Marriage is the Best Teacher: 16 Things I Learned in Year 2

Last year I wrote a blog about what marriage is not, which addressed the things I learned during the first year of marriage. On St. Patty’s Day, Matt and I hit year number 2, so I began thinking about what (if anything) I learned during that second year.  I came up with a list of 16 things. As it turns out, most of these are not exclusively about marriage. They could apply to most any part of life – which makes sense, because a big part of marriage is learning how to live life together.  So without further ado, I present to you 16 things I learned about life in year 2:
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1. Life isn’t only about the big moments. 

Life is a million little moments. In fact, the number of little moments will significantly outweigh the “big ones.” The new job, the new house, the proposal, the wedding, the births, the deaths – those things are important but they are not everything. The little, everyday, mundane, normal moments are the moments that add up to equal a life. A preoccupation (or even obsession) with those “big” moments can and will lead to discontentment and dissatisfaction with the beauty of small, quiet, every day moments.

2. “Attract” will eventually become “attack.”

There are many things about my husband that attracted me to him when we first began dating. After marriage, I’ve seen how those very things I once found so “adorable” or “endearing” are the same things that sometimes really irritate me or make me want to pull out my hair. This is a natural part of marriage and is important to identify. God gave me Matt because He knew that Matt would bring things to our relationship that I could not. And I need that in my life. (Imagine my surprise when I realized that Matt has had the same experiences with me!)

3. Rest is a good thing. 

I have always struggled with the issue of rest – I want to make the most of my time and be productive. That desire in and of itself is not wrong. Even the Bible talks about doing everything to the best of your ability and doing it for God’s glory (Colossians 3:17,23). It also talks about the fact that we will one day be held accountable for what we did (and did not do) while on earth. But the Bible also talks about rest (that whole seventh day of Creation thing) and makes a point of showing us that even Jesus retreated and went off by Himself from time to time to be alone. I’ve learned this past year that go-go-going usually leads to burn-burn-burning out. Take an evening off. Watch a movie you enjoy. Read a book. Let your mind rest. We’re wired for it. Rest is good.

4. You can’t change the past.

I’ve spent a lot of the last year trying to change or re-write the past. And I haven’t been too successful yet. Shocker. Things happen – both good and bad – and you can’t do anything to change them. There comes a point where we all have to man/woman up and move forward, while always learning from the past. Clinging to and reliving past victories OR refusing to let go of past defeats leads nowhere fast. I’ve learned that living in the past usually keeps me from living in and enjoying my present. In the words of Paul – “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14,15).

5. Not all respect has to be earned. door

Very few things in this life are free – most everything must be earned in some way or another. Respect is, for most women, pretty important. If you don’t earn my respect, well then gosh darn it, I won’t give it to you. This year I’ve learned that God’s Word doesn’t say “respect your husband only when he is deserving of it.” It says – “Wives, respect your husbands” (Eph 5:33). Period. My husband represents Christ in our marriage. His role is to love me like Christ loves the Church. My role is to submit to him and respect him, in order to be a picture to the world of how the Church should submit to and respect Christ. When I get to heaven someday, I won’t be held accountable for my husband’s actions. My but-he-didn’t-deserve-respect excuses won’t hold up. I am responsible for me and my actions/reactions.  I mean, what if Christ didn’t show his love for us on the cross because we didn’t deserve it? Newsflash – none of us deserve any of God’s gifts. That is what grace is. What a privilege to practice respect and submission to my husband as a means for sharing Christ with the world. So wives, if you are a Christ-follower, you are commanded to respect your husbands.

6. I can’t pour out if I’m not filling up.

This relates to lesson #3 somewhat. So often I’m trying to do 50 things at once, to be all things to all people all the time. I remember at one point in college I actually felt guilty for spending time in the Word because I felt like I should be spending that time building relationships with other people. Whaaa?? Crazy, right? What I’ve learned is that, in order to pour into the lives of others, I first need to be taking care of myself. By that I mean spending time in the Word daily, being in continuous conversation with God, and getting rest. If I want to share water with a friend, but have no water in my cup to give him/her, then we’re both left thirsty. Be filled up so you can pour into others.

7. God shouts in our pain.

In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis said, “…Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Pain has been prevalent in this past year; and so has God’s voice. Granted, I’d be lying if I said that God always felt near or that everything felt good/fine because I knew God was near and real. There were many times I asked God where He was, what He was doing, and why He was not acting. I lashed out at God in anger and blamed Him for many things. But after I was done with my temper tantrums, He really  began to reveal to me the weaknesses in my own character and in my heart. My problems were not merely external – there were internal issues that God was bringing to light. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-2). Considering difficulties as “joy” is a whole other blogpost in itself. But I can’t deny that God has really worked in my pain and developed my character. Which, in the long run, is what I want.

8. Christianity doesn’t make things easier. 

A lot of people refer to Christianity as a crutch or some pie-in-the-sky belief that people rely on to make their problems go away or seem less. I don’t want to burst any bubbles, but if you want to check out and pretend your problems don’t exist and have an easy and problem-free life – then you should probably stay away from Christianity. Jesus said in Luke 9 that “if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” The cross was used for crucifixion, one of the most horrible and shameful methods of execution at that time. Christianity means accepting that life will be difficult and that the world will hate you for your “intolerant” beliefs. It means practicing self-discipline and denying desires that are self-destructive. The beauty is that this less-than-easy  life is grounded in the hope of eternity that we have through Christ alone. It’s hard. But it’s worth it.

9. Integrity doesn’t just happen. 

Most people admire athletes who have stood out in history as being great and incredibly skilled in their particular sport. We crave the glory that accompanies their stories, but what we often don’t recognize  are the untold stories behind the greatness – the integrity in which their success is grounded. The hours of practice and hard work and sacrifice that nobody saw.   “Integrity” means to be consistently on the outside what I claim to be on the inside. In other words, my actions should back up my words – whether I am being watched by others or not. Integrity means doing the hard things in the quiet moments of each day. Spending time in God’s word even when you don’t feel like it. Working diligently at your job even when your boss isn’t present or watching. Not going to that website or watching that movie even when you’re alone and you know that nobody would know or find out. This kind of integrity – the kind built in the small, quiet moments of life – is what makes a person strong and effective in the big moments of life.

10. Love is not a choice made once. 

Love is a choice that must be made every day. Period. Kind of like the whole take-up-your-cross-daily thing. I’d like to say that when I first told Matt “I love you” however many years ago, I perfectly demonstrated Christ-like love from then on out. But that would make me a liar. Loving others more than myself must happen every day, every moment, every second.

11. Real faith is not dependent on circumstances. 

It’s in the dark moments that we really find out what we believe. Do I have faith only when God is good to me and showers blessings on me? Does my trust in His promises and faithfulness only apply when things are easy? What a weak faith that would be. Real faith can look at who God is, know that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and trust that He will keep his promises.  Job from the Bible is a great example of this. God allowed everything that Job held dear to be taken away from him, and still Job’s faith remained intact. When Job’s wife told him to “curse God and die,” he responded by saying, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” This is a hard thing to accept, but the truth is real – God is God. We are not. He is faithful, even when we are not. He keeps His promises and He’ll do what He says He’ll do.

12. Your spouse is the most important earthly relationship you have.

This probably rubs some people the wrong way, but I believe it’s biblical, and therefore true. Importance of relationships are as follows: God, spouse, family, everything else. This might not sit well with everyone (which I’m ok with), but if my marriage represents Christ and the Church – God’s perfect, sacrificial love – then my marriage MUST take top priority.  My goal in life is to mirror Christ to the world – what better way to do that than through marriage.

13. God answers prayer. running

He really does. There are numerous places in the Bible that talk about the effectiveness and importance of prayer. I mean, if even Jesus Himself spent a significant amount of time in prayer while on earth, how much more should His followers do so? If you are a Christ-follower, please don’t discount the importance and effectiveness of prayer. It is crucial. Philippians 4:6,7.

14. I am flawed. For real. 

Whether you’re a Christian or not, I think all humans can identify with this common issue we all have – imperfection. We spend lifetimes trying to reach perfection, only to be disappointed again and again. Imagine my surprise when I realized that my husband wasn’t actually perfect. Gasp! Seriously though – marriage has brought out the mess in me. My actions and reactions really just point to what was already in me to begin with. Accepting that I am imperfect has really helped me to address those imperfections and allow God to begin changing me.

15. God’s will for your life isn’t unknowable.

I have wasted countless hours agonizing over what God’s will is for my life. Over the past year I had to choose between two different jobs, and I did some major stressing over the decision, wondering what God’s will was for me to do. Many people ask the same thing. God, what do I do with my life?? How will I know?? Send me a sign!! A message in my cereal! Anything! Thankfully, we have something more than messages in our breakfasts. God’s revealed will is given to us in His Word. I know that may not be satisfactory for some people. But really – God has given us His instructions for the moments of each day. It can all pretty much be summed up like this: Love God. Love people. (Mark 12:30,21). Whether you’re a teacher, stay-at-home mom, CEO, salesperson, cashier, college student, or whatever – love God, and love people. That’s God’s will for you and me today. (And just as a side note, the rest of the Bible goes into more detail as to how to do this – so check it out!)

16. God gives us everything we need to live a godly life.

God promises wisdom if we ask for it in faith (James 1:5-8). He also promises to give us, through His divine power, the things we need to live well (2 Peter 1:3). God not only provided a way for us to get to Him through Christ, but He has also given us the tools to be effective and fruitful here on earth. You know what that tells me? We have no legitimate excuses. And all the excuses in the world won’t add up to a hill of beans one day when we have to give an account for everything we did or didn’t do here on earth (2 Corinthians 5:10).

So…

So there it is: the lessons learned during year 2 of marriage. I use the word “learned” loosely, knowing that these are not things I have mastered by any means. They are lessons to learn every day, again and again. I realize I am young and have not been married very long, so I hope this post isn’t misunderstood as me claiming to have all kinds of life experience. I know there are countless people who are smarter, wiser, and have experienced so much more. But I do believe that my experiences have been valid, and I just hope to share some things I’m learning along the way.

Marriage has turned out to be much harder than I thought it would be, but I can honestly say it’s been one of the greatest earthly blessings I’ve ever been allowed to experience.

Here’s to 50 more years of learning.

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