Marital Bliss... Sometimes
- Deborah Wuehler The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
- 2009 1 Dec
My husband, Richard, and I were strolling through downtown Grass Valley, California, having just come from a Christian-owned Bed and Breakfast where we were celebrating our first twenty-five years of marriage. This was only the second time we had been away alone together since we started having children. Enjoying special time together like that—just the two of us—was way overdue. Those babies always seem to come at such opportune times, don't they? And when they arrive, we just can't bear to leave them for even a night.
Well, with our youngest now one year old, our oldest an adult, and the next two in line with CPR certificates in hand, we still weren't ready to make the trip . . . but we did it anyway. We were having a wonderful time going through musty old antique shops, high-priced novelty shops, and a treasure hunt at a yard sale, and then we enjoyed dinner at a local Mexican eatery. We had meandered to a nearby park when my husband decided it was time to let me know his feelings.
To have arrived at one's twenty-fifth wedding anniversary seems to indicate a life of marital bliss. But let me be the first to tell you that marriage is hard work, and it includes tears and trials of many kinds. It is also a self-denying, iron-sharpening-iron relationship that requires all of your loyalty, commitment, and the guts to stick it out. Add homeschooling to the marriage, and you have a whole new aspect of learning and growing together to deal with, as well as a whole new set of challenges to work through.
Now that I have given you a dose of reality, let me tell you the other side of the story. Marriage is also blissful at times, full of delight at times, reigning with laughter or tears of joy at times, yet fully rewarding and heart-consuming all the time.
Sitting in the park and hearing my husband begin to speak the phrase "I feel like you . . . ," my mind immediately went through a series of mental gymnastics. How could he bring this up on our anniversary? Why does he want to spoil the beautiful day we just had? I have feelings, too, but I'm not going to be insensitive enough to share them right now. Why am I the one who has to continually die to selfishness? Is it asking too much to just be loved and appreciated for who I am and not what I do or don't do? Just as a physical body becomes tired, my mind, too, was tired from its mental gymnastics, and I prayed, "Lord, help me to see things from a different perspective. This is his anniversary too. Help me to hear him and understand his heart."
I then heard myself asking my husband, "What can I do to make you feel like you are my first priority? Do you have any suggestions for me?" Amazingly he had only one or two suggestions, and we both agreed that we just needed to spend time together a little more often so that we can connect on many different levels. We actually were able to communicate without many hurt feelings or angry exchanges. Imagine that! I attribute that to both of our prayerful attitudes as well as the lack of stress or distractions (such as the presence of our children).
As Richard and I were talking about our need, as humans, to be loved and appreciated, Richard likened it to our walk with the Lord, and Richard said how he knew that God, too, desired us to love Him in a close, intimate, deep way. Unfortunately, we become so busy and preoccupied that there is no longer a depth to our relationship with the One Who loves us most. I was also convicted that not only was I not making my relationship with my husband my first priority (with my time and my attention); I was doing the same thing with my Lord. I was not the bride of only one man, but two.
If the Lord is truly my Bridegroom, what do I need to do in order to put Him first again? He says to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:2-5:
I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast labored, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
"I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." If we take a closer look at what that means, we might find some truths that we can apply to both of these "bridegrooms" of ours.
Remember that? I remember finally coming to the place where I knew that dating was wrong. No one had to tell me that it wasn't the wisest way to find a spouse. (And believe me, back then, no one was telling me. Dating was commonly accepted at all the churches I knew of.) I found out the hard way through trials in the form of young men of many kinds. But when my relationship with my Father became my lifeline and the only desire of my heart, then I instinctively knew that I could quit looking for love and acceptance from mere man. From that point on I realized I had a Bridegroom that no man could ever match. I was finally content, and I began to trust that my Father in heaven knew best. God wanted my heart to be fully His before I gave it to another. Funny how those turning points in spiritual things bring change in the physical, because into the little military church in Karlsruhe, Germany, walked Army Specialist E-4 Richard Wuehler.
At first I totally ignored Richard because I had made up my heart and mind to do so. But it wasn't long until all I could think about was Richard. When I wasn't with him, my heart and mind were still with him. I couldn't eat or sleep or work or pray without thinking about him. When we were at church, sitting at opposite sides of the building, I would watch him closely and was drawn to his obviously close relationship with his God. When we were with other young people, I would watch him from a distance. As the saying goes, I "only had eyes" for him.
In fact, words were not enough in my prayers; I had tears streaming down my face as I cried, "I only want him, Lord. He is the one I desire" (even though the only thing we'd ever said to each other was "God bless you, brother" and "God bless you, sister" after church). After shaking hands with "God bless you" for several months, Richard realized that it was God's plan that we marry. Somehow we skipped dating and even courtship and went straight from shaking hands to engagement. So, in April of 1984, Richard asked my father for my hand in marriage (my father said not unless he took the rest of me), and we were married three months later. We both knew that God had put in our hearts a love for each other that did not come from within us but came directly from Him—and that knowledge, plus the binding vows we made to God, were the spiritual glue that has fused us together through the trials and triumphs of twenty-five years. What God joins together, let no man separate.
This Present Love
Now, twenty-five years later, I still know what that "first love" feeling was like. It is something the Lord wants us to experience with Him. He wants us to be in such an attitude of love that we can't eat or sleep or work or play without thinking about Him, always keeping Him at the forefront of our minds. If you look in John 17 (verses 23-26), you hear Jesus praying to His Father. These are some of His last recorded words before He was crucified. A dying man's words are very important, and this is what He wanted us to overhear in His heart's prayer for us:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.
He prayed that we may be one as He and His Father are one. Amazingly, He wants us to enter into that holy union. Jesus desired that we know that God loves us even as much as He loves His own Son. He desires that "first love" kind of intimacy with us, and yet, unfortunately, we stay so shallow. We pray or read His Word when it's convenient, or necessary, rather than because we are in love with our God. We pray for help rather than worshiping His Holiness. We scratch the surface of a relationship that is so deep and wide it cannot be measured and we don't even care to know Him more. Why do we give up so much, for so little in return? Why do we desire the whole world when we are losing our own soul? What is better: a day of our own doing or a day worshiping Him with our whole life?
"For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." Psalm 84:10
King David said in the Psalms that he would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than to dwell in the tents of the wicked. Why are we so content to dwell in those tents and rarely get near the house of the Lord unless required? David went on to say that it is better to spend one day in God's house than a thousand elsewhere. Yet, here we are, spending a thousand elsewhere, without even a thought about spending a day with the Lord.
I can be so shallow in my relationship, putting so little into it, yet wanting so much out of it. If you are like me, don't be discouraged; there is a way out of our complacency: a heart that is fully His. God is gracious and looks to and fro on the earth in order to bless a heart that is fully His. We would be wise to pray, "O Lord, change out my stony heart for a soft heart; draw me to You that I might bear fruit that will last."
Life or Death?
When any relationship becomes so shallow that we are only connecting on a surface level, the relationship will suffer. Anything coming out of that relationship will suffer as well, whether it is marriage to your earthly husband or to your heavenly Bridegroom. Abiding in the Vine is the only way to bear fruit. Without Him we can do nothing, yet we try desperately to make something out of our messes all by ourselves. Without the blessing of our earthly husbands, we try to make our way work and it comes to naught. How much more so concerning what our heavenly Father desires? When we are choosing our way over God's way, it is most likely due to the fact that we have lost that first love relationship and are trying to scratch out an agenda that we feel we can handle. But when we choose to go our own way, something dies. Just what are we killing?
At the Bed & Breakfast, Richard, and I were talking with our hostess about abortion and how a nation that kills such a huge population of their babies will not be able to stand much longer. Our hostess brought the conversation around to the fact that not only are non-believers killing their babies, but churchgoers also are killing the life in their relationships with God. She said that when we choose our own way, we are killing the life that God had for us to live. We are cutting off our relationship with Him as we choose to live life our own way. We are putting under a bushel the light of God's glory that is to be revealed. The highest goal for our marriages—both physical and eternal—is to bring glory to God. Richard and I have made it our prayer as of late that our marriage would show forth God's glory, that every choice we make in our relationship and how we choose to treat each other would always show forth His glory. To do otherwise would be to kill the life that He has for our marriage, our family, our children, and our future generations.
What Does Love Look Like?
We can be true representations of the relationship between Christ and His Bride when we nourish and cherish each other. We cannot if we do not. And a wife's focus and responsibilities should not be limited to expectations of being nourished and cherished by her husband. In order to properly reflect the relationship between Christ and His Bride, a wife must actively love her husband and her God with that first love for her bridegroom. It's a humbling place to be, as neither Richard nor I can fulfill that prayer to glorify God without coming together in agreement and submission to each other and especially choosing to die to self before God in everything we do. Likewise, a shallow relationship with Christ means His glory becomes veiled instead of revealed, and the life He wants us to live for His glory can quickly be aborted. Our earthly marriage and our marriage to Christ suffer when we remain in the shallow area of non-committal, self-indulgent, childish behavior. We need to give up our will to grow up in His.
Rebuilding the Ruins
How do we rebuild the walls of our shallow or crumbling relationship with Christ, with our spouse, or even with our family? Nehemiah faced the same challenge as he set about to rebuild the walls of old. Our pastor touched on this in his sermon this week. He reminded us that Nehemiah had to care, he had to work, and he had to pray. (The book of Nehemiah mentions twelve times that Nehemiah prayed during the building process.) He knew that any restoration required dedication to work. To win the victory, we have to work with diligence and vigilance. Our pastor went on to say that overcomers who are "crown-wearing come from those who were cross-bearing." If there are things in your relationship that aren't right, don't neglect them; take them to the foot of the cross for healing and restoration.
Let It Be So
What is in ruins in your life? Pray to the God of creation, Who made something out of nothing. He can make something out of the nothing of your life too. Do you feel like you don't have it within you to love your husband or your children or to continue home educating as God has called you to do? Pray to the "Amen" of creation, Who spoke, and "it was so." He desires to draw close to you. Listen carefully as He speaks life into your relationships that are "without form and void." With just a word, His Word, you will find life—and maybe even marital bliss—and that more abundantly.
Deborah Wuehler is the Senior Editor for TOS, editor of the Schoolhouse Support E-Newsletter, wife to Richard, and mom to eight gifts from heaven. She loves digging for buried treasure in the Word, reading, writing, homeschooling and dark chocolate!
Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Fall 2009.
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