Draw Me a Map that Leads Me Back to You

Below is my marriage series in its full 5-parts. The series is called "Draw me a map that leads me back to you." Yes, the title is inspired by country song "Draw me a Map". 

This series will be about marriage.  I've been married to my wonderful husband for almost 11 years now and we are a beautiful place in our marriage.  However, we had about a two year season that was very tough, difficult and long.  As I've been in conversation with other women about their marriages, I've realized that some of the negative thought patterns that led my marriage off-track also exist in their marriages.  I want to share pieces of my story because I know that the thought patterns and lies I believed almost destroyed the beauty of my marriage and I know that it is worth fighting for what is right and true.  I'm praying that pieces of my story will provide hope and inspiration one may need to keep fighting for beauty and deep love in your own marriage.

I married the perfect man, found out he wasn't perfect, and then that he was:
My husband and I are high school sweethearts (actually 8th grade sweethearts).  We dated for 8 years before we got married.  As you can imagine, we were thrilled to finally get married and let the fun times begin!  Since we started dating so young we were only 22 when we got married.  All throughout our relationship we always heard, "You will never make it."  "People change when they get older."  "This is young love; it will never last."  While I understand the intentions of these statements and I  understand the rarity of a relationships like ours, those words ended up planting seeds of doubt in my heart that eventually started to sprout.

The first seven years of our marriage were beautiful and exciting.  I realized that I had married the perfect man.  We enjoyed being able to experience the full measures of our love and it brought two precious children into the world.  Then real life began to set in: sleepless nights, work, stress, anger and religion.

I had the opportunity to be a stay-at home mom and one of the beauties that blossomed from that place was a ministry to women.  I began investing fully in ministry and opportunity after opportunity began to open up.  I began saying yes to all of them.  God made many phenomenal changes in my understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ.  I also began seeing how God brought freedom to other people's hearts through speaking truth.  As I was seeing freedom all around me, there was one place where freedom was quickly disappearing and that was in the heart of my husband.

You can imagine my frustration, as I am falling more and more in love with God and His freedom, I am watching my husband struggle in his faith.  I didn't know how to stop it or reverse it. I knew how to pray for others but I didn't know how to pray for him and frankly I didn't want to pray for him.  In my mind I thought he should know better.  When we said our vows, I had married a Christian, we were going to raise our children up in the Lord.  A husband with a growing temper and who doesn't know what he believes - this is not what I had signed up for when I said my vows and so I began to detach my heart from our marriage.

Remember those seeds I discussed above?  Comments like, "You'll never make it,"  "People change when they get older?"  They began to find fertile soil in my heart.  I began to make agreements with those little seeds.  "Everyone was right, I was too young to know how to pick a man worthy of marrying.  We had not experienced enough life to see each other's true colors.  I should of held out longer."  I began to imagine the "better life" that God had actually "willed" for me.  "I should have married a pastor, I would make a perfect pastor's wife.  Imagine what a great strength I would be for the kingdom, if I had just taken the time to wait for someone better."  I call this first lie, "the fantasy mind" and I have come to realize that this is a very dangerous place to live.  The life in my mind, without the man that I had married,  I thought was oh, so much better.

Secondly, I started a "holier than thou" mindset.  Because he was struggling with loving God, I thought I would show him how it should be done and I left him in the dust.  I began attending all the prayer meetings at church, doing all the ministry that I could.  I felt "good" because at least one person in our family would be "living the way we should."  I suppose from a reader's perspective it is easy to see how my husband would continue to be drawn away from the Lord, instead of to the Lord as I left him in the dust to struggle with his doubts.  I had no tolerance for where he was at; I wanted him to be the "spiritual leader" of our home but I had no hope that he could ever be that person, and so I took over.

A third mistake I made was letting my husband's negative characterstic, which happened to be a temper, define him.  Our household began walking on eggshells to try and prevent his temper from going off, but all without fail.  It didn't matter how neat I tried to make the house, how well I planned dinner, etc.  It was never enough to "please" him.  So in my mind he was no longer my lover or my friend, he soon became defined as an angry jerk.

All these things played into the unraveling of my heart.  As I withdrew my heart, he wanted it all the more desperately and the more he wanted it, the farther I took it from him.  We are not in any of those places anymore.  The fact that we are together and he has my heart more than he has ever had it before, is a testament of the grace of God and the reality that He works in our lives in real and lasting ways.  The next posts will look a little more closely at the mistakes that I made and the ways we were redeemed from our mess.

In conclusion,though, I can say without any doubt that although my husband is an imperfect person I know that I have married the perfect man for me. 

Part 2: Eliminating the Fantasy
When the reality of what my marriage started to become began settling in, I decided to solve it by going into fantasy land.

As I've talked with other women, I realize that my "solution" is a common solution women have to solving marriage issues.  We find that it is so much easier to dream of a different and better life than to invest in the life that we actually live.  While I wasn't having an affair, the fruit of my thoughts was just as dangerous and deadly.  It caused me to withdraw my heart from my husband and my marriage.  It made me dream and pray for God to create for me a better life - one that didn't include my husband.  I am so thankful that God doesn't answer every prayer that we pray - because we often times have no idea what is best for us.

I cannot pinpoint an exact moment when I woke up to the reality that this had to stop and that it wasn't okay but there came a point when I eventually "resigned" myself to the fact that this truly was the man that I had chosen to marry (sigh) and decided to accept him for who he was.  I began to stop all my "fantasies."  I had made the choice to marry this man, not another, and I needed to learn how to love him.
As I did this, I also began to see some of the dangerous lies that our society speaks over "love" and to realize these lies truly do provide a trap for us.  It might surprise you but the Bible does not talk about us having a "soul mate" nor does it talk about God having a pre-planned "perfect spouse" out there for you.  When I was living in fantasy land I began to cling to these ideas and I gotten myself so caught up in the idea that I had "missed God's will" that I was trying to figure out ways to get myself back in "His will" - apart from my spouse.  My husband, ever the practicalist, believes that we actually should be able to marry anyone and make it work.  While this idea, for me, rids all romance, I think it speaks more to the truth of marriage than the other ideas listed above.  God doesn't have a mapped out "plan" for you nor is He watching and tapping His toes waiting for you to get things right.  He has told us to love Him and to love others and He has equipped us with the ability to do those very things.  God's true will for me was to invest in my marriage and He could and would show me how to love my husband.
So no matter who you marry, whether you regret it or not, through Christ you have the ability to love that person well.  The spouse you married is your spouse, period. "Becoming one flesh" is an act that occurs after "I do." The act of marriage itself is what seals the fact that you are with the "right person" for you.  The cherry on top, however, is that marriage doesn't have to remain in the place of duty.  Even as I write this, I realize that the Lord was probably smiling as I complained about my "whoa is me marriage."  Yes, I had married a man exactly opposite of me, but when I woke back up to reality I realized my "one flesh" man completes me in so many ways.

As I realized that he was part of me, even if it was a part I didn't really like at the moment, he was none the less a part of me.  It was time for me to embrace my flesh, accept him and learn to love him.

Below is a thought that was given to me during that period that brought life to my mind and my marriage as I encountered situations where I thought my ways would be way better than working with my spouse:

God does not need to circumvent His design

to make His will happen.

Part 3: The Traps of Ministry

As I mentioned in post 1, about the time my husband started a crisis of faith was the same time my individual ministry began to take off. His crisis of faith was not unfounded; there were various stressful events within the extended family during this time. I started getting involved in various types of ministry and it started to lead me farther and farther away from home. At times, my husband would ask me not to go somewhere or do something and I would justify my refusal to follow his lead with thoughts like, "I don't have to listen to him because he is just jealous of God. My first duty is to God." I thought his leading was preventing me from doing all the things God wanted to do through me so I chose to rebel against the design of God but I tried to cushion my rebellion "in the name of God." At the time, the words: prideful, self-absorbed, self-righteous didn't dawn on me.

I didn't know how to translate all that was happening in my "God sphere" to him, and often times his questions and doubts would only aggravate me more and more. After months and months of conflict we finally came to a long, tearful argument where I insisted we meet with a pastoral couple for advice. I excitedly attended that meeting, hoping that they would convince my husband that God was indeed real and that he needed to suck it up and become a better husband. Thankfully, God brought us to the right couple and their gracious and guiding words started us on a path to healing.

Their response to my husband's crisis of faith? He was right where he needed to be, in fact he was in a beautiful spot! He was looking for genuine faith, not anything fake, and God could handle that. I left their house very humbled and changed. I don't know what else was said that night, but those words resounded so true in my heart that they began to change me and how I operated. See before that my Christianity didn't provide room for doubt or questions. I thought my husband needed to get his act together - on his own. However, these words released him and I from the responsibility of "fixing his faith." It instead made room for God to be God and for me to be his wife. I began to accept and love my husband on the journey that he was on, and I began to appreciate the heart he had; a heart that only wanted what was genuine and true. I realized that my reactions of fear and anger had actually been rooted in a doubt that God had the ability to show himself as real, to my husband. I have since realized, that God can meet anyone right where they are at.

I also realized that my ministry was actually causing pain and trouble in my marriage and so I made the choice to step away from all ministry during that time. I realized that I couldn't be in ministry if things were not right within my home. This was not an easy thing for me to do, ministry was how I was "measuring" my relationship with God and I no longer had a way to measure (this stepping away also did a healing in my relationship with God, that I didn't realize needed healing). I realized I needed to invest in my marriage and in my husband as a person. I needed to learn how to love him, right where he was at, without an expectation that he would ever change. I had no guarantees that my stepping away, would lead to changes in him, and so I truly stepped away in complete surrender. I asked God to teach me how to love and respect my husband and He was so faithful to teach me how.

I realize now, how very fortunate I am that God was able to capture my reluctant heart and teach me that He could care less how many people were ministered to by me. He had blessed me with an amazing man, amazing children and He wanted me to learn how to love Him and them well. We have all seen or heard of people who have amazing ministries but then their marriages fall apart. I have seen first hand how easily that could happen and I've tasted the lies that help lead down that path. Please realize the importance of investing in your spouse, over "ministry" any day, everyday.

Part 4: The Power of Words
     As my husband struggled with his Christianity and other life stresses, his character often became unpleasant to be around.  Many times, I did not look forward to him coming home from work, because his attitude often brought down the whole mood of the house.  I also let his behavior  negatively affect my thoughts about him. 

     One day, God jolted me awake and changed the way I was handling my thoughts about my husband.  One of my close friends, whom I confided in, had come to pray with me.  She said that as she was praying for my husband she got the picture of a "treasure hunter."  My mouth just about dropped open.  She did not know it but "treasure hunter" is part of my husband's Ebay seller name.  I knew right then that God was speaking through her to get my attention.  This word truly gave me His perspective on my husband.  Treasure hunter ended up having a two-fold meaning for me: 

  • First: God saw my husband as a valuable treasure that He was on the hunt for.  God didn't define him according to all the junk that I saw, but rather God defined him as the treasure that He had redeemed.
  • Second:  He saw my husband as valuable to the kingdom of God and that my husband is a treasure hunter for the kingdom. 
     I walked away from that time with a righteous jealousy for my husband and to experience the treasure of who he is.  If my friend could recognize and believe in the value of my husband then surely I, as his wife, could begin seeing the treasure inside of him.  After this prayer time, when conflict arose, I no longer made agreements that these negative moods reflected who he truly was.  I knew that a better man existed inside.  As I would walk away from a difficult time, I no longer sat and dwelt on how frustrated I was with him, but rather I would ask for and then declare God's perspective on the situation.  Also, when I did see the treasures in my husband's personality I began to verbally affirm  him and internally affirm my thoughts about him.  As this happened, I began to see changes in my husband.  The changes did not happen overnight, nor was there "one day" when everything was "better." However, over time, the negative patterns decreased and the positive behaviors substantially increased.  I still stand amazed and in joyful wonder of the man I married.  Just the other day, we left church with both of us laughing about something my husband "out of character" that he did.  I just shook my head and said, "Are you sure you're my husband?!  You have made me a believer in the love of God."  The changes in my husband still leave me dumbfounded and in awe of our mysteriously, sneaky working God.

     After all that I have been through, I truly believe in the power of words, whether spoken aloud or just held in our minds.  Scripture says that Jesus is the Word (John 1:1).    We have the ability to speak LIFE over situations or death.  There is power, because of Jesus the Word, when we begin to see our spouses with God's eyes.  God does not define us according to all of our junk.  He truly sees the treasure held within each one of us; we are invited to see, know and declare His truth over people's lives.  If you are in a situation, where the definition of your spouse is mostly negative, surrender your thoughts and words to Jesus the Word, and get His perspective on your spouse.  Then partner within Him in declaring the truth.

     After reading the ideas in this post, there is a temptation to think I'm just talking about wishful thinking or that I'm encouraging you to be blind to what is "really going on."  However, I have learned and am still learning that taking God's perspective on things is where true life and freedom exists, even when I can't immediately see it with my physical eyes.  I conclude with the following quote from a sermon by Bill Johnson:

The Gospel empowers you to take what's of the enemy and put it under your feet and take what's of people around you and you come under them to empower them.  You rule over the spirit world so that darkness doesn't rule and then you come under and empower people.

Part 5: Running Barefoot

Last night Josh and I watched The Thing about My Folks with Paul Reiser and Peter Falk. The story is about a husband finding a note, from his wife of 47 years, that she has left him. Paul Reiser and Peter Falk spend the week together as father and son discussing the marriage while they wait to find out where the mother went. One thing that intrigued me about the movie was how a parents' marriage and its health has effects even on adult children.

The movie reminded me of Malachai 2:15:
"Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth."

I am becoming more aware of the importance of marriage because of its relation to our children. This verse points out that God made us one flesh with our spouse because He desires godly offspring. Our marriages provide a foundation for our kids, and it doesn't matter how young, or old they are, your marriage still provides a stability for their identity.

Spring is trying to come to Wisconsin and I have already noticed those awful prickly weeds starting to grow in our backyard. Our backyard has been notorious for having those weeds that are extremely prickly and if you step on them those pricklies get embedded in your feet.  My desire for my backyard is that my kids would be able to run through the backyard barefoot. They should be able to enjoy the summer without a care in the world. And kids, especially Mercea, loves to be barefoot but with those weeds it makes it difficult.

In our marriages, it is very easy for weeds to grow in our yards.  Our yards is where our kids romp, play and learn about life. We need to weed our yards on a regular basis so that our kids can run through life, enjoy and not worry about getting hurt in their own yards.

Hebrews 12:14-16
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

One thing that can begin to sneak into marriages is a root of bitterness. Bitterness starts out small and seems like no big deal, just like those weeds. If the bitterness is not dealt with, it will get deeply rooted and begin to spread. It might not seem to effect your kids because it is so small but as days and weeks go by it will continue to grow and spread and there will be a day your kids will stumble upon it and it will hurt them. When Mercea was 2 she was running in our backyard and her whole foot got filled with those pricklies. It was not a pretty moment.

I don't know where you are in your marriage and whether you have younger or older kids but no matter what I would just like to encourage you to do some spring weeding in your marriage yards.  If you need motivation, do it for the sake of your kids. None of us would purposely send our kids out in a yard full of prickly weeds to run around barefoot and get hurt. However, we often allow the weeds in our marriage to get out of control and we end up hurting our kids more than if they stepped on a real weeds.

Here are some verses that deal with uprooting weeds in the spirit realm:

James 3:13-16
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

Ephesians 4:30-32
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

My prayer for you and your marriage is that you, your children and your spouse can run barefoot through your yards this summer.

Part 6 Conclusion:
This is the conclusion to a six-part series entitled "Draw Me a Map that Leads Me Back to You."  I know everyone's marriage is different and there may have been spots in our story that had you nodding your head, "Yes, I understand," and at other times perhaps you couldn't relate at all, which is just fine.  The purpose in writing this series has not been to give "5 steps" to a better marriage but instead to show the beauty of turning our mistakes, anger and errors over to God's grace.  All of our marriages are different, but the Designer of marriage is the same, and He has promised to  faithfully lead us.  My understanding of what that looks like, truly changed, stretched and grew over that season, but I can say that it is so very true.

God created marriage to be a beautiful, life-giving gift; not only to ourselves but also to our children.  Marriage was created to be a safe place where love and joy can flourish and grow.  But just like anything in life, the enemy and our brokenness can take the beauty that God created and turn it into a thing of pain, harm and destruction.  I pray that I have at least pointed you to the "better way," our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ who moves through the Holy Spirit in the dailiness of life.  He loves you, He loves your spouse and He is The Way for the two of you to move together in grace and beauty.  He understands the dirtiness and the dankness of it all, but that doesn't prevent Him from desiring to redeem it all; He doesn't do it without us though and that is the mystery of His ways.

So as I said at the start, I have come to realize that I have married the perfect man for me.  He completes me, strengthens me and challenges me everyday.  When I got out of the way, the Lord managed to recapture his heart - largely through the ministry of Todd Hunter (which is why I keep sharing about his ministry).  Not only that but I learned to let my husband lead, even when he wasn't where I thought he should be.  The results have been phenomenal.  I never considered my husband a "leader" but now I realize that perhaps my big personality was getting in the way.  He sees things that I don't see, he desires to protect me, and he is often wise beyond my current understanding of a situation.  He has "stepped up" or maybe I finally cleared out of the way.  There were many times on this journey where I would cry and cry and be angry at God.  "Didn't He see what was happening to me?  Didn't He know what a big mistake He had allowed me to make marrying this man?"  But when I finally quieted down and listened to His plan, I had my eyes opened to the biggest surprise of my life: I had indeed married the perfect man.  He knows how to lead and he has done a phenomenal job.  He loves me well and he loves our children well.  I almost stomped out one of the most precious gifts I have ever been given because I had chosen to live under lies, fear, disillusionment and disappointment.  I thank my husband and my God for fighting for my heart and opening my eyes to all that I have been given.  I have been blessed beyond measure.

Finally, I want to leave you with two thoughts:

Titus 2:4 says,
Teach the young women to love their husbands, to love their children.

Our society often makes us believe that love is based on emotions and feelings and when those things disappear you should leave.  Scripture presents a different view and in fact teaches us that we need to be taught to love our husbands and our children.  If you are struggling in your marriage, I pray that you will have the humility to ask for help and look to God and others to teach you how to love your husband.

Song of Songs 2:15 says,
Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.

Even though I realize that I have married the perfect man for me, it by no means we have a conflict-free marriage.  However, we've both come to the point where we have chosen to trust each others' hearts instead of the hurt and pain from a moment.  When conflict does arrive we deal with it until we can understand each other.  We no longer let pain, unforgiveness, bitterness and disappointment have opportunity to take root in our hearts.  As I've reflected on our journey I've realized how so many little things began to grow into much bigger problems and before I knew it, I was standing at a gap looking at my husband and realizing I no longer knew how to love him nor allow him to love me.  But I also realize that the path back to each others' hearts was full of just as many seemingly small and insignificant decisions.  My conclusion is that the best way back to your spouse's heart is to hook into the Holy Spirit and follow His leading in the dailiness of life; He is the One who knows the way back and He will lead you there.


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