As most of you prrrrobably know, I get pretty passionate over here about marriage. Because of this passion and the fact that I believe all marriages are either growing or dying, I do my best to find material that will challenge and inspire me to have a stronger and healthier marriage. Which leads me to the point of this post! I recently finished the best book on marriage I have ever read. It's called "Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy".
The title itself will either leave you wanting to understand what he is talking about or completely turn you off to the entire book. The author, Gary Thomas, points out that we live in a culture that, quite honestly, seeks our own happiness and self actualization over anything else. He goes on to explore the possibility that perhaps God didn't create marriage for our own fulfillment; perhaps he created marriage so that we might come to know Him better.
It took me several months to read through the entire thing because it wasn't the type of material I wanted to rush through. I wanted to take it slow and apply what I was learning to our relationship. Without giving too much away in hopes that you might read it yourself, I'd just like to share the most impacting "takeaway" I received and it is this:
Any sort of marital/relational disagreement or unhappiness or unpleasant experience I am faced with is an opportunity to grow closer to Christ.
In moments of weakness, I run to Him for strength.
In moments of frustration, I run to Him for patience.
In moments when I am faced with my shortcomings, I run to Him for grace.
In moments when I am crippled by my own selfishness, I run to Him to teach me what the true meaning of serving and loving others more than I love myself really means.
In moments of deep hurt and pain, I run to the One who can fill me like Josh can't (nor was he ever meant to in the first place.)
In moments when I am not feeling particularly happy or fulfilled, I surrender my will/wants/desires and ask that God would refine me and use them as opportunities to make me a better woman.
This change of perspective has blessed both of us immensely. I feel equipped to be less controlled by my emotions and more able to face life's struggles as opportunities to grow and change and be more like the woman I hope to be. I realize that maybe this is an easy concept for me to embrace because I am, quite honestly, very happily married. We haven't experienced the "hard times" that everyone has forecasted in our marriage. And while I'm not going to apologize for the marriage we have very intentionally built, I still want to acknowledge that for many women who already (repeatedly) taking the proverbial high road, this is a tall order to ask. My hope is that if/when the "hard times" do come for us, I will be so well practiced in the art of seeking holiness above happiness, that I will be able to welcome them with grace and optimism; that I might better be refined into the likeness of Jesus through the challenging seasons and not crumble under the weight of my own unhappiness.
This book has challenged and inspired both of us in a way that few things have concerning our marriage. Beyond that, it has inspired and challenged the way I perceive every difficult relational circumstance that comes my way. I hope that you (whoever you are) will consider checking it out!