Friday, July 11, 2014

Choices: "I Do" at Nineteen

As with the last post, this is our story. Specifically, this is how God wrote our love story. In sharing this, I simply want to show that following conventional wisdom (marrying later, dating longer, longer engagements, etc) isn't necessary for a successful relationship. Only two things are needed-- commitment to God and each other. Do what's right for you and your situation.

The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the LORD. - Proverbs 18:22

My husband and I just recently celebrated 8 years of marriage. We were only 19 when we vowed til death do us part.

We began dating the summer after my freshman year of college. Only one month in, he asked if I could see us getting married. Trembling, I told him, yeah, I could. We were engaged by January and got married less than a year after we began dating on a hot, sunny day at the end of May.

I was asked if I was pregnant by one friend and I'm sure others wondered the same. Apparently being in love wasn't a good enough reason to get married at 19. It's highly discouraged really. You're supposed to go to college and start a career and all that important stuff. Whatever. We finished college while married and it worked for us.

We dated with purpose and we were up front about it with each other. We knew we were looking for our spouse. We both prayed a lot. I spent some time doubting and soul searching. In the end, we chose each other.

We were so young and immature. We had no idea what we were getting into. We were not "ready" for marriage in the ways society thought we should be, but we were determined and committed to each other and felt no need to wait on it since our decision was made. We vowed before God, our family, and our friends, to love and cherish each other, to stick together, come what may. Eight years and two beautiful babies later, we're still here, still together. We've fought for this relationship, for each other, and made it work.

Let me tell you, it's a messy, beautiful, hard, and glorious journey, two becoming one. And it's so worth it.

We're still learning how to make this work, this laying down of our lives in love. And as we both grow and change, what that looks like changes constantly.

I've learned that this marriage isn't about keeping me happy, it's about making me holy. And there is a deep joy to be found within it, as we sacrifice for and serve each other. There is a breathtaking beauty in seeing we are not who we once were, even though we still have miles to go. We have grown and matured. Together.

God has used Nathaniel's laid back personality and steady faith to temper my extremes. His rough edges have sanded down my own. I'm a better person because of Nathaniel. His support has helped me to pursue the dreams God has put on my heart, from a simple weekend camping by myself to ditching birth control to missions trips to becoming a stay at home mama. No matter how crazy, he has backed me and encouraged me to go for it. 

We are definitely imperfect people and it's the awful truth that those we love the most can wound us the deepest. It hurts the most because the ones we love matter most to us.

So we have our bad days, or weeks, or months... Days when I doubt, when I cry to God, when I wonder what's the point, when I feel unloved, when I hate the angry words I let spew out of my mouth toward my beloved... I always come back to this, I promised. I promised him and I promised God that I was in this for life. It's a hard and holy promise and God enables me to keep it. And when I stop to remember, I remember I chose Nathaniel and he chose me. I am my beloved's and he is mine (Song of Solomon 6:3).

I remember that he is the boy who called when he said he would. I remember the nervous way he sang when he asked me to be his wife. I remember that he is the man who let me adopt an 11 year old cat for our first anniversary, then held me and cried with me when we had to put him down a few years later. He supported me through college, and then I him. He was beside me through multiple moves and various jobs. He is the man who was with me through the births of our two boys, and he is a wonderful, loving father to them. I remember he is the one that has cheered me on, encouraged, and loved me through everything these past eight years.

When I remember, I remember that I have so much to be thankful for in my husband. When I choose gratitude, my heart is tender toward him and I much closer to being the wife I was created to be, standing in grace with gentleness. 

I know this: Love is worth fighting for. We know that the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10) and marriage is a picture of Christ and His bride (Ephesians 5:22-33), so we can expect the enemy's opposition because he wants to ruin our testimony. "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph" (2 Corinthians 2:14)!

Our society tends to have a rather depressing view of the odds of staying together once married, so let me encourage you, that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). Hold fast to your faith and hold fast to your hope (Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 10:21,23), and fight for love. It's worth it and you can do it. We've made it eight years and counting, by the grace of God, and we were just a couple of crazy kids in the shallow end of the faith pool when we began. :)

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Here are some encouraging facts from "The Good News About Marriage" by Shaunti Feldhahn: The rate of divorce among church attendees is really only fifteen or twenty percent for all marriages, not fifty percent like we usually hear quoted. And eighty percent of marriages are happy, not thirty percent. (The Truth sets us free! John 8:32)

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I highly recommend Boundaries in Marriage by Cloud & Townsend and Keep Your Love On by Danny Lee Silk, or following his Facebook page to see all his updates on how to #KYLO (Keep Your Love On) in any relationship. These resources have renewed my thinking in so many ways!

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If you've been married for any length of time, share how long & share some encouragement for others! :)

P.S. Let me note that if you are in an abusive relationship, get yourself and any children somewhere safe! Do not place yourself in harm's way in the name of submission or love, please, to say anything else is to misunderstand God's heart. God's heart is to first keep you safe! His plans for you are for good and not harm (Jeremiah 29:11). Fighting for love will look much different for you than fighting for love when there are only disagreements, misunderstandings, and hurting hearts. Know there is hope for you, too, that God can still restore and redeem, but use wisdom and stay safe. Seek help! The first half of the book Rich in Love is a wonderful testimony of God redeeming and restoring a broken and abusive marriage.

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