We celebrated 12years of marriage last month and It was also coincidently my turn to take on the Facebook #loveyourspouse challenge that seems to be doing the rounds. I enjoyed posting pictures of me and my husband for 7 days consecutively. A great way to think about the good stuff and celebrate what we have shared and to remember that this is worth it. BUT, I have a confession to make!
One thought that kept going through my mind during that week, a thought that is both a confession and a prayer at the same time is that I would not have reached 12years of marriage without the grace and power of God at work in me. Some of you may have come from a rich heritage of great family life and internal good stuff, but in my case, I have needed every bit of help from the Lord in my love life.
It’s not that I did not marry the man of my dreams, or that I totally suck, but the truth is that marriage quickly showed me that the man that my heart melted for at the altar on the day I said “I do”, also needed to become the man of my reality, the man I fully embrace, and not just the one I “fall in love” with, but also the one I “choose to love”.
The grace of God at work in me, is what has helped me make this transition of daily choosing to love the man of my reality, to learn to grow together and to fight to stay real and connected with each other. And this process is not always pretty, nor is it magical. There are moments when you feel your heart exploding with love and joy. Yep! Those are great. But, there are many times when the pain and disappointment of discovering our imperfections and selfishness are not so great and we fumble clumsily to truly be known and be heard, while the pressures of life compete for the time and energy that is required to stay close. Let’s not forget how all those messed up unresolved childhood expectations come knocking at the door too. Combine all this, and you can understand what I mean when I say that without the grace and power of God at work in us, I am not sure I would be celebrating 12years of marriage with a full heart. But here is courage to the hearts of those who may need this encouragement, as I consider the grace of God and 5 ways I have seen it at work in my marriage.
For me God’s grace in me for building our marriage has been about these 5 areas:
- The grace to remember and Cultivate my first love, Jesus. No one can love me like He does, and in turn when I feel loved, I can receive and give love. I don’t enjoy my own company when I am running on empty and I come alive when I stay close to Jesus.
- The grace to Stay Connected with my husband. Keeping my heart tender, vulnerable and strong at the same time has been small steps of surrendering and trust that keeps yielding fruits of intimacy.
- The grace to Conquer past hurts. Childhood pain can hide so well until love demands your heart to come alive. Forgiving and letting go, constantly frees me up to love without fear and without strings attached. It also creates an atmosphere of freedom around me, so that my husband does not have to pay the penalty for wounds he did not cause.
- The grace to Celebrate who my husband is rather than to stumble over who and what he is not. Yes! Its true, some of the things I loved about my husband during the time were courting when the mere sound of his voice was wildly intoxicating, some of those same things leave me slightly irritated and I shake my head with disbelief at how different we are. At some point I had to throw in the towel ( I am giggling to myself now) and give up trying to change him. Anyone who knows my love for makeovers and DiY will understand how hard this is.
- The grace to Choose a more glorious future daily. Our dear friends Nigel and Debbie are one of the encouraging examples of marriage life and were our pre-marital counsellors. I remember their encouragement to us as we started on our journey, to always choose to serve each other daily and to show selfless love by choosing the other above our own comforts. Love with sacrifice leaves a lasting fruit of Joy. Sacrificial love grows to become a beautiful tree that many will be blessed by.
I want to glorify God with every area of my life and with every corner of my heart so that when the #loveyourspouse Facebook posts are long forgotten, and God takes His own pictures of my marriage, His heart will swell like a proud Father and He will delight to see us, His children, take hold of His mercies that are new every morning to build a marriage that brings glory to His name.
I remember myself as a young, curious, and wonder filled child growing up in West Africa, Ghana. I walked barefoot to many places and I could count with two fingers how many shoes I could call mine. But that never bothered me as long as I could play to my hearts content and wonder off on dusty streets, hoping not to find myself in big trouble when I returned home to my mother’s questioning eyes. One gaze from my mother’s eyes and I could find some comfort whenever I hung my head low and simply gaze at my feet, as if they were a faithful and understanding companion.My childhood memories are a somewhat fuzzy and often the playful pitter patter of feet within my family, turning into heavy steps, and hurried shuffles as my parents went their separate ways and we,their children, were left wishing we could start again. But everyday, like the rest of the body, we all have to wash our feet and start another day….the heart must forgive and let go of the things the feet has walked away from.From Ghana, to Nigeria, to South Africa and now to America, these feet have been softened and strengthened, washed many times and developed their a unique personality, and carved its own bend. As a result, I stand like no other, and I will walk like no other. And all the while, these beautiful feet never cast a shadow of doubt on the value of my existence, nor do they condemn the woman I am, or the one I am longing to be. My feet, the faithful and understanding companion, seeks no prominence or place of honor. My beautiful feet will serve and humbly carry me on the good paths prepared for me. They remain as free as my mind can see, and as brave as my heart can run. They will walk away from harm and run to embrace love.
My beautiful feet are the most real and humblest part of me. They do not lie about where they have been, nor do they hasten after tomorrow. My beautiful feet will tenderly curl around my husbands feet, and patiently run in circles with my children, and at the day’s end, they will rest …. content to be where they ought to be. My feet stay alive and active and must be given a voice to tell its stories and room to bring the good news that it carries.My beautiful feet tell the story of my life and they carry the shoes that I alone must wear.
But the truth is, I do not live as a lone ranger on a dead-end road. My life has been interwoven in and out of nations, many homes, many hearts and a thousand faces. My feet will walk along side so many people, and they will remain just so, until the day courage takes hold of me and I dare to discover the , beauty and grace of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.
To the question: ” Who are you?”
I will arise in Christ Alone and say: ” I am a daughter of the Most High God! I will arise in His unchanging love and everlasting peace to declare His praises forevermore. The old is gone,the new has come. His love has stripped fear, rejection, doubt and shame from me. He has lavished me with His presence. Oh! How precious it is to wake up, yes wake up and find that the eye of Lord is already upon you. With his grace generously poured over you even before you do anything. How He rejoices over us with singing. Aah! Daughter of the Most High God, consider Him and look into his eyes and tell me once again, “Who are you?”
Ok, so perhaps am getting older. Birthdays have always been a special time for me, as I am slightly sentimental about pausing a little and taking things in, perhaps one might call it taking stock. For the first time in many years, I can honestly say that I am Content!
I used to think that contentment was some vague, almost illusions ideal that had the down side of sucking the fighter out of you and leaving you happy to stroll along life without hunger, drive and a yearning for more. Lately, with another year closing it’s chapter in my life, I feel like contentment was always a close companion that I have ignored for so long. The voice of contentment often seemed like a whisper beckoning me to depart from the path of worry, striving for perfection, performance comparison, but rather find life by the still waters and greener pastures.
I would like to think that with growing older, I am becoming wise in knowledge that I am not all that strong, that life can be irritatingly imperfect, and demands on my time and my heart come calling everyday. But there is a place hidden from all eyes, a place where year after year I have escaped to find joy, rest, peace and a bucket load of acceptance. Yes, my secret place with my Heavenly Father. He prepares a table before me everyday, He is the living water that will never run dry. And it here that I find everything that I truly need and desire. I find Him. And I am content, everything is just as it should be.
I love the simplicity of the gospel. A perfect and Holy God, gives His perfect love as a gift to an imperfect, un-deserving sinner like me. And then for all my days having the joy and privilege of knowing Him, loving Him, worshiping Him.
I have complicated so many things in my life, but I love how God with His word and His Spirit, makes HUGE things, great truths, even hidden mysteries He brings them to life. I just need to surrender my well thought-out sophistications, and simply take what has already been paid for, with a simple child-like faith in Him.
I know that life can be merciless, imperfect and blurred with many disappointments. It takes very little effort to be skeptical, critical and guarded, and so often left unchecked, I default into a position with God as well, not trusting Him, or wanting to add to what He has already paid in full. This week, I am trusting God for a simple child-like faith in everyday life. To trust in the author and perfect or of my faith. Delighting in and beholding Him, His perfect love and His perfect ways and being content to receive from His hand.