🙂 ) it’s open info for anyone and everyone who wants to receive it.
After seven years of being married here’s what I know about marriage- very little. I laugh when I think of how little I know about love and relationships.
A few days ago I reunited with a friend I hadn’t seen in about nine years. She wanted to know how I was. How I’d met my husband. What our life had been like so far… As I told her part of our life- at one point I was on the verge of tears talking about some of the times we’d allowed each other to see our brokenness.
It seems as though when we come into love, sometimes, most times, we come wounded. We come with events of the past: hurts and expectations and so many other good things too but it’s almost as though the negatives are highlighted far much more than the goods.
When we first meet we’re in love. Something happens in our heads- chemicals fire crazily, our hearts pump something far yummier than chocolate- and we go absolutely insane!
During that time we love just about everything about each other. We go easy on each other- allow mistakes and forgive easily… and then a little time passes and it’s almost as though something else takes over- I dare say we become children again- each one of us expecting from the other what we wished we’d received as kids: complete and unconditional love, acceptance and attention.
We stop seeing the amazing that made us fall in love with each other in the first place – instead we see all the imperfections of our brokenness in each other. And we blame and accuse and before we know it – the flaming passion we started out with dwindles and we grow cold and hard and hurt and bitter and instead of growing in love we beginning resenting each other.
We realise that once upon a time we had a dream. In our dream we would meet this wonderful person who’d make our world Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory- filled with yummy delights and lots of fun. How could it be then that the person who made us believe that they could create this factory of bliss ended up being the villain in our dream? How could it be that this person who promised love and adoration could be the one person to hurt us more than we thought we could hurt?
And then the search begins. The search to find out how it went wrong. And how to fix it. We blame the other person for it going wrong and we loathe ourselves for being so stupid as to fall for a childish dream.
And/or we blame ourselves and think only if we were better- so we frantically try to improve ourselves to become what we think we should be to please our partner- so that they’ll be happy then we’ll be happy and everything will be fixed…
That doesn’t pan out so we pursue other remedies.
We look for answers in therapy, or books, counselors and pastors, friends and family, we turn to booze, work, pills or worse. And then sometimes we’re lured by the sweet words and looks of another and before we know it we’ve sunk to selling our souls to the deep betrayal of giving ourselves and our bodies to someone else- the brokenness deepens and we’re nowhere closer to living the dream we once lived- now we’re worse, rawer than before, bitter and life becomes a pile of hot, steaming, poo.
I believe that marriage is perhaps the most important relationship we will ever have with another human being.
The joy of it is not only in having bliss but in the security of being able to break down in a safe place.
One of the things I so honour about my husband is that he has been a safe place for me to break down in.
For years I went through deep solitude. I’d have family and friends around me and still I’d go through depths of loneliness that made absolutely no sense to me.
When I got married I thought the loneliness would disappear- for the most part it just got worse.
I explained it to my husband once- he said it sounded as though I was describing abandonment. Ok, I thought to myself, so my “thing” had a name but why was it there?!
At times the feeling would plunge me into bouts of depression- and then another feeling begun to accompany this sense of solitude: I started to feel unloved.
I knew that my husband supported me. I felt that on some level perhaps he cared for me. But I felt certain he didn’t love me.
Without being fully aware of it I’d initiated a quest to “make” him love me. I wanted to be shown love and I guess I must have decided that he was the one to show it to me.
Looking back now I can see how messed up I was. I may have looked absolutely gorgeous as I walked down the aisle- but under that wonderful dress and the incredible hair and make-up was a frightened girl. Under that grown, beautiful woman, was a child searching for complete and utter unconditional love, acceptance and attention.
For the most part we come to each other broken. It is a massive mistake to expect healing from the person we marry. Because. Simply. Put. Healing. Will. Not. Come. From. Them. Period.
So perhaps you may think that things got better when I came into some deep realisation of who I was, had begun to appreciate how fantastic my husband was and had come to see life as a gift… blah, blah, blah- No. Let’s just get that out of the way. It didn’t happen that way at all.
I don’t know how other couples make their marriages work. I don’t have a list of steps and tips to finding the right person or creating an incredible partnership. But I can tell you this- the game changer for us was not our love for each other but… God’s love for us.
My husband’s a pretty incredible guy. He has been from the beginning. But for the bulk of our marriage I lost sight of what an honourable man he was.
I saw him as the source of my unhappiness. And blamed him for it.
Then there came a time I realised that I was accusing and blaming him every chance I got.
And then I realised that there was another person who did that constantly. his whole life was about accusing us. his whole being was about condemning us and pointing out things that made us feel we were wrong, unloved and unworthy. he was (is) the filthiest thing that has ever been… And I realised that every time I accused or blamed my husband or put him under condemnation I was in essence partnering with the greatest evil the world had ever known!
But even when I grasped this it was still hard to break the destructive habit of laying blame. And the downward spiral continued.
And finally dear friend- here’s where it gets good…
As Grace would have it- one day I bumped into the teachings of Joseph Prince and his ministry of the Grace of God.
As I listened to God’s grace and love for me- I found myself partnering with the most wonderful Man who had ever lived: The God who created all the earth. The God who loved me and loved my husband.
I remember a time I was so angry, so resentful and so bitter toward my husband and hearing God clearly tell me: “Hannah love my son.”
I fumed at that request. I wanted him to love me! Isn’t that what the Bible taught: “Husbands love your wives”! In any case, my excuse was that after some of what we’d been through I felt empty and tired and unable to love. So there. God.
But what I knew in my head was that I could love my husband as I should if I just opened up my heart to the fullness of God’s love. I knew in my head that if I allowed God to come into our relationship things would be different and I would be different. But all that hadn’t sunk into my heart yet.
I knew that I was messed up. I knew I was broken. I had an image of the kind of wife I wanted to be- but even though I knew how – I couldn’t do it.
But as I listened to Joseph tell me over and over… and over again how much God loved me, and how gracious He, always, was in His dealings with me- I found myself imparting that same grace toward my husband.
Every time I wanted to open my mouth to give him yet another lecture on this or that I would literally feel a heat rise in me stopping me. I believe that heat was the love of God for my husband. And for me. And for our children. And that heat was protecting me from saying words that would hurt us.
I have many faults. But my husband hasn’t been as keen on pointing them out as I was in pointing his out. If there is one thing I can say to women it’s what I heard from Joseph: Marry a man who is gracious, merciful and kind. At the very least start there.
I was at a real low when I started listening to Joseph Prince. I had given up on ever feeling loved. I’d decided I’d fill my life with other things that brought me joy- my work, my kids… but the more I listened to the message of God’s love for me and His incredible grace- the more my heart begun to change. The more hopeful I became.
I was extremely resistant to change in some areas of my life. But try as I might to hold onto the steel enforced walls I’d built God’s love chipped away at them… the more I listened to His ministry of Grace.
Let me tell you there were parts of that wall I scrambled to hold onto- but God wouldn’t let me. Because He could see that the walls were keeping the sunshine out. They were keeping the cold in and the warmth out. Love couldn’t reach me behind those walls.
I tried to hold onto some pieces of brick in my hands- but God would gently hold my hands and pry my fingers open- He wanted to rid me of every crumb of brick, cement and mortar that was keeping me from enjoying the most incredible relationship that can ever happen between two people.
The murk in my eyes begun to clear and I could see my husband for the fantastic guy he was.
And for the first time since we said yes and I do- I finally begun to feel loved by him.
About the feelings of abandonment: One evening in my fellowship I broke down. At first tears started rolling down my cheeks. Then they were gushing out- before I knew it I was sobbing from the depths of my soul.
One of my friends was praying with me and over and over she addressed the feelings of abandonment I’d felt for years. She knew very little of my life and yet she accurately described the feelings that had plagued me for years. I’d never told her about them.
As she ministered to me she spoke of God’s unconditional acceptance of me. In my head I’d always known He was my “Father” and I was His “child- but that night for the first time I knew it in my heart, in my soul, in my mind – in every part of me.
For the first time ever I knew for sure that I was not abandoned. I was loved. I was His child. I was not alone. I was in His family. Completely accepted.
A few weeks later I met with my pastor and shared my feelings of deep seated guilt and condemnation that would not go away.
Even though I didn’t know it at the time- I know it now: One of my problems was being conditioned to believe that I had to earn love and acceptance. That I had to be a certain way to be loved. Essentially I felt unworthy of love.
But even if I wasn’t able to articulate this at the time with my pastor- he counselled me and prayed with me- He reminded me of God’s love and that I was not a victim neither was I weak- but strong. He rubbished lies that had been spoken over me and pointed me to how God saw me: Beautiful. Worthy of love. Righteous because of what Jesus had done for me at the Cross- AND I didn’t have to do a thing to earn God’s unconditional love, acceptance and attention. He had given it freely.
I left the meeting feeling strong and vindicated.
It was as though every which way I turned there were gigantic billboards shouting God’s love for me.
Every which way I turned there was Jesus saying: “I love you. You are worthy of my love. You (YES YOU!) are worthy of Love!”
I heard it from Godly messages on TV. I found it as I read the Scriptures. I heard it from my husband (finally). I heard it through my fellowship. I saw it in my children… I felt it each time I expressed my gifts… I was in essence being bombarded by love!
There is tremendous power in being loved. When we know we’re loved we operate differently. And what I’m learning is that sometimes, especially when it comes to marriage, that love doesn’t necessarily come from the other person. It comes from within us.
I know that sounds crazy but from my own life I know that because I felt unworthy of love on the inside, and because I felt unloved in the depths of my being- no matter what my husband did or how much he told me he loved me – I couldn’t receive his love because it didn’t resonate with what was inside of me.
So I can talk yards and yards on this – I already have- but here’s what I’ve discovered about marriage- you can read books, you can go to seminars, you can learn so many things about each other etc etc etc… but for me the real change happened when I found out that I was loved and that I was worthy of love. And that came from learning about God’s love for me and His grace toward me.
I’ve come across some pretty amazing teachings on marriage but nothing has impacted my marriage more than the message of God’s grace. My marriage would not be what it is without God’s grace.
You can pray for your partner to change, you can pray that you’d change- but until you get in your spirit how much God loves you and how much he loves your partner that change is pretty hard to come by.
I still listen to Joseph Prince every day. And I look out for more teachings on how much Jesus loves me. It’s changing every aspect of my life.
In his teaching called: Christ is the Centre of Happy Marriages, Joseph said God had the ability to change bland wine into intoxicating, beautiful, wine- in an instant.
So no matter how long things have been bad- when Jesus comes into the picture, He performs a miracle- and in an instant you can have that dream you once dreamed of.
And you forget the bad.
At the beginning I talked about us having gone through some pretty rough storms- I can honestly tell you that it’s really hard for me to remember those storms now. It feels as though we’ve always, every single day of our marriage, being crazy in love as we are now.
I don’t remember why I would ever have been mean to my husband or why I’d point fingers at things I didn’t approve of about him. Because now, I look at my husband and I’m brought to tears at what a fantastic husband he is.
He too is a huge fan of Joseph’s teachings and tells me his new quest in life is to truly comprehend how much Jesus loves him. It’s sure to be a life-long quest. I can already see the impact it’s had on him.
I bless God for that and He really does deserve all the credit on this one.
I really am overwhelmed by what an incredible husband my guy is to me and how blessed my children are to have him as a father.
I can tell my son: “Boy, that’s the kind of man you should aspire to be.” And I can tell my daughter: “Girl, that’s the kind of man you should marry.”
The problem with love is that we haven’t been taught the truth about it.
It is my prayer that, each day, we would uncover and discover more and more beautiful truths about this incredible, powerful, Force.
May this Force be with you- now and always.
You can catch Joseph Prince on TBN and GodTV (in South Africa).