Thursday, June 28, 2012

ablaze: pursuing God in marriage.

There's this scene I remember distinctly from the first few weeks of my marriage. 

I was walking around our very tiny apartment, trying desperately to keep quiet as Jordan studied for law exams in the next room. I sat down on the bed, and I looked up at the ceiling, and it hit me: I didn't have anywhere to pray.

By nature, I'm a quiet person, the kind who keeps to herself until someone pulls her up and out into the swing of things. It might come as a surprise, then, that I am very much a speak-out-loud pray-er. I simply can't stay focused otherwise. I like to get my words out in the open, resulting in lots of spoken prayers from my car and in the shower. 

Yet here I was, a married lady unable to find a spot in the house to pray without drawing the attention of my husband in the next room. 

These are the complications that can occur in your spiritual growth when you're married. 

It's a small thing, I know, and since then, I've found other ways and methods of praying: I speak prayers out loud in my car; I write letters to God on bits and scraps of paper; I send random thoughts up to the sky hoping my Father grabs hold of them and hears them. I am a work in progress, though, and some days and seasons are far better than others, and I think I may finally understand why Paul so adamantly suggests in his letter to the Corinthians that sometimes, it's just better not to be married.

Marriage can be distracting, simple as that.

I've got an entire other being dependent upon me for encouragement and love and support -- financial, emotional, and spiritual. It's a lot of pressure, and it's not always easy to balance the needs of my husband with the requirements of a relationship with the heavenly Father. It's a dilemma I'm sure parents experience, too. I've often wondered how the mothers and fathers of little ones focus during worship services or pursue the Creator when it's so time-consuming and exhausting to take care of the created. Parents and spouses have quite a bit to overcome when it comes to loving with all their hearts the One who made them, souls, and minds, and I imagine that's what Paul's message meant back when the Corinthians were deciding which was better: a life of singlehood, or life with a marital partner. 

Jordan and I were married young, but we did think long and hard about whether marriage was the right decision for us. We both understood -- as much as we could at the time, anyway -- that marriage wasn't the only option; we knew -- despite, perhaps, a lack of teaching from our respective churches -- that singlehood and celibacy existed and were realistic options, even in our modern world, and we had to decide which was best for us: a relationship with each other, a relationship with someone else, or an intimate relationship with the Father. 

We chose each other, but that decision doesn't give us permission for a lukewarm relationship with Christ.

Four years later, and I still struggle a bit with balancing my earthly relationship with my heavenly one. (It's a struggle I have a feeling I'd still face even if I were single.) I'm learning, though, that when I take Jordan for who he is -- an imperfect sinner like me -- I can see more clearly the Father for who He is: my Savior, my Lord, and my God. 

That realization alone takes so much pressure off of my husband -- he's not my redeemer or savior; he's my earthly partner and lifelong best friend -- and allows me to run to God with my worries and my hurts and my troubles.

My marriage and my husband are a gift. I firmly believe God gave me Jordan because He knew we were perfectly suited, knew we could help each other experience a full life here and later, a glorious eternal life in heaven. Understanding Jordan as an imperfect sinner doesn't diminish that gift or our relationship. It does, though, ensure I have Jordan and the Father in their rightful positions in my life, and that goes a long way in helping me pursue an out-of-this world love with the King. 

I don't always have quiet time. My prayers aren't always eloquent, and I've got a long, long way to go when it comes to spiritual growth and loving the God I serve. If I've got my priorities right, though, I can experience my marriage as a gift and not a hindrance, as a blessing and not an idol. When God called me to marriage, I believe that's what He intended. I believe He desires me to see Him as my King, my Beloved, and to see Jordan as a shadow, an earthly representation of He-Who-Loved-Me-First. I also believe He intends for me and Jordan to pursue Him together, to pray and commune with Him together, while also experiencing love with Him intimately, separately. 

Once, not so long ago, I sat upstairs in our bedroom calling and calling for Jordan. He was downstairs, and I was upstairs, and it quickly became obvious he couldn't hear me. I plodded slowly down the steps, and he came around the corner looking haphazard and distracted.

"I was praying," he said, almost sheepishly, and I realized: This is what marriage is. It's finding God in the corners and in the closets, in the car and in colored notes on paper. It's pursuing Him first, loving Him first, meeting Him and honoring Him first, above all else. It's finding ways to love and honor Him with our whole hearts, letting everything else fall into its rightful second place.

It's not always easy, and I'll fail constantly. But just like my marriage to Jordan, it's worth every mediocre effort I've got. With practice, it will become excellent. He will redeem it, because that's what He does best.

He loves. He honors. He cherishes.

And I'll keep trying to do the same.

read the other ablaze posts: annie's | nicole's | erin's


brie. said...

yes yes yes! such true words my heart agrees completely - my marriage is better when god get first place, in both our lives! amen.

Tiffany said...

I've been so blessed by this series! Thanks for posting :)

Anonymous said...

WOW. You are blessed. I have often thought how much better off I would have been if I would have gotten IT when I was younger. Perhaps I wouldn't make all those horrible mistakes or think I always knew best.
I think I would make many of the same mistakes if I were to go back in time with the knowledge I currently have. You are blessed and you are blessing others through God given gifts. I am also challenged by many of the same issues and I haven't got it perfect yet. I do work on being a little bit better everyday and remember more and more that His grace covers so much more than my colossal failures. UR

monster cakes said...

This was really beautiful Annie. I needed to read this today, so thank you.

Annie said...

I love this, Annie. I feel like so often, those of us who aren't married don't hear about how to seek Christ for when we will get married. I will be keeping this close to my heart for when I do get married! Thank you for your wisdom!

Nicole said...

Really great wisdom. I am so thankful for what I have learned through this series!

Amanda said...

It's crazy how much I get this -- and how much I struggle with this. I know that I have an awesome husband but I sometimes struggle with knowing my place with Christ and my place in our Christ-centered marriage. I know that I have him as a partner but I don't want to depend on him to maintain my relationship with Christ.

melanie said...

beautiful. inspiring. well-done :)

melanie said...

ps - i am now your newest follower! :)