"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children." Titus 2:3–4Alice, Apart from the advice of my mom and a sporadic smattering of other women who have spoken into my life with love, I really haven’t had anyone to "mentor" me in my marriage. I’ve admired your candid openness with me and other women about your marriage, your faith, and I’m inspired by your quickness to share encouragement and truth. Thanks for investing in me. I’m honored. I’ve been thinking about the big choice of getting married and actually choosing one person to spend the rest of my life with. When Ryan proposed and I said yes, it was several months before that day that I’d prayed myself into an emotional wreck, trying to know if he was "the one." Now that I’m married and looking back on this, my prayer fervor seems silly. I wanted God’s blessing and peace, which is never a bad thing, but I can see now that there are several people who have crossed my path who would have made great husbands as well, although their combination with me would be incredibly different from the love and friendship I have with Ryan. I chose to marry Ryan because he was a Christian, I loved him, God was kind enough to tell me to marry him, and my Christian family wholeheartedly approved of the "first non-jerk" I had dated. I knew he was good for me. I remember hearing Pastor Mark talk about the reason we take marriage vows: we need to be held accountable to our promise of fidelity. If there are other people out there who could be a good match, the vow acknowledges that I will notice them at some time or another. I’ll see things in other Christian men that my husband doesn’t have. When Mark essentially said, "you will be tempted, and that’s why we all have to make a marriage commitment" I actually felt relief. I hadn’t made a bad decision; I’d just married an imperfect sinner (like myself). Otherwise, if marriage were all about fated, perfect love, there would be no need for a vow. I think that one of the most harmful things I do to Ryan is to compare him to other men who he can never be. I am a Type-A overachiever and he’s more laid back in his approach to life. I find it hard to be patient sometimes. I know God has put us together for mutual sanctification, but sometimes, when I’m frustrated with Ryan’s shortcomings, I honestly don’t know how to start that. I often come across as judgmental rather than loving. Insight here would be awesome. Also, I’m curious. When you and Gavin got married, what was the decision like for you guys? Did both of you know it was what you wanted? Was anyone doubtful that the match wasn’t totally right? How about after you got married and there was no going back? How did that feel? Thanks again for sharing your heart. —Lily
[photo via]Dear Lily, Thanks for opening up to me about your marriage. I hope that my words will give praise to God, who has changed my marriage, and that your marriage will be transformed too. Like you, when I was first married I struggled with comparing Gavin to others. In time I found that measuring him against other men became destructive and personally revealing. It eventually uncovered my lack of spiritual humbleness, love, and trust in God. Seeing as I was dead in these areas, our marriage slowly deteriorated. The marriage decision for us was not hard because we were in a long-distance relationship. We couldn’t wait to be together in the same city for longer than a couple of days. The distance was a blessing because most of our conversations were over the phone, which sped up our knowledge of each other. Then when we were in the same city, God protected us from physical temptations because we both lived with our parents. As cheesy as this is going to sound, all of the above made the fires burn fast and strong, therefore, we wanted to be married as soon as possible. Our first few years were fun and enjoyable until slowly my control issues and critical spirit surfaced and started degrading our marriage. I was continually dissatisfied with everything Gavin did and constantly fought to have things done my way. Eventually my "dripping rain" attitude took a toll on Gavin and he slowly distanced himself from me. As a result I became angry and had revengeful thoughts of cheating, or ending our marriage. After many miserable months of self-pity, God ended up using a huge argument as a turning point in our marriage. After our fight Gavin left the house to walk our dog. I selfishly cried out to God for help, hoping he would change Gavin. Surprisingly, God rebuked me and told me to get up and dry my eyes, stop thinking of myself, and pray over my husband. I was really upset and angry at God. What does Gavin need prayer for? I’m the one who’s hurt. I needed prayer! But, praise God for his Holy Spirit because he convicted me to stand up and wash my pitiful face. When Gavin walked through the door I uncomfortably told him that God had reprimanded me and that I was to pray over him. I knelt at his feet, lovingly touched him for the first time in a long time and began praying for his needs. As I prayed for him I began seeing Gavin and his struggles and I quickly became ashamed and humbled. As we sobbed I could feel a new kind of intimacy growing. What I have learned from those beginning years of marriage is that prayer is a gift to my husband and our marriage. I learned that it’s a requirement for me to pray for Gavin’s needs, in spite of how I am feeling or if he’s praying for me or not. Prayer humbles me to a point where I set aside myself so that I can hear God’s voice.
"Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23–24In your letter, you mentioned some things that brought up questions and thoughts about Ryan. Will you prayerfully find out what causes you to become impatient? Don’t pick out things he does, but go deeper and find out why you compare him to other men. Is it a trust issue with God? What fruit are you lacking or where are you being tempted to sin? You could also look into studying the word envy. See where it may lead you. I will be praying that God will fill you with his knowledge and give you an abundance of spiritual understanding. xoxo, —Alice Lily and Alice, both writing under pen names, are a member and deacon, respectively, at the Ballard campus. Stay tuned for the introduction of the Dialoguing Husbands series, too.