Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talked to my mom about my marriage, something that we haven't discussed much at all since I was presented with the divorce papers. I learned about the purpose for marriage, so here is the core of my learning.
In the process of working to save a marriage right after getting married - a weird place that I was put instead of heading to a honeymoon. Oh boy, I came a long way, so far to the point of understanding what marriage is truly about and having discernment about false teachers of the Word. You know, the type of pastor who encourages divorce instead of telling you the truth that your spouse will not meet your deepest longings, regardless of what those might be. These false teachers instead of hitting you with a cast iron on the head a couple of time to wake you up and tell you to take accountability and honor the vows you exchanged, and get YOUR heart right with Christ. Instead, they just go around handing out licenses to people telling them that "divorce is needed because it doesn't seem like it can work". The question is, how do you know "it can't work if you haven't moved a finger to WORK on the marriage? You can't find out if it will work unless you give it your very best to work on it. One professional said to me "you have two choices: (1) you will end up in divorce or (2) have the most wonderful marriage, but in order to know if it will be option 1 or 2, you both have to go get some counseling together. It makes sense, but I begged and offered to get and pay for the counseling, but was turned down many times.
When you don't have discernment of God's will for your life you can believe these false teachers, the world, and even if your cat could talk, you would believe what the cat will tell you about what to do with your marriage! Oh brother, we live in a country with more than 200,000 churches and yet, the rate for divorce is still between 40 to 50%. There is something we are not teaching couples and I think we are not speaking the truth to our fellow Christians.
It is easier to tell someone to find "greener pastures" and keep living in a mentality that is all about "me, myself, and I" than to really be honest with them because of fear of pushing them further away from us. Well, for me, I knew in my heart that there was something deeper than what the circumstances were telling and I was determined to find a way to "save it" or I should call it, "fix it". As I look back, it is remarkable how much I learned. When I exchanged my vows, the message was about 2 Cor. 13 and when I visited the video that was taken on my wedding day, I can hear the preacher stating "without God you can't have a marriage" interesting how God was making himself known at that very moment.
I have had a relationship with God prior to coming to the marriage; I walked through life staying truth to myself and doing the best I could because of being fearful of God. In the quest to finding the "solution" I examined myself in every way, and it started with taking a test. Interesting enough, I scored 845 out 1000 which indicate the areas of my heart that I needed to work on in order to love unconditionally. To my surprise, I was like "heck, I am 845 = B grade, not so bad, but there is something I am missing that I am not doing right. What is it, Lord? If you know anything about me, I take accountability for my actions, words, and behavior, and I knew that I was not doing something right, and what could it be? God used this test to showed me that I needed to start by working in two areas: acceptance and abiding.
For acceptance: the goal is to love your spouse unconditionally - praising them, often, allowing them to fail, remaining patient until they see the need to change themselves, and being a encourager, not on the attack.
I am an encourager by nature, and I was surprised to see that I needed to work on accepting my spouse; but the key from the above analysis was that I needed to learn to refine the unconditional love I had for my spouse. There was no doubt and God knows my heart that I didn't loved my spouse unconditionally, if I didn't have loved my spouse unconditionally from the beginning, I would have never willingly left everything that was familiar to me to moved across country with no family so that I could have the opportunity to raise a family with him. In working in the area of acceptance, I learned that I also needed to be patient but foremost, to learn to extend grace, so that that individual or anyone would feel safe to fail. I didn't know God's grace at the time I took the test, I really didn't knew about grace because I didn't grew up with people giving me room to fail - failing was never an option for me. I learned from an early age that I needed to do everything in my power to do the very best because I only had one "chance" and I have had high expectations for myself and sometimes those that I loved; in this case, it was my spouse. I couldn't learned about acceptance until I mastered the other area that was a weakness at the time I took this test 309 days ago, which is Abiding.
When I first read the description in abiding, I have to admit, I couldn't control the tears, because I knew this area was right on target, and I didn't have a clue on how I could do what it has been asked of me. The description for abiding is as follows:
"Not every marriage starts out with either partner interested in God. Maybe that was you - not thinking you needed Him or His guidance to make your marriage work. You may have grown to believe that if your wife or husband does not cooperate with you and reciprocate your love for them, there's not much point in keeping this marriage going. But God can change your motivation for marriage. He can give you a love that transcends your circumstances and continues on even when you don't feel like it. It starts with surrendering your life to Him, staying dependent on Him every single day, and choosing to love solely in order to please Him, even if your spouse isn't pleased with you at that moment".
I always knew God was important to me and I had relationship with Him out of fear of God. With this test, God was asking me to turn over every area of my life and heart to Him as an act of obedience. I am not a quitter and giving up on the marriage regardless of what was done was not an option. Also, to my disadvantage, being a problem solver added to a major bottleneck in the process of coming to a full surrender.
I begged to work on the marriage, etc., from the moment that the storm settled in. I experienced a lot of pain in the process of truly submitting myself to God in obedience to honor Him because I would give it to Him and then I would volunteered to take it away and find the solution on my own. I could picture God shaking His head and perhaps whispering between His breath "Ella, my dear, I know better and I can see the bigger plan... if she could just let me handle it now, I would be able to take her pain away..."
Wanting to live a life with a straight path out of fear of God is not obeying God as I was doing throughout my years prior to 2015. Being truly obedient to God is living a life striving to live by His ways in attitude and behavior out of honor for Him. My motivation for marriage early in the year was really screwed. I didn't have a clue that the reason for marriage is so we can help each other come to God and get to know Him, allow Him to teach us how to love the other person His way, the agape way, and submit ourselves to the roles that were designed for us to carry out in a marriage. The moment I truly surrendered and grasped to the truth that the above analysis was signaling to me, I came to truly understanding how God want us to see others through His eyes, and slowly, the areas of my heart that needed work were brought to the surface for me to face the truth. Being able to love someone when all you are getting is rejection taught me that I too have rejected God by not being obedient to Him the way He wanted me. He patiently waited for me to come to my senses and His love has never diminished one tiny bit, because when you love unconditionally, you love a person no matter if you get the love back the way you hoped you would.
Agape Love also known as self-sacrificing love is not an easy thing to express or give to another human, much less maintain it; therefore, we are call to make the CHOICE to love others, and with God's grace and guidance, we are able to stay in love and fall in love all over again and again with the same person. It requires commitment to honoring the covenant we made with God, patience, and humility to surrender to God's way of loving.
Love is a CHOICE. "Married love is the total self gift that husband and wife freely offer to each other" and in order to freely offer this gift, we must die one's self and put God first in one's heart and at the center of the marriage, in order to keep our spouse second on the list, and be able to truly love them God's way. I don't believe in divorce; divorce was presented to me without an option to be a wife and or be given 3 minutes to come face to face to say anything about what took placed. What many people don't understand is that if you don't work on getting your heart right with God first, one cannot have the marriage that God designed for us to have, we will go on in life, and perhaps be in a marriage for the next 40 years without experiencing the marriage that God has intended for us to have and still having those deep longing desires that only God can satisfy and not our spouse. The spouse gave up on me too soon, but I know God has never given up on me. He just begun refining me into the wife that He designed for me to be one day. I don't see marriage through the same lens, but I now understand that marriage is the most sacred gift that God has given to us and the most important relationship we could ever have. It is sacred covenant and I believe it is more than worthy fighting to protect it, live it, and honor it. I am glad that even thought my heart is still bleeding, I know that God slowly is stitching it up very neatly and in the process, making a extreme makeover and making me new as snow. If only every spouse would understand that if one does not get one's heart right with God, we are incapable of truly loving another person selflessly.
It took me 10 months to learn the purpose of marriage, understand agape love, fall in love with Christ all over again, and surrendered every area of my life. I pray that one day, I will have the opportunity to have a man who humbled, knows, loves, and honors God enough to put God first, me second, because when this happens, I know that I will be able to have a marriage the way God intended for me to have it.